It was ugly. All the makeup in the world couldn’t have changed that. The weather was yucky, the football was icky and the game clock was ticked off.
But the Bears beat the Vikings 21-13 Sunday, and that was no small thing, not after back-to-back humiliations against the Patriots and Packers.
Aesthetically, the Bears made their fans work hard for this one. There were 6,472 no-shows at Soldier Field, and whether their absence was a protest against a once-proud franchise, a surrender to low temperatures and light snow or a combination of that was unclear. But some of the fans who did show up booed, especially when the Vikings jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
“We’ve got to play better,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said afterward. “As soon as we start playing better, they’ll start becoming better fans.’’
The Bears spent the afternoon asking their followers to like them, despite throwing all sorts of reasons at them not to. Maybe it was a loyalty test.
Will you still love us, they asked, if we:
† Fall for a fake punt in the first quarter, allowing Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo to rumble 48 yards to the Bears’ 7, setting up a touchdown and that 10-0 Vikings lead?
† Miss a 47-yard field goal? And have a kickoff go out of bounds in the fourth quarter, giving the Vikings the ball at their 40?
† Say no to an easy field goal and run Cutler on a sweep left on fourth-and-goal from the Vikings’ 1? And get stuffed? Even though Minnesota’s offense couldn’t have mounted a legitimate drive if you had spotted it some horses and a few covered wagons?
† Amass 468 yards of offense and somehow score only 21 points?
† Watch our mercurial quarterback throw three touchdown passes and two interceptions?
† Have a stadium in which the game clock doesn’t work for large portions of the afternoon?
† Win despite it all?
For the Bears fans who decided to watch, the answer to all those questions is “yes,’’ though some of them were looking at the world through eye holes cut into brown paper bags. But after being outscored 106-37 the last two games, the Bears just wanted a victory. Any kind of victory, even the ugly kind, would do.
The Vikings were awful on offense. Watching them run plays was like watching Bill O’Reilly rap (I apologize for the imagery). Bears defenders deserve lots of credit for that. They made rookie Teddy Bridgewater look about as indecisive as a quarterback can be, holding him to 158 passing yards. For the longest time, it looked as if the Vikings forgot to bring their wide receivers to Chicago.
The best thing the Bears had going for them was height. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, who stands 6-3, and Brandon Marshall, 6-4, regarded 5-10 Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson as they might a dandelion. Jeffery had 11 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. Marshall had seven catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns. He was so excited to be lined up against Robinson on the second score that he waved his hands at the line of scrimmage to let Cutler know how open he was about to be. Then he posted up Robinson in the end zone, the way a basketball player would. What’s next for Marshall, boxing?
Matt Forte was great, rushing 26 times for 117 yards and catching six passes for another 58. The Bears might want to, I don’t know, use him more.
“He’s a monster, man,’’ guard Kyle Long said. “He really is a workhorse here. It’s always good to come into the locker room after a win when he gets beat up like that because he’s going to get beat up every week — but to see him with a smile on his face after the game is really awesome.’’
A 4-6 record is a lot better than the 3-6 anvil the Bears carried around with them all last week, but it doesn’t take away the previous two games or the team’s deficiencies against the Vikings. And there was more than enough ugliness to go around. But it was a victory. The league office confirmed the ruling on the field.
Afterward, the mood in the Bears’ locker room was euphoric. There wasn’t chest-thumping defiance. There was only relief after three consecutive losses.
“You get beat up so many times until you fight back,’’ defensive end Jared Allen said. “People can question the character of the locker room. We know what we have.’’
It’s probably good someone does.