The Bears got contributions from several players in all three phases of the game as they knocked off division rival Minnesota to tie the Packers at 6-3 for first place in the NFC North.
Jay Cutler had a great game in completing 22 of 35 passes for 237 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. One of the interceptions bounced out of Johnny Knox’s hands but the other one was clearly Cutler’s fault because he forced it into the end zone while trying to get a touchdown instead of settling for a field goal.
Nevertheless, Cutler outplayed Brett Favre in the victory, something rarely said about a Bears quarterback against the 41-year-old throughout his career. In what could be Favre’s last game in Chicago, and after all the success he’s had at Soldier Field, it seemed only fitting that his last pass was intercepted by Chris Harris. Favre was also intercepted twice more; once by D.J. Moore and another time by Lance Briggs.
Knox, who was in my doghouse after his drop led to Cutler’s first interception — plus, he’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time too much this year — slowly worked his way out of it with a great game. He caught five passes for 90 yards, including an 18-yard completion on first and 25 that eventually led to Cutler’s second touchdown of the game.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the win on the offensive side of the football was that Mike Martz did not stray from the run game for the second straight week. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor ran the ball 32 times for 102 yards. Forte had one catch for nine yards and Taylor added three receptions for eight yards.
The Bears spread the ball around the field as Cutler completed passes to nine different receivers. Devin Hester caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, Greg Olsen finished with three catches for 31 yards and a score, and Earl Bennett had three catches for 21 yards. Tight end Kellen Davis chipped in with a 19-yard touchdown reception on a great playaction call by Martz on third and one.
Defensively, the Bears played about as solid as you could ask them to. They limited Favre to 170 passing yards and a touchdown and held Adrian Peterson to just 51 rushing yards on 17 carries. Not only did they allow just 13 points, which is better than their season average, but seven of those points — and the only Vikings touchdown — came off a blown coverage. If they shore up the mental mistakes, the defense is right there among the best in the league.
Aside from the three interceptions the defense recorded, Henry Melton stripped Favre at the end of the second quarter and Tommie Harris recovered the fumble. Brian Urlacher led the charge with seven tackles, followed by Briggs’ six, Tim Jennings’ five, and Julius Peppers’ four.
Other than a missed 43-yard field goal by Robbie Gould at the end of the first half — which came after the Favre fumble — the Bears special teams also contributed greatly to the victory. The Bears elected to put Hester back to return kickoffs, and it turned out to be the smartest move. Hester’s first return attempt he took out to the 37-yard-line on a 32-yard return. His second return was brought back for 68 yards to the Minnesota 34-yard-line. Even when Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell kicked away from Hester, Rashied Davis stepped up and joined the fun with a 32-yard return to midfield. Hester also had a 42-yard punt return in the third quarter while tight-roping the sideline and making tacklers miss in a confined area.
The Bears will operate on a short week as they have a Thursday night date with the Miami Dolphins coming up. The Dolphins beat the Titans at home today, but they went through three quarterbacks due to injury and it could be a detriment on a short week for them.