MINNEAPOLIS—If there were a question after the Detroit defeat last weekcould the Bears fall any lower this season?it was answered emphatically Sunday in a 25-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
If the Bears are not at the bottom now, they certainly can see it.
Only a turnaround of near-epic proportions can prevent the Bears' third losing season in four under Jauron.
"The bottom line now is we've got to win eight of the next nine games if we want to get to the playoffs," safety Mike Brown said. "It's not impossible, but it's extremely tough."
Jauron remained insistent.
"I believe in our players," he said. "Absolutely. I believe in our players."
Based on tiebreakers at this point of the season, the Bears stand dead last in the NFC North a year after winning their division. In the next three weeks they face Philadelphia and New England in Champaign and visit St. Louis the Patriots beat the Rams in last season's Super Bowl and the Eagles were widely picked to make it to this season's.
The Vikings seized the momentum on a 44-yard field goal by Gary Anderson in the second quarter to take a 3-0 lead, and after that it appeared the teams were merely working out the final score. The Bears looked beaten and played like it, once again unable to reclaim the emotional high ground after an opponent grabbed it. Players conceded they were beaten both emotionally and physically.
"No one got really too down," Brown said. "It's just hard to get out of the rut we're in right now. You can't help but think, 'Is it ever going to end?'
"We're just not playing well enough to win. You can't win football games if you're getting dominated, and we're pretty much getting dominated every week."
The Bears are becoming the opponent that teams step over on the way toward righting themselves. The Vikings (2-5) had gone 36 games without holding a team to fewer than 10 points and ranked 30th in points yielded this year, 29th in yards yielded. Their defense held the Bears to 218 total yards, 6 fewer than the woeful Detroit defense did last week.
Minnesota drove into Bears territory on each of its first eight possessions, scoring on four straight drives. The Vikings then recorded a safety and kicked a final field goal to lead 25-0 after three quarters.
The Vikings outgained the Bears 318-99 through three quarters, and it scarcely mattered when wide receiver Marty Booker caught a 27-yard touchdown throw from Chris Chandler early in the fourth quarter.
The Bears finally did manage to stop the Vikings after those first four scores when Daunte Culpepper fumbled at the Bears' 1 in the third quarter. That only interrupted the carnage.
Two plays later, Anthony Thomas was swamped in the end zone for a safety. It was perhaps the ultimate indignity for a team that began this season determined to establish its identity through the run.
Jim Miller didn't start at quarterback because of his arm and elbow tendinitis. And coaches removed Chandler in the fourth quarter after he had been sacked five times and hit extremely hard repeatedly by a defense that had not managed more than three sacks in a game this season. Henry Burris appeared to have been sent in as much to protect Chandler as to lead a comeback.
Minnesota scored on all three of its possessions in the second quarterAnderson's 44-yard kick, a 1-yard run by Mo Williams and a 24-yard Anderson field goal with three seconds left in the half.
The Vikings opened the third quarter with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Culpepper to Randy Moss, who finished with nine catches and 119 yards, over cornerback Reggie Austin.
The collapse was total. The offense handed the ball to the Vikings on an interception that led to a touchdown, and special teams gave up a 57-yard punt return after a three-and-out possession at the end of the first half, setting up a field goal and a 13-0 Vikings lead at halftime. And the defense only slowed the Vikings, who didn't punt in the second or third quarters.
"It certainly wasn't pretty out there in any area," Jauron said. "There were not a lot of positive things from that game. We have to get [the Vikings] off the field and we have to stay out on it. We didn't do either."