Bears

Jay Cutler, Jordan Howard lead Bears past Vikings

Jay Cutler, Jordan Howard lead Bears past Vikings

CHICAGO (AP) — Jay Cutler's halftime speech — yup, that Jay Cutler — helped the Chicago Bears turn a strong start into one surprising victory.

Cutler threw for 252 yards and a touchdown after missing five games with a thumb injury, rookie Jordan Howard ran for a career-high 153 yards and a TD, and the Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings 20-10 on Monday night.

Chicago (2-6) sacked Sam Bradford five times while handing NFC North-leading Minnesota (5-2) its second straight loss.

Cutler was on target in his return from a sprained right thumb, and Howard easily surpassed his previous high of 118 yards. Alshon Jeffery got his first touchdown reception of the season while helping Chicago outgain Minnesota 403 yards to 258.

"I think it was more fun just to watch my teammates and see how hard they played and how well they played," Cutler said. "One win coming into this one, they had a lot of outside noise."

Cutler has faced criticism for his body language and leadership skills throughout his time in Chicago, but Jeffery said the quarterback told his teammates to "keep our pedal to the metal" at halftime.

"Everyone in there is from different backgrounds and different cultures, societies," Cutler said. "Whatever it takes to find the inspiration — because motivation usually wears off at some point during the game. Those guys played inspired football."

Minnesota's performance was far from inspired.

"We're a good team," guard Brandon Fusco said. "It's not us. It's not Viking football. That's what is frustrating, we're such a good team. What we're putting out on the field is not us. We have to watch the film and get better from this."

Cutler had not played since he left the second game of the season against Philadelphia. But with his future up in the air after coach John Fox wavered in his commitment to him as the starter, he made a triumphant return.

Cutler completed 20 of 31 passes, including an 11-yard touchdown to Jeffery early in the third that made it 20-3. Whether he quieted fans who thought the Bears were better off with Brian Hoyer is another issue. But that became a moot point when Hoyer broke his left arm last week in a Thursday night loss at Green Bay.

Howard had a 69-yard run, the longest for Chicago in seven years. Zach Miller added 88 yards receiving as the Bears stopped a three-game losing streak.

Bradford, playing behind a porous line, had another rough game after getting sacked six times the previous week against Philadelphia. He was 23 of 37 for 228 yards.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Matt Asiata ran for 42 yards with Jerick McKinnon sidelined by an ankle injury.

With a sparse and quiet crowd looking on, the Bears led 13-3 at halftime. It was almost a bigger advantage, but Chicago settled for field goals on its first two trips inside the 20.

GOING LONG

Howard, a fifth-round draft pick, broke off a 69-yard run to the 13 on Chicago's first possession. It was the longest rushing play for the Bears since Kahlil Bell's 72-yarder against Philadelphia on Nov. 22, 2009. But instead of a touchdown, the Bears got a field goal from Connor Barth.

DENYING DISCORD

Fox denied a report of discord between the coaching staff and front office and that the organization has brought in an outside consultant to examine the football operation.

"There's no truth to that. This is as unified of an organization and football team as I've ever been associated with," Fox said.

OFFICIAL INJURED

Head linesman Ed Walker was taken from the field on a cart after he slipped on the Soldier Field grass in the first quarter. Walker was injured running down the Vikings' sideline as the Bears punted. His legs buckled, and he was tended to for several minutes by medical personnel before being placed on the cart.

INJURIES

Vikings: G Alex Boone was being evaluated for a concussion. ... CB Captain Munnerlyn hurt his foot. ... SS Andrew Sendejo (ankle) sat out and Jayron Kearse started in his place.

Bears: The Bears held out RG Kyle Long (strained triceps) and LG Josh Sitton (ankle). Ted Larsen started at right guard and Eric Kush at left guard.

UP NEXT

Vikings: Face division rival Detroit for the first time this season when they host the Lions on Sunday.

Bears: Have a bye before visiting Tampa Bay on Nov. 13.

 

Kyle Long knows he messed up, and is ready to do what it takes to put the fighting incidents behind him

Kyle Long knows he messed up, and is ready to do what it takes to put the fighting incidents behind him

Kyle Long understands the position he’s put himself in. 

It wasn’t a week to remember for the Bears’ starting guard, who got into two separate fights over the span of three practices. Despite the relatively small likelihood he would have played, as punishment, Long was subsequently left off the team flight to New York for their preseason game against the Giants. 

“Obviously, what I did was absolutely unacceptable,” Long said after Tuesday’s practice. “As a human being, as a teammate, without question what I did was uncalled for. It was so far over the line that it was on me to handle that internally, and speak to the people that I needed to speak to.” 

Everyone around Halas Hall chalked up Long’s first scuffle with Akiem Hicks as nothing more than training camp frustrations. “Let’s clarify this: Everybody has a temper,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘Everybody gets upset. If somebody spills their coffee, you’re gonna get upset.

It was the second fight — one that saw Long remove undrafted rookie defensive end Jalen Dalton’s helmet, hit him with it, and then toss said helmet off the field — that forced the Bears’ hand. 

“It reflected poorly on the organization, the city, and the offensive line room,” he said. “That was never my intention. Moving forward, I intend to make living amends.”

Long wouldn’t go into much depth about the reason behind either fight, only mentioning that he “got a little frustrated, and it boiled over.” Talking with media after practice, he stressed the importance of publicly clearing the air before he, or the team, could move forward. 

“I think it's important and I know that the fans have a very close eye or touch on the pulse of the team of what's going on,” he said. “If I’m a fan, the last thing I want to hear about is a fight at practice. It's a distraction from what we're trying to do, which is go out and get ready for the Packers eventually and go put together some wins in the football season.” 

Before the whistle, Long’s had one of the best camps of a career that’s now going on seven seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler said that he hasn’t been this healthy since his rookie year, and that he’d “put this camp up there with any of them [he’d] be apart of.” With the air cleared and all parties on the same page, both Long and the Bears consider the fights a closed case. 

“We’re past it,” Matt Nagy added. “Now it’s not about talking anymore. For us, it’s about everybody showing what we can do. It’s showing by your actions, whether that’s being a good football player or being a good person. 

“I always tell my kids, ‘Don’t talk about it; be about it.’ So it’s time to start being about it.”

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

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USA TODAY

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

The Bears haven’t shown what their 2019 starters can do yet this preseason, but the oddsmakers in Las Vegas seem to be on board with Matt Nagy’s plans for the upcoming season.

The money is coming in on Chicago to win the Super Bowl, and the most popular sportsbooks shifted the odds for the Bears to win the conference.

They’re now tied for the best chances to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC at both MGM and Westgate, according to CBS Sports.

Both books see the Bears and Saints as favorites at 5/1 odds, while Westgate views the Rams and Eagles as equally likely.

MGM is much higher on the Packers’ chances, and both have the Vikings in the top seven.

The path to a Super Bowl berth is never easy, and Chicago will have as difficult a path as any team with two other contenders in the division.

Every single team on the odds list appears on the Bears 2019 regular-season schedule.