Bears' offense comes alive in 24-14 win wire reports

CHICAGO (Dec. 5, 2004) -- Hanging with Chad was a winning experience for the Chicago Bears.

Chad Hutchinson, who was surfing in California a little more than two months ago, made his first Chicago start a memorable one Sunday, throwing three TD passes to lead the Bears past the Minnesota Vikings 24-14.

Minnesota (7-5) saw its playoff chances hurt for the second straight year by a late-season loss to the Bears.

Daunte Culpepper, completing 70 percent of his passes entering the game, was intercepted three times - he had only seven all season before Sunday -and the Vikings were held scoreless in the second half.

Since the Bears (5-7) signed Hutchinson in September following a season-ending knee injury to Rex Grossman, he has spent most of time as a third-stringer, working with the scout team.

No more.

The former St. Louis Cardinals baseball pitcher, who started nine games as a rookie for the Cowboys two years ago, showed an ability Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn lacked as fill-ins for Grossman and gave the previously moribund Bears offense a spark. Hutchinson completed 18-of-30 for 213 yards.

In three previous games, the offense had produced just one touchdown.

Chicago's defense got a lift, too, by the return of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who'd missed the two previous games with a calf injury.

The Bears made a tough defensive stand in the third quarter after the Vikings had reached the 12 and were threatening to take the lead.

Jerry Azumah, who had two interceptions, and Alex Brown sacked Culpepper on third down before Morten Anderson missed a 38-yard field goal that could have tied the game.

Then Hutchinson hit Bobby Wade for 12 yards and Desmond Clark for 19 to start a 13-play, 72-yard drive that also featured some tough inside running by Anthony Thomas, who had a 17-yard carry to the 3.

On third down, Hutchinson found Jason McKie in the corner for a 5-yard TD pass to make it 24-14 with a little more than 10 minutes left.

Azumah made his second interception with 2:01 left to stop a final Vikings drive.

The Bears took a 17-14 halftime lead when Hutchinson hit David Terrell with a 15-yard TD pass with 22 seconds to go in the second quarter, capping a 2-minute, 76-yard drive.

Culpepper threw a 40-yard TD pass to former Bear Marcus Robinson with 2:23 left in the first half - a play upheld by video replay - to give Minnesota a 14-10 lead.

Minutes earlier, Minnesota moved from its 27 to a first-and-goal at the Bears 4 before Urlacher stepped right in front of Culpepper's pass and returned it 42 yards.

Azumah stopped a long Vikings drive on their first possession, intercepting Culpepper at the 11 and returning 52 yards to the Minnesota 37.

Hutchinson then drilled a 19-yard pass to Justin Gage on third down before rolling out and flipping a 6-yard TD pass to Clark.

Culpepper drove the Vikings 72 yards in just seven plays as Jermaine Wiggins took a short pass for a 39-yard gain and Onterrio Smith broke through the Chicago defense for a 26-yard run to the Bears 2, setting up a Culpepper-to-Nate Burleson scoring pass.

Culpepper, sacked five times, was 23-of-33 for 279 yards.