For years, opposing defenses have crammed near the line of scrimmage and dared the Minnesota Vikings to beat them through the air.
With Brett Favre at the helm, this year's Vikings have a simple response: "Bring it on."
Favre completed 32 of 48 passes for a season-high 392 yards and three touchdowns, and the Vikings intercepted Jay Cutler twice in a 36-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
It was the fourth time in 11 games this season that the Vikings (10-1) have attempted at least 31 passes. That's not exactly what Favre was told while Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson was courting him this summer.
"He said I'll come in, hand off to Adrian (Peterson), throw it 15-20 times a game, maybe," said Favre, who matched former Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall for the NFL non-kicker record of 282 straight games played. "I thought that sounded good. I didn't believe it. Haven't had any games like that."
Favre threw the ball 46 times in a win over San Francisco in Week 3, 31 times against Green Bay the following week and 50 times at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. In the process, the Vikings have morphed from a run-first offense into a high-flying aerial show.
"I think people are starting to look at our receivers like they do at Adrian Peterson as a force to be reckoned with," Favre said.
The Bears, like every other defense to face the Vikings this season, focused on stopping Peterson early on Sunday. And Favre picked them apart just as he's done to every other unit.
Chicago held Peterson to 35 yards on 11 carries in the first half, prompting coach Brad Childress to tell offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to open things up.
"You can't smash your head against the wall," Childress said.
Favre responded by completing 20 of 31 throws for 256 yards and three TDs to give Minnesota a 24-7 lead at the break. Favre threw scoring passes to Percy Harvin, who had six catches for 101 yards, Chester Taylor and Visanthe Shiancoe in the second quarter.
"Great player. Hall of Fame player that played that way today," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But you have to say that we didn't meet the challenge that he and the Vikings faced today. Simple as that."
Cutler and the Bears (4-7) just could not keep up. They were outgained 537-169, earned eight first downs to Minnesota's 32 and managed a measly 2 yards of total offense on 12 plays in the second half.
As excited as Vikings fans were when Favre walked through the door in August, so too were Bears fans when Chicago acquired Cutler from Denver in a trade. But it hasn't gone nearly as well, with Cutler already setting a career high with 20 interceptions.
He completed 18 of 23 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown to Johnny Knox. But he was intercepted by Cedric Griffin in the end zone and had a pass tipped in the air and picked off by Jared Allen, who also had two sacks.
"It's tough, with as good a football team that I think we have in here, to go out week after week and not live up to our own expectations," Cutler said. "That's the tough part."
The Bears have lost four in a row and six out of seven to plummet out of contention in the NFC North.
"I think pride is going to become an issue here," Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. "It's going to be heart, pride and who really enjoys playing the game of football."
Peterson finished with 85 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He was held to 3.4 yards per attempt and had two more fumbles, but it mattered little with Favre completing at least five passes to five different receivers.
"You go into a game and you want to stop Adrian and you say you'll take your chances and see if Brett Favre can beat us and he did," Brown said. "He threw for a bunch of yards today and a bunch of touchdowns."
NOTES: Smith announced several injuries for the Bears: LB Lance Briggs (knee), CB Charles Tillman (head), LT Orlando Pace (groin) and Brown (leg). Briggs was hurt in the first quarter, returned briefly and then aggravated the injury. ... The Vikings added all-time tackles leader Scott Studwell, now their director of college scouting, to their "Ring of Honor" at halftime. ... Bears LB Hunter Hillenmeyer forced both fumbles by Peterson. A replay review overturned Chicago's recovery of the second fumble, when officials ruled Hillenmeyer was out of bounds.