By Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune reporter
12:05 AM CDT, September 16, 2013
The rain had escalated near Lake Michigan. Of course it had.
Late in the fourth quarter, at the end of a gloomy afternoon, a full day's mist had turned into a troublesome shower, just another hindrance for the Bears to deal with on a Sunday filled with anxiety.
With 3 minutes, 8 seconds left, a game that had twisted and turned suddenly hinged on the confidence of a huddle and the poise of quarterback Jay Cutler, who gathered his offense near the Chicago 34-yard line.
The Bears' deficit was 30-24. The mood around the Soldier Field stands was uneasy yet somewhat curious.
This was a game the Bears could have blown open in the second quarter but also could have blown completely after allowing the visiting Vikings to control the second half.
So now what? In the final minutes, a major test of resilience came knocking.
Cutler, who was in danger of waltzing right into a Week 3 anger ambush after committing three turnovers, gathered his offense and cracked his neck. He seemed eager for whatever was next.
"Just cool, calm and collected," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "I think that's a trust thing. With the guys Cutty has on the outside and the guys he has in front of him, he feels like, 'Hey we can make a play.' He doesn't have to stress."
And so it began. In a worsening rain.
Ten plays, 66 yards. That's the drive that carried the Bears to an improbable 31-30 win, the series that ended with 10 seconds left and Bennett making a ridiculous grab on a precise Cutler back-shoulder throw against exactly the kind of zone coverage the Bears were hoping to see.
"We have Mr. Fourth Quarter on our side in my man Jay Cut," receiver Brandon Marshall said.
Is it worth mentioning that the game-winning drive began with a Cutler pass perfectly defended by … umpire Rich Hall's head?
What followed, though, were seven Cutler completions on 10 attempts, including a 12-yard dart to Marshall to convert a third-and-4 and a 23-yarder to Bennett that pushed the Bears to the Minnesota 16 with 28 seconds left.
And Cutler's final throw? It came against zone coverage with Minnesota cornerback Chris Cook defending Bennett, but only after motioning for assistance before the snap and then taking one fatal misstep when receiver Earl Bennett caught his attention with a cut inside.
With the Vikings' secondary scrambled, Martellus Bennett's eyes widened. So did Cutler's.
"They're not going to like what they see on film," Cutler said of the Vikings.
Even with an optimal play call against a confused defense, Cutler still needed to deliver a pinpoint throw on a wet field.
"Cutty trusts me," Bennett said. "We have a good chemistry that's still growing. And I know where to expect the ball from him. That's the biggest thing down there. I know it's going to be a back-shoulder (throw). I know it's going to be a jump ball. I know it's going to be a bullet.
"It makes it easier for me to do my job. Because I can keep running, keep running, then make the play at the last second."
Bennett's last-minute score produced an exhilarating if flawed victory instead of a maddening defeat.
The Bears almost squandered 249 kickoff return yards from Devin Hester, a single-game franchise record.
The 161 yards from scrimmage delivered by Matt Forte nearly went to waste too, with the running back coughing up a costly fourth-quarter fumble.
In all, four Bears turnovers gave the Vikings life. And an inability to corral rookie Cordarrelle Patterson on the opening kickoff led to a 105-yard dash and an early 7-0 deficit.
Yet while all those blunders will be studied and addressed in the coming days as the Bears ready for next week's trip to Pittsburgh, they'll mean less than the team's 2-0 record and growing unity.
Coach Marc Trestman believes he has found a mature group with an ability to ability to handle adversity and pressure.
That surfaced in Week 2.
"They've made the decision that they're just going to play the next play the best they can and see what happens at the end," Trestman said.
What happened at the end Sunday provided a soothing finish to a nerve-testing day.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC