NFC North Week 15 decisive moment

The Chicago Bears were on their heels. The Minnesota Vikings, behind surprise starter Brett Favre, had taken a 7-3 lead and were threatening to make it difficult for the Bears to clinch the NFC North title on a snowy Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Bears took over near midfield for their third possession and immediately started moving backward. Left guard Chris Williams was penalized for illegal use of hands. Center Olin Kreutz was called for holding. Suddenly, the Bears faced a first-and-30 play from their 33-yard line.

There aren't many plays designed to get you out of that mess, especially for a Bears team that has succeeded almost exclusively with the short passing game. Entering Monday night's game, quarterback Jay Cutler had attempted only 13 passes that traveled 30 or more yards in the air. None had gone for touchdowns.

There is a first time for everything, of course. The Vikings sent their standard pass rush against the Bears' three-receiver set. The offensive line protected Cutler long enough to pump-fake toward receiver Johnny Knox, who already had a step on cornerback Lito Sheppard and was running near the right sideline.

Cutler hit Knox in stride at the Vikings' 32-yard line, capitalizing on a poor angle from safety Madieu Williams for a wide-open 67-yard touchdown. The score gave the Bears a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish on the way to the NFC North title.

"We had some stuff going on early," Cutler said. "We knew what type of defense they were going to be in. We had a good feel for them up front. We were able to mix in some runs. We had a good game plan. I'm glad we were able to execute as well as we were."

The play was obviously a decisive moment in the game, but it was also important to put on tape for the Bears' future playoff opponent -- lest anyone sleep on the Bears' dormant but potential-filled downfield passing game.