Against woeful Vikings, Bears pull off complete game
By RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com October 16, 2011 10:56PM
Bears running back Marion Barber scores on a run in the first quarter of the Chicago Bears vs. the Minnesota Vikings NFL game Sunday night October 16, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 18, 2011 9:01AM
Whatever this was, it was almost unrecognizable.
Bears offensive linemen blocked for Jay Cutler as if it was the most natural thing to do. He had so much time to throw the ball that he was able to read a few brochures about London while waiting for Devin Hester to get open for a 48-yard TD pass.
The line blocked for Matt Forte, too, as if, suddenly emboldened, it wanted to make a declaration: by land or by air, however way you want it. There was a Roy Williams sighting.
As a bonus, the headset communication problem between Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz apparently got fixed. Who knew life could be this easy?
A Bears defense that has been used and abused forced a safety, with Donovan McNabb falling in the end zone under pressure.
All of this happened in the first quarter Sunday night, and there was nothing in those 15 minutes of football that would have led anyone, not even the most mind-altered Minnesota fan, to believe the next 45 were going to be any different at Soldier Field.
They weren’t. The Bears won 39-10, and the margin of victory should’ve been more than that.
‘‘It’s big for us,’’ defensive end Julius Peppers said. “We needed it.’’
What did it mean? It meant that the Bears raised their record to 3-3 and that the Vikings are a complete team — complete garbage. Is there any way the Bears can get them to stick around for a three-game series, a la Twins-White Sox?
“It’s never easy,’’ Forte said. “It might look that way.’’
Actually, it looked too easy, but it was better than the alternative. We’ve seen too much of the alternative. Bad defense. Poor offensive-line play. Wide receivers apparently lacking opposable thumbs. Dumb penalties.
So, too easy? No such thing.
Unless you’re repressing the memory, you’ll recall that Cutler had to put all his athletic and survival skills to use last week in Detroit to avoid an early death. He threw off the run often and made plays he had no business making.
On Sunday night, he was as relaxed in the pocket as a handkerchief. He was sacked only once. It helps explain why he finished with 267 passing yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 115.9.
Through some heavy-duty psychotherapy, you might also recall the Lions’ Jahvid Best scoring on an 88-yard run last week. A week later, Adrian Peterson had 39 yards on 12 carries.
It cannot be overstated how bad the Vikings are. Chris Kluwe had an 18-yard punt in the second quarter, giving the Bears the ball at the Vikings’ 33. Ryan Longwell snap-hooked a 38-yard field-goal attempt in the same quarter.
There are gradations of bad, and the Vikings seemed intent on visiting all of them.
The Bears did not seem inclined to apologize. But when they play the Buccaneers in London next week, it figures to be a tad more difficult. Either this was a steppingstone game or it was a step-all-over-the-Vikings game. I’ll go with the latter.
“We’ve been up and down,’’ center Roberto Garza said. “We have to keep the momentum going.’’
Everything went the Bears’ way. Cutler threw a bullet between two defenders to rookie Dane Sanzenbacher for a 13-yard TD pass in the second quarter. It was one of those passes that looked ill-advised until it landed in the receiver’s hands, and then it was upgraded to spectacular.
The rest of what we saw, including a 98-yard kickoff return by Hester, looked familiar. That run made it 33-10.
In a shocking turnaround that the medical profession will be studying for years, Peppers started, even though the Bears listed him as doubtful with a knee injury. Imagine the Vikings’ surprise as he ran onto the field! They surely never saw that coming. Peppers looked like the picture of health in the third quarter with two sacks.
“We knew he was playing all week long,’’ Brian Urlacher said. “There was no doubt about that.’’
Hester left the game with a “chest injury.” That should translate into two TDs next week.
The Bears have not had a truly easy opponent, so they had a night like Sunday coming. They got a chance to breathe. They don’t need those nasal strips. That’s what the Vikings are for.