Vikings-Bears pits old gunslinger versus new

Brett Favre vs. Jay Cutler is a little like Favre throwing back time and looking at a younger version of himself. Both have the strong arm and aggressive attitude, and both can throw a lot of interceptions.

Sunday's NFC North showdown at Soldier Field between the 5-3 Bears and the 3-5 Vikings features old gunslinger Brett Favre against young gunslinger Jay Cutler.

There will be some amazing passes thrown. But there will also be passes thrown into tight coverage, and maybe even a few thrown up for grabs or directly at the wrong team. After all, nobody had more interceptions last year than Cutler's 26. And nobody in the history of the NFL has thrown more interceptions than Favre's 330, a league-worst 13 of which have come this season.

Both players have struggled at times this season but were excellent last week. Cutler threw two TD passes and wasn't intercepted while completing 17 of 30 passes for 188 yards and a 97.6 passer rating, boosting him to 86.0 for the season, seventh best in the NFC. Favre led a furious rally to an overtime victory over the Cardinals with a career-best 446 passing yards, two TDs, two picks and a 101.9 passer rating. But at 75.7 for the season, he's still just 13th in the NFC in passer rating.

Live by the pass, die by the pass.

"I think to be successful at this position you have to take risks," Cutler said. "There are going to be certain situations where you have to put the ball in tight spots, but they have to be calculated risks. You learn over time when to take those chances and when not to. But sometimes you get caught up in the game and you're going to try to pump one in there."

That's the downside of being blessed with a rocket arm, as the 28-year-old Cutler and the 41-year-old Favre have been. Sometimes it feels as if there's no opening so small or coverage so tight that you can't squeeze a fastball through it. According to Favre, he and Cutler share that same "river boat gambler" mentality.

"When you have a big arm, you feel like you can throw it through any coverage, any window and, at times, you do," Favre said. "I see that in him. He's a heck of a competitor; he's tough. Like I told him after those guys beat us last year (36-30 in overtime at Soldier Field), I thought he played outstanding. That should hush people up for a while.

"He's got that mentality of, 'Hey, I don't care what just happened. I'm focusing on the next play and the next throw, the next game, whatever.' That's a great quality to have."

Cutler shook his head and smiled when asked about Favre's 20-year career that includes his NFL-record current streak of 293 straight starts.

"I don't know what he's doing," Cutler said. "It's a lot of games, a lot of toll on your body. He's probably going to have to have some surgeries in the next 10 years to repair some stuff. But it's remarkable. Everyone knows what kind of precedent he's set, and it's going to be hard for anybody to touch that."

Cutler has no intention of challenging Favre's longevity.

"I don't plan on playing when I'm 41," he said. "Last year he had a good year. This year out of some situations they've been in, he's had to put some balls in some places normally he might not. I think he's calmed down a little bit from his younger days. He's still making some magical throws, especially the last couple weeks when they've been fighting for games."

Cutler was 8 years old when Favre broke in to the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991, and he recalls watching him win three straight MVP awards (1995-97) with the Packers.

"I didn't imagine he'd still be playing when I'd be playing," Cutler said. "But he still looks good, he's still doing some of the same stuff he used to."

SERIES HISTORY: 98th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 52-43-2. The Bears and Vikings have split the last four meetings, with the home team winning each time. The Bears won the only postseason meeting, 35-18 in January 1995.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-16 — Before last week's victory over the Bills, the Bears' defense had forced 16 turnovers, but the offense had failed to score a touchdown after any of them. Last week, the offense scored two touchdowns after turnovers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They've always been a terrific run defense, we know that. So that's a terrific challenge for us." — Offensive coordinator Mike Martz, discussing the Bears' No. 27 rushing attack, which faces the Vikings' No. 7 run defense.

NOTES

  • C Olin Kreutz (hamstring) missed a second straight day of practice, but he is still expected to start Sunday. Kreutz has started 126 straight games, and the only game he's missed in the past 10 years was in 2002, one week after an appendectomy.

  • CB Zack Bowman (foot) was limited Thursday for the second straight day, but he is expected to play Sunday after missing two games.

  • CB Tim Jennings, who replaced Zack Bowman as the starter during the third game this season, was back to full participation on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday by a sore knee.

  • CB D.J. Moore (head), who leads the Bears with three interceptions, even though, as the nickel back, he's only on the field in passing situations, was back to full speed Thursday.

  • OG Roberto Garza would be the emergency fill-in at center if, by some surprise, Olin Kreutz cannot play.


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