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Sunday, December 26, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Bears 38, Jets 34

By Michael C. Wright

CHICAGO -- Let's not waste time getting to it.

Chicago’s quest for the No.2 seed in the NFC and accompanying first-round bye remains alive by virtue of its win Sunday over the New York Jets in a 38-34 shootout.

It’s time to move on to the good stuff.

What it means: The Bears took care of their end in attaining the NFC’s No. 2 seed for the postseason by defeating the Jets. Interestingly, the Bears could find themselves rooting for a divisional foe. The Bears needs the Vikings to defeat the Eagles on Tuesday night (the game was postponed because of a snowstorm in Philadelphia) and the Packers to beat the New York Giants to clinch the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye.

Defensive struggle: But not in the way one might expect from two defenses that entered Sunday’s game ranked among the league’s best.

The Jets entered the game ranked No. 5 in overall defense, while the Bears held the eighth spot.

Hundreds of yards later between both teams, it seemed the defenses disappeared.

When the Bears took possession for their first drive of the fourth quarter, the teams had already combined for 610 yards. The Jets’ vaunted defense gave up three touchdowns in the third quarter alone, as quarterback Jay Cutler bounced back from a horrid first-half performance (his passer rating was 43.2 at halftime) to finish the third quarter with a passer rating of 116.1 after completing 6 of 7 passes.

Hester’s impact: Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team wouldn’t punt to Devin Hester, but punter Steve Weatherford made the mistake doing it.

Bad move.

After playing keep-away from Hester in the first half, Weatherford booted a returnable punt to Hester that allowed the Bears to take their first lead since the opening quarter.

Hester caught a Weatherford punt at Chicago’s 30-yard line in the third quarter and made five Jets defenders miss on a 32-yard punt return (his 37th return of 20 yards or more since 2006) that gave the Bears possession at the 32. Hester caught a 25-yard touchdown pass three plays later from Cutler as the Bears took a 31-24 lead after Robbie Gould’s extra point.

Hester didn’t touch the ball again until the 8:30 mark of the third quarter. When he did, Hester took a kickoff 40 yards to set up a Cutler scoring strike to Johnny Knox.

Forte joins exclusive club: Matt Forte gained 113 yards on 19 attempts to become just the third running back this season to rush for 100 yards or more against the Jets.

Last week, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall came close to becoming the third back to accomplish the feat, but a day after the club defeated the Jets 22-17, the NFL reduced his yardage total from 100 yards to 99.

What’s next: Having already clinched the NFC North title and no worse than the third seed in the NFC playoffs, the Bears close the season Sunday at Green Bay, which hosted the Giants on Sunday afternoon.