Bears

Bears-Vikings: And the winner is...

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Bears-Vikings: And the winner is...

Every game has “keys.” Commonly those are variations on a theme — stop the run, pressure the passer, avoid turnovers, the usual suspects.

But the keys to the Bears being successful are less specific to the Minnesota Vikings — stop Adrian Peterson, the usual — and more to what in a broader sense the Bears simply have not done well enough virtually this entire season.

The early fall-downs

In multiple games this season the result has gone in favor of whatever team scores last — Washington, San Francisco, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland. The Bears bluntly and correctly declared that in losses to the Redskins and 49ers it should never have had to come down to Robbie Gould field goal tries.

Too often, however, the problem has been who has scored first. The Bears have been outscored in the first quarters of 10 of their 13 games, and they are 3-7 in those games. In some they have come back to tie scores or even go ahead, but those subsequent scores should have been building or padding a lead if the Bears had not spotted opponents the high ground in the first place.

[MORE BEARS: Vikings will be without Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr vs. Bears]

And against a Minnesota team that coach Mike Zimmer admitted had a confidence sag when they were flogged by the Arizona Cardinals (the Vikings’ third loss in the last four games), starting with authority potentially stands to fuel any shakiness the Vikings still feel.

Get a takeaway, any takeaway

The 2015 Bears defense has been respectable in spite of a litany of injuries and personnel losses in every echelon of the unit. Run defense has not allowed an average of fewer than 118 yards per game and was up to 128 per game after a Week 12 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

But the pass defense, while ranked No. 2 at 216 yards per game, is something of a mirage in perhaps the most game-turning area.

Only four teams have fewer than the Bears’ seven interceptions this season. And only three of those belong to defensive backs — two by Kyle Fuller, one by Tracy Porter. That matches the low of the past 20 years, when safety Marty Carter had two and cornerback Jeremy Lincoln had one.

The Bears had four in 2000 and 2002 — coincidentally (or not) seasons of 5-11 and 4-12, respectively.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Jay Cutler has had a career year at taking care of the football — interception percentage 1.8 vs. his previous best of 2.9 percent for a season in which he has played 12 or more games.

The defense has not returned the favor. The Bears need to be able to commit numbers to stopping Peterson, with the secondary then taking the ball away from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

And the winner is...

Few teams have been as difficult to predict in 2015 as the Bears, with the resiliency and character to recover with road victories to close to within a game of .500, then failing completely at home against genuinely substandard teams in games with genuine playoff implications on the line.

The Bears and the Vikings come into Sunday having lost three of their last four. The Bears have been rallied to upset good teams already (Kansas City, Green Bay) but after the performances, top to bottom, against San Francisco and Washington, and a top-5 Minnesota rushing game going against one of the NFL’s poorest run defenses...

Prediction: Vikings 24, Bears 20        

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

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USA TODAY

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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