MINNEAPOLIS -- The Bears solved a few problems Sunday in their 36-10 loss to the Vikings.
Instead of playing poorly in the first quarter, they played poorly in the second quarter -- giving up 24 points.
Instead of overthrowing receivers on sure touchdown passes, Jay Cutler underthrew one.
Instead of being done in by Adrian Peterson, they were done in by Percy Harvin.
There are some who would call this progress. The rest of us would call it another smackdown, and proof positive the Bears cannot compete with the elite of the NFL.
The Bears were badly outplayed in just about every way imaginable in a loss that ended their hopes of winning the NFC North -- if they still had such hopes. They still have a chance of making the playoffs as a wild card -- it's about the same chance that most turkeys have of flight.
They have lost four straight and six of their last seven. Three of those losses have been by 20 points or more.
It was difficult to work up much rage about a loss that almost everyone anticipated. It was even more difficult to work up any sunshine, even for the impossibly optimistic Lovie Smith.
"Today we feel like crap," he said. "No way around it. It's not a (good feeling) we have right now. After a loss like this, that's how it is. But the sun normally comes up. We assume it will come up tomorrow."
Smith, as candid as he's ever been, said: "They definitely dominated us today."
For evidence, consider the 537 yards allowed -- the most given up by the Bears since allowing 583 to the Los Angeles Rams in 1982 -- and the 67 percent third-down conversion rate allowed.
The Vikings put away the Bears in a five-minute sequence that bridged the first and second halves.
It began with yet another interception in the end zone by Cutler. The play began with Cutler calling an audible out of a run because the Vikings showed a loaded front, according to offensive coordinator Ron Turner. The call was right, but the throw was wrong.
Cutler underthrew Johnny Knox, enabling cornerback Cedric Griffin to leap and make the grab.
Cutler threw another interception -- his 20th of the year -- less than two minutes later. This one was thrown to Earl Bennett and broken up by Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. The ball popped up in the air and landed in the arms of defensive end Jared Allen.
Seven plays later, the Vikings scored on a 6-yard pass from Brett Favre to Visanthe Shiancoe to take a 24-7 lead.
At the start of the third quarter, the Bears had their last chance to get back in the game. Knox returned the opening kickoff 77 yards to the Minnesota 8. But a run for no yards, two sacks and a false start on Orlando Pace left the Bears with a 38-yard Robbie Gould field goal instead of the touchdown they needed.
By the time the fourth quarter came, several Bears starters were hurting so it was time to look at some subs. Among those who logged extra time were safety Josh Bullocks, cornerback Nathan Vasher, linebacker Jamar Williams, left tackle Kevin Schaffer and wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.
But they couldn't stop the bleeding either, as the Vikings added a late touchdown by Peterson.
Peterson, though, wasn't the unstoppable force he had been in previous games against the Bears. He was held to 85 yards on 25 carries. He fumbled twice, but the Bears recovered only one.
The real problem was Favre. He threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns. This time, it was the rookie Harvin whom Favre made a star. Harvin had six receptions for 101 yards and a TD.
Asked about the Vikings' offense, Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris said: "They play well up front and they got a daddy (Favre) in the backfield. I felt like a little kid out there with a daddy just beating us up."
On the other side of the ball, Allen was a problem. In addition to his pick, he had two sacks, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and a pass defended. The game plan didn't call for Bears left tackles Pace and Schaffer getting much help from backs and tight ends on Allen.
The feeling in the locker room after this one was the season is over. But there are five games left.
"Pride is going to become an issue here," defensive end Alex Brown said. "It's going to be heart and pride and who really enjoys playing the game of football. We're going to see who really wants to go play when there is nothing to play for besides going to play the game."