They almost had numerous interceptions. They almost had a fumble recovery that would have given them early momentum. Running back Adrian Peterson almost found daylight in the running game. The Vikings’ wide receivers almost made big catches on crucial third downs. Time and time again, they almost tackled Bears’ running back Matt Forte.
But because everything almost went in their direction, what should have been a close, hard-fought game turned into the biggest blowout the NFL saw on Sunday.
One quote just about summed it up for the Vikings, who had to endure another agonizing defeat to go with the four that they’ve already suffered this season.
“It’s humiliating,” Vikings’ defensive end Brian Robison said on the loss. “It’s the only word I can think of right now – it’s simply humiliating.”
The biggest source of humiliation was none other than Bears’ wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester. It appeared all night as if Hester had the Vikings’ number on offense, paving the way for the Bears victory.
It all started for Hester on the Bears’ first possession of the game. With eight-man protection keeping Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler upright, he launched a 48-yard bomb that fell perfectly into Hester’s hands for their first six points of the game. That, however, was just the beginning of the aerial assault that the Bears unleashed on the Vikings’ defense. The offensive line gave Cutler an abundance of time to throw the ball and the Vikings’ defensive line failed to put the necessary pressure on him, leading to the success through the air. By game’s end, Cutler had completed 21 of his 31 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
To go along with that first touchdown catch, Hester added another four grabs for 43 yards. The fun didn’t stop for Hester on offense, though.
After the Vikings scored their first and only touchdown of the night courtesy of Peterson, Hester bounced back on the ensuing kickoff with a touchdown of his own. A hoard of Vikings and 98 yards were behind him after he struck paydirt for the second time, killing any comeback hopes that the Vikings had.
The Bears' running game also saw plenty of success. Forte ran for 87 yards and Marion Barber added 32 yards. When the Bears' offense wasn't shredding the secondary with the pass, it was gashing the front seven on the ground.
Bears’ rookie wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher hauled in a 13-yard touchdown grab, his third of the season. Running back Marion Barber scored six points of his own on a three-yard touchdown run. Rookie defensive tackle Stephen Paea tallied the first two points of his NFL career when he sacked Vikings’ starting quarterback Donovan McNabb for a safety. The rest of the Bears’ points came by way of kicker Robbie Gould, who tacked on three field goals.
Throughout the entire game, the Vikings looked lethargic on offense. Even though he completed 19 of his 24 passes, McNabb was ineffective. He still struggled with getting the ball above his receivers’ feet and took unnecessary sacks on numerous occasions. As if that wasn’t already bad enough, Vikings receivers weren’t even catching the ball when it was catchable. Numerous third-down passes were dropped, forcing Minnesota to punt more often than not.
The running game was even less effective. The Bears’ defensive front was like a brick wall, inducing a 12-carry, 39-yard performance from Peterson. The offensive line couldn’t handle the Bears’ up front and failed to open any significant holes for Peterson to run through apart from the one that allowed him to score the Vikings’ only touchdown of the night.
The only other points for the Vikings came from kicker Ryan Longwell, who booted a 37-yarder in the second quarter.
When all was said and done, the Bears had earned a 39-10 victory over the Vikings and improved to 3-3 on the season.
The one positive aspect of the game for the Vikings: fans everywhere finally got what they’ve been begging for when rookie quarterback Christian Ponder entered the lineup in the fourth quarter. As if that wasn’t enough, the fact that Ponder wasn’t half bad in his NFL debut made it even juicier.
During his fourth quarter appearance, Ponder connected on nine of his 17 passes for 99 yards. He also scrambled once for an eight yard gain. Although he was constantly pressured during his first taste of NFL action, he looked as poised as a rookie can and used his feet well to keep plays alive. There’s still plenty for the young signal-caller to learn, but the Vikings can definitely feel optimistic about the brief glimpse that they got at the future of their franchise.
Overall, it was a disheartening loss that should just about put a cap on this 2011 season for the Vikings. Playing in a tough NFC North division with a 1-5 record puts the playoffs just about out of reach. At this point, the Vikings will be playing for pride as well as positioning in the 2012 NFL Draft.
In the upcoming week, there will be plenty of talk about who will be the Vikings’ starting quarterback against the Green Bay Packers. Whether it’s McNabb, Ponder, or Joe Webb, we’ll undoubtedly see a media frenzy as Sunday draws closer.
Bear with me as this disappointing season drags on for the Vikings.