CHICAGO – Marcus Sherels might have been one of the only Vikings players to notice right away.
The punt returner immediately darted forward as the Bears’ Pat O’Donnell quickly morphed from punter to passer. O’Donnell found a wide-open Benny Cunningham, who took the fake punt for a 38-yard catch, run and touchdown. Cunningham shook Sherels’ tackle attempt and evaded defensive end Everson Griffen before running free into the end zone.
The play wasn’t enough for Chicago as the Vikings won 20-17 at Soldier Field. But it got the Bears back in the game after they fell behind by eight points in the third quarter.
Sherels said he thought the Bears audibled into the fake punt after seeing the Vikings eager to rush.
“We had a rush called,” Sherels said. “They did a good job of scheming us up. I think they checked to a fake.”
The Vikings overcame two instances of Bears trickery Monday. The fake punt and the extra point — Chicago decided not to go for two — brought the Bears to within 10-9 in the third quarter.
That makes the Vikings 0-for-2 on fake punts this season after punter Ryan Quigley’s incompletion to tight end Blake Bell in their Week 2 loss at Pittsburgh.
“Man, I should’ve just wrapped him up,” Griffen said. “I got to wrap up, but we won the game. It wasn’t pretty, but we won the game.”
With rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky at the helm, the Bears needed more fakery to put up points.
The Vikings aided Trubisky’s first NFL touchdown pass, a 20-yarder tipped by safety Andrew Sendejo to Bears tight end Zach Miller early in the fourth quarter. The Bears didn’t let Trubisky be a sitting duck. Chicago’s game plan resulted in a healthy mix of play-action passes and moving pockets, attempting to keep Trubisky away from the Vikings’ pass rush.
Trubisky, who showed off his athleticism throughout the game, fooled the Vikings on the ensuing two-point conversion after his touchdown pass that tied the score at 17-17.
On a play that looked more like one Trubisky would have run in college at North Carolina, the Bears called a reverse option at the goal line. Running back Jordan Howard took a handoff and gave the ball to Miller on the reverse. As Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr approached to wrap him up, Miller pitched outside to Trubisky, who ran untouched into the end zone for two points.
“That’s a good design,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “They practice, too.”