MINNEAPOLIS – Leading by one, the Vikings took possession at the Bears 43-yard line after safety Josh Metellus forced Bears quarterback Justin Fields to fumble.
The Bears had two timeouts; essentially, a first down would've won the game. But the Vikings gained zero yards on three plays (two runs and an outside wide receiver screen) and took 59 seconds off the clock. Minnesota's punt netted only 26 yards, and the Bears needed about 40 yards to enter field goal range.
Receiver DJ Moore made two catches for 52 yards on the Bears final drive and helped set up a 30-yard game-winning field goal by kicker Cairo Santos with 10 seconds to play.
The Vikings ran one play – a series of laterals that was flagged for an illegal forward pass – that went nowhere as time expired.
Turnovers again cost the Vikings a winnable home game as Minnesota lost 12-10 to the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the worst part was not closing out the game with a chance to get to victory formation.
"We got the ball back, and we just need to end it on our terms rather than having the defense go back out there. Because they did their job throughout the night. We needed to do ours," tight end T.J. Hockenson said. "We just couldn't get that rhythm going that we usually can find."
For nearly 55 minutes of play, the Vikings offense made self-inflected mistakes. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw four interceptions, three of which were deflected passes. Minnesota wasn't capitalizing on Bears penalties or another stonewalling defensive performance.
Then Hockenson took over.
The Vikings star pass catcher entered this week, leading all tight ends in catches and yards. He only needed two grabs to shift the game against the Bears. None more critical than a 17-yard touchdown catch from Dobbs with 5:58 to play.
Hockenson crossed the middle, split two Bears defenders, and skyed for a touchdown that gave Minnesota its first lead. He had a 16-yard catch the play prior that pushed Minnesota into the red zone for just the second time. He finished with a team-high 50 yards on five catches and the score.
Greg Joseph's extra point gave the Vikings their first lead, but it didn't last.
"It was a real tough one," Hockenson said. "As an offensive unit you just can't score one touchdown with what the defense did today and expect to expect to win the game."
The Vikings (6-6) have lost all four games this season in which they've had a minus-two turnover differential. Minnesota couldn't overcome the four interceptions despite its defense forcing two Bears turnovers, both Fields fumbles.
Minnesota's 24 giveaways this season lead the league.
"We did not have the performance we wanted to have offensively," Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "Credit Flo' (Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores) and his guys once again for keeping us in a football game that we had no right of being in with how poor we played on offense with the turnovers. Until we figure out a way to play complimentary with our defense and get a little bit more production without having the ball turned over on offense, we're not gonna win football games."
Things started slowly for Minnesota and never really picked up.
The Vikings first gain of 10 yards or more came with 90 seconds to play in the first half. Receiver Brandon Powell converted a slot-fade route, and Dobbs dropped the ball in just before Powell went out of bounds for a gain of 28. Minnesota picked up another 12 yards the following play via a deep curl completion from Dobbs to K.J. Osborn.
Minnesota made it as far as the Bears 13-yard line thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty drawn by Hockenson. But Dobbs was flagged for intentional grounding the next play, costing the Vikings 14 yards and the down.
Two plays later, Minnesota settled for a 34-yard Greg Joseph field goal as time expired.
"We had three plays in the first quarter and our first sustained drive was halfway through the second quarter, so we weren't able to get a rhythm early like we like to do," Dobbs said. "And then from there it was like we had opportunities that we didn't execute."
Dobbs endured his most challenging game in purple yet. Usually a playmaking runner, the Bears held Dobbs to just two carries for 11 yards. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 185 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
His 54.3 passer rating Monday night is the lowest of his career in a start.
"It starts with me and taking care of the football with my decision making, no matter what happens on the other end," Dobbs said. "It's giving the receiver a good ball and getting the ball to where it needs to go based on the coverage. So, I acknowledge it, man, I'm frustrated with myself because it starts with me, as I said, and I'll be better from them. I'll learn from every single one of them tonight, and we'll use it to build momentum into the next opportunity."
The Vikings next opportunity won't come until Dec. 10 at Las Vegas as Minnesota enters its Week 13 bye. The week off comes at an ideal time for the Vikings, who are expected to have star receiver Justin Jefferson return from a hamstring injury that has held him out seven straight games.
Minnesota won five straight but dropped its past two. With five games left – and three against NFC North opponents – the Vikings still have playoff realistic playoff aspirations.
"We have everything out in front of us. We got to take this rest and recover. We need it. A lot of guys in here are very much in need of it," Hockenson said. "We have a second half with five games left. And we just need to do our thing. We need to come back and pound the rock, and we'll be right where we want to be at the end of the year."