"They're good football players," said head coach Lovie Smith. "All defensive backs will have a game that they'd like to forget, but you have to come back. Both guys went to work (this) week, they didn't make any excuses for how they played. They both made big plays today, especially the interception by Charles Tillman. There were a lot of big plays in the game, but none any bigger than that."
Tillman's came in a crucial part of the game. Midway through the third quarter it was still just 7-3, when Tillman jumped on a poor pass from Daunte Culpepper and returned it 55 yards.
It's the second straight week that Tillman's come up with a pick after going 15 games without an interception. He also had another near turnover in the first half, but it was ruled that he trapped the ball.
The offense took over on the three-yard line and had to put the ball in the end zone. Coming away with three points would be a momentum shift back in the Vikings favor. The Bears unleashed a new offensive weapon to extend their lead. QB Kyle Orton used the bootleg, which completely fooled Minnesota's defense and he found TE Desmond Clark wide open for his second touchdown of the game.
With a double-digit lead, the defense seemed to pick up their play. The unit forced three and outs on the next three possessions, followed by a Harris interception and a turnover on downs.
The play of the secondary is important for the defense because up until this point they had been the weak link. However, the group had solid coverage for much of the game despite not getting to Culpepper. The bulk of the pressure came on the blitz, which put additional strain on the secondary to perform.
Neck & Neck
Special teams also made a difference in the game. Minnesota only converted one of four field goal attempts. Paul Edinger had one attempt blocked and came up well short on a 52-yard attempt. On the first drive of the game a bobbled snap by holder Brad Johnson meant Edinger didn't even get a try off. The only kick Edinger converted was a 23-yard chip shot.
Bobby Wade's punt return late in the first half gave an offense that did nothing a jumpstart. He took a chance and fielded the punt at the 2-yard line. The risk turned into a 49-yard return and gave Kyle Orton the ball in Minnesota territory.
"Bobby Wade continues to do a good job for us," Smith said. "That punt return was huge for us at that point in the football game."
With a short field Orton felt comfortable going down field. He hit Mark Bradley and Muhsin Muhammad for completions of 15 and 16 yards respectively. Then he went to Clark for the touchdown once the Bears got inside the red zone.
Being able to go to targets other than Muhammad has been slow developing for Orton, but he completed passes to eight different players against Minnesota.
The experience should come in handy for Orton against Baltimore, who like the Bears, has a strong defense that is trying to overcome an offense that struggles to put up points on a consistent basis.