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Cutler victimizes Vikings in final seconds

Reuters Chicago Bears’ cornerback Tim Jennings leaps over Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder to return an interception for a touchdown during the second quarter Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears gave up a 105-yard touchdown return on the game’s opening kickoff, lost four turnovers, allowed the Minnesota

Vikings to control the ball for more than 18 of the 30 minutes in the second half — and yet still managed, for the second week in a row, to come from behind in the fourth quarter for a victory.

The Bears beat the Vikings, 31-30, on Jay Cutler’s third touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to tight end Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It’s hard to be minus-two in turnovers and (give up) a kick return touchdown and win a game,” said Marc Trestman, the first Bears’ head coach to begin his career with a 2-0 record since Neill Armstrong in 1978.

Minnesota parlayed two of the four Chicago turnovers into fourth-quarter field goals by Blair Walsh to take a 30-24 lead before the Bears started the final drive at their own 34-yard line with 3:08 remaining.

Using 10 plays to cover the 66 yards and overcoming a holding penalty, they converted three third downs including the winning pass, which came on 3rd-and-10 on a play Trestman said was put into the offense only in the past week.

“That last two minutes, I could have done some different things,” said Leslie Frazier, the Vikings coach whose specialty is defense.

There were also things the Vikings could have done differently on offense before that. Leading, 27-24, they had first-and-goal at the Chicago 6-yard line with three and a half minutes remaining but two Adrian Peterson runs produced just two yards, and a Christian Ponder pass fell incomplete.

“It’s easy to second guess after the fact, but sometimes when you give the ball to Adrian on 3rd-and-4, you don’t feel like you need to pass,” Frazier said.

Peterson, last year’s NFL rushing champion, finished with 100 yards on 26 carries but outside of a 36-yard run that set up a second quarter touchdown, the Bears held him pretty much in check.

Bennett, who also scored the Bears’ first touchdown, made the winning grab on a back shoulder toss by Cutler. Bennett said they ran the play earlier in the game, too, that he was “wide open,” and that Cutler missed the throw.

“We talked after that play” about making the throw onto the back shoulder if the same situation presented itself again, Bennett said.

Before the touchdown, the key plays on the final drive were Cutler’s 12-yard pass to Brandon Marshall on 3rd-and-4, a 10-yarder to Marshall on 3rd-and-1, and a 23-yarder to Bennett on 1st-and-20.

Chicago dominated for much of a rainy afternoon, but the Vikings stayed in the game, scoring on rookie Cordarrelle Patterson’s 105-yard return of the opening kickoff and Brian Robison’s 61-yard return of a Cutler fumble and denying one of the Bears’ drives when Cutler was intercepted on a first-and-goal pass from the Minnesota 1-yard line.

Two of Chicago’s four turnovers led to field goals by Blair Walsh earlier in the fourth quarter that put the Vikings ahead, 30-24.

The Bears also got some non-offensive scoring help; Tim Jennings returned an interception 44 yards for a second quarter touchdown and Devin Hester set a franchise recored with 249 yards in kickoff returns in a single game — including runbacks of 80, 76 and 42 yards that were his three longest in nearly two years.

Cutler again was well protected by Chicago’s rebuilt offensive line. He was sacked just once but that did not appear to be line’s fault, although it was costly, since that resulted in the fumble that Robison returned for his touchdown. Cutler completed 28 of 39 passes for 290 yards, with running back Matt Forte catching 11 for 71 yards and Brandon Marshall catching seven for 113 yards and a touchdown. Forte also rushed for 90 yards.

“I thought our linemen really did a very good job today,” Trestman said.

Notes: The Bears honored their 1963 NFL championship team at halftime ... Bennett collided with a cameraman behind the end zone and had to leave the game briefly, but returned. ... Hester’s first half kickoff returns of 80 and 76 yards and a fourth-quarter return of 42 yards were his three longest returns in nearly two years — since he took a kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings on Oct. 16, 2011. He broke his own franchise record with 249 yards on kickoff returns in a single game. ... Minnesota did not surpass 100 yards on offense until a 36-yard run by Adrian Peterson with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. ... Patterson’s 105-yard kickoff return was a Soldier Field record.