Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes and Devin Hester had a record-setting punt return for a score as the Chicago Bears clinched the NFC North title with a 40-14 victory over the host Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
Chicago (10-4) reeled off 27 unanswered points after spotting Minnesota a 7-0 lead and added injury to insult by knocking out Vikings quarterback Brett Favre - perhaps into retirement - in the second quarter.
Hester etched his name in the record books by returning a third-quarter punt 64 yards for a touchdown. It was his 14th career return for a score, eclipsing the NFL mark held by Brian Mitchell.
Cutler, despite playing in cold, icy conditions at TCF Bank Stadium, connected on scoring passes to Johnny Knox (67 yards), Hester and Rashied Davis. He finished 14 of 24 for 194 yards and an interception as the Bears bounced back from last week's 36-7 beating by New England.
Favre, who had been ruled out of the game Saturday, woke up Monday feeling better and decided to play despite an ailing right shoulder that ended his consecutive games streak at 297 last week.
Showing a flair for the dramatic under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, the 41-year-old Favre guided the Vikings to a touchdown on the opening possession, hitting Percy Harvin with a 23-yard scoring pass.
Things quickly went downhill for Favre and Minnesota (5-9). Julius Peppers intercepted Favre's deflected pass to set up the first of Robbie Gould's four field goals.
Cutler then connected with Johnny Knox on a 67-yard strike to put the Bears ahead for good at 10-7 with 1:55 left in the first quarter.
Favre's night ended early in the second quarter when Chicago's Corey Wootton sacked him and slammed him to the frozen turf. Favre's left shoulder and head bore the brunt of the hit and he left with a head injury.
The game was switched to TCF Bank Stadium after snow collapsed the roof of the Metrodome on Dec. 12. It was the first outdoor game in Minneapolis since December 1981.
With just two games remaining in a lost season, it may have been the final career appearance by Favre, who said this season is his last. Favre was 5 of 7 for 43 yards with the one TD and one pick.
Rookie Joe Webb, his replacement, finished 15 off 26 for 129 yards. He ran for a score and was intercepted twice.
Hester nearly broke the record on the second-half kickoff, taking it back 79 yards to Minnesota's 6-yard line to set up Gould's second field goal.
Two minutes later, Hester would not be denied, fielding a line-drive punt and going untouched up the right sidelined for the touchdown for a 27-7 lead. He also tied Eric Metcalf for the most punt returns for TDs with 10.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was inactive due to injuries. Rookie Toby Gerhart rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries.