Sunday, January 1, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Bears 17, Vikings 13
By Kevin Seifert
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the merciful end of the regular season for two NFC North teams.
What it means: The Chicago Bears snapped a five-game losing streak and finished the season 8-8. The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, tied a franchise record for losses in a season by finishing 3-13 and are set to pick No. 3 overall in the 2012 draft. They also finished the season winless in the NFC North. Back to the drawing board, huh?
AllenWatch: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen came up one sack shy of breaking the NFL record for most sacks in a season. His 3.5-sack game still qualified as one of the best of his career and left him with 22 sacks on the season. The record remains 22.5, set by the New York Giants' Michael Strahan on the final day of the 2001 season. After beating Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb for his final sack, Allen faced regular double- and triple-teams from a Bears team not interested in giving him the record. Bears quarterback Josh McCown had no interest in being Allen's Brett Favre, if you know what I mean.
WebbWatch: That's right. It's time to shift from PonderWatch, which ended for 2011 with a reaggravation of rookie Christian Ponder's right hip injury, with WebbWatch. Joe Webb continued to make a case to at least be given consideration for the starting job in 2012, giving the Vikings obvious energy when he entered and keeping a number of plays alive with pocket scrambles. On a particularly notable play, he wiggled free of Bears defensive end Julius Peppers and threw a 19-yard pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu. It's true that the Vikings had already scored 10 of their points when Ponder departed, but Webb had two drives end with field goal miscues and at least provided fodder from some internal discussion this offseason.
McCownWatch: Like Webb, McCown has at least given the Bears an interesting offseason discussion. He was out of the game when the season began, but his performance over the past two starts -- he completed 15 of 25 passes Sunday for 160 yards -- makes him at least a candidate to back up starter Jay Cutler next season.
Injury report: Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher departed in the fourth quarter with what appeared initially to be a bad left knee injury. Urlacher was able to walk to the Bears' locker room, however. We'll update you postgame.
What's next: The status of two key coordinators are first up for both teams this offseason. The Bears must make a decision on offensive coordinator Mike Martz, whose contract has expired. And the Vikings reportedly are prepared to make some changes to their defensive staff, leaving the status of defensive coordinator Fred Pagac uncertain at best.