It wasn’t the prettiest game, but three touchdown passes from Jay Cutler and a strong defensive effort helped the Chicago Bears to a 21-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
Jared Allen and Willie Young each had sacks for the Bears, and Ryan Mundy picked off a Teddy Bridgewater pass in the end zone to end the game. Matt Forte rushed for 117 yards in the game as the Bears snapped a three-game losing streak.
The Bears’ defense got off to a decent start as Jared Allen tackled Teddy Bridgewater on the first play of the game, but penalties hurt Chicago a bit as Willie Young’s offside infraction extended the Minnesota drive. Jerick McKinnon picked up a first down and pushed the Vikings into field goal territory on a screen pass. Blair Walsh stepped up to the line and drilled through a 50-yard field goal, and Minnesota took an early 3-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
Chicago’s offense responded by throwing the ball early and often on their first drive of the game, with Alshon Jeffery and Dante Rosario each catching first down passes. Matt Forte gobbled up 30 yards on a third and 12 screen pass, but on the next play things nearly turned disastrous as it appeared Jay Cutler fumbled the ball. Fortunately for Chicago, the Vikings didn’t recover the ball before the whistle blew, and the Bears maintained possession.
Screen passes to Forte and Jeffery brought Chicago back into field goal territory after a Cutler unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but Robbie Gould’s 47-yard field goal attempt missed wide right as Minnesota maintained their 3-0 edge.
On the next Vikings possession, it appeared that they would be forced to punt after a three-and-out, but a fake punt netted them 48 yards and got them down to the Chicago seven-yard line. On the first play, Bridgewater found tight end Rhett Ellison wide open in space, and he rumbled into the end zone to make it a 10-0 game with about three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Bears started out their possession well as they found Jeffery for a first down once again, and as the second quarter got underway, they managed to finally get back to the end zone. Rolling out to his right, Cutler pump-faked near the line of scrimmage to give himself an extra moment, and he fired a ball to Jeffery. Adjusting perfectly to coverage, Jeffery hauled in the pass on his back shoulder and put the Bears on the board.
After the Vikings went three-and-out on their next drive, Cutler and the Bears went to work again. Martellus Bennett got involved on the first play as he caught a first down pass, and then Brandon Marshall caught another first down pass a few plays later to keep the drive alive. Once again however, penalties derailed the Bears as a pass interference penalty against Bennett negated a Jeffery first down, and the Bears were forced to punt once again.
The Bears’ defense made a couple of excellent plays with the Vikings pinned deep in their own zone on their next drive, with Jeremiah Ratliff tackling McKinnon on second down and Allen forcing a quick throw from Bridgewater on third down. Jon Bostic took care of the rest as he made the tackle on that play, and Minnesota was forced to punt again.
Cutler came back on the field with decent field position, and he made an outstanding throw to Marshall to put the Bears ahead. With the defense bearing down on him, Cutler absorbed a massive hit after letting go of a deep pass, and Marshall went up in one-on-one coverage and came down with a touchdown catch to put the Bears ahead 14-10 with a little less than three minutes remaining in the first half.
The Vikings completed a lengthy pass for a first down early on their next drive, but the Bears’ defense once again came up huge and made a stop to get the ball back. Allen picked up a sack on Bridgewater on second down as he blew past Matt Kalil, and the Vikings were forced to punt when McKinnon was stopped well short of the first down marker with a minute remaining in the half.
Even with a chance to step on the gas and extend their lead before halftime, the Bears instead opted for a convoluted drive that resulted in a Cutler interception. The Vikings ended up taking a knee after the pick, and the Bears went to halftime with a 14-10 advantage.
In the second half, the Bears got the ball first and they began moving down the field thanks to more excellent passing by Cutler. Jeffery snared a first down catch, and then on the next play he jumped up on a deep ball by Cutler and made another incredible catch. Unfortunately for Chicago, they were stopped short of the goal line, and on their fourth and goal play, Cutler ran a sweep around the left side and was stopped just short of the pylon to give the ball back to Minnesota.
After getting away with an intentional grounding penalty in the shadow of their own end zone, the Vikings stalled out and had to punt the ball back to Chicago. Cutler couldn’t take advantage of the situation however as he had to rush a throw in the face of a linebacker blitz and was picked off by Harrison Smith. Smith returned the ball deep into Bears territory, giving the Vikings a good shot.
Fortunately for the Bears, the defense stood tall on the ensuing sequence, and Walsh booted the ball just outside of the right upright to keep Chicago in front.
Chicago got the ball back late in the third quarter, and they began to use their running game more. Forte cut in between the left guard and tackle on the final play of the frame, and after breaking three tackles he got the ball down to the Minnesota 36 yard line to get the Chicago offense going.
Forte continued his solid play in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, converting on a fourth down play and then driving across the line on a third down conversion a few plays later. He continued his hard running on a fourth down play inside the ten-yard line, getting drilled by Xavier Rhodes but picking up the first down anyway. Three plays later, Forte was just a bystander as Cutler found Marshall in the end zone to put his team up by a 21-10 margin.
The Bears’ defense gave up a couple of decent-sized plays to the Vikings on their next drive, with Charles Johnson extending the drive with a fourth down catch. The Vikings were forced to settle for a field goal in the end, as Bridgewater was chased away on a third and goal play by Allen and Demontre Hurst. Walsh chipped in the field goal from 26 yards out, and the Bears’ lead was cut to 21-13 with about four minutes remaining.
The Bears were forced to punt the ball away just before the two minute warning, and even though the Vikings got into Chicago territory in the late stages, it wasn’t enough. Bridgewater threw a deep ball to the end zone as he tried to tie things up, but Mundy came down with the interception and secured the victory for Chicago.
Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will visit Soldier Field next week as the Bears will look to win their second game in a row.