'Mr. Fourth Quarter' delivers again for Bears
The Bears beat the Vikings and the odds Sunday, winning 31-30 despite turning the ball over four times and allowing touchdowns on a 105-yard kickoff return and a 61-yard fumble return.
"It's hard to be minus-2 in turnovers and get a kickoff returned for a touchdown against you and still win," coach Marc Trestman said after the Bears improved to 2-0 and dropped Minnesota to 0-2.
It's just two weeks into the regular season, but Bears players already have the feeling that if they falter a teammate will be there to pick them up.
They had multiple opportunities to prove that theory on a soggy day at Soldier Field. Despite the turnovers, the new, multifaceted offense took another step, erasing a fourth-quarter deficit for the second straight week, this time in much more dramatic fashion.
With 10 second left, Jay Cutler's 16-yard pass to Martellus Bennett won it, capping a 66-yard touchdown march through a driving rain.
Cutler's 3 TD passes, including 2 to Bennett, more than offset his 3 turnovers, including the fumble that was returned by Brian Robison for a score. Cutler completed 28 of 39 passes for 290 yards for a 97.2 passer rating.
On the game-winning drive, Cutler completed 7 of 10 passes for 76 yards, connecting with four different receivers and overcoming a holding call on Jermon Bushrod along the way.
"If it's the fourth quarter, I have a lot of confidence," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said of Cutler. "We have 'Mr. Fourth Quarter' in our huddle. He's just ice cold. He makes everything so easy."
Marshall helped make it easy for Cutler with 7 catches for 113 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
According to Trestman, Cutler "never flinched," even after his turnovers and with the game hanging in the balance and the Bears' fate in his hands late in the game. Not much needed to be said between coach and quarterback before the final drive. Trestman called the plays; Cutler carried them out.
"We just wanted him executing plays," Trestman said. "I've told Jay we're going to have very few conversations during the course of the game that (quarterbacks coach) Matt (Cavanaugh) can't reiterate.
"We tried to mix it up, go to different guys and find the soft spots in the defense."
Bennett, who caught a 1-yard TD pass to open the Bears' scoring and had a 23-yard catch and run down the east sideline three plays before his game-winning grab, said Cutler was "cool, calm and collected." The tight end finished with 7 catches for 76 yards.
"They're going to be as calm as I am, and I try to stay relatively calm out there, especially in the fourth quarter," Cutler said. "Right now we're making plays when we need to make plays."
The Vikings, who earlier erased deficits of 14-7, 21-14 and 24-21, took a 30-24 lead after short field goals that followed Cutler's second interception and a Matt Forte fumble with 6:28 left.
It could have been worse, but the Bears' defense, which earlier contributed Tim Jennings' 44-yard touchdown on an interception return, forced the Vikings to settle for field goals of 28 and 22 yards after driving inside the Chicago 10-yard line.
Jennings' pick-6 came just four plays after an ill-advised Cutler pass into the end zone was deflected and picked off by defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
"It's hard to win a game with 4 turnovers," Cutler said. "You can't do it without great defense and special teams. (Defensive coordinator) Mel Tucker tells me before every game, 'We've got your back.'
"Offensively, we kept killing ourselves. The defense stepped up when we needed them to step up."
Devin Hester had a whopping 249 kickoff-return yards on five attempts, an average of 49.8 yards, and he helped reverse the momentum twice in the first half.
His 76-yard return followed Cordarrelle Patterson's game-opening 105-yard TD return and set the Bears up with a short field, allowing them to tie the game at 7-7 with less than three minutes elapsed.
Hester also answered the Vikings' fumble-return touchdown, with an 80-yard rebuttal, but that drive ended with an end-zone interception.
The offense also got 129 yards on the ground, 90 of them on 19 carries by Matt Forte, who also led all players with 11 receptions, which accounted for 71 yards.
Once again, it wasn't beautiful, but the Bears are sitting pretty, all alone atop the NFC North.
•Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.
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