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(Monday, December 28th)
Final Score: Chicago 36, Minnesota 30 (OT)
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Jay Cutler threw a perfect 39-yard touchdown pass to Devin Aromashodu nearly six minutes into overtime, and the Chicago Bears responded after blowing a 17-point lead by beating the Minnesota Vikings, 36-30, and sending shockwaves through the NFC playoff picture.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had fumbled on the previous play, setting the Bears up at the Minnesota 39. Chicago (6-9) blew a chance earlier in the extra session, as Robbie Gould pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right on the hosts' first possession of overtime.
But Cutler, who was efficient for most of the night, had maybe his best game in a Bears uniform. The former Denver Broncos quarterback completed 20-of-35 passes for 273 yards and a season-best four touchdowns, with one interception.
"Through all the roller coasters, the up-and-downs of the season, the tough breaks, the turnovers, the way the offense hasn't performed, it's good for the team, it's good for the morale," Cutler said. "(It's good) to put up points and answer the bell in the fourth quarter and overtime when you really have to do it."
Aromashodu, a practice squad player for most of his four-year career, nearly doubled his career receiving yardage output with seven catches for 150 yards and the game-winning score. Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark and Earl Bennett each added a receiving touchdown, and Matt Forte ran for 74 yards on 21 carries.
Brett Favre nearly got his first win as a professional after trailing by 17, but in the end he couldn't keep the Vikings (11-4) in control of their own destiny. Favre threw for 321 yards and two scores on 26-of-40 passes, but the loss knocks the Vikings behind the Eagles in a bid for a first-round bye in the postseason.
Peterson, despite the fumble, rushed 24 times for 94 yards and two scores, and Sidney Rice added six catches for 56 yards and a score. The Vikings trailed at halftime, 16-0, and the poor start proved to be too much to overcome in the end. Minnesota, which began the season 10-1, has now dropped three of four to fade in the NFC playoff picture. The Vikings, who are a perfect 7-0 at home this season, finished the 2009 campaign a mediocre 4-4 on the road.
"I really believe we played hard, we just haven't played well at times," Favre said of the team's recent struggles. "For the most part it's the same guys who started, and at times today in the second half you saw every one of our offensive guys making plays. That has to happen for four quarters, and I hope we can turn it around."
In addition to the Vikings' falling behind the Eagles due to tiebreaking procedures, the New Orleans Saints locked up the top seed in the NFC. The only way Minnesota would be able to have a bye in the playoffs is if it wins against the Giants next week and Philadelphia loses in Dallas.
Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals could still lock up the two-seed should they win and both the Vikings and Eagles lose next week. The Cowboys could also earn a first-round bye should they win and the Vikings and Cardinals both lose.
The Bears won the coin toss prior to overtime and received the ball first. Cutler used a 33-yard pass to Aromashodu to get into Minnesota territory, but Gould pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The Vikings proceeded to lose 14 yards over the next three plays after two sacks of Favre, and they punted the ball back to Chicago. The Bears followed suit, punting the ball back to Minnesota following a three-and-out.
Peterson took a screen pass on the second play of the drive and ran 16 yards up the right sideline, but Chicago linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer punched the ball out just before Peterson fell to the ground, and Nick Roach jumped on the ball to give the Bears possession at Minnesota's 39 with 9:21 left.
On the following play, Cutler found a streaking Aromashodu down the right sideline for an easy pitch-and-catch 39-yard touchdown for the dramatic win.
The Vikings faced a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter but managed to come back and tie the game, 23-23, on a Peterson one-yard touchdown run with just under six minutes left in the fourth.
Chicago, though, had an answer.
Danieal Manning returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to the Vikings' 21-yard line, and Cutler hit Bennett in stride in the middle of the end zone two plays later from 20 yards away to put Chicago back in front, 30-23, less than a minute later.
Favre, though, led his team down the field to tie the game in the final minute. Starting from the Vikings' 32, Favre hit Peterson for a 16-yard catch- and-run up the middle to get to midfield with 3 1/2 minutes left.
A few plays later, from the Chicago 38, Favre completed a 19-yard pass to Percy Harvin to get in the red zone at the two-minute warning. An 11-yard pass to Rice brought Minnesota to the seven-yard line with a minute to play. The next three plays netted one yard and left the Vikings with 4th-and-goal from the six with 22 ticks on the clock.
After both teams called a timeout, Favre threw a perfectly placed ball to Rice in the back left corner of the end zone to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Bears came out and dominated the Vikings for the first half.
After each team punted on its first possession, the Bears went 56 yards in nine plays, leading to a Gould 22-yard field goal for an early lead.
Minnesota got into Chicago territory on the ensuing series, but Favre fumbled the ball away at the 33, and Tommie Harris jumped on it for the Bears. The resulting drive resulted in another Gould field goal -- from 42 yards away -- for a 6-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The Bears defense continued to keep the Vikings offense at bay, and Chris Kluwe shanked a punt at midfield, giving Chicago the ball at its own 34. Cutler hit Olsen for a 24-yard gain three plays later down to the Minnesota 29, and an over-the-head 26-yard grab by Aromashodu put the hosts at the two- yard line.
Following a false start penalty, Cutler hit Olsen in the back of the end zone from seven yards away for a surprising 13-0 advantage with six minutes on the clock.
The Bears later forced another punt and utilized the two minute drill to add a 41-yard field goal from Gould as time expired for a 16-0 halftime margin.
After gaining just 82 yards in the first half, Minnesota finally got on the board on its second possession of the third quarter. Favre found Bernard Berrian streaking down the right sideline for a 38-yard gain down to the Bears' 22, and a defensive pass interference on the next play set up the Vikings at the one. Peterson was able to scamper to the outside on the left to get into the end zone for a 16-6 game after the extra point attempt was blocked.
But Chicago answered right away, as Manning ran back the kickoff to the Vikings' 34-yard line. Cutler capped the ensuing four-play drive with a two- yard pass to Clark in the back of the end zone for a 23-6 game with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third.
Favre responded with a 10-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe, bringing the Vikings to within 23-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Cutler was intercepted on the Bears' next series, leading to a Ryan Longwell 41-yard field goal with 12 minutes remaining in the game to get Minnesota to within one possession.
Chicago's offense continued to sputter, and the Vikings forced a Bears punt. Favre again led the offense down the field, going 79 yards in eight plays to tie the game, 23-23, on Peterson's one-yard plunge with just under six minutes to play.
The Vikings went 71:44 between their last score in a Week 15 loss to Carolina and Peterson's touchdown to open the second half scoring...Favre dropped to 5-1 all time against the Bears on Monday night...Aromashodu had 19 career catches for 198 yards and a touchdown coming into the game...Favre is now 0-43 when his team trails by 17 or more points...Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox was carted off the field in the third quarter after a leg injury on a kickoff return. Chicago defensive back Charles Tillman was taken off on a stretcher in the fourth with a rib injury after a collision with a teammate...The two teams split the season series...Bears wide receiver Devin Hester (calf) was inactive, as was Minnesota defensive tackle Pat Williams (elbow)
12/29 01:32:49 ET