MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings were just getting started, with a rookie quarterback and a first-time head coach.
Teddy Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 44-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the third quarter, guiding the Vikings to a 13-9 victory on Sunday to put one more blemish on a forgettable year for the Bears.
Jay Cutler returned from a one-game benching with 172 yards on 23-for-36 passing without a fumble or an interception, but he rarely threw long and the offense was off all afternoon with a series of unforced errors.
The Bears (5-11) finished with their worst record in 10 years, perhaps the last game for coach Marc Trestman.
After the Vikings drove 61 yards to the 3, Matt Asiata was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 to give Cutler and the Bears one last opportunity with 2:53 left and a four-point deficit.
They bungled it, metaphorically for this mess of a season. Three penalties, including two false starts, plus an incompletion doomed the drive.
Alshon Jeffery had only two catches for 34 yards after totaling 23 receptions, 384 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games against the Vikings. Without Brandon Marshall to attract attention elsewhere, the Vikings led by cornerback Xavier Rhodes had Jeffery well under control.
The bright spot for the Bears? Matt Forte had eight receptions, giving him an NFL-running-back-record 102 for the season to pass Larry Centers. Forte, with a modest 51 yards on 17 carries, also topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in seven years.
Though the Bears haven't made any public announcements, this was widely considered to be the last game in a tumultuous two-year stint for Trestman, the long-time quarterback tutor who was hired as a first-time NFL head coach following five seasons in the Canadian Football League running the Montreal Alouettes.
The Bears lost their last two games of 2013 to hand the division title to Green Bay, and after a 2-1 start this year they crumbled under the weight of Cutler's turnovers, bad defense and internal dysfunction.
Everyone from Cutler to general manager Phil Emery will enter the offseason with an uncertain future with the Bears, who missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year after reaching the NFC championship game following the 2010 season.
The Bears lost starters cornerback Charles Tillman, safety Chris Conte, linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams and defensive end Lamarr Houston to injuries at various points of the season. Houston's backup, Willie Young, was hurt last week and out for this game, too. So there wasn't a whole lot left.
Jared Allen almost had an interception in the first quarter against his former team, but he failed to hang onto the one-handed grab of the ball he batted at the line.
Fuller reached the end zone with his return, but the replay revealed his knee was down at the 9-yard line. That was the second of three touchdowns, two by the Bears, overruled by an official review. The Bears had to settle for the second of three field goals by Jay Feely, who later missed a 43-yard try.
Then Bridgewater was in a rhythm, connecting with Thielen for 22 yards and finding him wide open for the score on the ensuing play and a 10-6 lead when he beat Fuller and safety Brock Vereen was too late to help.
Bridgewater went 17 for 25 for 209 yards to finish 6-6 as a starter in his first season. Asiata had 91 yards on 19 carries.