Maybe another two carries by Matt Forte would have changed the Bears' fate Sunday night.
While the talk of the town will be Charles Tillman giving up a 99-yard touchdown to ex-teammate Bernard Berrian, the Bears inability to punch it in on first-and-goal from the 1 was equally crucial in a 34-14 loss to the Vikings.
Without the Vikings' goal-line stand in the second quarter, Berrian wouldn't have gotten a chance to burn his old teammates. With a score right there, maybe the Bears would have ridden the momentum of a 14-3 lead to victory and stayed atop the NFC North.
Instead, the Bears dipped to 6-6, while the Vikings took over sole possession of the division race at 7-5.
"This one hurts more than the Green Bay loss," defensive end Alex Brown said.
"It's a tough situation," he said. "We're right there on the goal line, and we couldn't punch it in. That's something we have to address, because I think that's happened like twice this year. ... We just have to find a way to get in there, no matter what."
The four-play stall began with Kyle Orton throwing a play-action pass to tight end Greg Olsen that fell incomplete. Then Forte ran left for no gain, followed by fullback Jason Davis going up the middle for no gain. It was Davis' first action of the season fresh off the practice squad, as he was inserted to replace injured starter Jason McKie.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner defended the play-calling when asked about his strategy.
"We had a goal-line plan going in," he said. "We saw what they did. We thought we had a chance to use play-action on first down, so we took a shot there. Obviously, that didn't work. Then we ran base plays, goal-line plays that we thought would work."
On fourth down, the Bears ran Forte to the right, and he was stopped in his tracks by Vikings star end Jared Allen.
"I think I caught on the backside a little bit," Forte said. "The guy just made a good play. But you've got to get into the end zone."
Instead, the Vikings set up what turned out to be the game-changing play.
On first-and-10 from the 1, Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte dropped back to pass and found Berrian way ahead of Tillman, who had dipped inside and left Berrian wide open. Frerotte hit him in stride as the duo combined to tie the longest offensive scoring play in NFL history.
The Bears sat stunned on the bench, with Tillman shaking his head in disgust.
Corey Graham, playing the other cornerback spot, described the play from his view.
"They pumped one way and came back to [Berrian] on the backside," he said. "Just a good scheme by them ... a good play. They knew that we cheat over. It's just a good call.
"The No. 2 [receiver] was coming down the seam. When the quarterback looks away, we've got to cheat. We play off the quarterback. We just have to find a way to fix it and make plays out there."
The defense made plays early but not enough to slow the Vikings. Adrian Peterson ran for 131 yards and a score as the Vikings gained 378 yards. For the Bears, Orton struggled through a miserable game, with three interceptions to end a streak of 206 passes without one. He completed 11 of 29 passes for 153 yards with a passer rating of 39.1. And the Bears had a season-low 228 yards.
Forte finished with 96 rushing yards against the league's second-best rushing defense and had a touchdown reception.
Tillman had a first half he would rather forget. After his gift to Berrian, he was penalized 15 yards for a horse-collar tackle on Berrian, setting up the Vikings with first-and-10 on the Bears' 22. Two plays later, Frerotte's 1-yard dive put the Vikings up 17-7.
The second-quarter explosion by the Vikings negated the early firepower supplied by Devin Hester, who scored the game's first touchdown, lining up outside against Antoine Winfield, then taking a short slant pass from Orton and streaking down the field for 65-yard score. Hester darted by weak tackle attempts by free safety Darren Sharper and linebacker Chad Greenway.
It was his longest play of the season, kick and punt returns included.
Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek injured his arm on the game's second play and did not return.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times