MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater played his best in a critical game, just what the Minnesota Vikings were envisioning this season from their second-year quarterback.
Bridgewater threw a career-high four touchdowns and ran for another one, and the Vikings took a significant step toward the playoffs with a 38-17 victory Sunday over the Chicago Bears.
Bridgewater completed 17 of 20 passes for 231 yards without a turnover, connecting twice with Stefon Diggs for scores. Jerick McKinnon and Zach Line had the other touchdown catches on a remarkably productive afternoon for all of Minnesota's running backs.
Adrian Peterson missed some time because of an injury to his left ankle, but he still finished with 63 yards on 18 attempts to maintain his NFL rushing lead. The Vikings (9-5) stopped their two-game losing streak. They turned a lost fumble and an interception thrown by Jay Cutler into 14 second-half points.
The Bears (5-9) lost their third game in a row after a win at Green Bay on Thanksgiving night had thrust them into playoff contention.
Cutler threw two touchdown passes, including one to Alshon Jeffery in the second quarter that pulled the Bears within 10-7, but he took five sacks and had a frustrated look on his face all afternoon with little help from the line in front of him.
The Bears surprised the Vikings with an onside kick they recovered to start the second half, but three plays later Brian Robison powered his way past right tackle Kyle Long to slap the ball out of Cutler's hand during a sack near midfield.
Robison recovered, Cutler gave Long an icy stare on their way off the field and Diggs followed a little later with a 33-yard catch and run into the end zone. Diggs was wide open with nickel back Alan Ball trailing, and he bulled his way into the end zone with Ball on his back to essentially put the Bears out of reach.
The Vikings dominated from start to finish, driving 93 yards in 13 plays to take the lead they never relinquished when Bridgewater floated a perfectly placed 15-yard pass over the shoulder of Diggs on a fade route for the touchdown.
Just about every aspect of the game went the home team's way, such as Blair Walsh's 53-yard field goal that bounced off the left upright and ricocheted through early in the second quarter.
Soon after Peterson limped off after his left foot rolled underneath the weight of a group tackle by the Bears at the end of a run, McKinnon caught a short pass from Bridgewater and as he was being brought down held his knee above the turf long enough to get the ball over the goal line for a 17-7 lead with 26 seconds left before halftime.
The game hit bottom for Cutler in the fourth quarter when he floated a screen pass to Matt Forte that fell short, allowing backup defensive end Justin Trattou to intercept it at the Chicago 16.
Bridgewater followed with his dart up the middle on third down, launching himself into the air at the goal line as he was slammed down by a Bears defender for a painful exclamation point.
Forte caught a late touchdown pass and finished with 57 yards on six receptions, to go with 47 yards rushing on eight attempts.
Cutler finished 26 for 37 for 231 yards.null