MINNEAPOLIS – There was little in question when it came to the contest Sunday afternoon that luckily was indoors.
The Bears were headed to a seventh-consecutive season without a playoff appearance. Their opponents were heading to the postseason and wouldn’t be playing their last game at US Bank Stadium.
Another near certainty was the future of the man leading the Bears on the field as John Fox is likely to be fired after his third-consecutive losing season. It also seemed certain that his team wouldn’t meet the best of fates as the 2017 came to a close on enemy turf.
Indeed that was correct.
Minnesota got control of the game early and were never significantly challenged on Sunday, beating the 23-10 Bears to secure a first round bye in the NFC Playoffs. Meanwhile the Bears finish the season 5-11, an improvement in record only as the team now likely heads to another offseason of change.
A pair of Latavius Murray touchdown rushes, one in the first and then other in the second quarter, put the Vikings ahead to stay as their defense held the Bears to just one first down in the first half. The Bears were able to get on the scoreboard thanks to some trickery on a punt, as Tarik Cohen faked like he was going to catch a kick only to have Bryce Callahan catch it on the other side.
The defensive back, who had two costly interference penalties before that, was clear for a 59-yard touchdown return that cut the lead in half.
Yet the offense wasn’t able to produce for most of the afternoon and surrendered two of those points when Mitchell Trubisky was called for intentional grounding in his own endzone to make it 16-7 at the half.
Trubisky was 20-of-36 for 178 yards and didn’t have a turnover but struggled to get much going throughout the afternoon. Stephon Diggs 15-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum in the third quarter would provide all of the insurance the Vikings would need as the Bears mustered just a field goal in the final 30 minutes.
Twice the Bears got inside the Minnesota ten-yard line in the fourth quarter with a chance to make it a game, but each time the Bears were turned away on downs. Opportunities lost during a lost game in a lost season for a coach who won’t have to endure anymore in Chicago.