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updated: 11/15/2010 12:25 AM

Bears in sync in all phases to knock down Vikings

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  • Jay Cutler had 237 yards and three touchdown passes as the Bears won 27-13.

      Jay Cutler had 237 yards and three touchdown passes as the Bears won 27-13.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Bears showed some new wrinkles and also relied on a tried-and-true formula to move into a share of first place in the NFC North with a 27-13 victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings.

In what was their most impressive and well-rounded effort of the season, the Bears (6-3) ran the ball well enough to set up some big play-action passes by Jay Cutler.

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They also got a vintage Devin Hester performance on special teams and another stout effort from the defense that forced a flock of Brett Favre turnovers.

In what is expected to be, once and for all, his final appearance at Soldier Field, the 41-year-old Favre was picked off three times and lost a fumble.

In retirement, Favre will not think back fondly to his days of playing against Lovie Smith-coached teams.

Since Smith took over as head coach in 2004, he has preached taking the ball away, and the Bears have forced more turnovers than any team in the NFL.

Twenty-two of them have come in 11 games against Favre, who has been victimized for 18 interceptions and 4 lost fumbles.

"It is about taking the ball away," Smith said, "and the guys really did a super job of that."

The loss dropped the defending NFC North champs to 3-6 and may have hastened the departure of embattled coach Brad Childress.

Favre started hot, completing 12 of 15 passes for 105 yards, 1 TD and a 128.8 passer rating in the first half. But in the second half he looked his age … and worse.

Early in the third quarter, nickel back D.J. Moore snagged his team-best fourth interception on a Favre pass that was tipped by defensive end Israel Idonije.

Moore's 3-yard return gave the Bears' offense ideal field position at the Vikings' 10-yard line, but they had to settle for Robbie Gould's 34-yard field goal and a 17-10 lead.

After the teams traded field goals later in the third quarter, the Bears went up 27-13 midway through the fourth quarter.

Cutler's 19-yard flip to tight end Kellen Davis off a play-action on a third-and-1 looked ridiculously easy because the Vikings bought the run fake to Chester Taylor. It was Davis' first catch of the season.

"The play-action passes work a lot better when you're able to run the football," Smith said. "That run is really setting up some things, making teams play us honestly.

"Of course that was big. The third-down play to Kellen, having a little success early with the run kind of opened that up a little bit."

The Bears weren't great running the ball, but they did it 38 times and produced 130 yards for a modest 3.4-yard average.

But it was their second-biggest ground output of the season and made the Vikings respect the run threat enough for Cutler to complete 22 of 35 passes for 237 yards, 3 TDs, 2 interceptions and an 87.4 passer rating.

For the second straight week he was sacked just once behind an offensive line that seems to be jelling at the right time.

"The offensive line did a great job all day long giving us time when we needed it," Cutler said. "We max-protected a few times on third down, and that's kind of when we had been struggling a little bit. Those guys did a great job."

Struggling a little bit? The Bears came in as the NFL's worst third-down team, converting just 22.9 percent of their opportunities.

Against the Vikings they converted 11 of 19 for 58 percent.

The defense, which came in No. 5 at preventing third-down conversion (34.2 percent) allowed just 1 of 9, an 11 percent success rate for the Vikings.

And then there was Hester.

Looking every bit like the frisky colt who had 11 kick-return touchdowns in his first two seasons, Hester put on a show all by himself that was worth the admission price.

Given back the kickoff-return job that he had relinquished last year to focus more on playing wide receiver full time, Hester brought the 59,844 out of their seats with a 68-yard return midway through the third quarter that set up Gould's second field goal that put the Bears up 20-13.

The next time he touched the ball, Hester went 42 yards with a punt return, breaking three tackles while navigating along the west sideline.

"When you get a ball punted like that, pinned to the sideline, it's really rare you can come out like that," Hester said. "They put out great blocks and let me squeeze through some holes."

Hester also caught 4 passes for 38 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown grab in the final minute of the first half that gave the Bears a 14-10 lead they never gave back.

"At one point I really tried to focus on receiver," Hester said. "I felt like I had the return game mastered, and I wanted to really focus on receiver.

"Now I'm feeling a little more comfortable at receiver, so I can start back focusing on returns as well."

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