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Bears 'D' gets steamed up
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer puts pressure on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre on Monday night at Soldier Field.


Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/29/2009 12:14 AM

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After an intriguing week where hotheads ruled at Halas Hall - a stretch that featured a closed-door contretemps between general manager Jerry Angelo and center Olin Kreutz - steaming heads prevailed at Soldier Field on Monday night.

With five regulars out due to injury, not including the long-lost duo of Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa, the Bears couldn't maintain their ridiculous first-half effort as Minnesota reeled off 30 points in the final 24 minutes of regulation to force overtime.

But in the end, middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer's strip of Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson set up Jay Cutler's winning touchdownn pass in the Bears' 36-30 upset.

"I think I missed the first time, but felt my hand hit the ball," said Hillenmeyer, who had a Peterson strip reversed last month at Minnesota. "I was just glad they didn't review it. It was a great win, but the truth is it shouldn't have had to go to overtime."

Especially after the way the steaming heads - caused by the body heat generated by the Bears defense on a sub-freezing evening - dominated Minnesota in the first half.

The Bears defenders returned triumphant to their sideline time and again against an offense that skewered them a month ago in Minnesota.

After the Bears forced Brett Favre to lose a fumble in the first quarter, the Soldier Field in-house cameras spent the subsequent media timeout showing the defensive linemen on the Jumbotron as they relaxed on the heated bench.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who recovered the fumble, caught a glimpse of the steam rising from his dome on the big screen and flashed a quick smile - mouthguard and all - to the fans.

"That was our Super Bowl," Harris said as the Bears created a joyous postgame ruckus in their locker room.

"That was our playoffs."

"I think for the first game this year we actually played well in the first half," said defensive end Alex Brown, whose overtime sack sparked the Bears. "Don't go out there playing nervous, playing scared to make a mistake. If you make a mistake, make it full-speed."

The first half was an 180-degree turn from the teams' first meeting. Favre riddled the Bears for 3 touchdown passes to pace Minnesota to a 24-7 halftime lead as the Vikings rolled up 312 of their 537 total yards in the first half.

Not only did the Bears shut out the Vikings in the first half on Monday, Minnesota amassed a grand total of 82 yards and 4 first downs.

But in the second half, it was as if the Vikings remembered their dismemberment of the Bears on Nov. 29.

Minnesota scored on five consecutive possessions, including a Favre touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 16 seconds left, to turn a 16-0 deficit into a 30-30 tie.