The Chicago Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field, but they notched a win for their future.
The Bears’ 29-13 loss, coupled with the Houston Texans’ 32-31 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, gives the Bears the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. The Bears finished the season 3-14, the most losses in the NFL this year and the most in franchise history. The Houston Texas were 3-13-1.
The Bears have only picked No. 1 twice in franchise history, using it to draft halfbacks Tom Harmon in 1941 and Bob Fenimore in 1947. They combined to play 10 games for the franchise.
With quarterback Justin Fields sidelined by a strained hip, the primary outside storyline in a game quarterbacked by both Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle was whether the Bears would lose to secure a higher draft pick.
As the Bears left the field following their final game of the season, Bears fans and media members were glued to their Soldier Field suite TVs watching Lovie Smith’s Texans pull off the win.
Texans quarterback Davis Mills hit tight end Jordan Akins with a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-20, and Mills’ two-point conversion pass to Akins was successful for a 32-31 win.
Vikings starting quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 225 yards in the first half to build a 16-6 lead. With backup quarterback Nick Mullens entering the game to open the second half, the Vikings went 75 yards for a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter. Alexander Mattison scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and a 23-6 lead.
Peterman, who threw for 114 yards on 11-for-19 passing, hit Cole Kmet with an 11-yard touchdown pass to cut the Vikings’ lead to 23-13.
But Vikings kicker Greg Joseph made a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter and a 41-yarder in the fourth to extend the Vikings’ lead to 29-13.
The Bears got two takeaways — a forced fumble by Harrison Hand and recovery by Joe Thomas and Greg Stroman’s interception of Mullens. But the Bears didn’t score off either takeaway.
Boyle threw two interceptions, to Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley.
Read more coverage from Soldier Field.
Here’s how Week 18 unfolded.
The Bears will be without cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Jaylon Jones against the Vikings.
Gordon is inactive because of a groin issue and an illness. Jones was in concussion protocol all week. Their absences mean the Bears will be without their top five cornerbacks Sunday.
Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor and Josh Blackwell already were on injured reserve.
The Bears have Harrison Hand, Breon Borders and Michael Ojemudia as options to fill the three open spots.
As was previously announced, quarterback Justin Fields won’t play because of a hip strain. Also inactive for the Bears are running back Darrynton Evans, linebacker Sterling Weatherford and defensive linemen Terrell Lewis and Angelo Blackson.
For the Vikings, safety Harrison Smith, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, center Garrett Bradbury, cornerback Cam Dantzler, linebacker Brian Asamoah and defensive linemen James Lynch and Ross Blacklock are inactive.
Halftime: Vikings 16, Bears 6
The Bears fanned fans’ hopes for the No. 1 draft pick in the first half — by falling behind the Vikings 16-6 at halftime.
Meanwhile, the Houston Texans, whom the Bears also need to win, were beating the Indianapolis Colts 17-7 at halftime.
Against the Bears, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 17 of 20 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown in the half. Bears backup quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle split time, throwing for 83 yards total.
The Vikings took a 6-0 lead on Cousins’ 4-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen, followed by Greg Joseph’s missed extra-point attempt, wide right. One play earlier, Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a 66-yard pass.
The Vikings were marching down the field on their next possession when Bears cornerback Harrison Hand forced Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to fumble and Bears linebacker Joe Thomas recovered it.
The Bears didn’t score off the takeaway, and the Vikings responded on the next possession with a 66-yard touchdown drive, capped by Alexander Mattison’s 1-yard touchdown run for a 13-0 lead.
Boyle replaced Peterman on the following drive and threw an interception to cornerback Patrick Peterson on his third play. Joseph then made a 28-yard field goal to put the Vikings ahead 16-0.
The Bears scored their only points of the half on Velus Jones Jr.’s 42-yard touchdown run. Boyle’s two-point conversion pass to Cole Kmet failed. Kmet had catches of 17 and 16 yards on the drive.
Jones’ run gave the Bears 2,975 rushing yards for the season, the most in franchise history, according to Bears PR.
The Vikings attempted to get off a field goal right before halftime, but they were ruled to have 12 men on the field, negating Joseph’s 24-yard make.
‘Hail Mary’ in bid to keep the Bears in Chicago?
While the last-place Bears play out the string in a meaningless home finale Sunday against the division-leading Vikings, a developer hoping to keep the team in Chicago is upping its game.
Landmark Development unveiled a video tour Sunday of a “reimagined” Soldier Field, including expanded seating, premium club lounges, food halls and an adjacent concert venue, topped by a dome to attract fair-weather football fans and year-round visitors.
“This is a proposal that we think sets a compelling case for a team like the Bears to want to stay at Soldier Field,” said Bob Dunn, president of Landmark Development.
How do the 2022 Bears compare with worst teams in franchise history?
The Bears had just lost by 31 points to a division rival, one of what would become 13 losses in the season. In the Chicago Tribune the next day, the Bears coach was quoted as calling it “one of the darkest and dreariest days in Bear history.”
A little more than 53 years later, the Bears again lost to a division rival by 31 points, the 13th loss of the season. The current coach wasn’t as dramatic as the former, but he was quoted in the Tribune as saying, “It doesn’t sit well.”
The first coach was Jim Dooley, whose 1969 Bears went 1-13. One of those losses was a 31-0 beating by the Vikings at Wrigley Field, after which Dooley proclaimed himself “bitterly disappointed.” The second was Matt Eberflus, whose current Bears lost 41-10 to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field to drop to 3-13.
Eberflus wasn’t born yet when Dooley’s team lost that October 1969 game, but the coaches are connected by an unfortunate distinction. Along with John Fox’s 2016 Bears, their teams hold the record for the most losses in franchise history, a record the current Bears could break Sunday against the Vikings in the season finale at Soldier Field.
Virginia McCaskey at 100
Virginia McCaskey turned 100 years old Thursday, a milestone birthday for the Bears owner. And her passion for the team has not dissipated. Matt Eberflus recalled Wednesday the first phone conversation he had with McCaskey a little less than a year ago when he became the organization’s 18th head coach with an important blessing.
“She said, ‘Matt, you know I’ll be your biggest fan,’ ” Eberflus said. “(She is) always encouraging, always upbeat, always thoughtful. It’s been a joy to get to know her this last year.”
That’s a sentiment shared by so many who have crossed McCaskey’s path and come to recognize her competitiveness, belief and charm.