by Carlos Nazario
The Chicago Bears had what has to be considered their best overall game Sunday night, beating the Minnesota Vikings 39-10.
Quarterback Jay Cutler had time to survey the field and showed what he could do, completing 21/30 passes for 267 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Cutler looked comfortable in the pocket not having to run for his life. The offensive line did well blocking for him, getting some help with 2 tight ends blocking together at times.
Cutler completed passes to 8 different receivers, with Devin Hester leading the way with 91 reception yards, and picked off the Vikings defense. He was sacked only once and knocked down 5 times. It was a great effort by the offensive line.
Cutler was happy with his protection. ‘‘We managed them,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of five steps and play-action left some extra guys in. Whenever we help them out like that and get the ball out of my hands, it’s going to be easy on me.”
They also did a great job opening holes for the running game. Matt Forte had 87 yards rushing and Marion Barber added 32 yards and a touchdown.
The offense was not the only group that had a great night. The defense showed up and looked like the Chicago Bears defense that people are used to seeing. After getting burned most of the season, most felt it would be very difficult to hold down one of the best backs in the NFL, Adrian Peterson. The defense was up to it, limiting him to 16 yards in the first half and 39 yards total for the game.
The Bears defense also held the Vikings to 286 yards of total offense. After last week’s game against the Lions, in which Brian Urlacher declared “We suck,” the defense showed that it might not.
Julius Peppers, who was listed as doubtful to play, did play and played well. He registered 5 tackles with 2 sacks, playing with a knee brace due to a sprained MCL. After not pressuring the quarterback for most of the season, the Bears defense had 5 sacks. Rookie Stephen Paea, who had yet to play a down this season, made his presence be known with a first quarter sack for a safety.
The third group to play well was the special teams. Again, Hester provided the spark by taking a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was his 17th return for a touchdown, putting him only 2 away from Deion Sander’s record of 19. He also returned a punt to the Vikings’ 38 which set up another Bears’ score.
Jay Cutler was amazed by Hester’s heroics. He said “The fact that people still kick to him is just absolutely amazing.”
Punter Adam Podlesh deserves some credit as well. He had 3 punts, and 2 of them fell inside the Vikings’ 10. His kicking set up the Bears safety.
Kicker Robbie Gould again showed he was good as gold, making all 3 of his field goals and four extra points. The field goals helped keep the momentum when the Bears offense could not punch the ball in for touchdowns.
Even after a disappointing loss on Monday on national television, the Bears insist they have not pushed the panic button yet.
Receiver Roy Williams echoed that theme. ‘‘This is who we are. Every team goes through adversity. There are going to be more sacks to come, more interceptions, more dropped passes. This is the NFL. But this is a good group, and we set the bar high, and we’re trying every week to play at a certain level.’’
Yes, the Bears still have some problems, and their success on Sunday night was against a bad Vikings team, but with the dread that was spreading in Bear nation this was a much-needed shot in the arm. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz finding a solution to help on the offensive line, Gabe Carimi returning to the line after the week 8 bye to solidify that line and a healthy Marion Barber contributing to the running game should make this Bears team a different one than the one it has shown thus far.
Head coach Lovie Smith liked what he saw in the Bears Sunday night and hoped to see it continue. “All three phases really showed up,” he told reporters after the game. “Hopefully that’s who we are, the team you saw tonight.”
Bear fans are also wishing this is who the Bears are. They are hoping the Bears use this game as a springboard to a playoff run.
Next up is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game played in London. Hopefully they can continue this good play and make a run for the playoffs, while other teams make their run for Jake Locker.