No contest: Bears cruise past Vikings; Christian Ponder makes debut
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CHICAGO - The Minnesota Vikings provided no competition for the Chicago Bears on Sunday night in a 39-10 loss at Soldier Field, but at least Vikings fans finally got what they wanted.
First-round pick Christian Ponder made his NFL debut with his team trailing by 29 points in the fourth quarter. Fans in the Metrodome had been chanting for Ponder to replace Donovan McNabb a week earlier as the Vikings cruised to a 34-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Vikings did not come close to repeating that success Sunday in a nationally televised game.
The Bears (3-3) scored 16 points in the first quarter as the Vikings fell to 1-5. The loss served as another reminder of how much work is ahead for a franchise that two years ago was in the NFC Championship Game.
Oh, and the defending Super Bowl champion and undefeated Green Bay Packers are headed to the Metrodome.
It remains to be seen if Ponder will start that game. The 12th-overall pick in last April's draft, Ponder entered in relief of McNabb with 14 minutes, 43 seconds left.
McNabb, playing in his hometown, struggled at the outset and yanking him wasn't a tough choice for coach Leslie Frazier given the deficit the Vikings faced. Ponder completed his first three pass attempts, all short ones, before throwing an incompletion that was intended for Greg Camarillo.
McNabb completed 19 of 24 passes for 177 yards and was sacked five times.
Jay Cutler, who had been sacked 18 times entering the game, set the tone with an early touchdown pass to Devin Hester and picked apart the Vikings defense. Hester added a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz also appeared to make some changes to provide more pass protection for Cutler, who was sacked only once.
Vikings defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison had entered the game with a combined 13 sacks, including an NFL-leading 8.5 by Allen. Cutler completed 21 of 31 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns.
The Bears took a 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game after the Vikings went three-and-out on their opening possession.
Chicago began at its own 32-yard line.
After Matt Forte gained 3 yards and Jay Cutler connected with Roy Williams for a 17-yard gain, Devin Hester hauled in a 48-yard pass from Cutler at the goal line after getting past cornerback Cedric Griffin. Husain Abdullah was supposed to provide help, but the safety got turned around.
The Bears added nine more points in the quarter, as defensive tackle Stephen Paea sacked McNabb in the end zone for a safety. Center John Sullivan failed to deliver a block on the play and Paea easily got past running back Adrian Peterson.
Chicago's final touchdown of the quarter was scored by former Gophers running back Marion Barber, who went in from 3 yards out to complete a six-play, 56-yard drive. Cutler completed a 17-yard pass to Williams on second-and-10 from the Vikings 45, and Forte had a 21-yard run that wound up putting the ball at the Vikings 3 after Griffin was called for a horse collar tackle.
The Vikings finally got on the board early in the second quarter when Ryan Longwell completed a 12-play drive with a 37-yard field goal, but Chicago answered later in the quarter after getting favorable field position.
Chris Kluwe's 18-yard punt gave the Bears the ball at the Vikings 33.
After Hester caught a 23-yard pass on third-and-13 to give Chicago a first down, Cutler drilled a 13-yard pass over the heads of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and safety Jamarca Sanford into the hands of wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
It was the third touchdown reception of the season for the undrafted free agent from Ohio State.
Things continued to get worse for the Vikings.
Preparing to go for it on fourth-and-3 after Joe Webb failed to pick up a first down on a scramble out of the "Blazer Package," wide receiver Michael Jenkins was called for a false start penalty that moved the ball back to the Bears 20.
Longwell then hooked a 38-yard field-goal attempt wide left. It was the second time in as many games that Longwell had missed a field-goal after having a streak of 16 consecutive attempts that were good.
Gould finished the first half scoring for the Bears with a 51-yard field goal with 28 seconds left.
The Vikings defense created a turnover that resulted in points for the Vikings in the third quarter when Allen caused a fumble by hitting Cutler and also recovered the ball at the Chicago 44.
Peterson, who had a quiet first half, had two carries for 16 yards on the ensuing drive and then finished it with a 4-yard touchdown run.
That "pulled" the Vikings within 16 points but that didn't last long.
Hester took Longwell's kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, marking the fifth kick return for a touchdown that he has had in his career. Hester also has 11 punt returns for touchdowns, extending his NFL record to 16.
