MINNEAPOLIS -- The worst thing a struggling offense can afford to do is to leave plays on the field.
For the second straight week, the Chicago Bears' offense took sure points off the board because of its inability to make routine catches that would have resulted in touchdowns. A week after Earl Bennett got behind the Seattle secondary only to bobble a Jay Cutler-thrown deep ball, the Bears dropped two sure scores that would have changed the entire complexion of the game on Sunday in a 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
While Bennett was likely suffering from the symptoms of a concussion he suffered earlier in that game against the Seahawks, the same excuse could not be made for the Bears wide receivers on Sunday.
The most glaring mistake came in the fourth quarter with the Bears down 21-7. Cutler hit a wide open Devin Hester right in the hands on a slant pass on a third-down play from the Vikings' 23-yard line. But without a defender in sight on his short path to the end zone, Hester dropped the ball, and therefore wasted a chance to cut the Minnesota lead to seven points.
The Bears turned the ball over on downs the next play when Cutler failed to connect with Brandon Marshall on a short throw over the middle.
Hester owned up the mistake after the game.
"We're not finishing the plays," Hester said. "I had a crucial drop. Could have probably had a chance to score, and I dropped it. You got any more questions? It's just frustrating to let a play go. I let a play go that I can't get back.
"We're digging ourselves a hole, and we have to make sure we close this hole up before it gets too late. Three games left, we got Green Bay coming in next week. It's going to be a tough game. They're battling for a playoff spot, too. Then we go to Detroit to end the year. We got some tough games coming up that we have to win."
The Bears missed out on another chance to cut into the Vikings' lead in the third quarter when Cutler targeted rookie Alshon Jeffery deep down the left sideline. Jeffery cut in front of the Minnesota defender near the goal line but couldn't come down with the well-thrown ball that also hit him square in the hands as he stretched out for the football.
Although the degree of difficulty was much higher on Jeffery's catch, he also admitted to letting a golden chance slip through his fingers.
"I just flat out dropped it," Jeffery said. "I just got to make that play."
Even Marshall tried to assume some responsibility for the offense's lack of execution. But it's hard to be upset with Marshall considering he caught 10 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. He now has 101 catches, passing Marty Booker's 100 catches in 2002 for a Bears single-season record through just 13 games.
"We all let the team down," Marshall said. "I dropped a third down. I have to make that play. That was a momentum play. If we move the chains the game is probably different. I have to do better. I feel like I let my teammates down.
"There were a few other plays. I got to make that fourth down. Jay put it on me right on the money, and I dropped it. When we are in this situation we have to step up. Our back are against the walls right now and we have to win out."