Bears show up when it matters most
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander September 15, 2013 9:10PM
- DOWNLOAD: "The 50 Greatest Bears" eBook
- DOWNLOAD: "Brian Urlacher: Bear For Life" eBook
- DOWNLOAD: "Marc Trestman: 'Smartest Guy in the Room'" eBook
- Jay Cutler is the man, despite his faults
- Cutler finds Bennett with 10 seconds left as Bears earn 31-30 comeback win
- Unlike Lovie, Trestman able to use Forte’s versatility
- Vikings’ Patterson lights fire under Hester; Bears returner runs for franchise record
- Bears Report Card: Grading the 31-30 win over the Vikings
- Martellus Bennett huge in the clutch for Bears
- Snap counts: Breaking down Bears victory over Vikings
- 10 observations of Bears’ win over Vikings
Updated: September 16, 2013 9:52AM
The Bears are undefeated, reminding fans that you can walk around all you want in the first three quarters of their games, cut the lawn, do errands, doze — even for most of the fourth quarter — but you’d better pay attention at the end.
The Bears yanked this turbulent game against the Vikings out of the mist with 10 seconds left and won 31-30.
Last week, the Bears beat the Bengals 24-21 with a fourth-quarter comeback that wasn’t secure until Bengals linebacker Ray Maualuga got a dumb penalty with 66 seconds left.
Next week against the Steelers? Maybe a winning score as time expires?
We all know that the NFL is built around the concept of parity, that the pendulum swings both ways, cutting through good and bad guys alike. All a team can hope for is a slight advantage, a wee corner that lets it escape the blade more than it gets sliced up.
Hello, last drive.
That’s what the Bears seem to have going for them now — the ability to fool around until the last offensive possibility arrives. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but so far so good.
‘‘It was a weird game,’’ Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said correctly of the multiple-turnover, seesaw contest. ‘‘It came down to one series and a six-point lead.’’
The 16-yard touchdown pass that quarterback Jay Cutler threw to tight end Martellus (‘‘Tell us a parable’’) Bennett at the left edge of the end zone was a thing of beauty that occurred on third-and-10 with the Soldier Field fans’ panic meter dial at 11.
With the Vikings leading 30-24, Cutler took the snap from the shotgun as the clock began ticking down from 16 seconds. Tight end Bennett and wide receiver Earl (‘‘Duke of’’) Bennett — no relation — were set on the left, and they forced Vikings cornerback Chris Cook to make a tough decision: Go with E. Bennett to the inside or M. Bennett to the outside.
Cook backpedaled, wavered, then cut to the outside with Martellus. But the 6-6, 265-pound self-proclaimed ‘‘Black Unicorn’’ reached up for the perfectly lofted pass, and Cook (four inches shorter, 45 pounds lighter) didn’t have a chance.
Martellus, who also fancies himself as a bee and a butterfly, said that he can sting, but then, ‘‘Sometimes I spread my wings.’’
Ah, poetry. And, of course, Biblical-style stories to explain most everything. We’ll guess his tale about ‘‘me and ’Cutty’’ being on the same page of the offense was Sunday’s offering.
‘‘That’s two weeks in a row where the communication between us showed up in the red zone,’’ Bennett said of the winning touchdown catch. With three touchdown catches in two games, Bennett is a free-agent addition of great proportions.
Never has Cutler or the Bears’ offense had two receivers as big and skilled as Bennett and wideout Brandon Marshall (who had more than 100 yards receiving for the second consecutive game, plus a touchdown). This in itself allows for the last-second heroics to be the norm.
If the Vikings were, indeed, putting ‘‘two or three guys’’ on Marshall at the end, as he said they were, then a huge target like Bennett on the other side of the field can cause the death of a conflicted zone cornerback such as Cook.
The last drive began badly for the Bears, making fans groan and wonder. With 3:08 left, Cutler needed more than a minute to run just three middling plays.
But the big one came at the end, and that’s all that was needed.
Well, that and the assurance the Vikings wouldn’t score with 10 seconds left. After all, the Vikings needed almost no time at all for rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to return the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
So in flies Bears bomb-squader Blake Costanzo on the kickoff to rip the ball out of returner John Carlson’s arms and guarantee the victory.
‘‘Like Coach says, ‘It comes down to every last second,’ ’’ a giddy Costanzo said.
So this is what we have: a team that is going to plow ahead, fall behind, drain the clock, not panic, play to the very end and know that somebody, likely a Cutler target, will bail everyone out.
Are the Bears just a crazy, last-second fire-drill team?
‘‘I hope not,’’ Costanzo said with a grin. ‘‘But whatever it takes. One second left. We’ll take it every way.’’
Don’t forget your heart medication, folks.