Vikes’ Favre concussed in loss to Bears

A week after his record consecutive-games streak ended, Brett Favre’s return lasted less than a half.

Favre watched from the frigid sideline Monday at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium after being knocked out in the first half with a concussion in the Minnesota Vikings’ 40-14 loss to the Chicago Bears. Favre, who was listed as doubtful to play all week until hours before game time, was thrown to the frozen turf on a sack by Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton.

”You play long enough, you’re going to get your bell rung,” Favre said.

Looking dazed on the sideline, Favre was not let back into the game and rookie Joe Webb replaced him. Although Webb gave an admirable performance, it was quickly apparent that the Vikings’ offensive line and young quarterback were overmatched.

The Bears now become the bigger story, clinching the NFC North with the win and announcing themselves as a legit threat to go deep in the postseason.

Favre knocked out. Is this it?

Have we seen the last of Favre?

Entering this game, the veteran quarterback was suffering from a badly injured throwing shoulder, yet hours before kickoff announced that he’d suit up for a chance to spoil the Bears’ attempt at clinching the division title.

Favre’s courageous performance showed early promise when he connected with wide receiver Percy Harvin on a 23-yard first-quarter touchdown. However, on the very next series, Favre threw an interception to Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, and very rapidly, bad turned to worse.

On his final play, Favre’s head slammed into the ground and he was down for a few seconds while being attended to by Vikings medical staff.

”It was a great opening drive,” Favre said. ”I probably should’ve went straight up the tunnel after that. But again, you’ve got to try sometimes.”

At 5-9, the Vikings travel to Philadelphia in Week 16 and Detroit in Week 17 — and a return by the gunslinger appears unlikely.

Bears win NFC North title

Eight days ago the Bears were embarrassed on Sunday night, losing to the New England Patriots, 36-7. That loss seems to have sparked them and they rallied back this week, thrashing the Vikings on the road in the Vikings’ final home game.

The Bears battled ice-cold conditions and a Vikings team with a lot to prove, but never lost focus in the critical win. Many people had the Vikings and Packers as NFC North favorites in the preseason, but the combination of Mike Martz’s offensive schemes and Chicago’s dreaded defense have propelled them into this position.

Devin Hester breaks record

The Bears’ All-Pro return specialist did it again. Hester set the NFL record for returns for touchdowns in a season with 14 when he raced up the sideline to score on a 64-yard punt return in the third quarter.

Hester’s ability to always break one makes kickers and punters look foolish when they give him an opportunity and consistently proves he is dangerous. However, in the postgame conference, a choked-up Hester gave all the credit to his teammates. ”It’s hard to stop that type of team, when everybody is scoring,” Hester said.

Bears’ defense is hungry for the ball

Chicago’s defense has been the team’s most consistent unit and creates opportunities to win close ballgames. With the Bears ranking second in the league against the rush, and with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson inactive, this NFC North matchup favored Chicago.

The front four gave both Vikings quarterbacks, Favre and Webb, a tough time, constantly harassing them. The constant pressure up the middle allowed the defense to sack the quarterback four times and produced a gaudy five turnovers. Safety Chris Harris’ presence was felt early when he met Peterson backup Toby Gerhart up the gut and almost jarred the ball free. Harris lined up in the box for a majority of the night, totaling six tackles, and was a threat in coverage, getting an interception.

Jay Cutler looks the part

The Bears quarterback was called to unleash his cannon, and unleash it he did. Cutler threw for three touchdowns with only one interception.

On a first-and-30 in the first quarter, Cutler looked off the coverage and threw a strike into the hands of wide receiver Johnny Knox for a 67-yard touchdown. Although Cutler struggled in the New England game, he has emerged as a big-time quarterback in the past four games, throwing for eight touchdowns to just three interceptions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.