Bears-Vikings: What we learned

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears gave up a 105-yard touchdown return on the game's opening kickoff, lost four turnovers, allowed the Minnesota Vikings to control the ball for more than 18 of the 30 minutes in the second half -- and yet still managed, for the second week in a row, to come from behind in the fourth quarter for a victory.
The Bears beat the Vikings, 31-30, on Jay Cutler's third touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to tight end Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
"It's hard to be minus-two in turnovers and (give up) a kick return touchdown and win a game," said Marc Trestman, the first Bears' head coach to begin his career with a 2-0 record since Neill Armstrong in 1978.
Minnesota parlayed two of the four Chicago turnovers into fourth-quarter field goals by Blair Walsh to take a 30-24 lead before the Bears started the final drive at their own 34-yard line with 3:08 remaining.
Using 10 plays to cover the 66 yards and overcoming a holding penalty, they converted three third downs including the winning pass, which came on 3rd-and-10 on a play Trestman said was put into the offense only in the past week.
"That last two minutes, I could have done some different things," said Leslie Frazier, the Vikings coach whose specialty is defense.
There were also things the Vikings could have done differently on offense before that. Leading, 27-24, they had first-and-goal at the Chicago 6-yard line with three and a half minutes remaining but two Adrian Peterson runs produced just two yards, and a Christian Ponder pass fell incomplete.
"It's easy to second guess after the fact, but sometimes when you give the ball to Adrian on 3rd-and-4, you don't feel like you need to pass," Frazier said.
Peterson, last year's NFL rushing champion, finished with 100 yards on 26 carries but outside of a 36-yard run that set up a second quarter touchdown, the Bears held him pretty much in check.

What the Vikings said
"You can't fault the way our guys played, and (the defense and special teams) kept giving us chances on the road against a good team. I just got to do some things differently. We'll get to know the situations we were in, and we'll figure out a way to get a win in that situation." -- Head coach Leslie Frazier.

What the Bears said:
"(Cutler) had moments of adversity in this game, (but) he never flinched. He was very cool, and our guys kept their poise throughout." -- Head coach Marc Trestman

What we learned Sunday at Soldier Field
1. Quarterback Christian Ponder shows promise. Although the Vikings did not reach 100 yards on offense until the final two minutes of the first half, Ponder got better as the game went on and overcame his biggest mistake, an interception that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown by Bears' corner Tim Jennings. In the second half, he completed 10 of 16 passes for 146 yards.
2. The Vikings can't count on another 2,000-yard season from Adrian Peterson, not with defenses loading up against him, so they are going to need better play elsewhere - and that starts with a defense which has made just two sacks in two games while allowing 642 net passing yards and five touchdowns through the air.
3. For all the worry about his willingness to buy into yet another new offense, perhaps Jay Cutler is doing it. Cutler overcame three turnovers of his own and did a fine job distributing the ball on offense, particularly to running back Matt Forte who was targeted 11 times and caught 11 passes. Passes to the running backs are a staple of the West Coast offense that Marc Trestman has brought to Chicago.
4. Making Devin Hester a full-time kick returner again rather than allowing him to play wide receive r is looking like a brilliant move. Hester returned kicks against the Vikings like he was doing several years ago -- a 76-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, an 80-yard kickoff return in the second quarter and a 42-yard kickoff return in the third quarter before the Vikings stopped kicking to him. Hester had not had a kickoff return longer than 40 yards since Oct. 16, 2011, and his 249 yards on kickoff returns were a franchise record.

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