The Chicago Bears started tonight's game strong and kept their foot on the throttle all night long. The team scored on its third play of the game and never looked back. In beating the Minnesota Vikings 39-10, the Bears climb to 3-3 on the season, three games back of the division-leading Green Bay Packers.
The Bears came out relatively healthy in this one, with TE Kellen Davis (elbow) and Devin Hester (chest) the only injuries of note. Coach Lovie Smith said after the game that neither injury is considered serious.
-DE Julius Peppers was listed as doubtful on Friday yet suited up and started. Good thing he did, as he had a monster game. He finished the contest with two sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. He would have had a third sack had he been able to bring down Vikings QB Christian Ponder when he had him in his grasp. Peppers, who was limping visibly, brought the pressure all night and was a disruptive force off the edge.
-As a whole, the key for Chicago's defense was stopping Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson. The Bears loaded the box with eight or nine players on nearly every play, daring the Vikings' mediocre passing attack to beat them. As a result, Peterson finished the game with just 39 yards on 12 carries. It was the type of game Chicago's defense needed after giving up 167 yards to the Lions' Jahvid Best last week.
-Devin Hester once again proved he's the best returner the NFL has ever seen. He returned a third quarter kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and nearly brought back his next punt return for a score. The touchdown came immediately after Minnesota had closed the Bears' lead to just 13 points, demoralizing the visitors. And Hester was equally effective on offense. On the team's third offensive play, Hester got behind the defense and Cutler found him for a 48-yard touchdown. He finished the contest with five catches for 91 yards, which led the team.
-The offensive line did an outstanding job tonight against a formidable Vikings defensive front. Minnesota defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison had combined for 13 sacks coming into the game. Allen got one more tonight, on a play where Cutler held the ball far too long, but overall LT J'Marcus Webb did a very good job containing the league's sack leader. On the right side, Lance Louis performed very well starting at tackle for the first time in his career. Robison finished with just three tackles and one quarterback hurry.
-On the inside, Chris Williams had arguably his best game of the season. He started off slow, missing a number of blocks in a row, yet settled in as the game wore on. As a lead blocker, he consistently cleared holes and found defenders in space. He played low and with power and was able to move the Vikings' defensive tackles for most of the evening.
-As a group, Chicago allowed just one sack and five quarterback hurries. Running backs Matt Forte and Marion Barber combined for 119 yards on the ground against the fourth-ranked rushing defense in the league.
-Forte shows week in and week out that he's one of the NFL's elite running backs. On almost every play he makes at least one defender miss. And even when he's not dominating on the ground, he's productive as a pass catcher. He rushed for 87 yards tonight on 17 carries (5.1 avg.) and added 36 yards on six catches.
-When Jay Cutler has protection, he can be deadly. The line afforded him all the time he needed tonight. He was accurate and made good decisions. He finished the game 21 of 31 for 267 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, completing passes to eight different receivers. Cutler did lose a fumble but overall he did a good job of limiting his mistakes and moving the offense through the air.
-Rookie DT Stephen Paea was active tonight for the first time all season. He saw his first NFL action in the first quarter. On his third NFL play, Paea penetrated up the middle and took down Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb for a safety. Not a bad way to start a career. He was productive all night, getting pressure on numerous plays and holding his own against the run. His partner, DT Amobi Okoye, also picked up a sack, while Henry Melton was non-existent for the second game in a row. The defense finished with five sacks on the evening.
-WR Dane Sanzenbacher only caught one pass but it was a beautiful grab in traffic that went for a touchdown. It was his third touchdown grab of the year, which leads the team.
-LB Nick Roach had arguably his best game of the season. He was a force against the run and made a number of quality open-field tackles. Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher showed up on the stat sheet but it was Roach that did a lot of the dirty work.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.