The Chicago Bears, a team that was coming off of a big loss to the New England Patriots the previous week and in need of a win to capture the NFC North title travelled to Minnesota to take on the once great Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were coming off of a 21-3 loss to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
The game was played at TCF Bank Stadium, also known as the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. It was played in cold conditions but the field was well prepared after eight days of planning and the Bears ended up winning the game 40-14. The game featured a lot of miscues by the Vikings and a good game played by the Bears offense, defense and special teams.
Speaking of special teams, return ace Devin Hester broke Brian Mitchell’s record for return touchdowns and is now the leader in touchdown returns (in NFL history). He did it in fewer games than Mitchell did and has a long and bright future ahead of him.
So how did the Bears win this game? What were the highs and lows of this contest?
Let’s find out in this extended preview of the Bears game against the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
The Vikings got on the board first after they marched down the field using a series of runs and dead-on target passes, culminating the drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Favre to wide receiver Percy Harvin to put the Vikings up by seven.
The Bears would add three (following a Favre interception) after kicker Robbie Gould booted a 29-yard field goal and the score was 7-3 after the kick.
After some penalties pushed the Bears back to the point that they had a 1st-and-30, quarterback Jay Cutler heaved a 67-yard touchdown pass to put the Bears up 10-7. They took the lead and wouldn’t relinquish it for the rest of the game.
In the second quarter, wide receiver Devin Hester caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to make it 17-7 and that was the score heading in at halftime.
The Bears started out the second half by scoring a 23-yard field Gould field goal to go up 20-7. Then, history struck when Hester returned a punt for a 64-yard touchdown. The record breaking score put the Bears up 27-7.
The Vikings would get their second and final score of the game in the third quarter after quarterback Joe Webb (filling in for Favre who had since been injured) ran 13 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. That would make it 27-14 still in the third quarter.
The Bears tacked on another seven points after Cutler hit little-used wide receiver Rashied Davis in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. That made the score 34-14. The final score of the third quarter came when Gould hit another field goal, this one from 34 yards, to make it 37-14.
The final score of the game came when Gould hit a 20-yarder to make it 40-14.
Stud of the Game
This one is obvious. Hester’s record breaking punt return, along with the long kickoff return that he had just prior to that helped the Bears win this game and helped thrust Hester back into the spotlight. It’s a mystery why teams kick to Hester but as long as they do, he’s a threat to run the ball back for a score each and every time. Here’s to the game’s greatest return specialist.
Dud of the Game
It’s hard to find anyone that didn’t do their job in this game. Cutler did throw an interception but his performance otherwise was outstanding, so this honor has no recipient in this game.
The Bears went into this game needing to win in order to secure the NFC North. For a while, it looked like the Bears would succumb to the weather due to all of the talk that they had been making about it prior to the game. The start of the game also made it look like the Bears would have a hard time winning (thanks to the opening drive that the Vikings had). Would the Bears let their fans down again?
The answer was a resounding no. The Bears did what they had to do and win the game, clinch the division and serve notice that they are a team that can play tough in any conditions. The offense ran well and did its job to keep possession of the ball and help keep it moving. Cutler did have an interception but other than that he was flawless (despite the fact he didn’t put up huge numbers).
Matt Forte helped lead the Bears on the ground and he ended up with 92 yards. The receivers did they job, although there were a few hiccups in their route running. Knox made a nice grab on that long touchdown and Hester held onto the ball despite getting bounced by a couple defenders in the end zone. It was a nice job all the way around on offense.
The defense really stepped up and played very well on Monday night collecting five turnovers and four sacks including one by rookie defensive end Corey Wootton that knocked Favre out of the game. The front four was able to get enough pressure (although they did get help at times from the linebackers on blitzes) and the secondary was able to cover receivers well and make critical stops.
There were some big hits on the Bears side on defense as well and safety Chris Harris had a couple of nice stops. Safety Major Wright also did a nice job at times although he did have a penalty for a hit to the head (on quarterback Joe Webb). He’s got some room to improve but he should have a nice future with the Bears.
Special teams were just that, special. Hester’s record breaking punt return was a back breaker for the Vikings while his kickoff return (which almost reached the end zone) gave the Bears an opportunity to score (and they scored a field goal). The coverage units were a little suspect to start but they tightened things down and did pretty well.
The Bears will host the New York Jets at home for their final home game of the season (barring any potential playoff games). A full preview of that game will come at the end of this week.