Bears Regain Winning Focus

CHICAGO - The Bears' defense received a challenge Saturday night which may have turned out to be even greater than the one the distracted Minnesota Vikings offered on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Challenged by coaches Saturday night in their downtown Chicago hotel during team meetings, the Bears' defense held tough throughout almost a full first half of non-activity by its own offense and eventually triggered a 28-3 victory.

The win, combined with Detroit's 21-20 loss to Carolina, left them tied for first place again in the NFC North with the Lions at 2-3.

"We only gave up three points and that's really what we look at as a defense is how many points we give up,'' Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "They can move it and do all that good stuff with yards, but get a couple takeaways, a few sacks and give up three points and that's what it comes down to -- three points and you're usually going to win.''

A Bears defense which had caved in with the lead in the fourth quarter against Cleveland the previous week, refused to break down even when the Vikings piled up a 20:19-9:41 edge in first-half time of possession. They eventually held the Vikings to their smallest point total since the final game of 2001.

The Bears' own offense struggled along with only three first-half first downs until a game-changing drive just before halftime following a 49-yard Bobby Wade punt return. Then the offense awoke behind running back Thomas Jones' 89 rushing yards and a controlled passing attack.

"On offense, we didn't start out the way we wanted to, but we hung in there and once we got a little momentum we were able to take control after that,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

The offense needed momentum to be generated both by Bears special teams and defense. Down 3-0 after former Bear Paul Edinger's 23-yard second-quarter field goal, the Bears finally took the lead when Wade fielded a punt at his own 2-yard line and didn't stop until he got into Viking territory.

"His 49-yard punt return was a big play for us,'' Bears quarterback Kyle Orton said. "It flipped the field. Flipping the field in this league is key, and that's what his run did. Being able to get the ball on offense with a very short field is very important.''

The Bears went 49 yards in eight plays, with Orton throwing for 38 of his 117 passing yards (16-of-25, one interception). He hit tight end Desmond Clark on a short out from the 3 and Clark hit the pylon lunging with the ball forward for a TD and 7-3 lead 37 seconds before halftime.

The defense then made it even easier for the Bears' offense in the third quarter. Cornerback Charles Tillman picked off a Daunte Culpepper pass intended for rookie Troy Williamson and returned it 55 yards to the Vikings' 3. Clark, who had the flu and missed two days of practice, then caught a second-and goal bootleg pass from Orton for a TD and 14-3 lead with 8:04 left in the third quarter.

"We continue to talk about getting the ball to the tight end and that's the plan each week,'' Smith said. "Some weeks are easier than others. When we threw the balls to Desmond, he made the plays.''

Jones finished off the Vikings with a 24-yard burst off right tackle 1:57 into the fourth quarter and a 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Armed with the big lead, the Bears' defense proved no less relentless than when they were trying to keep the team afloat in the first half. Urlacher made two sacks, Tommie Harris and Israel Idonije one each and Charles Tillman and Chris Harris intercepted Culpepper.

Minnesota finished without an offensive touchdown for the first time in 48 games. Culpepper (26-of-48, 237 yards) finished with a passer rating of 50. 4 after a week in which Bears defenders did some soul searching after letting a win slip away.

"Last night we challenged them all,'' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "I think they responded very well. That's the one thing that I do appreciate is we put a challenge in front of them and they respond.

"I think any time you can finish game, to completely finish a game, it's something to build on for next week. So we will try to take this momentum and use it for next week.''

The Vikings (1-4) generally self-destructed when the Bears' defense and special teams weren't doing the job. Edinger had a 32-yard field goal blocked, badly missed a 52-yarder and the Vikings' first field goal try ended with holder Brad Johnson bobbling the snap and getting creamed.

They got flagged in the second half alone for offsides, four false starts, three holding penalties, pass interference and illegal contact.

The mistakes led to questions about their lack of concentration due to the sex party 17 are accused of taking in on two boats a week ago.

"If I was to say it didn't (affect us) at all, I'd be lying to you and I don't think any of the local (media) guys would tell you that I've lied,'' Vikings coach Mike Tice said.

The Bears' focus, though, is something higher after going 2-0 within their division with the Baltimore Ravens coming in next Sunday.

"Our two wins are against division opponents -- that's big,'' Smith said. "But there's a bigger picture, too. We just want to play good football. We don't want to beat ourselves.''

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