MINNEAPOLIS (AP)The Chicago Bears were driving late and trailing by a touchdown when Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught a 15-yard pass and reached the Minnesota 39.
The second-year receiver had juked past Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. with a cut and a stiff-arm to gain a crucial first down.
Smith-Marsette then hesitated with two defenders in front of him, trying to make another move to pick up more yardage. Dantzler came up from behind and stripped the ball from Smith-Marsette to seal Minnesota’s 29-22 victory.
”Knowing we had a chance to potentially tie the game or win it if we go for 2, it’s tough when you’re the one that let the team down,” Smith-Marsette said.
That was one of two key mistakes by Smith-Marsette that led to Chicago’s second straight loss. He also was penalized for an illegal block that negated a 52-yard touchdown run by Justin Fields earlier in the fourth quarter.
Smith-Marsette was a 2021 fifth-round pick by the Vikings. Chicago claimed him off waivers the day after Minnesota included him in its final training camp cuts. He was in the mix to be the Vikings’ primary punt returner this season, but they acquired Jalen Reagor in a trade on cutdown day.
His first catch for the Bears happened to be on the same play that he fumbled away their comeback opportunity. Smith-Marsette, who had five receptions for 116 yards last year, said he felt safety Harrison Smith overplay him to the sideline. So he paused and tried to turn upfield for more yardage. The hesitation allowed Dantzler to get back in the play.
”When it’s your time, just go in there and make a play,” Smith-Marsette said. ”I tried to do too much on my end. I just got to be smarter. That’s it.”
Said Bears coach Matt Eberflus: ”Obviously, we need to get out of bounds there. We tell the players when they’re on the numbers or wider, to get out of bounds. If you’re inside the numbers, get north. That’s just a simple function of 2-minute mechanics. So we have to do that better.”
The illegal block was a costly momentum shift on Chicago’s previous possession. The Bears settled for a 51-yard field goal by Cairo Santos and their first lead, 22-21, but Minnesota marched for the go-ahead touchdown on a 17-play, 80-yard drive that took 7 minutes off the clock.
”You just got to move on,” Fields said. ”You can’t dwell on it. After the touchdown, I’m looking up to the stands, I’m seeing all the Vikings fans pointing back. So, I already know it’s a flag. But in that setting, you just got to reset and go try and score again.”
The mistakes overshadowed the best passing game of the season by Fields and the Bears.
Fields was 15 of 21 for a season-high 208 yards with one touchdown to rookie Velus Jones Jr. on a shovel pass. Fields, who had been sacked 16 times in the first four weeks, was sacked twice and also made several plays with his feet, rushing for 47 yards. He also showed some leadership by assuring Smith-Marsette the Bears have his back.
”It’s tough,” Fields said. ”I know Ihmir. I know he’s feeling down right now. So our job is to pick him up. He’s a great player. Me personally, I know what he can do on the field. He’s young, second year. He’s just got to learn from that mistake and keep going. But he can be one hell of a player in this league, for sure.”
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