Minnesota’s Favre easily outduels Bears’ Cutler
The Vikings are enjoying themselves, but Favre’s surgically repaired right arm is doing a whole lot of work.
Favre completed 32 of 48 passes for a season-high 392 yards and three touchdowns, and the Vikings intercepted Jay Cutler twice in a 36-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
“I figured we’d have to throw it some,” Favre said. “I didn’t come just to hand it off. I love to play.”
But the 40-year-old has been surprised by how much he’s been heaving the ball. The Bears were blitzing and playing a soft zone coverage a lot in the first half to bottle up Adrian Peterson, so coach Brad Childress ordered offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to keep calling for passes.
Fine by Favre, even if it’s more than he expected. Left guard Steve Hutchinson, one of several players who tried to sell Favre on coming to Minnesota, teased him on the sideline about his you-won’t-have-to-do-too-much pitch.
“It’s not like I wake up in the morning and don’t have any aches and pains, because I do,” said Favre, who matched former Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall for the NFL non-kicker record of 282 straight games played. “I’m sure when it’s all said and done, I’m going to be like, ‘What did I do all this for?’ But my arm feels great.”
The Vikings (10-1) outgained the Bears by a whopping 537 yards to 169 and breezed to their fifth straight win, despite two more fumbles and a pedestrian 85 yards on 25 carries by Peterson, whose short, late touchdown run put Minnesota over 32 points for the sixth time this season. The Vikings had 31 first downs, the Bears just eight.
“I think pride is going to become an issue here,” Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. “It’s going to be heart, pride and who really enjoys playing the game of football.”
In the second half, the Bears ran 12 plays—and netted 2 yards.
“It’s a tough one,” said Cutler, who completed 18 of 23 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown. “I didn’t expect this. We had a good week.”
He added: “With as good a football team that I think we have in here, to go out week after week and not live up to our own expectations, that’s the tough part.”
Cutler was precise in the short passing game and effective in the no-huddle, keeping the Bears (4-7) in it until late in the second quarter. He was picked off by a diving Cedric Griffin in the end zone. Then on the next possession, E.J. Henderson got his hand on a ball over the middle that Jared Allen jumped up and caught with 57 seconds left in the half.
Favre drove the Vikings 70 yards for a 24-7 advantage, and Ryan Longwell kicked two of his three field goals after halftime.
Cutler came to Chicago as the long-sought strong-armed quarterback that has been missing there for decades, but the Bears don’t have nearly as talented of a supporting cast as Favre does in Minnesota. Cutler reached his career high with 20 interceptions, 15 of those coming in the last seven games, with the Bears losing six.
“I’ll be honest. That was the most poised I’ve ever seen him playing against him,” said Allen, who had two of the four second-half sacks of Cutler. “Sometimes he can get frustrated, but like I said they had a couple drives where they ... were making a few plays.”
When the Vikings finally persuaded Favre to keep playing and join his former NFC North rivals, they added what was widely viewed as their missing piece for championship contention. That’s exactly the way it has been working out for them.
“We want to be ascending and continue to climb,” Childress said.
Five players caught five passes or more for the Vikings, with rookie Percy Harvin totaling 101 yards, plus 45 yards rushing on two end-arounds. Favre keeps putting needle-eye passes in traffic to Harvin, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and wide receivers Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, and they keep coming down with the ball.
“I think people are starting to look at our receivers like they do at Adrian Peterson as a force to be reckoned with,” Favre said.
Hunter Hillenmeyer forced both of Peterson’s fumbles. He has lost five this year, and in 41 career games he has fumbled 19 times and lost 12. A replay review overturned Chicago’s recovery of the second fumble, when officials ruled Hillenmeyer was out of bounds.