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Two big plays and the environment lead to Bears upset victory over Vikings

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Brad Palmer

Covered sports for 40 years at WGN, WBBM Newradio 78, and WLS-TV (CH 7)

Bottom line: turnovers were the deciding factor in the Bears 36-30 overtime victory over Minnesota. The Bears parlayed two Vikings turnovers into 9 points, while Minnesota got 3 points off the only Bears turnover, Jay Cutler's 26th interception of the season.

MLB Hunter Hillenmeyer set the stage for the winning touchdown by punching the ball out of Adrian Peterson's grasp. Nick Roach fell on it at the Minnesota 40-yard line. On the very next play, Jay Cutler hit a wide open Devin Aromashodu in stride with a bomb for the winning touchdown. It was Cutler's 4th TD pass of the game, a season high. Aromashadu caught 7 passes for a career-high 150 yards.

How much the conditions played a part is open for debate. But this is what we do know:

Since 2001, Minnesota is 11-31 on grass and 13-38 outdoors.

All 3 of the Vikings loses in their last 4 games have been on grass.

Brett Favre has lost 8 straight on the road when the temperature was 34-degrees or colder.

The Vikings (11-4) have been outscored on grass this season, while outscoring their opponents an average of 16 point/game on turf.

Their turnover differential on grass is -5; it's +9 on turf.

The Vikings have now lost 7 of their last 8 games in Soldier Field, including 4 in December.

In short, they are two different teams when they play on grass as opposed to turf, which is why I went out on a limb and PICKED THE BEARS TO WIN in my pregame analysis.

So let's not get too carried away with what the Bears were able to accomplish. They did, afterall, blow a 23-6 lead in the final 22 minutes of regulation. Zak Bowman dropped a deflected Favre pass with 2:07 left, allowing Favre to tie the game with :16 seconds left.

Robbie Gould missed a 45-yard attempt at a game-winning field goal in overtime, but the Bears defense hung tough. Back-to-back sacks by Alex Brown and Mark Anderson forced Minnesota to punt.

The Vikings next possession ended with that great play by Hillenmeyer, which resulted in the winning score.

For whatever reason, the Vikings did a poor job of getting to Cutler (Jared Allen was practically invisible) and covering kicks. Was it because their speed, traction, and manueverability was negated somewhat by the grass field? I've got to think so. How else do you explain their record on the stuff? 

Whatever it was, the Bears made the most of it. Danieal Manning had kick returns of 56 and 59 yard. Both led to touchdowns.  

I'm guessing Bears fans have mixed emotions about the victory, believing it may result in maintaing the status quo at Halas Hall. It might, but it shouldn't. One game does not a season make. As I see it, this victory did nothing to change the big picture up at Halas Hall. The time is still ripe for change that we can believe in.

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5 Comments

BillW said:

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Great call Brad on predicting the outcome - based on reasoning and not emotions. (Well, I suspect there was SOME emotion in your pick!)

Saw your comment on the last thread - about younger readers not being familiar with your work. What a shame if that's true. I admit to being close to 60 (I still have fond memories of Bruce Roberts, and remember Brent Musberger as a local sports reporter). I hope we're not evolving (?) to a point where sports is strictly a community reporting thing - without people like you and many others being a familiar and friendly authoritative voice.

Brad Palmer said:

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Thanks, Bill. Any emotions I have regarding the Bears are not good ones, so I really did put emotions aside in picking them win. What amazes me is that I didn't see or hear anyone cite the Vikings dismal record on grass either before or after the game. They'll make a big deal out of Tony Romo's record in December, but when it comes to looking behind the numbers, I guess they can't be bothered.

IrishSweetness said:

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"For whatever reason, the Vikings did a poor job of getting to Cutler (Jared Allen was practically invisible) and covering kicks. Was it because their speed, traction, and manueverability was negated somewhat by the grass field?"

Nothing to do with Chris Williams and the running backs and tigt ends chipping in then ... ?

Chicago Expatriate said:

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I saw the abysmal grass and outdoor stats for the Vikings, but couldn't believe with all that was at stake for them they'd lose this game to a lousy Bears team. Now we know what Cutler can do if he has time and is given a play list with a little imagination. Lastly, let me second everything BillW posted. Great call by Brad.

Brad Palmer said:

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Thanks for the comment and thanks to Hunter Hillenmeyer giving the Bears a third opportunity to win the game. Thought that dropped INT by Zack Bowman and missed FG by Robbie Gould might prove to be the undoing of a big upset.

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