CHICAGO — Jay Cutler, Mr. Fourth Quarter? The nickname just might stick if he keeps this up.
Cutler came through just in time again, firing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left to lead the Chicago Bears to a 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“He’s just ice cold, man,” said Brandon Marshall, who added that he calls Cutler “Mr. Fourth Quarter.”
“So, I really appreciate and am grateful to play with him.”
Things were looking bleak after Minnesota’s Blair Walsh kicked a 22-yard field goal to make it a six-point game with 3:15 remaining. Chicago took over at its 34, and Cutler went to work.
After leading the Bears back from an 11-point deficit to beat Cincinnati in the opener, he did it again — this time with a heavy rain falling.
A 23-yard pass to Bennett along the sideline put the ball on the 16. Cutler then spiked the ball because his tight end did not get out of bounds when he admittedly should have.
After an incompletion, Cutler hit a twisting Bennett in the front corner of the end zone with a pass to his back shoulder. Robbie Gould kicked the go-ahead extra point and Chicago (2-0) remained unbeaten under new coach Marc Trestman despite committing four turnovers.
Cutler completed 28 of 39 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. But he was also intercepted twice and got stripped by Jared Allen on a sack, leading to a 61-yard touchdown return for Brian Robison in the second quarter.
“He had moments of adversity in this game and he never flinched and the guys around him never did, either,” Trestman said.
Devin Hester returned five kickoffs for a Bears-record 249 yards — including a 76-yarder and an 80-yarder.
Bennett had 76 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Brandon Marshall had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Matt Forte chipped in with 71 yards receiving and 90 yards rushing.
Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 105 yards to tie a club record. Christian Ponder threw for 227 yards, a touchdown and an interception after getting picked off three times in a season-opening loss to Detroit. Adrian Peterson ran for 100 yards, but the Vikings (0-2) remained winless at Soldier Field since 2007.
Peterson said he was “a little hesitant” and added: “I have to do a lot of soul searching and come back better than I was.”
Allen pointed at the defense.
“This game came down to one series, six-point lead, they had the ball on the 34 and we’ve got to get off the field,” he said. “It just plain and simple. We have to get off the field in that situation.”
They looked as if they might pull this one out after two 13-play drives led to 28-yard field goals by Walsh, turning a 24-21 halftime deficit into a 27-24 advantage in the fourth quarter.
The first came after Chicago’s Isaiah Frey recovered a fumble by Jarius Wright in the end zone, only to have it overturned on a replay review. Harrison Smith set up the second when he intercepted a long pass from Cutler to Marshall at the 12 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Peterson kept the drive going with a 4-yard run to the 14 on fourth-and-1, only to be hit with a 13-yard loss on the next play, and Walsh booted the go-ahead field goal with just over 8 minutes left.
Letroy Guion stripped Forte of the ball near midfield on Chicago’s next possession. That led to Walsh’s 22-yarder that made it a six-point game, but Cutler and the Bears had one more rally in them.
The late theatrics capped a game that featured no shortage of big plays in the early going.
Patterson got this one off to an explosive start with that huge return to start the game, taking advantage of some big holes and sprinting past a lunging Gould on the way to the end zone. The 105-yarder matched the club record set by Percy Harvin last year and was the first kickoff return for a touchdown by a Bears opponent since 2007.
After Patterson’s big return, Hester returned the kickoff 76 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the 32. That led to a 1-yard TD catch for Bennett, and the teams kept trading big plays in the half. Later, with the game winding down, the Bears made one final push to win it.
“It’s taken everyone in that locker room two weeks in a row,” Cutler said.
NOTES: The Bears honored the 1963 championship team at halftime, two days after star running back Rick Casares died at age 82. “Oh my God, I think when you talk to my fellow teammates over here, what was all right, true and good about professional football was embodied in Rick Casares,” former teammate Ed O’Bradovich said. “Nobody loved the game more than him.” Casares played 10 seasons in Chicago and ran for 5,675 yards. He was the Bears’ all-time leading rusher until Walter Payton surpassed him and currently ranks third. ... Williams now has five interceptions in his career, most by a Vikings defensive lineman.