Devin Hester returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and caught a 48-yard scoring pass to spark the Chicago Bears to a 39-10 romp over the visiting Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.
Jay Cutler threw for 267 yards and a pair of touchdown passes as the Bears bolted to a 23-point halftime lead en route to their fourth consecutive victory over Minnesota (1-5).
Hester (five catches, 91 yards) provided the early spark for Chicago (3-3) by hauling in a touchdown from Cutler less than three minutes into the game.
He also provided a momentum-killer for the Vikings, following Minnesota’s first touchdown of the game by taking back his fifth career kickoff return for a score early in the third quarter for a 33-10 lead.
It was the 16th career kick or punt return for a TD by Hester, who left the game with a chest injury.
Matt Forte rushed for 87 yards and had six catches for 36 yards for Chicago, which amassed its highest point total of the season.
The game featured the debut of Vikings first-round pick Christian Ponder, who replaced Donovan McNabb at quarterback early in the fourth quarter.
McNabb had one of his better games of the season, finishing 19 of 24 for 177 yards, but he was sacked five times. Ponder threw for 99 yards on 10-of-18 passing.
Cutler, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes in his last four starts against the Vikings, played superbly in first half. He also connected with Dane Sanzenbacher on a 13-yard scoring pass in the second quarter and was 14 for 20 for 193 yards with zero sacks in the opening 30 minutes.
The Vikings have made a habit of building – and blowing – big first-half leads this season, but it was the Bears seizing control from the outset.
Trailing 7-0 courtesy of Hester’s first TD, the game got away from Minnesota when Stephen Paea sacked McNabb for a safety.
Chicago took the ensuing kick and went 56 yards in six plays before Marion Barber scored from 3 yards out for a 16-0 lead with 3:39 left in the opening quarter.
The Vikings finally got on the board on Ryan Longwell’s 37-yard field goal, but the Bears turned an 18-yard punt into a 13-yard scoring pass from Cutler to Sanzenbacher for a 23-3 cushion with 6:41 left in the half.
Robbie Gould continued his perfect season by hammering a 51-yard field goal with 28 seconds left for a 26-3 halftime lead.
Gould added two more second-half field goals to make him 13-for-13 on the season.