That game at Chicago, though, was one of those seen-this-before bad movies for a team that still has a lot of flaws. Regression was one way to put it.
“None of that showed up in practice. They were enthusiastic and energetic before the game,” coach Mike Zimmer said Monday.
Whatever the reason or cause, the Vikings sure looked a lot like last year’s version while losing 21-13 to fall into a last-place tie with the Bears in the NFC North at 4-6.
“I feel like we had a lot of opportunities, and we messed it up,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said.
Even a surprise return by running back Adrian Peterson probably wouldn’t make a significant impact on the problems that popped up on Sunday.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association had a hearing scheduled Monday on a grievance the union filed against the league to immediately reinstate Peterson until any discipline is determined.
“That’s the furthest thing from my mind right now,” Zimmer said Sunday after the game. “I need to figure out how we can tackle and get people out on third downs.”
Teddy Bridgewater finished 18 for 28 for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but he passed for only 56 yards through three quarters. He took two sacks.
Just as he was moving the Vikings in position for the potential tying score with a series of underneath completions, Bridgewater overeagerly threw into double coverage in the end zone for Charles Johnson where safety Ryan Mundy picked him off to seal the game.
“I think I could have done a better job of understanding the situation,” Bridgewater said.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen was open across the middle on a drag route on that play from the 29-yard line, or he could’ve dumped the ball off to running back Jerick McKinnon.
One problem was the clock. It wasn’t working. Unable to see how many seconds were left exactly, Bridgewater said he didn’t believe there was enough time to risk a gain short of the goal line.
The Soldier Field scoreboard malfunction aside, Bridgewater kept up a troubling pattern of being unable to complete passes down the field. His longest connection went to Johnson for 24 yards. Cordarrelle Patterson had a 17-yard reception.
Not nearly enough. Bridgewater has shown poise and prowess at times, but too often he has been no more productive or effective than Christian Ponder was last year.
“Those guys can make plays for this team. We are going to continue to find ways to get the ball out faster,” Bridgewater said.
This time, the defense had plenty to blame itself for, too.
Again, reprising those struggles of 2013, the secondary couldn’t keep up with Bears wide receivers Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall.
Cornerback Josh Robinson, at a significant size disadvantage, was picked apart. The front four that had been so good before the bye week failed to record a sack.
Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, who has had an otherwise-stellar first season, missed several tackles. Jay Cutler passed for 330 yards, by far the most allowed by the Vikings in 2014. He even ran for 21 yards.
“Too many missed tackles. Too many mistakes on defense. Some guys blowing assignments on a few plays here and there,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “When you play like that and you give up almost 500 yards, you can’t expect to win a ballgame.”
As for that nonexistent time when the Vikings needed to see it on the scoreboard, Zimmer was upset afterward. He said Monday he spoke with the NFL about the issue, and the league told him there needs to be a protocol in place in case a similar scenario arises. But that was just a sidebar to where the Vikings are with six games to go.
“The Bears beat us, OK? It wasn’t the clocks,” Zimmer said. “The Bears beat us. They performed better than we did.”