Bears’ Ihmir Smith-Marsette explains what happened on costly fumble vs. Vikings

Smith-Marsette explains what happened on costly fumble vs. Vikings originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Ihmir Smith-Marsette had been craving the moment that arrived Sunday at US Bank Stadium. With the Bears trailing the Minnesota Vikings 29-22 late in the fourth quarter, Smith-Marsette had the chance to drive a dagger into the heart of the team that cut him before the season.

But the wide receiver’s dream moment quickly became a nightmare.

The Bears had the ball at their own 46-yard line after converting a second-and-19 thanks to a 21-yard catch-and-run by David Montgomery. They had already erased an early 18-point deficit, and the offense appeared to have found a groove in the second half.

Fields dropped back and threw a strike to Smith-Marsette down the left side. The young wide receiver made the first guy miss and could have easily stepped out of bounds. But he wanted more. He tried to turn it up the field, and that’s when Vikings cornerback Cam Dantzler came from behind and ripped the ball out of Smith-Marsette’s hands.

The ball never even touched the turf. Dantzler took it away from Smith-Marsette and ran the other way before being tackled at the Bears’ 45-yard line.

The comeback fell short. Smith-Marsette’s vision of playing hero against his former team evaporated as Dantzler galloped down the sideline.

“I lost track of him after I stiff-armed him,” Smith-Marsette said of Dantzler after the game. “I wasn’t expecting that. I should have just gone out of bounds instead of looking to extend the play. Just got to be smarter in that situation. That’s it.”

Smith-Marsette’s error cost the Bears a chance at a game-tying touchdown. It was a mistake not of ignorance or obliviousness but of desire.

“I thought the safety was overplaying it. I turned to the sideline, stiff-armed and then I thought he was overplaying it, so when I stopped to go back in, he was still in there. So when I turned to go back out of bounds, he just came from behind.”

Head coach Matt Eberflus was clear after the game that Smith-Marsette was coached to get out of bounds on that play based on where he caught the football.

As the offense gathered to mount the game-tying drive, every player in the huddle knew the situation and knew it was imperative to get out of bounds to preserve the precious seconds that were ticking away at US Bank Stadium.

“With him, he made a play,” wide receiver Darnell Mooney said of Smith-Marsette’s decision not to go out of bounds. “He got the dude off of him, not knowing where he is. So he’s like, ‘I made one dude miss. I can make another dude miss.’ He was just behind him. He couldn’t see him.

“He made an awesome play. He made an awesome catch. Guy was just right behind him. It’s a tough one.”

The Vikings opened the game on a 21-3 run before the Bears reeled off 19 unanswered to take the lead in the second half.

It would have been an epic comeback for a team that looked like it would get ground to bits in the first half.

As fate would have it, the guy who wanted to ball against the Vikings more than anyone in the Bears’ locker room got it.

He just couldn’t conjure the moment that had danced in his mind into reality.

Now, the 2-3 Bears have minimal time to pick up the pieces before a Thursday night date with the Washington Commanders at Soldier Field.

The hope is that Smith-Marsette, who is still young in his NFL development, will use Sunday’s fumble as an opportunity for growth.

“It’s tough,” Fields said. “I know Ihmir. I know he’s feeling down right now. 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 player. So he just got to learn from that mistake and keep going. But he can be one hell of a player in this league.”

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