By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings fell to the Chicago Bears 28-10 Sunday at Soldier Field.
Adrian Peterson continues to be the Vikings’ offense. He finished with 108 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving while the rest of the team totaled 120 yards.
The Vikings (6-5) scored first with a field goal in the first quarter, but needed a short touchdown pass from Christian Ponder to Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter to get back to as close as 15.
The Bears (8-3) remain a team that lives and dies by the turnover. Chicago has feasted on mediocre and bad offenses with a plus-19 in its eight wins.
The Vikings did nothing to stem the momentum the Bears slowly gained through the middle quarters. Minnesota coaching staff just had no answers.
The worst coaching decision came early in the fourth quarter on the drive immediately after the Bears took a 28-10 lead. The Vikings moved the ball down the field to the Bears’ 26-yard line and were faced with a third-and-two. Rather than give the ball to Peterson, who had three carries for 30 yards on the drive, Ponder was lined up in shotgun and overthrew a covered Rudolph. To make matters worse, Leslie Frazier elected to go for the first down, instead of kicking the field goal on fourth down. Minnesota never got close to converting the fourth down play and never got close to scoring again.
At least during the third quarter, Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave figured out that the only way to get back in the game is to give the ball to Peterson and get out of his way. He just didn’t stick with it long enough.
The Vikings played right into the Bears’ hands; the offense turned the ball over three times. It started with a harmless strip of the ball from Peterson in the first quarter, then Ponder overthrew Devin Aromashodu right into the arms of Chris Conte late in the second quarter. Finally, Peterson and Ponder couldn’t complete a handoff for a fumble in the fourth quarter.
The team really struggled on third down converting just 6-of-16 opportunities.
Peterson and Rudolph paced the offense. Peterson finished with 138 total yards, but no touchdowns. Rudolph caught five passes for 55 yards.
Jarius Wright caught seven passes for 49; he was targeted 10 times. Wright is becoming Ponder’s favorite target.
The San Francisco 49ers put pressure on the Bears quarterback (granted it was Jason Campbell and not Jay Cutler, but the offensive line did not change much) for six sacks, but the Vikings vaunted pass rush got just one.
Chad Greenway had a fumble recovery, Antoine Winfield had an interception and Fred Evans recorded a sack. The defensive unit did nothing else.
Brandon Marshall picked right up where Calvin Johnson left off two weeks ago (12 catches for 200 yards). Marshall finished the game with 12 catches for 92 yards and was targeted 17 times (more than the rest of the Bears team combined). The Vikings had no answer for him. A.J. Jefferson had the size, but did not get the positioning. Antoine Winfield had the positioning, but not the size.
The Vikings’ defense was as inept on third down as its offense. The Bears converted 11-of-19 third down attempts, and also converted its only fourth down attempt into a first down.
Matt Kalil blocked a kick. Chris Kluwe had a 40.5 yard punting average and Blair Walsh made a 40-yard field goal. Marcus Sherels a 38-yard kickoff return while Devin Hester had just a six-yard punt return average.
Those were the good numbers.
Kluwe shanked a punt out-of-bounds for 23 yards in the first quarter. Walsh had a 30-yard field goal blocked, Matt Asiata and Josh Robinson had kickoff returns of 15 and 14 yards, respectively. Walsh had no touchbacks in three kickoff attempts.
Those were the bad numbers.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.