The Vikings are getting more consistent on the road, but it's consistent losing. Their 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears was their ninth consecutive road loss, and the reasons were many.
There were Brett Favre's three interceptions. There were the Vikings slipping on the field, which caused two of those interceptions. There too many missed tackles to count on defense and special teams. And injuries to Bernard Berrian before the game, John Sullivan early in the game and Percy Harvin late in the game didn't help. By the end of the Vikings' ninth consecutive road loss, the reasons for the loss weren't as important as the result itself, which dropped the Vikings to 3-6 on the season, three games behind the division-leading Green Bay Packers and the Bears, with losses to each of those teams.
Offensively, the Vikings couldn't get much going. Adrian Peterson rushed for only 51 yards on 17 carries and Favre threw for only 170 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Defensively, the Vikings' once-stout run defense gave up 130 yards to the Bears and the zone passing coverage, combined with a consistent lack of pressure on Bears QB Jay Culter, left too many third-down openings. The Bears converted a whopping 58 percent of their third downs (11 of 19) after entering the game as one of the league's worst in that statistic.
And, once again, the special-teams coverage units allowed Devin Hester to make an impact. He had a 42-yard punt return and a 68-yard kickoff return, helping the Bears start six of their drives in Vikings territory.
It didn't start so bad. In fact, the Vikings had their best start of the season, scoring on their first possession for the first time this season. Peterson pushed the ball to midfield with a 20-yard run and Visanthe Shiancoe had the biggest reception of the drive, a 14-yarder. But the drive stalled and Ryan Longwell gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead with a 36-yard field goal.
When Husain Abdullah intercepted Cutler after a deflection, the Vikings were driving again. They gained two first downs on defensive holding calls and Toby Gerhart was gaining ground in the running game, picking up 28 yards in his first three carries, but once again they settled for a field goal attempt. An attempt is all they would get, as the 39-yard try bounced off the left upright.
The Bears took advantage, moving through the Vikings defense in the passing game after a Chester Taylor 10-yard run to start the drive. Johnny Knox picked up the big play with a 29-yard reception on third-and-11 and followed that with an 11-yard catch on third-and-1. But once inside the red zone, tight end Greg Olsen was the focus. A 10-yard touchdown to him was called back on a holding penalty, but Cutler went right back to him with a 17-yard bullet into the end zone for a 7-3 Bears lead midway through the second quarter.
After a pair of three-and-outs by both teams, Favre returned to the field and found Harvin wide open on the first play of the ensuing series for a 53-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead, 10-7, with 3:17 left to play in the first half.
The Bears responded with their own touchdown drive, with Knox once again the big threat, catching a 10-yard pass on third down and an 18-yarder one play later. But Devin Hester did the scoring damage, catching a 19-yard touchdown pass after Ray Edwards slipped for a 14-10 lead that held up until halftime.
The Bears continued to get into scoring position on the Vikings in the second half. Favre's opening series of the second half started with an interception that set up Chicago on Minnesota's 10-yard line. Four plays later, Robbie Gould was giving Chicago a 17-10 lead less than two minutes into the second half with a 34-yard field goal.
One possession later, the Vikings answered with a field goal drive that was set up by a pass interference call on Danieal Manning. Longwell's 33-yard kick brought the Vikings within four points, 17-13, midway through the third quarter.
But when Hester returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards, the Bears were right back in scoring position. They picked up one first down before Gould extended the lead to 20-13 with a 37-yard field goal with 5:26 left in the third quarter.
Hester set up the Bears' next drive with a 42-yard punt return, but Abdullah thwarted that scoring opportunity when he intercepted Cutler in the end zone. As it turned out, that just delayed the Bears from taking a 27-13 lead.
On their next drive, the Bears started near midfield and drove into Vikings territory on solid Matt Forte runs and short passes. But the key play came on third-and-1 at the 19-yard line. Cutler sold the handoff and play-actioned to an uncovered Kellen Davis for a 19-yard touchdown to seal the 27-13 win.
It may have also sealed the Vikings' season. The mistakes by the lake were many, creating a costly loss to start the second half of Minnesota's season.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings' many mistakes prove costly in loss
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