3 and Out: Bears fall to Vikings, finish season with 10th straight loss

Chicago Bears wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. returns a Minnesota Vikings kickoff Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, during their game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO – The Bears closed out their season Sunday with a 29-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field, but the Houston Texans still gave Bears fans something to celebrate. Here’s what you need to know:

Three moments that mattered

1. Happy trails, 2022: With the Bears’ loss and the Texans’ improbable last-minute victory, the Bears own the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. Does general manager Ryan Poles genuinely believe Justin Fields is the franchise QB moving forward? Can the Bears add an instant impact defensive lineman? Trade the pick? Let the speculation begin!

2. Hold up; wait a minute: At the end of the first half, the Vikings initially made a field goal to go into the locker room up 19-6, but upon further review, 12 men were on the field for Minnesota, negating the score. The review was initiated until teams had already headed to the locker room, leading to some momentary confusion.

3. Wrap it up: QB Tim Boyle, who the Bears didn’t sign until Nov. 30 following the injury to backup Trevor Siemian, entered in relief of Nathan Peterman and was intercepted on a deep pass with 3:13 remaining to put a bow on the 2022 season.

Three things that worked

1. Clutch Cole: After what was arguably a slow start to the season, Kmet ended up with seven touchdowns on the year. including another score Sunday on four catches for 57 yards. The young tight end proved to be a reliable safety blanket for Fields.

2. Jones finishes strong: We had our gripes with rookie receiver Velus Jones Jr. this season, but he flashed again with his 42-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Bears set a new franchise record for combined rushing yards in a single season on the run. The mark was previously set in 1984.

3. Welcome back: Defensive back Greg Stroman, who was cut by the Bears in August and signed with team’s practice squad on December 28, took advantage of his new opportunity and nabbed an interception along with eight tackles. At the very least, it was a quality audition for NFL teams from the fifth-year cornerback.

Three things that didn’t

1. Ultimately, win: Expectations were obviously low for a rebuilding team, but at the end of the day, the Bears did lose 10 consecutive games to finish the season and have a lot of question marks. While there were positive trends – of course, Fields’ progress most notably – this franchise has a long way to go to realistically play toe-to-toe with the NFL’s best.

2. Need a revamp: It’s a broken record, but the defensive line is a glaring weakness. They didn’t register a QB hit in the first half Sunday and finished with two total. The Bears have terrific draft capital and ample cap room. Improving in the trenches must be a top priority for Poles.

3. Better days ahead?: The trade for WR Chase Claypool was done with an eye toward next season, but trading a high second-round pick for 14 catches, 140 yards and no touchdowns in his seven games since arriving from Pittsburgh isn’t a glowing initial return.

What’s next?

All eyes turn toward what is expected to be a busy offseason for Poles and the front office. The NFL combine begins March 1.

Jacob Bartelson

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.