Falling behind the Vikings 10-0 during a listless first quarter Sunday at Soldier Field, it looked like the Bears were headed down the same ugly path they traveled in losing their three previous games.
After all, they had been outscored 104-7 in the first half since recording their last win Oct. 12 in Atlanta. But this time would be different. This time, the Bears' big-play offense awoke from its slumber and the defense played with tenacity and fire.
Over the final three quarters, the Bears scored 21 unanswered points and held the Vikings to a late field goal in rallying for an inspiring 21-13 victory before 55,320 fans at Soldier Field.
"It's huge," said defensive end Jared Allen. "We needed it. It was time to get some confidence and get back on the right track. I thought we did a great job of playing team ball. That's what you need to do, and now you just go back to the table and try to repeat it."
View photos from the game as the Bears take on the Vikings at Soldier Field.
Jay Cutler completed 31 of 43 passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 98.0 passer rating. All three of his TDs came on contested throws versus one-on-one coverage with Brandon Marshall catching two of the passes and Alshon Jeffery snaring one.
"It's awesome," said right guard Kyle Long. "It's really great to see those guys be able to do what they do best. If you can give Jay some time and Jay can have a clean throwing lane, then those guys can go up and make plays."
Jeffery had a game-high 11 receptions for 135 yards, while Marshall added seven catches for 90 yards. Kyle Long rushed for 117 yards on 26 carries and caught six passes for 58 yards.
The Bears dominated in total yards (468-243), first downs (24-10) and time of possession (38:38-21:22). But they didn't clinch the win until safety Ryan Mundy intercepted Teddy Bridgewater's pass in the end zone on second-and-three from the Chicago 29 with :42 remaining.
In winning their first game of the season at Soldier Field after three losses, the Bears (4-6) pulled into a third-place tie with the Vikings (4-6) in the NFC North.
"I think everyone had a chip on their shoulder," Cutler said. "No one is happy with where we're at. I think it showed today."
After allowing 11 touchdowns in back-to-back losses to the Patriots and Packers, the Bears defense permitted just one TD Sunday, and that came after Andrew Sendejo's 48-yard run on a fake punt gave the Vikings a first down at the Chicago 7-yard line.
Bridgewater's 7-yard TD pass to wide open tight end Rhett Ellison on the next play made it 10-0. But the defense responded by limiting the Vikings to 47 yards and two first downs on 22 plays in the second and third quarters.
"Guys came back ready to work," said coach Marc Trestman. "[Defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] and the guys worked hard, and they worked hard together, both the staff and players. It was good to see that there was passion there. There were guys playing hard out there, and there was a lot of second effort."
The Bears took a 14-10 halftime lead as Cutler threw TD passes of 27 yards to Jeffery and 44 yards to Marshall in the second quarter, with both receivers beating cornerback Josh Robinson.
Midway through the third quarter, Cutler tried to avoid a sack with a quick pass over the middle to tight end Martellus Bennett. But the ball was intercepted by safety Harrison Smith, who returned it 52 yards to the Chicago 27.
The defense protected the lead, holding the Vikings without a first down and forcing them to settle for Blair Walsh's 38-yard field goal attempt, which he pushed wide to the right.
The Bears increased their lead to 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter on Cutler's 4-yard TD pass to Marshall, who posted up Robinson like a low-post player in basketball.
After the Vikings closed to 21-13, the Bears held on to win for just the second time in their last seven games.
"It's just resiliency to come out there and fight like that," Long said. "We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game. It's the only way you can win in the NFL."