The Bears threw a changeup at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. Every new wrinkle worked in a 36-30 overtime victory that ended on Jay Cutler’s fourth TD pass, a 39-yarder to Devin Aromashodu one play after Nick Roach recovered an Adrian Peterson fumble forced by Hunter Hillenmeyer. “This is the kind of finish we wanted all season long and we finally got it,” linebacker Lance Briggs said.
The Bears threw a changeup at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
Every new wrinkle worked in a 36-30 overtime victory that ended on Jay Cutler’s fourth TD pass, a 39-yarder to Devin Aromashodu one play after Nick Roach recovered an Adrian Peterson fumble forced by Hunter Hillenmeyer.
“This is the kind of finish we wanted all season long and we finally got it,” linebacker Lance Briggs said.
Coach Lovie Smith said the win “made a statement about our football team, what we are and what we can be in the future.”
If that’s true, the Bears showed their future could be different from their past in many subtle ways:
Cutler rolled out, throwing bootleg passes of 16 and 24 yards to Greg Olsen on a pair of first-half scoring drives.
“That’s something we could have done more of throughout this year,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “It’s something he does really well and we need to continue to build on.”
Cutler threw on the run, scrambling out of trouble and throwing a 26-yard pass to Desmond Clark on third-and-3 to start Chicago’s first field-goal drive.
The Bears (6-9) ran out of the shotgun formation, with Kahlil Bell and Matt Forte (74 yards) gaining 6 and 7 yards on two scoring drives.
Cutler, who has thrown two-thirds of his passes toward the sidelines this year, threw deep down the middle twice to Aromashodu for 26 and 24 yards in the first half.
The Bears passed on first-and-goal, with Cutler hitting Olsen for 7 yards for a 13-0 lead.
The Bears didn’t try to sit on a rare lead. Ahead 13-0 on their own 25 with 1:23 before the half, Chicago passed on second-and-3. The Bears wound up driving 59 yards in eight plays to take a 16-0 halftime lead on Robbie Gould’s third field goal.
In the end, though, the Bears needed the one thing they’ve always done right to pull out the win after blowing their largest lead in two months.
Devin Hester was an All-Pro kick returner in 2006 and 2007, Danieal Manning led the NFL in kick returns last year and Johnny Knox ranks second this year. Monday, it was Manning’s turn again. His returns of 57 and 59 yards after Minnesota’s first two touchdowns helped the Bears answer right back with Cutler TD passes of 2 yards to Clark and 20 yards to Earl Bennett.
The Bennett pass came two plays after Minnesota (11-4) had tied the score at 23 on Adrian Peterson’s 1-yard run.
“We’ve won a lot of games with our special teams here,” Lovie Smith said.
The Vikings, though, answered again. Brett Favre’s fourth-down 6-yard pass to Sidney Rice with 16 seconds left forced overtime. Rice caught the ball over Corey Graham, who replaced an injured Charles Tillman (rib) early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings, who lost their third consecutive road game, scored on their final five drives of regulation after going scoreless on their first six.
Cutler threw a 33-yard pass to Aromashodu (6 catches 111 yards) on the first play of overtime, but Robbie Gould missed a potential game-winning 45-yard field goal.
No matter. Alex Brown and Mark Anderson combined to sack Brett Favre (321 yards, 2 TDs, one lost fumble) twice on Minnesota’s first overtime possession. Hillenmeyer ended the Vikings’ second by poking the ball away from Peterson from behind after a 16-yard pass.
Cutler hit Aromashodu in stride for the winning 39-yard TD on the next play to help Chicago save face after going 0-4 in previous prime-time games.
“When everyone’s watching, you want to play your best,” Lovie Smith said. “We haven’t been pleased with our play some games this year, but we were tonight.”
“Through all the roller coasters,” Cutler said, “the ups and downs, the tough breaks, the turnovers, the way the offense hasn’t performed, it’s good for morale to go out there and put up points and answer the bell, especially in fourth quarter and overtime when you have to do it.”
Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.