CHICAGO -- On the Bears' first two offensive plays against Minnesota on Sunday, quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte botched a handoff for a lost fumble, and Cutler tripped over a teammate and sacked himself for a five-yard loss.
But the Vikings couldn't do much with the opportunities, and Cutler then unleashed an effective short passing game, the even more inept Vikings' offense couldn't do a thing when it mattered, and Chicago ended a two-game losing streak by beating Minnesota, 28-10.
The victory kept the Bears (8-3) in at least a tie for first place in the NFC North, pending Green Bay's night game against the New York Giants, while Minnesota (6-5) fell two games behind.
The game was decided by halftime, when the Bears held a 25-3 lead after limiting the Vikings to only 92 yards on offense and three first downs while controlling the ball for more than 19 1/2 of the first 30 minutes.
Minnesota turned the early Cutler-Forte fumble into a field goal for a 3-0 lead, but Chicago drove to a touchdown, on a 1-yard run by Michael Bush, after recovering Adrian Peterson's first of two fumbles, tacked on a Robbie Gould field goal after a shanked punt.
In the second quarter, the Bears drove 80 yards for their second touchdown, another 1-yard run by Bush, then got another TD after safety Chris Conte intercepted a wild overthrow by Christian Ponder and returned it 35 yards to the Vikings' 13-yard line. Cutler threw a touchdown pass to backup tight end Matt Spaeth on the next play.
The Bears' defense controlled Peterson, the league's leading rusher, for most of the game, while Cutler, operating behind a rebuilt offensive line that had to be further rebuilt during the game due to injuries, orchestrated an effective passing game built around wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Peterson, who had been averaging 112.8 yards a game, had only 25 yards in the first half -- 13 in the first quarter and 12 in the second -- on seven carries. He finished with 108 mostly meaningless yards on 18 carries and lost two fumbles.
Cutler, who completed 23 of 31 passes for 188 yards, did not throw deep until the closing minutes of the game. Marshall caught 12 passes for 92 yards but failed to handle a slightly off-target attempt for a 42-yard TD with a little over five minutes remaining.
Running back Matt Forte of the Bears left the game with an ankle injury suffered on a strange third -quarter play. Forte was tackled by several Vikings, the ball got loose and safety Mistral Raymond recovered it and ran for a touchdown while players on both sides simply stood around thinking the play had been whistled dead. But officials ruled it a touchdown, then referee Scott Green announced the touchdown was confirmed by replay, then a moment later he said that was wrong and it would be replayed. Ultimately, the touchdown was nullified and the ball given back to the Bears -- but Forte was still hurt.
He was just one among at least five Chicago players hurt during the game, including both starting guards on an offensive line that was rebuilt after last Monday night's embarrassment at San Francisco. The Bears lost Devin Hester, their kick returner and backup wide receiver, for the rest of the game due to a concussion early in the second quarter, and cornerback Charles Tillman left the game with an ankle problem.
Notes: Peterson had lost just one fumble in two and a half seasons before losing one in the first quarter and another in the fourth ... Minnesota failed to make a first down on any of its first four possessions, finishing the first quarter with just 25 yards on 11 plays ... Minnesota safety Harrison Smith left in the third quarter with a concussion ... In the category of strange call, after Chicago's second touchdown, late in the second quarter, holder Adam Podlesh took the snap from center and ran behind the left side of the line for a two-point conversion that put the Bears ahead, 18-3. Makes you wonder why the Bears would waste such a good fake play at that point of the game when they still had a half to go in this game and a rematch with the Vikings in a couple of weeks ... The Vikings have not beaten the Bears at Soldier Field since 2007.