CHICAGO -- For two weeks in a row as the Chicago Bears prepared to take the field, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker told quarterback Jay Cutler, “We’ve got your back,” and in the end, the unit did despite a sometimes shaky performance Sunday during a 31-30 comeback win over the Minnesota Vikings.
“When it comes time for the defense to make a stop or the defense to get a turnover, they do,” Cutler said.
Still, the defense isn't performing at a level it wants to be, but what it did against Minnesota was actually better than things looked. Although the Vikings scored 21 points in the first half, Chicago’s defense was responsible for only one touchdown -- a 20-yard touchdown pass from Christian Ponder to Kyle Rudolph -- because the other two touchdowns came on special teams (a Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return) and Brian Robison's return of a Cutler fumble.
In the second half, the Bears allowed just nine points on three consecutive possessions, with all three field goals coming from 28 yards out or nearer, meaning the defense tightened up in the red zone.
“I don’t care how we win them,” cornerback Charles Tillman said. “It still counts as a win, and I’m very appreciative of that. It was a pound-for-pound, blow-for-blow heavyweight battle. They had some plays. We had some plans, and the momentum kept shifting back and forth.”
The defense bailed out Cutler when he threw an interception in the end zone during the second quarter with a Tim Jennings 44-yard interception return for a touchdown. The defense saved the offense again in the fourth quarter with the Bears trailing 27-24, when Matt Forte was stripped by Letroy Guion.
“On the pick [I threw] in the end zone, they turn around and pick-six [by Jennings],” Cutler said. “Then at the end, whenever we fumbled, they got a stop down at the goal line.”
Instead of allowing Minnesota to score a touchdown to put away the game by making the score 34-24 with approximately three minutes remaining, the Bears surrendered just two yards on three plays run from their 6 to force the Vikings to settle for a Blair Walsh 22-yard field goal, which made the score 30-24 with 3:17 left to play.
“That right there was what hurt the most,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said. “Being in the red zone and having to settle for three. In those situations offensively, we have to come through and make a big play. We weren’t able to do that today. We do that, we win.”
They didn’t, and lost. Chicago’s defense definitely played a role in that.
Peterson rushed for 100 yards on 26 attempts, but if you subtract the 36-yard run he broke in the second quarter, the running back averaged 2.5 yards on the other 25 carries.
“I think anytime you came out of a game with a win, you did good enough,” middle linebacker James Anderson said. “I don’t think we played it perfect. We’ve got some things we’ve got to correct. We’re improving. We had a good start last week. This week, we took some steps.”
The defense needs to take more. Minnesota converted 44 percent of third downs, and finished 2-for-2 on fourth-down conversions. Although Chicago’s front seven pressured the quarterback at times, it dropped Ponder just once, and he was still able to make several plays with his feet.
“We’re still trying to figure it out. It’s a long year. It’s still early,” Jennings said. “Of course I hate that it seems that we keep letting them (score) 30 points, whatever we gave up last week. It’s too many points. We can just go out there and create the turnovers that we’re able to create, give our offense back the ball, and try to go out each and every week during the week of practice getting better. We’re still trying to figure it out.”