Vikings Add Injury to Insult

MINNEAPOLIS _ The Bears' nightmare scenario of facing Randy Moss and the explosive Minnesota Vikings without five injured defensive starters was replaced by something far more terrifying with two minutes left in Sunday's 27-22 defeat at the Metrodome.

They face the possibility they could play a great many more games -- maybe the final 13 -- without their starting quarterback.

Rex Grossman rode off the field in a cart with a right knee sprain after scrambling for a diving 6-yard touchdown that resulted in the game's final deficit.

"You kind of just say to yourself "what else can go wrong,' " Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "All of these guys out and it's just not certain players, it's THE guys, it's the guys who when you sit down at the beginning of the season, these are guy that are going to help us win and all of these guys are going down."

More on Grossman's status will be known tomorrow following an MRI exam.

Prior to Grossman's injury, the "spare" Bears defense already had plenty of problems coping with Moss, running back Onterrio Smith and quarterback Daunte Culpepper. They had Hunter Hillenmeyer in his first NFL start for Brian Urlacher (hamstring), Todd McMillon and R.W. McQuarters at cornerback for Jerry Azumah (neck) and Charles Tillman (knee), safety Todd Johnson for Mike Brown (Achilles) and Tank Johnson for Alfonso Boone (knee).

But the Bears' biggest failure had come from an offense that missed red zone chances early, which ultimately could have given the game a different flavor in the second half.

"You have to score touchdowns when you're on the road," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We didn't score any touchdowns early."

Grossman finished with 248 yards passing on 21-of-31 and running back Thomas Jones ran for 110 yards on 22 carries for the day, but Paul Edinger field goals of 34, 24 and 42 yards were all the Bears had to show for their first five possessions inside the red zone.

The Bears (1-2) settled for Edinger's 34- and 24-yard first-half field goals and Grossman's lost fumble on a sack their first three possessions inside the red zone, producing a 6-0 lead.

"Not maybe -- that WAS the most frustrating aspect of it," center Olin Kreutz said of the offense's ability to turn the red zone into the dead zone. "You want to put the ball in the end zone. If we score there, it's 14-0 not 6-0."

The Bears' patchwork defense not only had held the Vikings' explosive offense in check early, but had gotten the ball back in scoring position. Ogunleye ripped the ball out of Smith's hands for a fumble recovery at the Vikings' 7 on the final play of the first quarter to set up Edinger's second field goal.

"That kills us," wide receiver Bobby Wade said. "We need to score in the red zone. A field goal when they're scoring touchdowns, it won't compete."

The anticipated Vikings' offensive answer came in the form of big plays.

"The one thing we wanted to do was limit the big plays," Bears safety Mike Green said. "We didn't do that all."

A 40-yard second-quarter pass from Culpepper to wide receiver Kelly Campbell triggered a series of big gainers. It set up the first of two Culpepper TD passes to Moss, this a 3-yarder and the Vikings led for good.

Minnesota (2-1) led 10-6 at halftime on a 42-yard Morten Andersen field goal, and in the third quarter they began to find big plays far easier to produce.

Culpepper exploited the mismatch of Urlacher's replacement, Hillenmeyer, covering Moss down the center of the field on third-and-24 for a 40-yard gain and first down conversion. It led to Culpepper's 1-yard TD sneak for a 17-6 lead.

Once the big plays started against the Bears' inexperienced defense, they just kept coming.

"Everyone in there knew what to do," Hillenmeyer said. "It wasn't a case of people coming in and scrambling around trying to make sure they were lined up right. We were lined up right. We knew what we needed to do.

"With this many people out, combine that with the fact you're playing an offense with as many weapons as Minnesota, it was an uphill battle. We didn't do what we needed to do to win the football game."

Culpepper, who was 19-of-30 for 360 yards, found Moss for 33 yards to the Bears' 36 to make possible a 24-yard Andersen field goal early in the fourth quarter. A 63-yard catch-and-run by Nate Burleson, after Todd McMillon missed a tackle, led to Culpepper's 2-yard TD pass to Moss, who had seven catches for 119 yards.

The last Moss TD gave Minnesota a 27-15 lead after Jones had ended a 79-yard, fourth-quarter drive with a 1-yard TD dive.

Grossman's TD scramble came about by replay review, and after he left the field on a cart the Bears still got one more long shot chance for the win when their defense forced a punt. But backup Jonathan Quinn had to go 90 yards with 1:36 left and never completed a pass.

The Bears' chances ended on a 7-yard sack of Quinn by Kevin Williams.

"I thought the guys really stepped up," Smith said. "We had some injuries that we were dealing with, but when it was all said and done we had a chance to win the football game."

The question now facing the Bear is how many more chances will they have to win ballgames with so many injuries, including one major one to their offensive leader.

Bear Report Top Stories