WR Smith-Marsette's fumble on 'selfish play' costs Bears any chance at comeback

MINNEAPOLIS - Sunday was supposed to be the day Bears receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette found his revenge against a team that gave up on him. It was supposed to be the day when he made the Minnesota Vikings, the team that drafted him in 2021, regret cutting him in August. In his words, he wanted to "prove a point."

Late in the game, the Bears trailed by 7 points and Smith-Marsette was on the field with Justin Fields and the Bears' offense. Fields threw him the ball with just over a minute remaining. This was his moment.

The Vikings stole it right out of his hands.

Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. ripped the football from Smith-Marsette's grasp as the second-year receiver cut inside to try to make a play. The fumble effectively ended the game. and the Vikings ran out the clock on a win over the Bears, 29-22, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

After making the catch, his first of the season, Smith-Marsette initially shed Dantzler, then elected not to run out of bounds with the clock ticking. He tried to juke a defender, but the quick hitch gave Dantzler enough time to recover and rip the ball from Smith-Marsette.

"That's a moment where it's like, it's a team game and it was a selfish play by me trying to get more out of it," Smith-Marsette said. "Best believe it was in my best thoughts to try to win the game, of course. Just too much out of me. It definitely was a heartbreaking feeling, a gut-wrenching feeling."

For Smith-Marsette, this one will sting for a long time. There's no guarantee that the Bears would've scored a touchdown, or that they would've won the game. Still, the 23-year-old Smith-Marsette, a fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings last year, knew he made a mistake that cost his team any shot at a comeback.

And it would've been a remarkable one. The Bears trailed by 18 points at one point, 21-3, and battled back to take a 1-point lead, 22-21. An 18-point comeback would've been the fourth-largest comeback victory in team history.

"I know Ihmir, I know he's feeling down right now," Fields said. "Our job is to pick him up. He's a great player. Me personally, I know what he can do. He's young. Second year. He's just got to learn from that mistake."

It's impossible to overstate how bad the first 25 minutes of the game went for the Bears. The offense could do absolutely nothing.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins completed his first 17 pass attempts, a team record, and could do no wrong. Star receiver Justin Jefferson surpassed 10 catches and 100 receiving yards in the first half and stud running back Dalvin Cook scored 2 touchdowns.

It was beyond lopsided.

Then, somehow, the Bears dug their way out of the hole. A shanked Vikings punt just before halftime gave the Bears the ball near midfield. Bears receiver Darnell Mooney made an insane one-handed catch to move the Bears deep into Vikings territory. Running back David Montgomery punched in a 9-yard touchdown run.

"We needed a spark," Mooney said. "It was pretty dry out there for us. They had the ball for long periods of time. We just needed some type of spark."

Mooney's catch was the spark.

After halftime, the Bears scored on the opening possession of the third quarter, and all the sudden they were right back in a one-score game.

"I'm proud of everybody and the way they fought," Fields said. "We were down, 21-3. A lot of teams in this league would've just laid down and stopped playing, but I was proud of our guys."

Fields led the comeback in the second half with a particularly clean pocket from his offensive line. He completed a season-high 15 passes on 21 attempts and totaled 208 passing yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked only twice. Fields also led the Bears with 47 rushing yards on 8 carries.

Bu late in the fourth quarter, Cousins and the Vikings drove 75 yards on 17 plays and ate up seven minutes of game time before Cousins punched in a QB sneak for a touchdown.

Fields and the Bears offense took over needing a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining. They had moved near midfield when Smith-Marsette fumbled the ball.

"It's something I've got to be smart on," Smith-Marsette said. "No other way to put it."

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