The Bears made enough mistakes to lose Sunday's NFC North clash with the Vikings. But for the second straight week, they showed great resiliency in rebounding to record a pulsating victory.
Their comeback Sunday was even more dramatic than a week earlier against the Bengals as Jay Cutler rifled a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett in the left corner of the end zone with just :10 to play to give the Bears a 31-30 victory at rainy Soldier Field.
The winning touchdown came after the Bears had committed four turnovers, including two on their previous two possessions. Cutler had thrown two interceptions—one on first-and-goal from inside the 1—and lost a fumble on a sack that was returned 61 yards for a touchdown.
"It's hard to be minus-two in turnovers and [allow] a kick return for a touchdown and win a game," said coach Marc Trestman. "That says a lot about our players and their resiliency throughout the game, just moving on to the next play and doing the things they had to do to play an entire football game, 58 plus two minutes. It's tough to win and we appreciate the win."
One week after the Bears erased an 11-point second-half deficit in a 24-21 win over the Bengals, they improved to 2-0 for the first time since reaching the NFC Championship Game in 2010. The victory also put Chicago in sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
The Bears failed to hold leads of 14-7, 21-14 and 24-21 as Blair Walsh booted three second-half field goals to put the Vikings ahead. He hit a pair of 28-yarder to tie the game 24-24 late in the third quarter and give Minnesota a 27-24 lead with 8:05 left in the fourth period.
After the Vikings settled for Walsh's 22-yard field goal with 3:15 to play, Cutler engineered the game-winning 10-play, 66-yard drive, capped by his strike to Bennett on third-and-10.
The Bears were 3-of-3 on third down on their last drive as Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for 12 yards on third-and-two and 10 yards on third-and-one. Bennett put his team in position to win by catching a pass in the left flat and racing 23 yards to the Minnesota 16 with :22 to go.
"We tried to mix it up; go to different guys, give guys chances to make plays, try to find soft spots in the defense," Trestman said about the final drive.
The Bears dealt with adversity immediately Sunday as Cordarelle Patterson returned the game's opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
Devin Hester answered as he did all game, however, with a 76-yard kickoff return, setting up Cutler's 1-yard TD pass to Bennett, which tied the score 7-7. Hester set a Bears single game record with 249 kickoff-return yards, eclipsing his own mark of 225 set in 2006 a win over the Rams.
After Alshon Jeffery's 38-yard run on a reverse, Cutler lofted a 34-yard TD pass to Marshall, who beat single coverage by cornerback Chris Cook to give the Bears a 14-7 lead.
The Bears were on the verge of extending their lead midway through the second quarter when Cutler was sacked for the first time this season. Jared Allen stripped the ball and fellow defensive end Brian Robison scooped it up and returned it 61 yards for a TD, tying the score 14-14.
After Hester's 80-yard kickoff return to the Minnesota 23, the Bears ran the ball on four straight plays, leading to first-and-goal at the 1. But Cutler's pass over the middle was deflected by Vikings end Everson Griffen and intercepted by tackle Kevin Williams in the end zone.
The Bears defense responded as Tim Jennings intercepted Christian Ponder's pass intended for Jerome Simpson and raced 44 yards down the left sideline for a TD that made it 21-14.
The Vikings answered with Ponder's 20-yard TD pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph, who beat safety Major Wright in the right corner of the end zone with 1:11 left in the second quarter. But the Bears regained a 24-21 lead on Robbie Gould's 20-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
The Bears sputtered offensively in the second half as their first four possessions ended with two punts, an interception and a fumble. But the defense kept Trestman's team in the game, forcing the Vikings to settle for field goals after reaching the Chicago 10, 9 and 4.
That set the stage for the game-winning drive, which electrified the partisan crowd of 58,540.
"Our defense got the late stop again and we were able to push the ball down the field; guys making plays, our offensive line locking it up, Jay distributing the ball and keeping his poise," Trestman said. "He had some moments of adversity in this game and he never flinched, and the guys around him never did either."