Vikings stumble in OT loss to Bears

Brett Favre cranked up and made one more impossible throw, zinging

a touchdown pass in the fading seconds. Too bad for the Minnesota

Vikings, that merely put them into overtime.

Once again, they came up short. And the way Favre sees it,

they’re headed to an early playoff exit.

The Vikings lost again Monday night, beaten by the Chicago

Bears 36-30 when Jay Cutler tossed a 39-yard strike to Devin

Aromashodu. Minnesota fell for the third time in four games, and

the defeat gave the New Orleans Saints homefield advantage

throughout the NFC playoffs.

“I know we’re fortunate to be in the playoffs but we have to

play better than we did the last few weeks or we’ll be home fairly

quickly,” Favre said. “I’m just being honest as I can be.”

Playing for the first time since the dustup between the star

quarterback and coach Brad Childress became public, the Vikings’

late rally wasn’t enough.

After Favre’s stunning, fourth-down pass to Sidney Rice with

16 seconds left in regulation, Cutler threw the game-winner with

just over 9 minutes left in overtime to prevent the Vikings (11-4)

from locking up a first-round playoff bye.

Nick Roach recovered a fumble by Adrian Peterson following a

catch, setting up Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass of the game.

Favre’s pass to a leaping Rice capped a 68-yard touchdown

drive and tied the game at 30.

Chicago’s Robbie Gould, who kicked three field goals in the

first half, had a chance to win it on the first possession of the

overtime but missed a 45-yard field goal wide right.

The Bears (6-9) took advantage a few minutes later, though,

when Hunter Hillenmeyer knocked the ball away from Peterson and

Roach recovered. Cutler found an open Aromashodu, who had beaten

Antoine Winfield, and the Bears won for just the third time in 11

games.

“It’s good for the team, it’s good for the morale of going

out there and putting up points and answering the bell, especially

in the fourth quarter and overtime when you have to do it,” Cutler

said.

Favre has never led a team to a win after trailing by 17 or

more points, falling to 0-43 in such situations. The Bears were up

23-6 in the third quarter and the Vikings were able to tie it

twice.

Minnesota can lock up a first-round bye with a win next week

and loss or tie by Philadelphia or with a tie and an Eagles loss.

But after running away with the NFC North, the Vikings didn’t

expect to be in this situation.

They started 10-1 behind a resurgent Favre, but have tailed

off since. Favre had a good game after three mediocre performances,

completing 26 of 40 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns.

Peterson ran for 94 yards and two scores, but the Vikings simply

couldn’t pull this one out.

“At first I didn’t think we would be having this

conversation that we would have to be talking about turning it

around, but we are,” Favre said. “We didn’t respond tonight.”

He’ll get no argument from teammate Jared Allen: “If I could

cuss right now, I would. … I mean, we’re playing bad right now.

We’ve got to play better.”

Cutler looked more like the player the Bears thought they

were getting in a trade with Denver than the one who’s been racking

up interceptions at an alarming rate. He was 20 of 35 for 273

yards, although he did throw his league-leading 26th interception.

“It’s fun,” Cutler said of outdueling Favre. “He got me in

Denver. I got him when he was in New York. … It was a good

game.”

Aromashodu had seven catches for 150 yards, and Danieal

Manning set up two touchdowns with kickoff returns of 57 and 59

yards.

The Bears led 16-0 at halftime and 23-6 midway through the

third before Minnesota rallied. The Vikings tied it at 23 on

Peterson’s 1-yard run with 5:49 left, then Manning ran the kickoff

back 59 yards before tripping at the 21. Two plays later, Cutler

hit Earl Bennett with a 20-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 30-23

lead with 4:55 remaining, and the Bears appeared to be in good

shape.

Favre and Rice had other ideas, though, tying it with that

spectacular catch at the end of regulation. Hillenmeyer finally set

up the winning touchdown when he knocked the ball away from

Peterson on a short flare, and Cutler audibled out of a run before

hitting Aromashodu.

This looked like a primetime-worthy matchup when the schedule

came out, and it lived up to that billing even though the script

didn’t play out as expected.

Bears coach Lovie Smith is feeling the heat, and general

manager Jerry Angelo added a few logs before last week’s loss at

Baltimore, when he passed on offering a vote of confidence while

saying a roster overhaul wasn’t necessary.

Then again, after three straight misses, it’s not clear if

Angelo is on solid footing.

“I think the game made a statement about our football team

and where we are and what we can be in the future, no more than

that,” Smith said. “As a football coach your job is at stake

every day you go to work. … It’s like that with everyone. I

realize where I am and where we are. It’s been a disappointing

season and I’m the head football coach.”

Suddenly, the Vikings are looking shaky, too.

That sideline confrontation during last week’s loss to

Carolina sparked reports that Favre and Childress had clashed over

play-calling, although they insisted their relationship was fine.

“At times today in the second half you saw guys offensively

make plays,” Favre said. “That has to happen for four quarters. I

hope we can turn it around. I hope we do. I’m going to sit here and

be positive as I should be, but we have some things we have to get

better at.”

Notes: Chicago CB Charles Tillman suffered a rib

injury making a tackle in the fourth quarter and had to be wheeled

off the field on a stretcher. … Bears WR Johnny Knox injured an

ankle returning a kickoff and was taken off the field on a cart in

the third. … Vikings NT Pat Williams was inactive because of an

elbow injury and Jimmy Kennedy started in his place.