Cutler's return leads Bears to 20-10 upset of Vikings
Win one for the Cutler?
It appears that's what transpired during the Bears' 20-10 victory over the Vikings on a Halloween night at Soldier Field that couldn't have been much weirder considering the Vikings were undefeated nine days ago and the Bears came in on life support at 1-6.
But quarterback Jay Cutler was back on the field for the first time since a sprained thumb sidelined him during the Bears' Week 2 loss to the Eagles, and the difference was noticeable.
In addition to throwing for 252 yards and 1 TD on 21-of-30 passing that resulted in a 100.5 passer rating, Cutler rallied the troops with a motivational speech about inspiration.
That's the type of football the Bears played while rolling up 403 yards on the NFL's No. 1 defense, 202 of which came from rookie running back Jordan Howard.
What did it mean to the Bears to have Cutler on the field?
"Our ace is back," said tight end Zach Miller, who caught 7 passes for 88 yards. "You get a guy back who's a playmaker back there, extends plays, made great decisions all night, great throws, took care of the ball. I can't say enough about the way he stepped in and played.
"Jay stepped in and balled out. Super happy for him. The emotion on the field, everybody did that together for him. To have him back means a lot and we played well around him."
The Bears snapped a three-game losing streak and salvaged, at least temporarily, a season that was circling the drain.
Cutler, who was sacked just once, downplayed his contributions.
"I didn't get hit much," he said, "made a few throws and watched Jordan run all over the place."
Already holding a 13-3 lead, Cutler drove the Bears 75 yards in 11 plays on the first possession after halftime. Despite a couple of errant tosses on the drive, Cutler flashed the big-play dimension that had been lacking with efficient but conservative fill-in Brian Hoyer at the controls for the previous five games.
"He played very well," coach John Fox said of Cutler. "I think he might have been part of the reason why guys turned it up a notch, and I'm glad they did. That's what playing for each other looks like."
First Cutler launched a 34-yard back-shoulder jump ball that Alshon Jeffery (4 catches, 63 yards) came down with. He completed another short toss to Jeffery, who was underused while Cutler was away, and then zipped an 11-yard laser to the Pro Bowl wide receiver for a TD and a 20-3 lead 4:08 into the third quarter.
A defense that limited the Vikings to just 258 yards, and sacked quarterback Sam Bradford five times, did the rest, allowing a meaningless, oh-by-the-way touchdown with 5:41 left. The offense and especially Howard controlled the remainder of the game. He carried 26 times for 153 yards and caught 4 passes for 49 yards.
After a lukewarm start, Cutler heated up, taking advantage of good field position to drive the Bears 43 yards to the game's first touchdown, giving the home team a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Cutler, making his 100th career start for the Bears, showed some rust early.
But not for long, and his speech was on point.
"It was about inspiration," Cutler said. "Everyone in (the locker room) is from different backgrounds and cultures and societies and family life and school. (It was) about whatever it takes to find that inspiration because motivation usually wears off at some point. Those guys played inspired football. It was fun to be a part of."
Where does Cutler get his inspiration from?
"My teammates, my family, my children, my wife," said the quarterback, who got a game ball.
"That was cool," he said. "That's what you play for."
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