The Timberwolves decided that the way to promote ticket sales was with a campaign carrying the slogan “See What They Can Do.” Seven weeks into the season, we have seen: The youngsters are 3-20 after losing on Monday night in Miami.
Last week, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith announced that he was going to start Kyle Orton in Monday night’s game against the Vikings. Orton hadn’t played in two years, but Smith explained, “We want to see what he can do.”
It did not take the Bears and Smith as long to find the answer as it has Timberwolves fans. It took five possessions without a first down in the first 17½ minutes to realize that practicing and then sitting on bench had done nothing to make Orton more of a quarterback than he was as a rookie in 2005.
The Bears went 11-5 that season, but it was strictly because a ferocious defense was able to carry a feeble Orton-led offense.
That Chicago defense has suffered an astounding number of injuries and has slipped badly this season. Chicago, in this post-Super Bowl season, was 5-8 and out of the NFC playoff photo.
Things were so bad the Bears came to the Metrodome on Monday as 10½-point underdogs. Maybe this was the kick in the shins that these defenders needed, because they showed up and played with tremendous effort.
Unfortunately, as they had on occasion in 2005, the Bears defense could not overcome Orton. He finished 22-for-38 for 184 yards, with an interception and a 59.5 quarterback rating.
When the Bears absolutely needed him to hit a receiver, Orton missed. His worst moment came with the Bears at the Vikings 35 and leading 13-12 late in the third quarter.
On fourth-and-1, Chicago had fullback Jason McKie open for a first down and the continuation of a drive that could have put the Vikings in serious jeopardy. Orton lobbed it well out of McKie’s reach, and the Vikings were able to crawl 65 yards in 11 plays for the winning touchdown.
This Bears’ offensive ineptitude ruined a Herculean effort by linebacker Brian Urlacher. He started a magnificent night by intercepting Tarvaris Jackson’s first pass. This set up Orton with a first down at the Vikings 14.
A false start and three plays later, Robbie Gould was kicking a field goal.
Jackson would give Adrian Peterson a poor handoff that led to a recovered fumble for Urlacher. The Bears immediately went three-and-out.
Jackson threw his ugliest pass in weeks near the end of the first half. It was a floater picked off by Nathan Vasher and returned to the Vikings 12.
This time Orton made his best throw — a slant to Muhsin Muhammad to inside the 1. McKie scored on the next play. That made it 13-3 for the Bears with 30 seconds remaining in the half.
The Vikings required a large break from referee Tony Corrente to cut that to 13-6 on a Ryan Longwell field goal on the last play of the half.
Jackson ran out of the pocket for a first down. He was on the sideline when cornerback Charles Tillman joined in the tackle. Corrente announced that Tillman had “hit the quarterback out of bounds” and added 15 yards.
Jackson was 10 yards past the line and clearly a runner, not a quarterback deserving of extra protection. Those 15 yards moved the Vikings close enough for Longwell’s field goal.
There was another handful of shaky calls that went against the Bears — and none against the Vikings — as the evening progressed.
Clearly, the Bears defense was not equipped to offset both an Orton-led offense and adverse officiating. The final was 20-13 for the Vikings, and now the winning streak is five and the grip on a wild card berth remains.
It was suggested last Saturday that — even with such modest opposition remaining — Jackson would need to make more tough throws than he had against San Francisco to get the Vikings into the NFC’s final six.
Against Chicago, Jackson threw three interceptions, had a quarterback rating of 50.0 and bailed out with a cramp when his team was inside the 10 on the winning touchdown drive.
Maybe next Sunday, Washington will offer more offense, and Jackson will be required to make those tough throws for the Vikings to win.
On Monday, he didn’t, and the Vikings still did.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on
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