It only took six week but the Chicago Bears finally earned a victory. The team went on the road this afternoon and beat the Minnesota Viking 17-13. The Bears finished the 2011 campaign with a disappointing 8-8 record and will watch the playoffs from home.
Chicago got off to a rough start in this one, turning the ball over on two of its first three drives, putting the team in a 10-0 hole just 10 minutes into the contest. Yet the Bears' offense immediately put together an eight-play, 93-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from QB Josh McCown to WR Roy Williams. Then, just 42 seconds later, CB Charles Tillman intercepted a pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
The Bears added a Robbie Gould field goal in the fourth quarter. The Vikings, on the other hand, failed to convert on two field goal attempts – Julius Peppers blocked one and the other was a muffed snap. Minnesota's QB Joe Webb, who replaced starting QB Christian Ponder after he left the game with a head injury, was driving the Vikings' offense toward a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play before CB D.J. Moore's interception sealed the game.
The Bears lost FB Tyler Clutts for a few series in the first half after a helmet-to-helmet collision, yet he was able to return to the game. The big injury came late in the game. With the Vikings looking to score, LB Brian Urlacher and S Major Wright collided in the end zone attempting to break up a pass. Urlacher came down awkwardly and appeared to severely twist his left knee. He limped off the field and into the locker room with ice wrapped around his knee. Coach Lovie Smith said after the game it was a sprained MCL, which means Urlacher should be ready to go come training camp next year.
DE Jared Allen & QB Josh McCown
-McCown was very average for most of the game. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His accuracy was a bit off and he did not show a lot of arm strength. That's likely because he was hardly ever allowed to step into his throws, considering how poorly the offensive line protected him. McCwon was sacked seven times on the afternoon. He did show good wheels though on a nifty 28-yard scramble on 3rd down that kept Chicago's first scoring drive alive. He's not going to bring a team to the Super Bowl but he knows how to manage an offense. For that reason alone, he deserves a shot at being the team's backup QB next season.
-Half of Minnesota's sacks came from Jared Allen, who broke the club's all-time single-season sack record. His 3.5 sacks on the day put him at 22 for the season, tops in the league and just 0.5 short of the NFL's all-time single-season mark. He was helped mightily by the turnstile performance of LT J'Marcus Webb, who was just awful in this game. Webb was beat in every which way by Allen, showing once again why the Bears needs to address the left tackle position this offseason.
-RB Kahlil Bell had 82 yards from scrimmage, yet could muster just 3.2 yards per carry on the ground. He didn't have much to work with though, as the offensive line could not open many holes in the run game. Bell's fumble in the first quarter led to a Vikings touchdown. That makes three fumbles in two games as a starter. If he doesn't get straight his issues with ball security, he'll never earn the backup job to Matt Forte next season.
-For the second week in a row, WR Roy Williams led the team in receiving yards (60) on four catches, one of which went for a 22-yard TD, his second with the team this year. There's definitely chemistry between him and McCown, most likely held over from their time together in Detroit in 2006. Williams has been a major disappointment this year but give him credit for not giving up and playing hard in the team's final two games.
-Charles Tillman added to his long, productive history with his fifth career interception return for a touchdown, the most in Bears history. It was the second such TD for him this year. He passes Mike Brown and Bennie McRae for the most all-time in Chicago. It appears the Pro Bowl honors he received this season are well warranted.
DE Israel Idonije
-DE Israel Idonije was a beast this game. He had five tackles, two for loss, a sack and two quarterback hits. His crushing hit on Ponder in the first quarter knocked the signal caller out of the game. Idonije will be a free agent this offseason and knew he needed a strong performance to finish off a somewhat disappointing campaign. It's not clear though whether it was enough to persuade Chicago to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
-The Bears only picked up 2.0 sacks as a team but that number could have been tripled had the defense been able to bring Joe Webb to the ground. On numerous occasions a Chicago defender had Webb in his grasp, only to allow him to break free and get the pass off. More than once, it kept a Minnesota drive alive. Webb showed outstanding strength and nearly shook off a hard hit from the mighty Julius Peppers. His feet allowed him to extend plays and complete passes downfield. The Vikings will have a tough decision to make next year regarding the quarterback position.
-With RB Adrian Peterson out, the Vikings had just one real offensive threat in Percy Harvin. The Bears were able to shutdown RB Toby Gerhart (67 rushing yards) yet could do nothing to stop Harvin. He led the Vikings with 10 catches for 115 yards, while adding 13 yards and a TD on five carries. The shifty receiver/running back had his way with Chicago's secondary throughout the game. Tim Jennings especially could do nothing to keep up with Harvin.
-The Bears did a lot of rotating in the secondary, switching Jennings and Zack Bowman at corner, and D.J. Moore and Corey Graham at nickel. Obviously, it was tryout time. This was especially so for Graham, who is a free agent. He wants to sign with a team who will let him play defense, something the Bears have always been reluctant to do. They obviously wanted to see more of him out of the slot. His success there could possibly allow them to slide Moore outside next year. Graham made a number of nice open-field tackles and was decent in coverage, yet he did get run over by Harvin on Minnesota's only touchdown. The Bears will likely do all they can to convince him to return next season.
-S Major Wright had a solid game against the run, finishing second on the team in tackles with nine. He was flying to the ball and laying the lumber, yet he was a bit reckless. This ended up costing the team in the form of Urlacher's injury. It was an over-the-middle pass in the end zone. Urlacher was in front of the receiver in good position to make the play, yet Wright came barreling in out of control, knocking Urlacher down and onto his knee. Wright gave good effort today but he's shown a ton of inconsistency this year. He still has a lot of room for improvement.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.