Vikings vs. Bears: Takeaways from Chicago's 31-30 Win Against Minnesota
A back-and-forth game came down to the final few seconds as Jay Cutler hit Martellus Bennett in the end zone with just 10 seconds remaining. Kicker Robbie Gould nailed the extra point to put the Bears up by one for good.
While there are many things the Bears did right on Sunday, there are also some things they need to improve on.
Here are my five takeaways from the Bears 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon:
Jay Cutler Continues to Excel in the Fourth Quarter
During Jay Cutler's four-plus seasons in Chicago, he has now executed 12 game-winning/fourth-quarter comebacks after Sunday's win against the Minnesota Vikings.
With the seconds ticking away, Cutler hit Martellus Bennett with a 23-yard pass along the sideline that Bennett took up to the 16-yard line. After spiking the ball to stop the clock and an incomplete pass to Alshon Jeffery in the end zone, Cutler once again hit Bennett for a touchdown with just 10 seconds remaining.
Last week against the Bengals, Cutler orchestrated a game-winning drive that ended in a touchdown to Brandon Marshall, and the Bears were able to run out the clock to win their first game of the season.
Last season, Cutler finished the year as one of the best fourth-quarter quarterbacks in the league with a 114.7 quarterback rating with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
While in an ideal world the Bears do not want to be down in the fourth quarter every week, Cutler has proven so far during his time in Chicago that he has the ability to win these close games.
The Defensive Line Continues to Struggle
Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bears defensive line struggled to get pressure on Andy Dalton, only getting one total sack and two QB hits all of last Sunday afternoon.
Not much was different this Sunday as the Bears defensive line only mustered one sack (Corey Wootton) and one QB hit.
Julius Peppers, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms all week, was once again a non-factor for the second week in a row.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was able to use his elusiveness to move in and out of the pocket, but the Bears defensive linemen struggled all day to shed blockers and were unable to get any consistent pressure.
The defensive line did do a solid job in the run game, and despite the fact that the team allowed 123 yards on the ground, they made Adrian Peterson a relative non-factor.
The team can get by against the Vikings without consistent pressure up front but will need to improve on that with more games against dynamic offenses coming up in the future.
The Offense Needs to Improve on Turnovers
Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bears offense only had one turnover, an interception thrown by Jay Cutler.
Sunday afternoon against the Vikings, the Bears offense committed four turnovers, including three turnovers by Cutler.
The first was a sack/fumble forced by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen at the Minnesota 39-yard line. The ball was then picked up by Brian Robison and returned 61 yards for a touchdown.
With the ball on the one-yard line in the second quarter, the Bears decided to throw the football, and Cutler was again picked off after a ball intended for tight end Steve Maneri was tipped by Everson Griffen and picked off by defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
Cutler once again was picked off in the fourth quarter by safety Harrison Smith on a deep ball intended for Brandon Marshall, and during the following series, Matt Forte was stripped by Letroy Guion.
The Bears were able to come out on top on Sunday despite their turnovers but will need to do a better job of protecting the football in the weeks to come.
Devin Hester Appears to Be Back
Much was made this offseason when the Bears announced that Devin Hester would be vacating his role as a wide receiver and would be focusing solely on being a kick/punt returner.
After an opening kickoff that was returned for a touchdown by the Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson, Hester followed it up with a return of 76 yards that led to Jay Cutler's one-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.
Hester finished the day with a Bears-record 249 yards on five kick returns, which includes his 76-yard return as well as an 80-yard return.
While he did not take any returns back for a touchdown today, he was able to prove that he still has the ability to bust a long return and should be able to force teams to use caution when going up against him.
The Defense Continues to Force Turnovers
After forcing three turnovers last week, the Bears defense picked up right where it left off on Sunday with three more takeaways against the Vikings.
The first takeaway came when cornerback Tim Jennings intercepted Christian Ponder at the 44-yard line and returned it for a score early in the second quarter.
Adrian Peterson was stripped by Nate Collins in the third quarter on his own 47-yard line, and the ball was recovered by Corey Wootton.
The third and final takeaway was on the final kickoff as backup tight end John Carlson was stripped by Blake Costanzo before hitting the ground, sealing the Bears victory.
Not much has changed in terms of defensive philosophy for the Bears as they continue to force takeaways. As long as the defense can consistently take the ball away from the opposing team, they stand a good shot at winning most games.