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Bears prove punchless attack no mirage
The Bears' preseason was not an apparition after all.
The lack of offense so apparent in those four preliminary exercises and, to a lesser extent, in the opening-day loss to the New York Giants has grown uglier than moldy bread.
Sunday's 10-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was another damning shred of evidence. The Bears' seven first downs, 140 total yards and 17 percent (2 of 12) third-down efficiency was a pathetic display that eventually left their defense vulnerable to Jim McMahon's fourth-quarter histrionics.
"I've got some friends on that team, and I like to see them do well, but not as well as us," said McMahon, whose 79 percent passing efficiency was his career best and sixth best in Vikings history.
These dispirited Bears have known Metrodome doom. And they already knew about fourth-quarter losses here. Now, for the first time since 1982, they know what it feels like to be 0-2.
McMahon passed 16 yards to Cris Carter for a touchdown with 8:17 left in the game as the Vikings won their third straight over the Bears in the last two seasons.
"We have to be able to make more first downs and move the ball," said Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, who must wait at least another two weeks for his first NFL victory. The Bears have a bye next weekend.
The Bears had plenty of time to try to salvage a victory or at least a tie to send the game into overtime. But Jim Harbaugh's desperation pass was intercepted by cornerback Audray McMillan with 1:23 remaining.
"I knew it was going to come down to the last minute or two, and at the end I thought we had time," Wannstedt said. "We've been in that situation before. All we needed was a field goal."
Wannstedt also said Bears fans should expect more close games.
"We're the type of team where if we have to drive at the end and win the game with a 2-minute drill, that's what we're going to have to do," Wannstedt said. "If we have to shut people out, that's what we have to do. If we have to block a punt, that's what we have to do.
"We're obviously not in a position where we have any luxury in any area of the football team. It's going to be a grinder every week. I said that a month ago, and that hasn't changed. As long as we keep giving that effort, it will come together."
Harbaugh wound up completing only 11 of 20 passes for 83 yards, his lowest yardage total since 1991.
The Bears took a 7-0 lead with 7:53 left in the first quarter. Veteran Vikings running back Roger Craig fumbled after a third-down reception of 6 yards, and Steve McMichael recovered at the Minnesota 27 to set up the Bears' score.
Neal Anderson, who gained 60 yards on 13 carries in his first start of the year, ran 19 yards to the Vikings 1 before Harbaugh scored on a sneak. Kevin Butler converted.
The Vikings marched to the Bears 28 late in the first quarter after a third-down roughing-the-passer penalty by Trace Armstrong on McMahon. But the drive stalled, and Fuad Reveiz missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt.
The Bears advanced to the Minnesota 36, but Butler's 53-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar and fell no good. Butler later complained that the ball "was flat" and didn't have sufficient air in it.
McMahon, who pulled out so many late victories for the Bears and went 23 of 29 for 173 yards Sunday, took advantage of a struggling secondary on the final scoring play to Cris Carter.
"He (Carter) came in and kind of stopped and then went to the corner," Wannstedt said. "We just lost him. When McMahon started scrambling, (Carter) turned it up to the corner and we lost him. We were in zone coverage. Three-deep zone."
Mark Carrier, the closest defender to Carter, said a peek at McMahon during the play was costly.
"I looked at McMahon step up, and I tried to look back and find out where Cris was," Carrier said. "By that time Cris had circled around, and he went back to the open spot. Cris had found a hole in the seam."
The Bears have lost their first two games by a total of nine points. Their three preseason losses were by a total of 11 points, and their only preseason victory was by two points over Dallas.
"The guys laid it on the line to the best of their abilities," Wannstedt said. "I wasn't discouraged with the effort the guys gave. The field position, obviously, in the second half killed us. We had opportunities in the first half."
Defensively, Richard Dent collected two sacks, and Chris Zorich and Steve McMichael each had one. But veteran Barry Word, obtained from Kansas City for a fifth-round draft pick, had 94 yards rushing and a career-best five catches for 58 yards.
"A couple of times we hit him in the backfield and he broke tackles," Wannstedt said. "He did a nice job. We missed tackles on the screens. As the game went on, I thought we were out there so long defensively. I think we played everybody defensively who made the trip."
Anderson rushed for 49 yards in the first half, but only 11 in the second half as the Bears managed only three second-half first downs.
"I thought Neal did some good things," Wannstedt said. "Up front, we have to get some people back healthy. The guys in there are doing the best they can, believe me. Vernice (Smith) and Jay (Leeuwenburg) are doing the best they can, and they're fighting."