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Matt Eberflus gamble doesn’t pay off in Bears loss to Vikings


MINNEAPOLIS — Before Matt Eberflus attempted the boldest move of his budding career as a head coach, he rounded up Bears defensemen on Sunday.

“I said, ‘Listen, we’re going,'” Eberflus said. “There’s a chance we don’t understand. But listen: I want you to answer this if we don’t understand. ”

The Bears had scored two touchdowns in the previous 6½ minutes of play — more than they had in the previous eight quarters — when their kickoff team ran onto the field early in the third quarter.

Cairo Santos sprinted for the ball and launched a dribbler to his right towards the stencil from 50 yards out at US Bank Stadium. Linebacker Matt Adams, the Bears’ special teams ace, dove for the ball 12 yards later, but Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans pounced on the kick in play a split second earlier.

Eberflus’ gamble to capitalize on a rare moment in the Bears’ momentum didn’t work, and the Vikings won 29-22. But it showed, for the first time this season, that the first head coach will try to manage with cunning.

”It’s exciting for us because we see no doubt about it. “What if we don’t get it?” ” Santos said. “We see so many positive things that could come out of this. ”

Eberflus has proven for five weeks that he will try to win at all costs, even when the game plan does not advance the learning curve of young quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears were in a chase early Sunday, trailing 21-3 midway through the second quarter, and Eberflus tried to find ways to steal an advantage.

“I like it, personally,” Fields said. ”I think he believes in us. If we get that kick in play, it gives us momentum. It shows that if we don’t get it, he trusts the defence. ”

The play leading up to the onside kick was a failed two-point conversion. Down 21-16, the Bears threw a dead screen at the finish to receiver Dante Pettis. Eberflus called the decision to forfeit the extra point a pre-determined analysis by Bears director of research and analysis Harrison Freid and staff based on score and time remaining.

On the Bears’ practice after the onside kick miss, Eberflus started fourth and fourth on the Vikings’ 37. This surprised his bench. DeAndre Houston-Carson, the back of the punt team, ran down the field and had to be hustled on the sideline. Fields went seven yards to convert, and the Bears eventually threw a 43-yard field goal.

”The numbers, where we were for the game in that part of the pitch. . . green light all the way,” Eberflus said.

When the Bears are just beyond field goal reach, Eberflus communicates with point guard Luke Getsy — usually before he calls a first down — if they’re in four-down territory. At the start of the fourth quarter, they decided they weren’t. Down two at the Vikings’ 33, running back David Montgomery was stuffed with third-and-three. The Bears threw a 51-yard field goal to take a short-lived lead.

During pre-season, Eberflus smiled when presented with speculation about his own aggression, saying he planned to trust both the scans and his instincts.

He joked in August that he would go for ‘all four. don’t take risks, had it in him.

“It depends on who you play, depends on the other quarterback, the game situation,” Eberflus said. ”So we want to be aggressive.

”I can’t tell you how many times I said, ‘Green light! Go!’ and [the situation] just hadn’t happened.’

When it did Sunday, the Bears couldn’t capitalize. Eberflus, however, picked up one bright spot: his defense made sure he didn’t pay for the missed kick by blocking a field goal on that Vikings possession.

“A sudden change, you respond to it,” he said. ”They all did.”