Hester entered Sunday with three punt returns for touchdowns against the Vikings, but this was his first kick return for a score against the team.
Coming off a disappointing loss to a good Lions team on Monday night, the Bears served notice that they were going to control this game on their opening possession.
Cutler, under constant pressure against Detroit, did that by connecting with Hester for the 48-yard touchdown.
That set the tone and the Vikings were never in the game.
• 18: Times Jay Cutler had been sacked in the Bears' first five games.
• 1: Times Cutler was sacked on Sunday.
• 55: Points by which the Bears have outscored the Vikings in the past two games.
• 2-9: Vikings' record at Soldier Field since the start of the 2000 season. The Bears also beat the Vikings in 2002 in a game played in Champaign, Ill., while Soldier Field was being renovated.
• 1-10: Vikings' record in their last 11 prime-time games.
• 1: Dropped passed by Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who was inactive last week after reportedly missing two meetings the night before the game.
• Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt and center John Sullivan both left the game because of injury. Loadholt was replaced by Pat Brown and Sullivan by Joe Berger. Sullivan, who left in the third quarter, did not return because of a concussion. Loadholt left because of a knee injury in the first half, returned and then left again.
• Safety Jamarca Sanford left the game because of a concussion in the third quarter and did not return.
• Cornerback Antoine Winfield was inactive for the second week in a row because of a neck strain. Also inactive for the Vikings were offensive tackle DeMarcus Love, center/guard Brandon Fusco, defensive end D'Aundre Reed, linebacker Xavier Adibi, cornerback Bradon Burton and safety Mistral Raymond.
• Wide receiver Percy Harvin was listed as questionable because of a rib injury but he was active.
• The Bears inactive list included offensive tackle Gabe Carimi (knee), wide receiver Earl Bennett (chest), defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (knee), and defensive end Corey Wooten (hand). Quarterback Nathan Enderle, defensive end Nick Reed and safety Chris Harris were healthy scratches.
• Defensive end Julius Peppers (knee) was listed as doubtful but ended up starting for the Bears. He had two sacks.
Odds and ends
The Vikings used the "Blazer Package" with Joe Webb for the first time since Week 1. Webb came into the game to replace McNabb for two plays late in the first quarter, handing off to Peterson and then throwing an incomplete pass. Webb returned on third-and-4 in the second quarter and failed to pick up a first down on a scramble.
• Chicago: Devin Hester 48-yard pass from Jay Cutler, 12:17. Robbie Gould kick. Drive: 3 plays, 68 yards, 1:13. Chicago 7, Vikings 0
• Chicago: Donovan McNabb sacked in end zone by Bears' Stephen Paea for safety. Chicago 9, Vikings 0
• Chicago: Marion Barber 3-yard run, 3:39. Gould kick. Drive: 6-56-3:13. Chicago 16, Vikings 0
• Vikings: Ryan Longwell 37-yard kick, 12:37. Drive: 12-62-6:02. Chicago 16, Vikings 3
• Chicago: Dan Sanzenbacher 13-yard pass from Cutler, 6:41. Gould kick. Drive: 4-33-1:23. Chicago 23, Vikings 3
• Chicago: Gould 51-yard field goal, 0:28. Drive: 7-39-1:27. Chicago 26, Vikings 3
• Vikings: Adrian Peterson 4-yard run, 10:23. Longwell kick. Drive: 6-44-2:24. Chicago 26, Vikings 10
• Chicago: Hester 98-yard kickoff return, 10:09. Gould kick. Chicago 33, Vikings 10
• Chicago: Gould 26-yard field goal, 5:44. Drive: 7-30-2:35. Chicago 36, Vikings 10
• Chicago: Gould 22-yard field goal, 14:50. Drive: 8-39-4:13. Chicago 39, Vikings 10
The Vikings will face their second NFC North foe in a row next Sunday when they play host to the Green Bay Packers at 3:15 p.m.
The Packers improved to 6-0 this season, beating the St. Louis Rams 24-3 on Sunday at Lambeau Field. That leaves Green Bay as the only undefeated team in the NFL and marks the first time since 1965 that the Packers have won their first six games.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 310 yards and three touchdown passes in the victory, including a 93-yarder to wide receiver Jordy Nelson.