Vikings know what's coming, but Marshall still gets catches

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 26, 2012 - 1:50 PM

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hasn't made it a secret whom his favorite target is. Yet despite all the attention the Vikings devoted to Brandon Marshall on Sunday, Cutler kept going back his way.

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Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) picked up a first down as he ran pass Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield (26) in the first quarter.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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CHICAGO - Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hasn't made it a secret whom his favorite target is. Yet despite all the attention the Vikings devoted to Brandon Marshall on Sunday, Cutler kept going back his way.

Seventeen times in all, Cutler threw to Marshall. Twelve of those passes were completed for 92 yards. And that doesn't include the 24-yard pass interference penalty Marshall drew on Antoine Winfield in the second quarter on a ball Cutler just winged into the end zone, trusting his receiver could make a play.

Marshall has had far bigger statistical days. But on an afternoon when so many Vikings receivers dropped balls that hit them in the hands, Chicago showed the value of having a reliable go-to target. Marshall had six catches for first downs and made many of his grabs in tight coverage, displaying his strong hands.

"He's a big body," Winfield said. "He has a great catch radius. He's long. And we know that out of 30 passes, 20 are probably going to go to [Marshall]."

Added Vikings coach Leslie Frazier: "He made some big-time catches. And that's one of the reasons I'm sure they [traded for] him. We had some guys in position at times but just couldn't come up with the football."

No harm meant

Jared Allen wasn't only held without a sack Sunday, but he might face a fine from the NFL for his block on Bears guard Lance Louis. After a Winfield interception in the second half, Allen delivered a nasty blindside hit in which he left his feet and drilled Louis in the chest.

Though Allen didn't draw a penalty and insisted his hit was legal, Louis left with a knee injury and replays showed Allen's block might have been excessive.

"I threw myself into him. Just like we're taught," Allen said. "My condolences to him and his family. I never ever try and intentionally hurt anybody."

Block party

Chicago's Robbie Gould and Vikings rookie Blair Walsh each had field goal attempts blocked. Gould's 39-yard attempt on the final play of the first half was blocked by Kevin Williams. Twelve minutes earlier, Walsh had his 30-yard attempt knocked down by Julius Peppers.

That miscue proved particularly galling for the Vikings as it came at the end of their only sustained drive of the first half -- a nine-play, 53-yard march.

After Walsh's miss, the Bears turned right around with a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that provided an 18-3 lead.

Back on track

After the Bears had only one scoring drive on 11 possessions Monday in a 32-7 loss in San Francisco, offensive coordinator Mike Tice became a popular target for criticism. But the former Vikings coach put together a solid plan against his old team Sunday.

Even with a patched-together offensive line, Tice made sure to provide Cutler with plenty of extra protection. Cutler never seemed uncomfortable, ran a variety of bootlegs to buy time and delivered high-percentage throws underneath.

The Bears wound up totaling 296 yards, more than double the 143 they had against the 49ers.

Harvin out, Wright in

Percy Harvin did not travel to Chicago as he continues having trouble with his sprained left ankle. Frazier said he had no estimated timetable for when Harvin might be able to return to practice.

With Harvin down, rookie Jarius Wright was active for the second consecutive game and contributed a team-high seven catches for 49 yards.

Harvin led the NFL with 62 catches when he was injured.

Injury update

Safety Harrison Smith and tight end Kyle Rudolph each left Sunday's game to be evaluated for possible concussions. Smith suffered his head injury on a third-quarter tackle of Earl Bennett. He was down for a moment, then had great difficulty maintaining his balance as he came to his feet and staggered forward. Rudolph, who had five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown, left in the fourth quarter after taking a big hit from Lance Briggs.

The Bears lost running back Matt Forte and cornerback Charles Tillman to ankle injuries, return man Devin Hester to a concussion, and offensive linemen Chris Spencer and Louis to knee injuries.

Back and forth

Cornerback A.J. Jefferson incurred a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness late in the first quarter when he got into a post-play scrap trying to fight off a block from receiver Eric Weems. On the next play, Jefferson took a nasty stiff-arm from Cutler during the quarterback's 5-yard run. But Cutler gave the penalty yardage right back, flipping the ball at Jefferson with a stare and getting flagged for taunting.

Windy City blues

The Vikings have lost five consecutive games and 10 of their past 11 in Chicago (not including a 2002 road loss in Champaign, Ill.). Over the past four seasons, they have only one first-half touchdown in Chicago.

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