Chris Conte (Leon Halip/Getty)
The Vikings were looking to tie the game early in the second quarter. Instead, a series of big plays by the Bears defense, special teams and offense forever turned the tide of the game.
What has made the Chicago Bears so successful this season is to have all three units (offense, defense and special teams) feed off of one another to snowball success and turn close games into big leads. They’ve done it consistently this year and Sunday was no exception, as the Bears used all three units for a trifecta version of a second-quarter turning the game.
As the game moved into the second quarter, the Bears led 10-3, but the Vikings were driving. With a first down on the Chicago 16-yard line, the Vikings were looking to tie the game and put the pressure on the Bears. Instead, Chicago’s defense made a big play, slapping the ball away from Kyle Rudolph in the end zone to force the Vikings to kick a field goal to cut the deficit to 10-6. However, Chicago’s special teams rose up to stop that scoring opportunity.
Julius Peppers got a good push on the snap and what was going to be a 30-yard chip shot field goal was blocked – the 12th of Peppers’ career – to keep the score 10-3 and give the ball to the Bears offense.
In a classic Chicago-style drive, Jay Cutler and his offense methodically drove the ball down the Vikings’ throat on a marathon 14-play drive that ate eight minutes off the clock. The Bears ran the ball nine times, converted three third-down plays and, on the one in which they failed, they converted a fourth-and-1 with a 5-yard run by Michael Bush. Only two plays in the drive picked up more than six yards – the biggest being a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Antoine Winfield.
After Bush capped the long drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, the Bears special teams got in the act again. Seeing a formation that they could take advantage of, Chicago called a direct snap to punter Adam Podlesh, who ran in untouched for a 2-point conversion, giving Chicago an 18-3 lead with 4:01 to play in the half.
Looking for an answer, the Bears defense did what it does best – forcing turnovers. With Christian Ponder under pressure, he threw an off-balance pass that sailed over Rudolph’s head and was intercepted by safety Chris Conte at midfield. As is the habit with the Bears, the defense became an offense as Conte returned the ball all the way to the Vikings 13-yard line to set up the Bears offense on a short field.
It took the Bears just one play to cash in the turnover, as Cutler fired a 13-yard touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth to give them a 25-3 lead with 1:48 to play in the first half that would never be seriously challenged after that.
The Bears don’t always win pretty. In fact, they rarely do. But, they play textbook team football. At a time when the Vikings were in the red zone early in the second quarter looking to tie the game at 10-10, Chicago used defense, offense and special teams to turn a potential tie into a 22-point lead in a crushing, all-units turning point of the game.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.