Williams Carries Vikings To 2-0

Moe Williams carried the Vikings offense in the absence of Michael Bennett and Doug Chapman. Williams scored the opening touchdown of the game and gained 108 yards on 21 attempts, and added another 50 yards receiving, as the Vikings moved to 2-0 with a 24-13 win over Chicago.

The Vikings were predicted to beat Chicago by eight points, according to the Las Vegas oddsmakers. Instead, it was an 11-point victory, and probably far closer than it should have been for a team that dominated many of the statistics in this Sunday night nationally televised game.

Moe Williams was the star of the offense, gaining 108 yards on 21 carries and picking up an additional 50 yards receiving. Without Williams, there is no telling how the offense would have fared, as Chicago was determined to bracket Randy Moss deep and limited him to 27 yards on four catches.

Minnesota allowed the Bears to hang around for most of four quarters, but when Daunte Culpepper and the offense received the ball at the 7-yard line with 12:38 to play and holding only a 17-13 lead, they needed a statement drive. They went the distance and sealed the 24-13 win with a touchdown pass to Jim Kleinsasser with 2:56 left in the game and an interception on Chicago's ensuing drive.

Williams' rushing led an offense that produced 202 yards on the ground and 198 passing and converted nine of 14 third downs.

The Vikings had it in their minds to open with explosion, and they did. John Avery started it with the opening kickoff, returning it 34 yards. On the first play from scrimmage, Culpepper pump-faked, then reset and fired deep for Kelly Campbell. Although the ball was well underthrown, the coverage was so lax that Campbell had time to slow up and nearly camp under the ball. The reception was good for 51 yards and set up the Vikings on the 5-yard line. Two Williams runs later, Minnesota had a 7-0 lead only 1:03 into the game.

The Bears retaliated with an explosive play of their own, as Anthony Thomas exploited a hole in the middle of the line for a 34-yard gain. While the drive stalled, Paul Edinger was good from 42 yards out to make it 7-3 Vikings.

While the Vikings looked to make easy work running through Chicago's defense, with consecutive gains of 15, 9, 8 and 9 yards on the ground split between Williams and Onterrio Smith, the offense suddenly changed its philosophy and went to the air. After an incompletion on second-and-1, Moss picked up the first down with an 8-yard catch. But when Culpepper dropped to pass for the third straight down, Phillip Daniels came through, hit Culpepper and knocked the ball loose. When Bears star linebacker Brian Urlacher recovered, Chicago was looking to turn the tide midway through the first quarter.

With a solid defensive stand that allowed one first down, the Vikings had their third chance to move the ball through the defense that yielded 49 points to San Francisco last weekend. However, after a 16-yard Williams run to start the drive, the passing game again stalled the drive. It began falling apart with a holding call on Mike Rosenthal, then a 6-yard sack of Culpepper before the offense cut their losses and resigned itself to punting.

The defense held again as the game moved to the second quarter, and Keenan Howry followed John Avery's lead from the opening kickoff. Howry fielded Brad Maynard's punt and brought it back 35 yards with 15 more tacked on for a facemask. Setting up on the Bears 38-yard line, Williams took a pass 13 yards, then converted the next third down with a 17-yard reception, but once inside the 10-yard line, the Vikings were forced to settle for a 23-yard Aaron Elling field goal for a 10-3 lead with 11:18 left in the first half.

Chris Claiborne picked apart the Bears' next drive on second down with an 8-yard sack, and when the Vikings got the ball back on their own 8-yard line they were in position to drive the length of the field and take up much of the rest of the half.

They did exactly that, with Williams continuing his role as the star of the offense. He picked up the initial first down of the drive with two rushes for 14 yards, followed by first-down passes to D'Wayne Bates and Avery to midfield. Williams moved the chains again, and two plays later when he picked up a blitzing Urlacher, Williams was the recipient of a 15-yard facemask penalty to put the ball on the 18-yard line. An 11-yard pass to Moss put the ball on the 7-yard line, but this time the Vikings were able to convert. After two Williams' runs to the 3-yard line, the offense spread out the Bears with an empty backfield and all signs pointed to a quarterback draw. In fact, that is what Culpepper faked, but when he drew the defense's attention, he tossed the ball to Kleinsasser for a 3-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with 1:55 left in the half.

That left enough time for Chicago's hurry-up offense to prove it was much better than its backing-up offense. With passes of 11 yards to Dez White and 12 yards to Rabih Abdullah, the Bears got to midfield. On third-and-13, Stewart scrambled and this time found an opening, going 26 yards to the 14-yard line. On second down, he found David Terrell for a 14-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left.

A failed 53-yard Elling field goal with one second left in the half kept the score 17-10 at halftime.

After an exchange of punts to start the second half, the Bears drew to within four points with a field-goal drive. Starting at their own 33, a holding call on Ken Irvin saved the drive with an automatic first down when Chicago was facing third-and-12. On the next play, Stewart went deep and found Dez White in stride with a perfect pass and a 49-yard gain. But once inside the red zone, the Vikings defense came alive, with a sack from Greg Biekert on third down to bring on Edinger for a 43-yard field goal. With 4:53 left in the third quarter, the Bears trailed only 17-13.

The Vikings offense continued to limp, picking up only one first down on the next drive, but the defense held after allowing one Chicago first down, setting up the drive of the game.

The drive started and ended with Williams. He began with runs of 7 and 3 yards to start the chains moving. Smith added runs of 5 and 10 yards for another first down. Two plays later, facing third-and-1, the Vikings let Campbell roam around the end for a 19-yard reverse. After a 1-yard loss and a 10-yard pass to Kleinsasser, the Vikings were facing their second third-and-1 of the drive. This time they packed it in with a power formation and flipped the ball to Williams, who hit the left corner for a 2-yard gain. Two plays later, they were back facing third-and-1. This time Williams took it up the middle and hit a crease, good for 17 yards to the 3-yard line. After backing up on two straight running plays, Culpepper found Kleinsasser for an 11-yard touchdown with 2:56 to play, giving Minnesota a 24-13 lead.

The Vikings let the Bears hang around for 57 minutes, but when they needed it most the Vikings produced a game-breaking 16-play, 93-yard drive that took 9:42 off the clock before closing the door with a touchdown … and four plays later a Brian Russell interception to seal the victory.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't as easy as it should have been, but the Vikings are 2-0 overall and 2-0 in the NFC North Division with an early one-game lead on Detroit and Green Bay.

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