Rookie Joe Webb said his most extensive playing time came under trying circumstances, but he admitted he had a long way to go. Plus, get more than three dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
It wasn't how Joe Webb
envisioned his first significant NFL action taking place. All during the week of preparation for the Bears Monday night, it was Webb who was going to start. Brett Favre
hadn't thrown a meaningful pass in two weeks and threw a grand total of three passes during Saturday's final practice before shutting it down.
Yet, on Monday morning buzz started rising that Favre might play despite being listed as "out" on the final injury report. As the day progressed, the odds of him playing continued to grow and, just two hours before game time, Webb was told he wouldn't be starting.
Some players could have been bitter, but Webb took it all in stride.
"Brett, he's a future Hall of Fame quarterback and whenever he feels like he's able to play, he's going to play," Webb said. "There are no injuries that are going to hold Brett back from the field. He's an iron man, but I was still keeping my head into the game and you saw tonight what happened. I made sure I stayed prepared."
Webb was erratic, showing great athleticism on some plays, like his 13-yard bootleg touchdown run, but also showed the inexperienced side, throwing a pair of interceptions and having a third negated by a penalty.
Webb said he would assess his performance as nothing better than marginal, saying it came under less-than-ideal circumstances, but added that it was a learning experience.
"It was really difficult," Webb said. "My first NFL game – 20 degrees, snow, ice on the field, things like that. But it was okay. No quarterback wants to lose and I've got a long way to go. It's a long process. Hopefully, I can get in the film room, study and learn from my mistakes."
While Monday may have finally marked the actual end to Brett Favre's playing career, Webb has a future with the Vikings and that first start will likely come Sunday at Philadelphia. Since he's the only quarterback on the roster under contract for 2011, the Webb Era may actually get its first chapter – in the form of a first career start – even if it is six days later than Webb and just about everyone else expected.
GAME NIGHT NOTES
At halftime of the game, the Vikings honored the "50 Greatest Vikings" and, as a retro throwback, 83-year old Bud Grant took off his coat and saluted the crowd in short sleeves, getting hoisted onto the shoulders of Tim Irwin and Matt Blair and marched down the field.
Never has there been as big a surprise start as the afternoon whirlwind of Favre, who said after the game that he wanted to play in a blizzard one last time, which was part of his motivation to play Monday. It was his 302nd career regular-season game, tying him with Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice and kicker John Carney for fifth on the all-time list.
Monday's game was the 100th career meeting between the Vikings and Bears. Despite the Chicago sweep this year, the Vikings still hold the career edge with a record of 52-46-2 in the series.
While Favre's improbable return came as a pleasant surprise, the Vikings took a double-dose of bad news as Adrian Peterson and Steve Hutchinson were both out of Monday's game. Peterson was scratched with a knee/thigh injury, the result of knocking knees with Tarvaris Jackson last week. Hutchinson was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday.
On the positive side, Percy Harvin and Ray Edwards returned. Harvin scored the game's first touchdown and Edwards recorded the Vikings only sack.
Monday was Favre's 38th career start on Monday Night Football.
Owner Zygi Wilf, who has been a strong proponent of an outdoor Vikings stadium, although it's hard to believe legislators would approve a stadium that couldn't be used as a potential site for big-time concerts and NCAA Final Four events as well, proved he was willing to stick out the cold with the fans. Wilf spent most of the game on the sidelines, wearing an old-school stocking cap complete with a pom-pom on top – bringing back his own retro feel to outdoor football in Minnesota, when the stocking cap pom-pom was king.
For those wondering why there was an extra set of hashmarks and, instead of having the Vikings logo in the end zones, they had the Gophers color and the Big Ten logo on the 30-yard lines, there's an answer and it plays into the fact that NFL football was never expected to be played at TCF Bank Stadium. The logos and end zone markings aren't painted on. They're part of the grass, which was laid in with those markings, which couldn't be removed for the Vikings game.
While the Vikings defense tried to keep Chicago out of the end zone, the Bears scored eight times Monday night.
Both teams were held under 300 yards of offense. They had 293 yards (189 passing, 104 rushing), while the Vikings had 273 yards (159 passing, 114 rushing).
Both teams were brutal on third downs. The Bears converted just 2 of 10 third-down opportunities, while the Vikings made good on just 3 of 11 – two of which came in the final minutes of the game with the Bears in a prevent defense mode.
The Vikings threw 33 passes and had 24 rushing attempts. Jay Cutler threw 24 passes while the Bears ran 33 times.
Thanks to Devin Hester's dirty work, the Vikings had a net average of just 21.5 yards on eight punts.
The Vikings had five turnovers, throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles, while Chicago had one turnover on a Cutler interception.
Both teams squandered red zone chances. The Bears scored touchdowns on two of six trips to the red zone, while the Vikings scored on one of three. But the big difference was that the Bears scored on all six of their red zone trips, scoring two touchdowns and four field goals. The Vikings scored just once, coming up empty on two of three chances.
