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SportsMonday: That's Entertainment!

Football thrills.

The Bears won Sunday's contest and have started the season with a pair of victories. There is plenty to say about an exciting team with a compelling cast of characters.

But yesterday the game was the thing.

A fan couldn't help but feel drained. His Bears had scored four times and rode waves of momentum to and fro as they fell behind immediately, rallied to take the lead, faltered again on a huge defensive touchdown then re-took the lead the same way. Finally the Vikings zipped down the field and scored a late touchdown to tie it again, only to have the Bears drive once more and finish with three failed passes into the end zone before kicking a field goal for the lead.

Exhaustion was setting in. And it was halftime.

There was more action in the first two quarters of this contest than in 90 percent of the games other athletes play. There are reasons football captivates so many more fans in the U.S. than any other sport. For one, it still fits perfectly onto our TV screens (I think it was former commissioner Pete Rozelle who first figured that out about 50 years ago). And its combination of violent action and tactical complexity is unparalleled.

The game opened with Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson's 105-yard touchdown return.

"It pissed me off to have someone take one out and take one to the house," Devin Hester said after the game. "Oh, it pissed me off . . . Before the kickoff, I just said, 'I don't care how deep this guy kicks it, I am bringing it out. And that's the mentality I told my (special teams teammates) about. If you get punched in the mouth like that, we're not going to just fold down and back down. If you kick it nine deep, we're coming out. So don't expect me to take a knee."

He didn't, and he went on to record 249 return yards on the day, breaking his own franchise record.

Cutler connected with new favorite receiver Martellus Bennett and old favorite receiver Brandon Marshall for touchdowns in a first half in which the Bears offense was just about unstoppable.

The Bears gave up some big breaks, though, none bigger than when the ball popped out of Cutler's hand in the midst of a Jared Allen sack in the second quarter. The ball bounced directly to linebacker Brian Robison in the clear and he took it to the house.

The Bears went into the locker room at halftime with just a 24-21 lead and a sense of foreboding.

The Vikings played much better in the second half, with quarterback Christian Ponder finding a groove and Leslie Frazier's defense out-playing Marc Trestman's offense. Turnovers hurt the Bears' cause, of course, but the bottom line was they couldn't sustain a drive until only three minutes remained in the game.

A good argument can be made that a coach's ability to manage a game is best evaluated in the third quarter. Does a game continue along the arc established by a first half's worth of action or can a coach bend it to his will by making adjustments?

In the second half, the Bears were hamstrung by Trestman's commitment to running the ball despite the fact that the Vikings had figured out he was going to do so no matter what.

The nadir had to be when the Bears coach called the second reverse of the game to Alshon Jeffery. The first had been a beautiful play featuring Jeffrey jetting into the secondary. The second resulted in a loss of eight.

Shortly thereafter, Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins forced an Adrian Peterson fumble that should have been a big play. Instead the Bear offense went three-and-out.

Meanwhile, starting moving the Viking offense. Ponder has taken a ton of heat of late but the thing I always want to say to people is, the guy was a much better quarterback when he had Percy Harvin, who signed with Seattle in the offseason. The Viking offense was clicking last year before Harvin got hurt, just like the Bears offense clicks when Brandon Marshall is on the case.

On Sunday, despite a mediocre day from Peterson, whose 100 yards were weirdly inconsequential, the Viking offense did enough to win. It constructed three solid field-goal drives in the second half and if Ponder's teammates could have made another play or two, at least one of those drives would have resulted in a devastating touchdown.

Instead, Minnesota left the door open for the Bears, and Cutler led his team through. It was a weird, weird final drive. One can't call it a two-minute drill because there were more than three minutes on the clock (3:08) when the Bears took over at about their own 34 yard line after rookie Joe Anderson made a nice catch and 14-yard return of a pooch kick away from Devin Hester.

The clock ticked away quickly - to the consternation of Fox broadcasters Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick - but Trestman is not oblivious, and clearly wanted to make sure little time was left for the Vikings to retaliate if the Bears scored. They ended the game with a timeout still in their pocket.

The Bears alternated between sweet little plays like Marshall soaring high in the air for a third-down conversion 12-yard gain and Jerome Bushrod's holding penalty. There was Matt Forte losing two yards on a swing pass and Martellus Bennett gaining 23 down the left sideline but then failing to get out of bounds.

It was a remarkable game capped off by a great pass and catch from Cutler to Bennett that left just 10 seconds on the clock.

On the ensuing kickoff, Bears special teamer and backup linebacker Blake Costanzo stripped the ball from the Vikings' John Carlson and the game ended improbably - with Jay Cutler taking a knee.


NFL On Fox
But the game was even weirder than that, thanks to Fox.

"Awful and awesome and optimistic and scary, leading and trailing and Ed Hochuli lecturing and Thom Brenneman apologizing, that three-hour thing thing slipped and skidded and whipsawed and thrilled, and occasionally disappeared from the airwaves, as if the TV circuits overloaded with dangerous levels of lunacy that tripped the breakers," The Score's Dan Bernstein writes.

Indeed, Brenneman and his hairpiece seemed to spend more time apologizing than calling the game. Not that it wasn't warranted.

"It's a banner day for Fox production," Deadspin noted. "There have been video problems, audio issues, hinky telestrators, rogue tickers. But this takes the cake."

And Chris Kluwe was watching his former team and observant as always:





See also: Technical Troubles Plague Bears-Vikings Telecast.


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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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