Sometimes, you can tell the exact moment when a team loses their shot at the playoffs. Going into their 34-14 loss to the Vikings, the Bears knew that the season hinged on the game. They were in a tie with the Vikings for the lead in the NFC North, and with only four games left in the season after tonight's tilt in Minneapolis, the winner would likely lock up the division. The Bears lost the game, and likely the season, in just two plays.
The Bears were stopped in four attempts to get in the end zone in the second quarter. Two runs by Matt Forte, an incomplete pass, and a Jason Davis run were all stopped by the Vikings defense. Minnesota's offense came in with the ball on their own one-yard line. Gus Frerotte, the Vikings' well-traveled quarterback, then sent the ball deep to former Bear Bernard Berrian. Berrian was not being covered by Charles Tillman, caught it and took the ball to the end zone. With that odd set of play calling, the Bears were deflated and they never really recovered.
The Vikings took advantage of the situation by playing inspired football. Adrian Peterson, reminiscent of Walter Payton in his running style, ran for 131 yards. Defensive end Jared Allen sacked Kyle Orton three times. The Vikings D picked Orton's passes three times.
It didn't start out ugly. In fact, the Bears took an early lead with Orton and Devin Hester hooking up for a 65-yd touchdown. Forte managed 96 yards. Adewale Ogunleye tested his luck with a late, if not too hard, hit of the Vikings QB. Frerotte was sacked twice in the first half. Everything changed on that goal line stand.
The Vikes are now in first place, all by themselves. With a 7-5 record, they control their destiny. The Bears are a game behind Minnesota and need a small miracle to come up with a playoff berth in the next four games.