Off on the right foot

Today's game against the Vikings provided not only a satisfying win, but also a glimpse of the Bear's future. At the end, though, it was not Rex Grossman, but another emerging youngster who nailed down the win for the Bears. Jason Klabacha brings us the story...

In what the Bears hope is the first of many starts for Rex Grossman, the quarterback showed glimpses of why he in considered the future of the franchise.

However it was another rookie that sealed the Bears 13-10 victory over the Vikings.

Trailing 13-10 with less than 2 minutes to go, Minnesota knocked on the door of taking the lead for the first time all game.

That's when the Bears turned to their emerging defensive playmaker, Charles Tillman.

Daunte Culpepper tried to take advantage of the rookie, but Tillman proved up to the challenge. He ripped the ball away from Randy Moss when it looked as if he had come up with a game-winning catch.

"I had a feeling they were going to throw the fade, I played it right and I caught it," Tillman said. "Every kid dreams of being that situation and I was there and I just tried to take advantage of the situation."

Tillman's last minute heroics didn't keep from sharing in the victory. Following his fourth interception of the year, he ran directly over to Grossman and gave him the ball and a hug.

"Rex is the man of the hour right now, not me," Tillman said. "Rex did a fabulous job today and I'm just glad he stepped in there, he gave the offense new energy and new life."

The rebirth began on the first play of the game as Grossman went for it all throwing a deep ball to Justin Gage. Although the ball fell incomplete, Ken Irvin got a flag for pass interference on Justin Gage. The 33-yard penalty set up a 38-yard Paul Edinger field goal and 3-0 lead they never relinquished.

The early lead gave Grossman some breathing room as he looked nervous at the outset completing just 1-of-5 passes to start the game.

On several occasions Grossman threw to receivers that weren't clearly open, but he put enough air under the ball to give his intended target a chance to make a play. On one occasion Marty Booker hauled in a 39-yard lob from Grossman along the sideline as he kept both feet in bounds.

"I just gave them a shot at it," Grossman said. "They're great athletes they know where the ball is coming. They're looking at the ball so the odds are in their favor. Obviously if they get a step on the DB I'm going to throw it as far as I can right on a line, let them right underneath it for a big gain. They never really got on top of a DB so I just gave them a shot at the ball."

Grossman went 4-of-5 on the drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Anthony Thomas extending the lead to 10-0.

Looking at the stats it would seem that Minnesota dominated the game. RB Onterrio Smith, who got the bulk of the carries with Michael Bennett inactive with an ankle injury, rushed for 127 yards in the first half and had 393 total yards to the Bears 232.

Still the Bears took a 10-3 lead to the locker room.

"I don't know how many yards they had, I know they rushed the ball pretty well but we made plays when we had to and they only had 10 points," said middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

The Bears added another Edinger field goal when rookie punter Eddie Johnson bobbled a snap and failed to pick up the first down when he was forced to run.

The game was still in doubt after Edinger sent a 46-yard attempt wide left early in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota responded quickly with a scoring drive that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Culpepper to Moss.

The game turned into a battle of field position that swung in the Bears favor on a 47-yard Brad Maynard punt. The kick pinned the Vikings at their 11 yard line with less than 5 minutes to go.

Trailing by a field goal, Culpepper passed his way into Chicago territory with two completions to Moss, who had 9 receptions on the day. When Culpepper connected with Moe Williams for a 37-yard gain on a screen pass it looked like the best the Bears could do was get the game into overtime.

That's when Tillman stepped in and took the ball away from arguably the best receiver in the game.

"Charles Tillman is someone who we believe is just going to do it," said Coach Dick Jauron. "The more he plays football, the better he is. I believe he's got the talent to be as good as he wants to be. That was a great football play that he made."

Despite the fact that the running game struggled for most of the game Minnesota didn't blitz Grossman, who completed 13-of-30 for 157 yards, as often as expected and that likely contributed to the fact that he didn't turn the ball over.

"We thought we could pick him, but you go into every game thinking you can pick them no matter who it is," said Vikings Coach Mike Tice. "He showed a lot of poise and played a good game."

While the Bears were officially eliminated from playoff contention after their Week 14 loss to Green Bay, they were the team that looked like they needed a win to keep a postseason birth alive.

"Our football team was emotional about the game," Jauron said. "We were playing the division leaders and we have a point to prove and they did it. They played hard and they played well."

The result the Rex Grossman era begins with a victory and at 6-8 with two games left it keeps their chances of finishing .500 intact.

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