Bears Defense Grinds Vikings to a Halt

In pregame ceremonies chants of USA were quickly drowned out by boos as the Minnesota Vikings made their way onto the field. However, as "America the Beautiful" began to play 275 Navy personnel stretched a flag, which covered the length of the entire field the crowd became one again. Forgetting the rivalry that exists between these two teams to remember what happened almost two weeks ago.

Anthony Thomas had an 8-yard reception on the opening play, but didn't touch the football again in the entire game. Minnesota safety Robert Griffin went down on the opening drive, X-rays later reveled a broken right fibula. Field position was an early factor as a poor punt by Brad Maynard gave the Vikings the ball on their 46.

Minnesota went three and out, but a Mitch Berger 44-yard punt pinned Chicago down at the 2-yard line. The Bears play calling was conservative, which resulted in a second straight drive possession without a first down. Maynard's second punt was a 43-yard effort, but Minnesota still started the drive in Bears territory (46).

Daunte Culpepper's pocket presence keyed a Viking score. He ran for ten yards on the first play of the drive. Then on the following play was able to avoid pressure supplied by Bryan Robinson and complete a 28-yard pass to Byron Chamberlain setting up 1st and goal from the 8. On 3rd and goal from 1 Culpepper rolled out of the pocket and looked like he would run the ball in, but Carl Powell grabbed the QB's jersey and tackled him from behind. Gary Anderson kicked a 20-yard field goal capped a six play drive (44 yards), which took 3:32 off the game clock. The kick gave Minnesota 3-0 lead with 3:08 left in the first quarter.

On the following drive the Bears went three, but the significance of the drive was that Shane Matthews hobbled off the field. Jim Miller began warming up immediately as Matthews walked to the lockerroom. He left the game with bruised ribs and did not return. With 11:33 left in the half Miller entered the game at quarterback for the Bears.

He looked out of rhythm at times throughout the remainder of the quarter. In fact both offenses struggled to move the ball for the majority of the first half. The Bears had 96 yards of total offense with only seven rushing yards. The score was 3-0 at the intermission.

The Vikings made some adjustments in the lockkeroom and came out strong in the third quarter. Minnesota mixed the run and pass on a 8-play 61 yards scoring drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Culpepper to Andrew Jordan. Putting the visitors up 10-0 with 10:34 left in the quarter.

Chicago responded quickly with a 9-play drive highlighted by Marty Booker. He made a diving catch for a 22-yard gain, but on the next play he dropped a pass inside the Minnesota 10, which might have been a touchdown if he had held on. However, the Bears still managed a put points on the board with a 45-yard field goal by Paul Edinger. Cutting Minnesota's lead to 10-3 with 6:07 left in the 3rd period.

The Vikings were in Bears territory for the 7th time in eight drives. Minnesota tried a reserve with Byron Chamberlain, but Rosevelt Colvin read the play and pummeled the tight end as he received the ball from Culpepper causing him to fumble. Colvin recovered the ball, which gave Chicago new life at their 41. The turnover seemed to pump life into the Bears offense. Miller hooked up with Marcus Robinson on consecutive plays for gains of 16 and 11. The quarter ended with Chicago on the Minnesota 28. The momentum shifted back to the Vikings as the 4th quarter began. Miller overthrew a pass in the end zone that Robinson tipped up in the air as he attempted to catch, which gave Orlando Thomas an easy interception.

The Bears defense once again picked up the offense by forcing Minnesota into a three and out giving Chicago the ball at their 46. Miller and Booker redeemed themselves for earlier mistakes. Miller spotted Booker over the middle as the wideout sprinted towards the goalline he leaped over two Viking defenders for a 15-yard touchdown. The 7-play drive left 9:29 on the game clock.

Michael Bennett caught an 8-yard pass from Culpepper and was tackled at their 45. The Vikings gave the ball to Bennett the next two downs, but the rookie out of Wisconsin was not able to get the first down. Leaving 4th and inches Minnesota lined up to punt. However, Chicago got a break, as the snap from center was high to punter Mitch Berger, so he decided to throw the ball. LB Bobbie Howard tipped his pass incomplete and the Bears took over on the Viking 45.

Offensive coordinator John Shoop's play calling was aggressive on the series. Booker had a 4-yard gain on a reverse. The following play he made a 10-yard reception bringing the ball down to the 31-yard line. Then on 3rd down and 3 Miller went to the air finding Robinson, who out leaped CB Robert Tate for a 24-yard touchdown.

"It was like a team boost when we changed quarterbacks," said Robinson. "Jim looked at [the defense] and saw it was man-to-man, so you're out there by yourself. I had an opportunity to make a play."

With 3:39 left to go the Bears had a 17-10 advantage, but the Vikings had one more chance against a Bears defense that held them in check throughout the game. Culpepper went to the hurry up offense as the two-minute warning approached. Minnesota got as far as Chicago's 42 with 1:20 left, but a sack by Phillip Daniels sealed the victory for the Bears.

Chicago scored 17 unanswered points in defeating the Vikings for the first time since 1999 and it is just Chicago's second victory against Minnesota in the last nine meetings. "That was a great ending for us," said Bears coach Dick Jauron. "I can't tell you how happy I am for our football team, for our organization, and for all of our fans. It was a great ending for us for the last two weeks for all the things we've been through. We talked about it a good deal and talked about how the only thing we could do to help the situation was play and try to play better than we've ever played."

Carter and Moss combined for 6 receptions totaling 94 yards, while Robinson and Booker had 16 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson, starting for the first time since last November, had seven receptions for 99 yards. Booker had a game-high nine receptions for 95 yards. Miller completed 18 of 29 passes for 204 yards including two touchdowns.

"This is a big win for our football team," Miller said. "This wasn't an upset. We expect to win. We've got a good football team. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot in the first half, but there's a lot of talent on this football team. The second half we started to show that a little bit."

The last time Miller threw two TD passes in a game was Nov. 25, 1999, at Detroit. "Jim brings a lot of fire with him," said coach Dick Jauron. "He's got a great personality; he's a great teammate. Whatever you ask Jim to do, he tries to do that the best. If he's your third- (string quarterback), he tries to be your best. If he's your second, he wants to be your best second. And all the time, of course, he wants to be in playing."

Bear Report Top Stories