Toby Gerhart set a career high with 77 rushing yards on 16 carries. Matt Forte led all rushers with 92 yards on 17 carries.
Former Viking Chester Taylor had just five yards rushing on 11 carries.
Percy Harvin led the Vikings with five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Visanthe Shiancoe led the team in receptions (six) for the first time all year.
Bears tight end Greg Olsen was the only Chicago player with more than two receptions.
Ryan Longwell didn't attempt a field goal Monday night. Through 14 games, Longwell has attempted just 15 field goals, making 14 of them, and hasn't tried a kick of longer than 41 yards all season.
The Vikings got a solid dose of frustration late in the game. On a run by Matt Forte, he continued to fight for additional yardage and Kevin Williams dove into the pile, leading with his helmet. He was flagged for hitting a player whose forward progress had been stopped. On his next carry, Forte appeared stopped for a shot gain of a couple of yards, but a whistle never blew and, as several Vikings stood by, Forte racked up a dozen yards to the 4-yard line, giving him a 15-yard gain. The Vikings would stuff him on three carries after that, forcing the Bears to settle for a field goal.
As bad as the score was, the Bears lost a chance for a couple of other scores. Late in the first half, Cutler hit Aromashodu for a 33-yard touchdown that was taken off the board due to offsetting penalties. In the final four minutes of the game, Brian Urlacher had an interception he returned to the 4-yard line, only to have it nullified by offsetting penalties. It's hard to say the score could have been worse.
The Vikings came into the season with big concerns about Adrian Peterson's fumbling. But, as it has turned out, Gerhart has been the bigger problem. Peterson hasn't fumbled all season. Gerhart lost his third fumble of the year and all of them have come at critical times. His fumble Monday came in the red zone in the fourth quarter.
Edwards got hit with a personal foul that shouldn't have been called and Antoine Winfield may get a Fed-Ex envelope from the league on a play that didn't get called. Winfield came on blitz against Cutler, who got the pass away (it was intercepted) but took a shot to the chin from the helmet of Winfield, causing the need for bandaging during the game and three stitches after the game. Edwards got called for a foul when Kevin Williams pushed Cutler and he collided with Edwards incidentally. Go figure how penalties work.
With Webb at quarterback, the Vikings may have closed off some of the playbook, but opened up others. For the first time since last preseason, the Vikings ran a play out of the Wildcat formation. Harvin took a direct snap with Webb lined out wide. Webb scored the Vikings' only points of the second half on a naked bootleg for a touchdown and had a couple of quarterback draws written up that appeared to be an option formation in which he could have pitched the ball or tucked it and run. It is safe to say those plays wouldn't have been called for Favre.
Rashied Davis caught a touchdown pass, which shouldn't have come as any surprise. He has just five career touchdowns – two of them against the Vikings. Coming into Monday's game, he caught just one pass all season, which came when the Vikings played the Bears at Soldier Field.
The fans didn't seem to mind the Vikings getting crushed in the second half. The crowd broke into song when "Sweet Caroline" was played during a commercial break.
In the first half, the Vikings defensive line was credited with just one tackle, a stop of a Forte run by Ray Edwards.
At halftime, the Vikings were outgained by the Bears 207-140, thanks to outgaining the Vikings 115-39 in the second quarter.
Favre finished what could be his final game with a passer rating of 99.1, completing five of seven passes for 63 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It was his third-highest passer rating for a game this season.
Harvin was the only Viking to catch more than one pass in the first half, pulling in three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Asher Allen had an interception for the second straight game when he picked off Cutler in the second quarter.
Madieu Williams, who had a dismal game to start, was knocked out of action in the second quarter after back-to-back collisions with Forte. He got flattened by Forte on a run up the middle and, when he took a sweep to the left side on the next play, he hit Williams in the helmet with his knee. Williams sustained a concussion from the incident.
Gerhart won the running back battle in the first half, rushing 12 times for 68 yards, while Forte ran 10 times for 62 yards. Gerhart had a 21-yard run in the first quarter – the longest run of his career.
The sack that came with 11:27 to play in the second quarter by rookie Corey Wootton that left Favre momentarily unconscious was the first sack of Wootton's career.
On the 67-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox, the Bears were facing a first-and-30 situation after a pair of penalties had backed them up 20 yards.
Linebacker Ben Leber could have changed the complexion of the game early. With the Vikings leading 7-0 early, Kevin Williams tipped a pass that came right down in the hands of Leber. If he catches the ball, he could have scored or, at a minimum, got the Vikings close to or into the red zone. Instead, the ball went right between his hands and the Vikings never got momentum back once the Bears started rolling.
Things looked great early for the fans at "The Bank." The Vikings drove for a touchdown on the game's opening drive, just the second time all season the Vikings offense scored on its first possession. The only other time was against the Redskins and Washington had taken a 7-0 lead by scoring on the opening drive of the game.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.