If you had predicted that a game-opening kickoff return would be answered by a return that nearly went the distance, I would have called you crazy.
That is indeed what happened Sunday when the Chicago Bears took on the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Vikings’ rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, already being heralded as the next Percy Harvin, returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. Never to be outdone, Bears’ kick return specialist Devin Hester went 76 yards to the Vikings 32-yard line. I have never seen anything like that, so I rightly expected this game to be an instant classic. Those two sequences were just a few of the highlights in a game that featured everything. Even if you are not a fan of either team, this was a nail-biter so let’s get to it.
Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson, who was expected to run all over the Bears’ defense Sunday, barely reached 100 yards on 26 carries. He definitely underwhelmed, but the credit deserves to go to the Bears. He did keep some of the drives alive for the Vikings, but the Bears prepared extremely well for him and showed they can hang around the league’s best. They frankly made Peterson look mediocre, and this is something Bears fans have been waiting for. Everyone has said he is untouchable, but the Bears figured him out from the get-go. It has been a long time since the Bears have had a clutch quarterback, but they seem to have found their man.
Chicago Bears’ comeback kid?
Last week, Jay Cutler led them from 11 down to beat Cincinnati, this week he does it down six in the rain with three minutes remaining. In the final ten seconds, Cutler threw a 16-yard strike to tight end Martellus Bennett to give the Bears the 31-30 victory. To set up that touchdown, Cutler fired a 23-yard pass to Bennett along the sideline. He then hit Bennett in the front of the end zone for the clinching touchdown, and head coach Marc Trestman moves to 2-0 as a head coach. Bennett had 76 yards and two touchdowns. Cutler was 28 of 39 on the day, throwing for 290 yards and three touchdowns. So far, Cutler definitely has the clutch gene, and it is a welcome sight compared to what the Bears have had to deal with at the quarterback position.
Despite being intercepted twice and sacked once, Cutler looked poised in all situations and never wavered in the face of adversity. I was very impressed with him, and feel confident that he can lead this team all the way. He certainly has the tools to do so, in both his coaching staff and players, but a day-to-day approach is best as to not get hopes up. I am very excited to see what he can do when the team has the lead the entire game as opposed to having to come back.
All-around team victory
The always-electrifying Hester, who returned five kicks for a Bears-record 249 yards, did not disappoint. His first flirt with the end zone came in the first quarter, when he went 76 yards in an answer to Patterson’s kick return for a touchdown. His second was an 80-yarder, and he could have went all the way on his any of his last three if it were not for him either getting tripped up or missed blocks. It’s safe to say, however, Hester is back. Now that he is strictly a kick returner, I think he will absolutely flourish and get back to his days of breaking NFL records
Brandon Marshall had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, and Matt Forte added to the overall effort 71 yards receiving and 90 yards rushing. This was a complete team victory for the Bears, and it is a really good sign that it came in only week two. This team will go far, especially with more efforts like this.
The Bears’ defense had an outstanding game and forced Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw for 227 yards with a touchdown and an interception, to feel uncomfortable in the pocket but only sacked him once. Granted it has only been two games, but the defense has been consistent with forcing turnovers and making big plays. I think they looked great as a unit, and I believe they can take this energy and tenacity into Pittsburgh next weekend and come out with a victory.
The game looked to be in the hands of the Vikings, who led the Bears by three at half and six going into the fourth quarter, but the Bears had bigger plans in mind. Like a boxing match, punches were traded the whole game but it was the Bears who delivered the final blow.