Chicago Bears fall to last in NFC North


Three NFC North teams picked up wins in Week 15, with the Chicago Bears representing the sole division member to lose in a 38-17 beatdown at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.

With that loss, the Chicago Bears dropped to 1-4 in the division, 1-6 at home and 5-9 overall, good enough for last place in the NFC North after the Detroit Lions topped the New Orleans Saints on Monday.

Just three weeks ago, the Bears’ season seemed promising. Fresh off a surprising 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving night, the Bears had every reason to be confident. They’d just bested the annual top team in the division, and they had what looked like an easy schedule the rest of the way. Contests against San Francisco, Washington, Tampa Bay and Detroit looked like good bets for wins, putting them potentially in the playoff hunt at 9-7.

Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) rushes for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Instead, Sunday’s dud in Minnesota represented the Bears’ latest effort at finding their lowest point of the season after losses the previous two weeks against Washington and San Francisco.

Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The offense was dreadful, the running game not used enough and the pass protection woeful. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked five times and had a pair of turnovers. Running backs Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford had a combined 19 carries, an inexcusable total when the you consider that the line couldn’t pass protect and the game was close for the entire first half.

Defensively, the Bears secondary showed its true colors in allowing Teddy Bridgewater and the 31st-ranked Vikings passing offense to throw for 231 yards and four touchdowns on 17 of 20 passing. The Bears pass defense has been a mirage for much of the season; they’re third in yards allowed, but are mid-tier with a 63 percent completion percentage, are 20th in sacks and they’re scraping the bottom of the league with only seven interceptions.

On Sunday, Bridgewater and company showed why the Bears can allow the seeming success of the secondary this year to dissuade them from using a draft pick – arguably in the first two rounds, depending on what slots the Bears fill in free agency – on a cornerback. Kyle Fuller is inconsistent, Bryce Callahan is still a mostly unproven third cornerback, and Tracy Porter and Alan Ball aren’t long-term answers.

Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) passes against the Chicago Bears in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

As for the Vikings, they looked great. It’s that simple. This is a Vikings team that was lucky to escape Chicago with a win earlier this year, but this time around they built a 10-point lead in the first half and didn’t look back.

The offense, in one of the few instances of the season, looked balanced. More than 200 yards from Bridgewater through the air, and four touchdowns. No turnovers. One sack. Almost 130 rushing yards on 36 carries. Defensively, they held the Bears to fewer than 100 rushing yards, sacked Cutler five times and held the Bears offense to less than 20 points.

It was a great all-around showing from a likely playoff bound team.

Dec 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) prepares to throw a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Elsewhere in the division, both Green Bay and Detroit tallied victories, with Green Bay beating Oakland and Detroit topping New Orleans.

With the win, the Packers moved to 10-4 and still hold a one-game lead over the 9-5 Vikings.

Green Bay, despite scoring 30 points (seven on an interception return), wasn’t clicking on all cylinders Sunday in their 30-20 win over the Raiders.

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Aaron Rodgers completed only 22 of 39 passes, and threw his sixth interception of the year, topping his 2014 total with two games left to play. The running game also wasn’t up to snuff, running for 103 yards on 28 carries, good for only 3.7 yards per carry, and James Starks lost a fumble that eventually led to a Raiders touchdown.

The defense, though, collected three sacks and two interceptions and held Oakland scoreless over the final 20 minutes of the game, including stopping the Raiders three times on downs.

Dec 21, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) makes a throw in the first quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

As for Detroit, they won the battle of non-playoff teams Monday night 35-27 over New Orleans. Matthew Stafford ripped the Saints’ pathetic pass defense to the tune of 254 passing yards and three touchdowns on 22 of 25 passing. The Lions’ running game also rebounded from its season-long slumber, totaling 150 yards on 23 carries.

Defensively, the Lions allowed Drew Brees to throw for 341 yards and three touchdowns while collecting only one sack, but stuffed the Saints’ running game (69 yards on 18 carries).

Nov 22, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) talk following the game at TCF Bank Stadium. The Packers defeated the Vikings 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

With the regular season winding down, the Bears and Lions are neck-and-neck in the battle for last place and a top ten draft pick. Both teams are 5-9, and they play in Chicago in the final week of the season.

As for the good teams in the division, the 9-5 Vikings trail Green Bay by one game in the standings, and already lost once to the Packers.

In Week 16, Green Bay (10-4), who has already clinched a playoff berth, is traveling to Arizona (12-2). A tough road matchup for Green Bay gives the Vikings the edge as Minnesota hosts an unpredictable 6-8 New York Giants squad that could be playing without all-universe wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is appealing a one-game suspension.

A win by the Vikings and loss by the Packers could set up a Week 17 scenario where the Vikings-Packers tilt in Green Bay would be for the NFC North division crown.

Next: Takeaways from the Bears' loss to the Vikings

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