Jordan Howard's first career game against the Minnesota Vikings was a memorable one.
The rookie running back rushed for a career-high 153 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries and caught four passes for 49 yards to lead the Bears to a 20-10 win Monday night at Soldier Field.
"I've been impressed with him from the onset," said coach John Fox. "He's a rookie running back that has grown pretty fast. He got thrown into the fire. We had some injuries at the running back position with Jeremy [Langford] down and Ka'Deem Carey being injured at one point. [Howard] stepped up when we've needed him, and he's done that every time we've called on him."
Howard's 153 yards were the most by a Bears player since Oct. 2, 2011 when Matt Forte rushed for 205 yards in a 34-29 win over the Panthers. Howard's 69-yard run in the first quarter was the longest by a Bears running back since Kahlil Bell's 72-yarder against the Eagles on Nov. 22, 2009.
"You can see how much he's grown," quarterback Jay Cutler said of Howard. "He's like a four- or five-year vet back there. He doesn't get fazed. He's got great vision and that's kind of come along in these last six or seven games. He seems more comfortable back there and he's one of those backs, as the game goes on, he gets stronger and stronger."
Back with a vengeance: Cutler's return after missing five games with a sprained right thumb made a huge difference for the Bears offense, especially receiver Alshon Jeffery.
After the two failed to connect on two third-down passes in the end zone, forcing the Bears to settle for field goals, the two teamed up for a 34-yard reception and an 11-yard touchdown—both on the opening possession of the second half.
On the 34-yarder, Cutler put enough air under the ball to allow Jeffery to out-jump cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
"I told him that I'm just going to keep coming to you," Cutler said. "We wanted to get him vertical at some point in the game. We tried a few times in the first half and didn't have any luck with it. We were a little off kilter in the red zone, too. To get him going is huge because he's such a big part of this offense."
Jeffery's first TD of the season came when Cutler faked a handoff to Howard and hit Jeffery on a quick slant, giving the Bears a 20-3 lead.
"It was an unbelievably well-designed play," Cutler said. "[Offensive coordinator] Dowell [Loggains] and those guys drew up a really good one. We kind of buried the fake in there and [Harrison Smith] came flying down and Al ran a great slant right behind him. It was a well-executed and well-diagrammed play."
Stepping up: Rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd played another strong game, recording one of the Bears' five sacks. Floyd now has three sacks in his last two outings.
"Getting him healthy is obviously beneficial," Fox said. "We have a first-round pick out there who we think very much of. He's been up and down as far as injuries throughout his career so far, whether it was in camp, preseason and the regular season.
"I think he's a big boost, along with Pernell [McPhee]. We got Pernell back a week ago in Green Bay. Anytime you get those types of guys back, it can rejuvenate you."
McPhee also had a sack and was credited with four quarterback hits.
News and notes: Connor Barth made both of his field goal attempts from 30 and 28 yards and has now hit seven straight after opening the season just 4-of-7. ... Rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski forced a fumble on a Vikings kickoff return, but Minnesota recovered. ... The Bears converted 7-of-14 third-down opportunities (50 percent), their best percentage of the season. ... Monday night marked the first Bears game this season without a turnover by either team. ... Rookie tight end Ben Braunecker caught his first NFL pass, an eight-yarder to the Minnesota 2 that set up Howard's 2-yard TD run in the second quarter. ... Running back Jeremy Langford played for the first time since hurting his ankle in a Week 3 loss to the Cowboys, catching one pass for 11 yards.