The way this one started, Vikings center John Sullivan figured this was going to be an easy win for Minnesota.
He saw his team holding an early 10-point lead. He saw an opponent getting booed by a frustrated crowd.
Then, he saw the Bears take control.
Jay Cutler threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, and Chicago won for just the second time in seven games by beating Minnesota 21-13 on Sunday.
Ryan Mundy intercepted Teddy Bridgewater’s 29-yard pass in the end zone with 42 seconds left, and the Bears hung on for the win after suffering two of the worst blowout losses in franchise history.
“Did I feel like we had them on their heels? Yeah,” Sullivan said. “Did I think the crowd was close to turning on them? Yes. I think if we would’ve capitalized and made it 17-nothing, that would’ve happened. We didn’t capitalize on opportunities.”
Instead, they came up short after winning two in a row.
Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery had 135 yards receiving and a touchdown catch. Brandon Marshall added 90 yards and two TD receptions, including a 4-yarder in the fourth quarter that made it an 11-point game. Matt Forte ran for 117 yards.
Jared Allen had a sack against his former team, and the Bears (4-6) prevailed after joining the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons as the only teams to give up 50 or more points in consecutive games with blowouts at New England and Green Bay. But it was a different story against the Vikings (4-6).
The Bears gave up a season-low 243 yards while racking up 468, and they picked up their first win at Soldier Field after dropping their first three there.
Minnesota got a 48-yard end-around by Andrew Sendejo on a fake punt to set up an early touchdown. But the Vikings struggled to move the ball with star running back Adrian Peterson still on paid leave by the league following child abuse charges.
Bridgewater threw for just 158 yards and touchdown, and the Vikings dropped their seventh straight in Chicago.
“They have been under a lot of heat, they stepped up today, played a lot better than we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks,” Sullivan said.
Marshall made it an 11-point game when he posted Josh Robinson in the end zone like a basketball player and leaped to snag a 4-yard pass to make it 21-10. That capped a drive in which the Bears converted twice on a fourth-and-1 on runs by Forte— at the Minnesota 27 and at the 6.
The Vikings then drove to the Chicago 8 before settling for a 26-yard field goal by Blair Walsh with just over four minutes left.
They were threatening to tie it again, but Mundy’s interception in the right side of the end zone on a pass intended for Charles Johnson sealed the win for Chicago on a day when there were issues with the scoreboard clock.
Bridgewater wasn’t sure how much time was left when he threw that interception with the Vikings on the Chicago 29.
“I didn’t. I have to understand the situation,” he said. “It’s second-and-3. I could’ve gave our guy a chance underneath the coverage. He could run for a couple of other yards and I could’ve spiked the ball.”
Stadium officials were not sure what caused it to malfunction. The problems started late in the first half, although the clocks on the side were still working at that time. They were all out once the second half started, forcing the referees to keep time by hand, and stayed that way for most of the third quarter before coming back on. There were more issues in the closing minutes of the game, and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was not happy.
“It’s another new experience. It’s hard to know because no one is telling you how much time is left,” he said.
Zimmer used an expletive to describe the clocks, and then apologized for his language.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora said the protocol when game clocks at the stadium are not operational is for time to be kept on the field, with the side judge responsible for the game clock and the line judge also keeping the game time as a backup. The back judge is responsible for the play clock.
As for what happened on the field, the Bears overcame an early 10-0 deficit to take a 14-10 halftime lead after being outscored a combined 94-7 in the first two quarters of the previous two games. Fans were letting them hear it after Bridgewater connected with Rhett Ellison for a 7-yard touchdown following Sendejo’s end-around with the Vikings lined up to punt late in the first quarter.
But the Bears gave them something to cheer less than two minutes into the second. Jeffery caught a 27-yard touchdown from Cutler to make it a three-point game.
The Bears took their first lead since their win at Atlanta on Oct. 12 with just under three minutes left in the half when Marshall hauled in Cutler’s 44-yard heave.
NOTES: Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph returned after missing six games with a sports hernia, but did not catch a pass. ... Allen is 1-9 in his career at Soldier Field. ... The 243 yards allowed were the fewest by the Bears since they held Houston to 215 on Nov. 11, 2012.