Final Thoughts: Cutler, Howard, offensive line and defensive line shine in upset win

Final Thoughts: Cutler, Howard, offensive line and defensive line shine in upset win
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31: Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler (6) and Chicago Bears Head Coach John Fox embrace before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears on October 31, 2016, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo By Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No turnovers from Jay Cutler. 200 total yards from a rookie running back in Jordan Howard. A season-high five sacks defensively and just one sack given up by the patchwork offensive line.

Those are just some of impressive things the Bears did to upset the first place Minnesota Vikings in a 20-10 victory on Monday Night Football.

Cutler returned after missing the last five weeks and he looked determined to come out and prove himself. In his 100th career start since joining the Bears in 2009, he won his ninth such game on Monday night football in 12 total appearances. He finished with a 100.5 passer rating on 20 of 31 completions for 252 yards and a touchdown.

The most important takeaway from this game besides the Bears ability to outgain Minnesota 403 to 258 was Dowell Loggains play calling. He dialed up his best night as an offensive coordinator with the Bears. It was very similar to what Adam Gase did a year ago with Cutler by getting him out of the pocket and making safe and solid throws.

Howard gained 202 total yards and a touchdown becoming the youngest player at age 21 to top the 200-yard mark in Bears history. He turns 22 on Wednesday and you can bet his teammates and friends will be celebrating with him. The Vikings only gained 56 more yards than Howard totaled on the night.

Zach Miller was Cutler’s go-to target all night long catching seven passes for 88 yards, both team highs. Alshon Jeffery finally got his first touchdown of the season on four receptions and 63 yards and five other receivers caught a pass including Ben Braunecker’s first of his career.

The Bears’ defensive line matched its season high sack total with five, two from Akiem Hicks and solos by Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee and Cornelius Washington. The unit had just four combined over the last two weeks.

No. 1 cornerback Tracy Porter left late due to injury which forced Demontre Hurst into the game alongside De’Vante Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc. The Bears could use Bryce Callahan, Deiondre’ Hall back or Kyle Fuller if he is ever healthy enough to play.

The starting five on offense worked with two backup guards in Eric Kush and Ted Larsen. The two played most of last week’s loss in Green Bay as Kush drew the start. Tonight, they performed well against a ferocious Vikings defensive front. Cutler was hit six times on the night.

Overall, it was a solid performance in all three phases. The Bears played mistake free football, picked up key third downs and added points when it needed to.

The defense brought pressure without blitzing much of the night, the linebackers performed well. Without a playmaking safety and a true No. 1 cornerback, the Bears will struggle at times, but when they win the battle in the trenches it will help deter the attention.

Lastly, Connor Barth and Pat O’Donnell were solid in the kicking game and the kickoff coverage played well. Eddie Royal is definitely needed back as a punt returner, LeBlanc was shaky.

Key stats

The Bears averaged 8.1 yards per throw, 5.4 yards per run on offense.

The defense allowed just 4.3 yards per play including 3.2 yards per rush. Minnesota converted 15 percent of its third downs (2-of-13).

No turnovers between the two sides and only three penalties on the night.

Final note

The Bears are 2-1 in the NFC North with wins over Detroit and Minnesota. Green Bay has the same record in the division to claim first place but owns the tiebreaker after last week’s win over the Bears. Minnesota is 1-1 in the division and Detroit is 0-2.

Three of the final four games of the season are NFC North battles for the Bears (Week 14 at Detroit, Week 15 vs. Green Bay, Week 17 at Minnesota).

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Up next

The Bears get a bye week to heal up before traveling to Tampa Bay to take on Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers in Week 10.

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