After embarrassing first half, Bears wake up and narrowly lose to Vikings

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It was a tale of two different halves for the Bears in Sunday’s 29-22 loss to the division rival Minnesota Vikings.

In the first half, the Bears defense was making Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins look like a Hall of Famer. Cousins set a franchise record with 17 consecutive completions to start the game, moving the Vikings up and down the field at will without little resistance. The Vikings scored touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions while the Bears offense floundered.

Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson had 10 first-half catches and made Bears defenders look silly. Meanwhile, the Bears offense looked silly itself on their opening drive, drawing a delay of game penalty on their very first play after Khari Blasingame was late running onto the field. The offense made up for that five-yard penalty with a 30-yard catch-and-run from Justin Fields to David Montgomery. Still, the penalty showed an incredible lack of discipline.

The best the Bears could muster in the first half was a field goal on their opening drive. Aside from Montgomery’s big catch, the only other big play for the offense was when Darnell Mooney drew a defensive pass interference penalty.

It wasn’t until the Bears’ two-minute drive late in the first half, extending into their second-half performance, that they looked like an NFL team ready to play big boy football.

With a little over a minute to play in the first half, Fields connected with Mooney on a 39-yard bomb that the receiver hauled in with one hand. It will be one of the best catches that you witness this season. Three plays later, Montgomery pounded it into the end zone from nine yards out to cut the lead. Cairo Santos tacked on the extra point and the Bears miraculously went into the half down just 11 points after the Vikings missed a field goal on their final possession of the half.

The Bears received the ball to open the second half and Fields led the offense on an 8-play, 67-yard touchdown drive. Equanimeous St. Brown caught an 18-yard pass, Cole Kmet added a 23-yard pick-up, and Fields had two scrambles for 15 yards. Fields was then credited with a touchdown pass to rookie Velus Jones — which was really just a glorified run. But the rookie punched it in and the Bears suddenly had something going.

The offense tried to go for the two-point conversion, but a quick strike to Dante Pettis was swallowed up at the 2-yard line, leaving the Bears down by 5.

The Bears tried to catch the Vikings sleeping with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the Vikings recovered. The Bears defense stiffened and held the Vikings to a field goal attempt, which the Bears wound up blocking.

On the ensuing drive, Fields went back to work. He completed passes to Mooney, Ryan Griffin, and Kmet and also scrambled a few times to move the chains, including on the Bears’ first fourth-down pickup of the season. The drive ended with another Santos field goal, drawing the Bears within 2 points.

The defense came out big again on the next possession as Cousins was picked off by Kindle Vildor. Seven plays later, the Bears offense scored on its fourth-straight drive (the third of the second half) when Santos added a 51-yard field goal to give the Bears an improbable 22-21 lead.

The Bears were looking pretty good at that point with nine and a half minutes to play. That’s when the Vikings offense woke up from its slumber and Cousins engineered an impressive, 17-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up seven minutes of game clock and culminated in a Cousins 1-yard touchdown sneak. The two-point conversion gave the Vikings a 7-point lead, 29-22.

Last week, the Bears were hoping for one last chance for Fields and the offense to tie the game against the Giants, but Jones muffed the punt and the Giants ran out the clock. This week, it was former Vikings receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette who gave the ball — and the game — away.

On the Bears’ two-minute drive, ISM caught a short pass from Fields and rather than run out of bounds he attempted to get as many yards as he could. That’s when Cameron Dantzler ripped the ball away from ISM and the Vikings ran out the clock to secure the victory.

There was a lot of good news and bad news from Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. The bad news, of course, was that the Bears lost the game and they looked horrendous in the first half. They allowed Cousins and the Vikings to pass all over them and really didn’t have an answer for them. They failed to generate much of a pass rush and it gave a good quarterback like Cousins too much time to get comfortable.

The good news is that the Bears didn’t give up and the offense — especially Fields — actually showed progress and signs of improvement. It wasn’t the most impressive game we would expect from a guy we hope is the long-awaited answer at quarterback. Still, it was an improvement.

I don’t think many Bears fans or the media at large expected the Bears to win this game. So, the fact that they made it a game in the second half and actually took the lead late is something of an accomplishment for a young team trying to find itself and for a management that is seeking answers to a myriad of questions.

The Bears have a quick turnaround this week. After two games away, they will return home to the friendly confines of Soldier Field for a Thursday night prime time matchup against the Washington Commanders. Ron Rivera’s guys have been fairly awful this season, but they still boast an offense that can heat up pretty quickly. It should present an interesting challenge for the Bears defense, and the hope is that the offense can build on what they did in the second half against the Vikings.

Former high school and college kicker. Lifelong Chicago Bears fan. I've been writing about the navy blue and burnt orange since 2007. You can follow on Twitter, like it on Facebook, or email me.