Chicago certainly seemed happy to have Jay Cutler back. The Bears rolled over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, 28-10 at home. The Vikings were without star Percy Harvin, and missed his presence in their offense more than the score probably indicates. The Bears’ defense suffocated the Vikings’ offense, forcing three turnovers and keeping their offense in check all day. Michael Bush ran for two touchdowns and Cutler added a third, as the Bears coasted to a relatively easy victory to put them back in first in the NFC North. They stand at 8-3, and after the Packers lost to the Giants, they hold a one game lead over their rivals with just 5 games to play. This one was close early, but the Bears quickly took control and never looked back.
Minnesota started out well at Soldier Field, striking first after a solid opening drive that resulted in a field goal. However, their momentum was quickly squashed when Jay Cutler moved the offense down the field to the one yard line, before Michael Bush pounded his way through the goal line to put Chicago on top, 7-3. This sparked a 25-0 run in which Jay Cutler hit tight end Matt Spaeth, who made a beautiful diving catch and kept his feet in bounds. That touchdown followed another Bush plunge, and the Bears were rolling. The Vikings attempted to stage a comeback late, as Christian Ponder hit Kyle Rudolph for an easy touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 25-10, and after a Matt Forte fumble was initially run back for a touchdown, the Vikings appeared to be on the comeback trail. The ruling, however, was overturned and the score remained 25-10, and the Vikings never came close again. Despite the win, Chicago lost several key pieces to their offense, as well as one of their main play-makers on defense. First, the Bears lost Devin Hester to a concussion, and then Matt Forte and Charles Tillman to ankle injuries later in the third quarter. None of them returned, and those injuries were compounded with injuries to offensive linemen Lance Louis on a hit by Jared Allen which tore Louis’s ACL and Chris Spencer, who was forced to leave the game with a knee injury of his own. Louis is done for the year, and with other lineman Chilo Rachal having left the team and being placed on the reserve/left squad list, the offensive line for the Bears has just gone from bad to worse.
Though the Bears left the game hobbled by injuries, they took a step towards the playoffs with this win and their one game lead over the Packers. The defense continues to play well, forcing three turnovers and setting up touchdowns on offense. Jay Cutler is back and if he can stay healthy this offense seems poised to make some noise, as long as the offensive line problems do not keep getting worse and compromising their abilities. The loss to Tillman could be costly, but early reports indicate that he will be fine. Up next for the Bears is a visit from the Seattle Seahawks, who have their own problems with starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman facing four game suspensions from the league.