It only figures that on the night the Bears unveiled their quarterback of the future, their biggest pass play of the night involved the punter.
With rookie Mitch Trubisky and the offense struggling to score points — six punts and a lost fumble on seven possessions in the first half — the Bears and special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers threw the Vikings a curve Monday.
With the Bears trailing 10-2, Pat O’Donnell came on to punt on fourth-and-six from the Vikings’ 38-yard line on the Bears’ first possession of the third quarter. But instead of punting yet again, the Bears worked a fake punt to perfection, with O’Donnell throwing a short pass to a wide-open Benny Cunningham, who made two moves to avoid defenders on his way to a 38-yard touchdown that cut the Vikings’ lead to 10-9 with 5:23 left in the third.
‘‘We got the look we wanted,’’ Cunningham said. ‘‘I’m going to keep that one a secret, just in case we have to use it again. We talked about it all week, and [Rodgers] said, ‘It’ll be you and the punter.’
‘‘I had it in my mind to just catch the ball first. At the [least], we’d get the offense back on the field. But once I saw I had an opportunity to make a bigger play . . . I’m just glad it worked out for us.’’
Once safety Adrian Amos made the check to the fake, all O’Donnell had to do was make an easy throw. He said it was the first time he had thrown a pass in a game. He is 1-for-1 for 38 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
‘‘It’s a little 10-yard dump pass. It’s easy, right? You could do it,’’ O’Donnell told reporters after the Bears’ 20-17 loss to the Vikings at Soldier Field. ‘‘It’s obviously an amazing feeling, especially [because] we run it so much in practice. We’ve had it in for, like, two years. They gave us the look, coach Rodgers made a great play call and the rest is history.’’
But as much as the Bears have worked on that play, it didn’t always work successfully in practice. Cunningham and O’Donnell stayed at it, though, and honed it to perfection. They got their payoff against the Vikings.
‘‘Great throw,’’ Cunningham said. ‘‘He was patient. Through the week, we talked. We missed it a couple of times. We did some extra reps [Sunday]. I was just telling him: ‘Don’t think about it. Just let it go. Make it as simple as possible, and whatever happens, happens.’ Just trusting him to make the right throw.
‘‘We were trying to build confidence in each other and everyone around us who watched us miss a couple during the week. It felt good to see that work out.’’
The key to the play was getting the look from the Vikings that the Bears saw on tape. Cunningham was lined up at right end against Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. When Hunter blew past Cunningham as he released from the line, Cunningham knew he had it made.
‘‘When I saw the guy lined up over me continue to rush, I had a good feeling,’’ Cunningham said. ‘‘We already knew we would get it, so when he just continued to rush upfield, I knew at that moment, ‘Just focus on the catch.’ ’’
Amos said his job was the easy part.
‘‘I saw the look I was looking for,’’ he said. ‘‘Just made the check. We were excited to do it.On punt team, you’re always excited to do a little something to change up, and that was a big moment in the game.’’
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