Vikings feel Bennett's sting

For all his silliness, he brings a smartness to the huddle that shouldn't go overlooked

Bears tight end Martellus Bennett talks about the communication behind his game-winning TD catch from Jay Cutler.

Whenever Bears tight end Martellus Bennett gets in front of an audience, the man who nicknamed himself "The Black Unicorn" goes for laughs so naturally that you expect him to remind everybody to tip the wait staff.

Asked about a sore shoulder Sunday after his 16-yard touchdown catch with 10 seconds left gave the Bears a thrilling 31-30 comeback victory over the Vikings, Bennett sensed another opportunity.

"I'm not a doctor but I like to watch 'House,' '' Bennett said with a wry smile.

Bennett earlier teased reporters for acting like kindergartners. He colorfully turned legitimate curiosity over his key 23-yard reception on the winning drive into a comparison of Muhammad Ali.

"I move like a butterfly and sting like a bee,'' Bennett said. "I like to be like a butterfly and spread your wings. You ever try to catch a butterfly with your hands? You can't do it.''

You can't imagine how disappointed Bennett looked hearing the words "last question.''

The Vikings didn't find Bennett's act so amusing — and nobody should be fooled by his funny guy routine. For all Bennett's silliness, he brings a smartness to the huddle that shouldn't go overlooked in why the Bears escaped. For all the flak Bennett deserved for not going out of bounds in the final minute, he earned a shot at redemption by running his mouth all the way into the end zone.

The Bears ran the same play earlier that they called on the game-winning connection. Bennett had noticed the way the cornerback favored the wide receiver running a shorter route near the numbers, which created a crevice near the sidelines. Excited, Bennett quickly located Cutler.

"We talked, 'If he covers me like this, just throw it to me back-shoulder and I'll go up and make the catch,' '' Bennett said.

With the outcome at stake, that's exactly what happened in the southeast end zone. Vikings cornerback Chris Cook drifted slightly enough toward Earl Bennett underneath, opening a window in the zone defense for Martellus Bennett near the pylon. Cutler delivered the ball to the only spot it fit.

"We had one play left in the bag,'' coach Marc Trestman said. "(Cutler) threw to the right guy at the right time.''

It capped another fourth-quarter rally against a 2012 playoff team, which allowed the Bears to feel as good as any NFC contender. With 3:08 left, the Bears regained the ball facing an opportunity to establish an identity under Trestman. Ten plays later, Cutler presented new evidence to consider him a clutch quarterback in 2013 and the Bears served noticed that no lead is safe against their suddenly explosive offense.

"It's still early but we're trying to find our identity and right now it's as a team that never quits,'' Bennett said.

So far, intestinal fortitude combined with intelligence equals 2-0.

Devin Hester still can be ridiculous, as his team-record 249 kickoff return yards showed. The Bears defense still can score, as Tim Jennings' pick-6 proved, and stand tall against Adrian Peterson as it did surrendering only a field goal on first-and-goal from the 6. But what differentiates this Bears team from recent editions can be found in the resilience and resourcefulness of its offense when it matters most.

"We have Mr. Fourth Quarter in our huddle, J-Cut,'' Brandon Marshall said.

While I wouldn't recommend Cutler put that on a vanity plate yet, for the second straight week he demonstrated a knack for finding a way in the final minutes regardless of what had gone wrong.

At times in a wildly entertaining game, Trestman hardly looked the part of genius. He defended passing on first-and-goal from the 1 that resulted in an interception, one of several examples when the Bears got too cute. His timeout just before the 2-minute warning in the first half aided the Vikings' drive. Two penalties for too many men on the field reflected poorly on game management.

But the quick-strike ability of Trestman's "Midwest Coast" offense made everything else moot because it overcame three Cutler turnovers, a 105-yard kickoff return and the lack of a pass rush. Nobody enjoys the offense's metamorphosis more than Matt Forte, whose 30 touches were three more than Peterson. But perhaps nothing symbolizes how the Bears have caught up to the league more than the emergence of the tight end position. In two games, Bennett already has 10 receptions for three touchdowns. Last year, Bears tight ends combined for 29 catches and three TDs all season.

Among other things, Bennett credits the rapport he has established with Marshall and Cutler, whose combined personalities create quite a mixture.

"We always talk about fighting off our demons before the day starts,'' Bennett said. "We're like, 'Don't bring no demons out here.' ''

On the play that kept the Bears unbeaten, the devil was in the details.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

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