MINNEAPOLIS – Brett Favre was bundled up in a heavy gray coat by the time Devin Hester sped through the snow with his record-setting return.
Favre’s surprise start ended with another injury, perhaps putting him out for good, and the game ended with an NFC North title Chicago.
Hester set the NFL record with his 14th kick return touchdown, running back a punt 64 yards for a score shortly after halftime to help the Bears fly past the Minnesota Vikings 40-14 on a frosty, hard-hitting Monday night.
Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes for the Bears (10-4), who last won this division during their 2006 Super Bowl season. Hester caught one of those scoring tosses and also took back the second-half kickoff 79 yards to set up a field goal a few minutes before his game-breaking punt return.
Favre finished 5 of 7 for 63 yards, and the Vikings (5-9) fell apart in front of their proud alumni in town for the franchise’s 50th-anniversary celebration.
With the Metrodome unusable because of a roof collapse, the game got moved to the University of Minnesota. TCF Bank Stadium was about 80 percent full, with snowballs flying from the seats – sometimes hitting players.
Favre wasn’t even supposed to play. His sprained throwing shoulder hurt too much for him to practice this week, and his NFL-record starts streak of 297 regular-season games ended when he said out last week.
But after feeling better when he woke up on Monday, Favre wanted to try. He found Percy Harvin for a 23-yard TD to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead after the opening drive.
The vibe didn’t last long. Henry Melton tipped Favre’s pass on the next Minnesota possession and Julius Peppers intercepted it at the 14.