One play summed up Chicago's 17-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, their disappointing season and why Bears coach Matt Nagy probably won't be too much longer for his job.
It came on fourth-and-2 with the Bears trailing 17-3 in the third quarter. They had just blocked a punt and had good field position.
On ESPN's broadcast, Louis Riddick said before the play was snapped that running back David Montgomery came off the field due to an issue with his helmet. The Bears — who had all three timeouts left — barely lined up right. Receiver Darnell Mooney took a spot at tailback a moment before the ball was snapped. Instead of running a simple quarterback sneak for a yard, the Bears rolled out. The timing was bad between Fields and Mooney, who didn't turn around right away when he ran a route to the flat. Fields didn't throw it and had nothing else. He got sacked. Threat over, game over.
It was a sloppy play by a bad team.
"That looked awful from the snap," ESPN's Steve Levy said.
The next time the Bears were getting the ball, they muffed a punt and the Vikings recovered. That's the 2021 Bears. They're 4-10.
The Bears had plenty of personnel issues due to COVID-19, including being without their whole secondary. And that would be a valid excuse Monday night if the rest of their season wasn't also horrendous.
Bears, Vikings both make plenty of mistakes
Most of the game was a mistake-filled fiasco. Why the Bears were scheduled for a second straight prime-time game is beyond comprehension.
The Vikings didn't cover themselves in glory either. Facing a team that is one of the NFL's worst and was also missing players, Minnesota had a difficult time pulling away. Kirk Cousins, against a backup secondary that was patched together just before kickoff, had just 87 yards passing. He had passes of 18, 13 and 12 yards to Jefferson, and no other completion longer than 9 yards. It's not like the Vikings were dominating on the ground either.
But the Bears couldn't do much with it. Fields struggled most of the night. The execution when they got deep inside Vikings territory was bad. The Vikings had the game in hand in the fourth quarter, when they took a pair of personal fouls for late hits on Fields, including one that led to linebacker Eric Kendricks being ejected. That helped the Bears get inside the 10-yard line. And in a goal-to-go situation, the Bears lost 2 yards on a run and Fields threw incomplete three straight times, including a fourth-down pass when Mooney was barely out of bounds. The Bears' next drive got into the red zone too and stalled without points. On fourth down, Fields threw a little high to Damiere Byrd and Byrd dropped it. With just a little better execution near the end zone, the Bears had a shot at the upset. That doesn't reflect well on the Vikings, who are still in the playoff race.
It was not a great night for the Vikings. It was a worse night for the Bears.
Bears could be facing a tumultuous offseason
The Bears are looking at big changes. Nagy barely survived after last season, and with Chicago sitting at 4-10 there's not much reason to consider him coming back for 2022. Chicago has never made an in-season coaching change, but there's a new rule allowing teams who have already fired their coach to start interviewing candidates during the final two weeks before the regular season. Maybe that causes the Bears to make a move before the season is done.
Vikings fans gripe about head coach Mike Zimmer, but at least his team is still in playoff contention. Monday's win was ugly but it keeps the Vikings in the middle of the wild-card race. They're tied with the New Orleans Saints at 7-7 for the seventh seed in the NFC. The winner of the Philadelphia Eagles-Washington Football Team game on Tuesday will also be 7-7. They're in the mix for a playoff spot, though you wouldn't have known it by watching Monday night's game.
Both teams will have interesting decisions coming up after seasons that have disappointed, to varying degrees. The Bears' offseason might start early.