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10 observations of Bears’ win over Vikings

Updated: September 16, 2013 7:48PM



Not even a pass that hit the umpire in the head was going to bother Jay Cutler on Sunday.

Cutler is still Cutler, for better or worse — it’s still only Week 2 of the Marc Trestman era. But one ‘‘Trestman Effect’’ already is obvious — Cutler’s ability to overcome adversity is better than ever.

For the second consecutive week, Cutler threw a fourth-quarter interception in a close game and recovered to win the game with a touchdown pass.

After Harrison Smith’s interception on the first play of the final quarter, Cutler was 8-of-10 for 83 yards and the 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left, for a 134.6 rating. And that includes the incompletion on the ball that hit the umpire.

In back-to-back weeks, Cutler is 14-of-17 for 147 yards and three touchdowns after throwing a fourth-quarter interception, a 142.3 passer rating.

The degree-of-difficulty was even greater in Sunday’s 31-30 victory over the Vikings at Soldier Field. Not only did Cutler throw an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Bears also possession when Vikings defensive tackle Letroy Guion ripped the ball from Matt Forte for a turnover with 6:28 to play.

And the game-winning drive in the final 3:08 of the game had its hurdles for Cutler to overcome. On the first play of the drive, Cutler’s pass over the middle for Alshon Jeffery deflected off umpire Rich Hall’s head and shoulder for an incompletion. Cutler threw his arms up in dismay, but didn’t flinch. He threw completions to Forte for six yards and Brandon Marshall for 10 (though it was a rare Cutler throw to Marshall that was off the mark — Marshall leaped to make the catch) for a first down at the Vikings 48.

A first-down swing pass to Matt Forte lost two yards and put the Bears in a second-and-12 situation. But Cutler responded with completions to Jeffery for 11 yards and Marshall for 10 to get a first down.

A holding penalty on Jermon Bushrod put the Bears in a first-and-20 hole at the Vikings 39 with 43 seconds left, but Cutler again came through — completing a short pass to Martellus Bennett in the flat for a 23-yard gain. That Bennett did not go out of bounds to stop the clock looked like a bad decision. But Cutler spiked the ball to stop the clock and threw the game-winning pass to Bennett two plays later for the victory.

It’s arguable that Cutler having a tight end he trusts is the biggest difference for him so far this season. But with two fourth-quarter comebacks in a row, it’s just as evident that Cutler also is in a better state of mind. Overcoming adversity always has been Cutler’s biggest challenge in the NFL. Under Trestman, he already seems better equipped to handle that than ever.

And now, 10 observations from the Bears’ victory over the Vikings on Sunday.

1. Cutler completed 28-of-39 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 97.2 rating. That’s his highest passer rating with two interceptions in five seasons with the Bears. His average rating with two picks coming into the game was 60.3, with a high of 87.4 in a 27-13 victory over the Vikings in 2010 at Soldier Field.

2. The Bears, who were 26th in the NFL last year with 25 false starts, have not had a false start in their first two games. In fact, the Bears are the only team in the NFL that has yet to have an offensive drive stall because of a penalty in their first two games. They were 1-for-1 on Sunday — overcoming a first-and-20 on the game-winning drive after Bushrod’s holding penalty when Cutler threw the 23-yard pass to Martellus Bennett on the next play.

3. The Bears are one of eight 2-0 teams in the NFL, with the lowest point-differential (plus-4) after beating the Bengals by three and the Vikings by one. They’re in good company though. The Patriots have the next lowest point-differential with plus-5.

The Broncos (plus-40) and Seahawks (plus-31) have the highest point-differential of the 2-0 teams.

4. Believe it or not, this is just the fourth time the Bears have opened 2-0 since the Ditka era (when the Bears started 2-0 for eight consecutive seasons, 1984-91). They were 2-0 in 2002 (and finished 4-12); 2006 (13-3 and reached the Super Bowl) and 2010 (11-5 and lost in the NFC Championship Game).

5. It’s difficult to draw conclusions after two weeks, so take it for what it’s worth that the Bears remaining opponents are a combined 10-17 so far this season. Only the Saints (Oct. 6 at Soldier Field) are unbeaten. The Giants (Oct. 10 at Soldier Field), Redskins (Oct. 20 in Washington), Vikings (Dec. 1 in Minneapolis) and Browns (Dec. 15 at Cleveland) are 0-2.

6. Julius Peppers remains an issue after the eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end had another quiet game Sunday. Peppers had one tackle and no impact plays (sacks, tackles-for-loss, quarterback pressures, pass breakups, etc.) against the Vikings. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Peppers pass-rush rating was a minus-2.1. It was minus-2.0 last week. Peppers had negative pass-rush ratings only six times in the previous three seasons with the Bears, according to PFF.

7. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod struggled against Vikings’ defensive end Jared Allen. Bushrod allowed the only sack of Cutler — by Allen, of course — which resulted in a fumble and 61-yard touchdown return by defensive end Brian Robison in the second quarter. Bushrod also was called for holding Allen twice, though only one was accepted. Bushrod’s rating (minus-2.9) was the lowest among Bears offensive players, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

8. A week after the Bears scored on their first try from the 1-yard line, Cutler threw an interception on first-and-goal from the 1 against the Vikings that seemed to break a cardinal rule. Cutler threw a dart over the middle for tight end Steve Maneri that was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Kevin Williams in the end zone for a touchback.

‘‘Throwing across the middle of a goal-line defense on any flat-line throw is problematic at least,’’ said Fox analyst Brian Billick, a former NFL offensive coordinator. ‘‘Bad things happen when you do that.’’

9. Even at 2-0, the Bears have a lot of cleaning up to do. They had a 16-men-on-the-field penalty on the field on a punt that kept a Vikings drive alive. They had another too-many-men-on-the-field penalty late in the second quarter — a five-yard penalty that arguably cost Devin Hester a kickoff return when Blair Walsh, kicking from his 40 instead of his 35, booted the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. And a defensive time out late in the second quarter proved costly when they had no time outs at the Vikings 2-yard line in the final minute of the first half and could not risk a running play or rollout that might allow the clock to run out.

10. The most noticeable difference in Mel Tucker’s defense is the impact of the Bears’ blitzes, almost halways hit-and-miss under Lovie Smith. From the first defensive play from scrimmage — when Lance Briggs stopped Adrian Peterson for a three-yard loss — the Bears had success by blitzing. Briggs blitzed six times and almost every one of them resulted in a positive play.

Tim Jennings’ interception and 44-yard return for a touchdown came on a play in which linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams both blitzed. Even when the Bears showed blitz it had an impact. When safety Chris Conte aggressively approached the left side of the Vikings’ offensive line on a third-and-10 in the second quarter, left tackle Matt Kalil false started, leading to a Vikings punt.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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