Ohhh-and-Two

Cris Carter was held to one catch, Robert Griffith probably lost for the season, Byron Chamberlain fumbled twice and the Vikings offense turned low-power in a 17-10 loss to the Bears.

0-2.

That is the Vikings' record after playing the Carolina Panthers at the Metrodome and the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. That was also the tally against the Vikings on Sunday, losing to Chicago and losing Pro Bowl safety Robert Griffith for the season with a fractured fibula.

Both teams struggled in the first half, with the Vikings leading 3-0 at halftime. Then the Vikings offense started strong in the second half, but turnovers and the inability to take advantage of opportunities gave Chicago a 17-10 win.

The Vikings move to 0-2 overall, 0-1 in the NFC Central Division and 0-2 in the NFC and face a schedule that only gets harder, much harder with an offense that hasn't found a rhythm since early in the preseason.

Emotional, wet and wild summed up the pregame and first half of the Vikings' game at Soldier Field, but for all the pageantry of the NFL returning to the field after two weeks the score at halftime was a very mundane 3-0 in favor of the Vikings.

The Vikings were coming off a huge upset loss to Carolina and things didn't get much better to start the second game of the season. On the opening kickoff, safety Griffith was lost for the season and the Vikings, a team that usually performs much better indoors, was playing in the rain in Chicago.

Minnesota fumbled three times in the first half, but recovered two of those. Only a half-ending fumble by Byron Chamberlain was close to yielding any points, as linebacker Brian Urlacher picked it up and lateraled to Reggie Austin, who nearly got past the Vikings offense at midfield and into the open field as time expired. A sideline tackle by Jim Kleinsasser saved Minnesota's 3-0 lead, but frustration on the sidelines by Cris Carter, who ended the day with one catch, showed through repeatedly in the first half.

But what the first half lacked in offensive energy, the second half made up for early. The Vikings took the opening kickoff and gained 27 yards on two passes to Kleinsasser and 17 yards on two rushes by Michael Bennett. Runs by Culpepper and Kleinsasser put Minnesota on the 3-yard line, where Culpepper hit tight end Andrew Jordan at the goal line for a 10-0 lead 4:26 into the second half.

The Bears responded with a drive into Vikings territory, but were limited as they neared the red zone. It ended with a 45-yard Paul Edinger field goal to pull the Bears within a touchdown midway through the third quarter.

Minnesota came back with another drive into Bears territory, but another fumble by Chamberlain on a reverse that got blown up before it started gave Chicago another opportunity to tie the game by starting a drive on their own 41-yard line. Backup quarterback Jim Miller, playing since the first half when Shane Matthews was knocked out of the game with bruised ribs, drove the Bears into the red zone. But when Miller went to the end zone for Marcus Robinson, Griffith backup Don Morgan tipped the ball and Orlando Thomas came down with the interception.

The Vikings couldn't do anything on offense, but the Bears could. Starting their next drive on the Minnesota 46, Robinson started the drive with an 11-yard catch, but it was wide receiver Marty Booker who made catches on two of the last three plays of the drive. Booker put Chicago in the red zone with a 9-yard catch and, one play later, put Chicago in the end zone for the first time this season with a 15-yard catch.

The Vikings picked up one first down, but Carter continued to be shut out of the game. Instead it was Robinson, making his first start since last November, and Booker who made the plays. Starting from the Minnesota 41, Booker picked up a first down with two catches, then, on third down, Miller found Robinson down the right sideline. Robinson reached over cornerback Robert Tate and pulled in the 24-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 17-10 lead with 3:39 to play.

With desperation filling the huddle, the Vikings drove into Bears territory -- twice, thanks to a holding penalty -- the second time on Carter's first catch of the game. But a sack and forced fumble of Culpepper by Phillip Daniels and two incompletions ended the Vikings' last stand.

Two of the easier opponents on the schedule have come and gone, and still the offense hasn't found its stride and turnovers continue to put the defense in bad positions. The season will have to turn around quickly next week as the Vikings host Tampa Bay if Minnesota wants any good hope of making the playoffs.


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