On the podcast this week I harped on AJ Green for giving the irritable loser's complaint of "they didn't stop us, we stopped ourselves." Had the Bears lost this game, I would have had a hard time avoiding the use of the mantra myself. The Bears offense for the second straight week had a great gameplan and executed it to near-perfection, racking up 419 yards on the Vikings defense. The Bears defense forced several turnovers, returned an interception for a TD, and held the Vikings offense to just 16 points. All of this considered, the game went about as we expected.
You know, except for the mind-numbingly stupid part where the Bears gift-wrapped three turnovers and 14 points and just handed them to Minnesota, necessitating a dramatic fourth quarter comeback that really should have never been necessary.
We're totally not ones to dwell on the negatives here, though, so Bears win and both sides of the ball had their high and low points, and I can't even honestly say Special Teams was bad on a day when Devin Hester had a team record for return yardage. It was just a weird game and I'm glad it's over and the Bears ended on the right side of the ledger.
Martellus Bennett: Legitimate tight ends are amazing. Bennett hauled in 7 catches on 9 targets for 76 yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner. The Bears also threw to him a lot on early downs off of bootlegs to set up favorable situations for the offense. What a fantastic addition.
Tim Jennings: Tim looked much better in coverage today than he did last week, and he had a beautiful pick six as well as a pass defensed.
Devin Hester: *Gruden Voice* THIS GUY. HE RETURNS KICKS. I CALL HIM THE KICK RETURNER. YOU TALK ABOUT KICK RETURNERS AND YOU THINK OF DEVIN HESTER. A team record 249 return yards, and he had the awesomeness to admit he was just pissed off by the Patterson return and determined to get his own. Glad he is where he belongs and doing what he does best this year.
Matt Forte: I can't fault him for that fumble. That was just an amazing play by a defender on a play where Matt had it high and tight. Aside from that though he rushed for 90 yards on 19 carries and had 11 receptions for 71 yards. This team will win a lot of games if it manages to get Forte 30 touches like that.
Lance Briggs and James Anderson: the two combined for 19 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and a couple tackles for loss. Peterson had one of the quietest 100 yard games of his career, gaining 36 yards on one carry and just 64 on his other 25 (2.5 yards per rush). These two played a big part in that.
Jay Cutler: Much will be made about how this is "the same old Jay Cutler", and yes, he made some poor decisions based largely on too much confidence in his arm. I'll live with that, because this is not "the same old Jay Cutler." This Jay Cutler completed 71% of his passes for 290 yards and 3 TDs and a 97 rating. This Jay Cutler is completing 68% of his passes total this year, and has looked more comfortable than ever before doing it. The one category where this Is the "Same Old Jay"? 4th quarter game winning drives. In his career, Jay has now had 20 opportunities to win the ball game in the 4th quarter with a score and he's converted 19 of them. I'll take it.
Marc Trestman: His offensive gameplan was nigh-perfect, although I think we all would have liked to have seen him err on the side of caution with a run on 1st and goal on the play that ended up a pick, but he otherwise has called a fantastic mix of runs and passes this year, put Jay in great position to make smart plays, and adjusted to the OL's early struggles in pass protection to limit the damage. Cutler has still only been sacked once this year, and while the OL and Jay himself deserve a lot of credit, Trestman's play-calling is perhaps the biggest reason why.
Special Teams Miscues: A return TD on the opening kickoff and a penalty on 4th down on a punt gave the Vikings 7 points and a new possession, respectively. It was a sloppy start, but it was also the first KO return TD they've allowed since 2007, so I'll hold off on the panic button.
The Defensive Line: They started very strong and then fizzled out late, allowing CHRISTIAN PONDER to extend plays with his feet and make some nice throws. Melton and Peppers need to start showing up soon if this team is going to hang with the Aaron Rodgerses on the schedule.
Jay's Interceptions: I'm the kinda guy who emphasizes 3 TD passes and 28 great throws over 2 miscues, so I'm not going to list Jay himself on the bad. But both of those were poor decisions in different ways. On the goal-line INT Jay just needed to accept the play was dead and throw it away or scramble. On the second INT, Jay made the right read. Marshall was open on the exact same play that they hit for 38 yards on the game winning drive last week, but Jay took too deep of a drop and threw too late. Bad plays, but he overcame them with strong play and deserves the credit for the win.
Christian Ponder: He pulled some nice throws out of his ass late, but still finished just 16 of 30 with a bad pick six and the Vikings really suffered late when they had opportunities to score TDs to put the Bears away but had to settle for field goals because they were scared to trust their own quarterback.
Fox's Entire Broadcast: The blackout sucked, but not as much as the decision to cut away from the audio-only broadcast to a halftime show that refused to even discuss the Bears game. Then when we had the game we had to deal with Thom Brennaman's insufferable screeches and Brian Billick having the gall to say "YOU SAW IT ALL HERE" when we missed half the goddamn second quarter. Guh. I hate you sometimes, Fox.
That's all for now. Even with the Bears odd history of winning in unconventional ways, this was one of the stranger victories in recent memory. It was a victory, however, so clearly there's nothing to worry about going forward. Go Bears.