1. Protecting Cutler
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler came into the game having been sacked an NFL-high 70 times over his past 20 regular-season games. He must have felt a sense of relief when he faced no pressure on his first two attempts, going 2-for-2 for 65 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown to Devin Hester. Tight end Matt Spaeth, a former Gopher, did an excellent job helping block NFL sacks leader Jared Allen as Cutler was able to find Hester behind cornerback Cedric Griffin and safety Husain Abdullah. Coming off a nightmare in Detroit and having given up 18 sacks the first five games, the Bears used more max protection schemes with tight ends and backs staying in to block. It helped. A lot. Cutler was sacked only once.
2. Martz's balanced attack
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz gets ripped in these parts for showing no desire for the kind of balanced play-calling that would help the offensive line pass-protect, the defensive players get some rest and Cutler stay off injured reserve. Well, on this night anyway, Martz opened the game with beautiful balance. Taking a 16-0 lead into the second quarter, the Bears had run the ball eight times and passed it eight times. At the half, they had 12 carries for 71 yards (5.9 average) and had thrown the ball 20 times. Cutler completed 14 of those passes for 193 yards, two TDs and a 134.0 passer rating.
3. Passing woes continue
I believe it was Woody Hayes who said there are three things that can happen when a team attempts a pass, and two of them are bad. The Vikings showed there are actually four things that can happen, and three are bad. Woody forgot the safety. Here's what happened the first five times Donovan McNabb dropped back to pass Sunday night: drop by Visanthe Shiancoe on a ball thrown a little high on third-and-7; tipped ball and near pick-six by cornerback D.J. Moore; drop by Bernard Berrian on well-thrown ball beyond the first-down marker on third-and-5; low throw for 2-yard completion to Kyle Rudolph. And, finally, McNabb taking a dive for a safety just inside the goal line after center John Sullivan and running back Adrian Peterson both whiffed on blocking rookie nose tackle Stephen Paea. By the time McNabb attempted another pass, the Vikings trailed 16-0.
4. Berrian doesn't start
After being a surprise game-day inactive a week ago, Bernard Berrian returned to face his former team. Michael Jenkins and Percy Harvin started ahead of Berrian. And Devin Aromashodu was the first receiver off the bench on the second play. Berrian played, but he clearly was behind Aromashodu in the rotation. Berrian didn't help his cause when he dropped the first ball thrown to him. One of the few crisp, accurate passes McNabb threw was to Berrian beyond the first-down marker on third-and-5 with the Vikings trailing 7-0. Berrian was targeted two more times in the first half, catching both for a total of 34 yards, including a season-long catch of 30. But the Vikings trailed 26-3 by then.
5. Peterson isn't Superman
Hard to believe this is the same field on which Adrian Peterson ran for 224 yards as a rookie in 2007. Hard to believe this was the same team that Peterson averaged 112 yards against in seven meetings. But this is what happens when teams don't have balance. The Bears opened the game with nine men in the box. On the first play, Peterson gained 1 yard. With nine more in the box, Peterson gained 2 yards. The tone was set. The Vikings threw incomplete on third down. Three-and-out led to the Bears scoring quickly, taking a 7-0 lead and pretty much coasting the rest of the way. Peterson finished with 12 carries for 39 yards.