4:24 PM CST, November 25, 2012
A response was demanded.
A big response.
The Bears needed to answer a bad, weak effort in San Francisco with a solid, physical game against visiting Minnesota.
And they provided it in a tough and vicious game that required it.
After the usual clunky start, the offense started pounding the Vikings on the ground while Jay Cutler returned from a concussion to show off his big arm and elusive athleticism in a 25-point first half.
For the game, Cutler completed 23 of 31 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown and interception. He was decisive and accurate, especially when extending plays, finding Brandon Marshall 12 times for 92 yards.
Thing is, Cutler also found seven other targets, including both tight ends just when it looked like the Bears had forfeited that position. Kellen Davis caught a big pass, and Matt Spaeth made a diving catch for a touchdown. Even sorta-tight end Evan Rodriguez had a catch.
Cutler was so full service that he was seen tying left tackle J’Marcus Webb’s shoe after a play in the fourth quarter.
Matt Forte and Michael Bush combined for more than 100 rushing yards, and while the Bears had a per-carry average of just 2.9 yards, they stuck with it and used a bruising Bush to score two touchdowns.
But here’s the deal: The most resounding response came from the maligned offensive line.
That unit needed to come up with the biggest answers, and that unit did just that despite two new members to start and two more by the end. See the Bears’ 80-yard drive in the second quarter for details.
After Julius Peppers blocked another field-goal attempt, the Bears ran 14 plays and ate up nearly eight minutes, their longest drive of the season. They converted three third downs and one fourth down, capping the possession with a one-yard TD by Bush and then a fake extra point that punter Adam Podlesh ran in for an 18-3 lead.
The defense needed a response, as well, and did it ever provide one. After getting thumped by a physical and aggressive 49ers offense, the Bears defense stuck it to the Vikings while also playing the takeaway game that it owns.
The defense forced Adrian Peterson to fumble early and took him out of the game when the result was in question. The defense also picked off lost quarterback Christian Ponder, often pressuring him with a four-man rush the way we’re used to seeing.
Only five of the Vikings’ 12 drives lasted more than four plays. Twice the Bears stopped the Vikings on fourth-and-short to take away the ball in a different way.
The Bears needed to deliver a tough response not only because the NFL saw that inexcusably soft effort Monday night but also because Sunday’s game devolved into a matter of survival. Players went down. Others limped off. Some failed to return.
Devin Hester suffered a concussion. Chris Spencer and Lance Louis went down with knee injuries, meaning the Bears lost their guard depth and had to insert demoted right tackle Gabe Carimi at a new position. Forte and Charles Tillman couldn’t finish the game because of ankle injuries.
The Bears had to bring it. The Bears had to survive it. They did and they did.
Let’s be clear: The Vikings are a bad team. Tough, but not a contender. That made them a good opponent for the Bears. That’s the kind of team the Bears are beating this season. The Bears will face good teams eventually. Good thing it wasn’t Sunday.
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