Grading The Game: Bears

The Vikings played a decent game Sunday night, but there is plenty of room for improvement -- more in some areas than in others.

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- A week after riding Randy Moss for nine catches, 150 yards and a touchdown, Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan used Moss as a decoy from the get-go. With the Bears playing Cover 2 and triple-teaming Moss deep down the middle of the field, quarterback Daunte Culpepper connected with No. 3 (and sometimes No. 4) receiver Kelly Campbell on the first play of the game for a 51-yard completion to the Bears' 5. The Vikings scored two plays later. Moss caught only four passes for 27 yards, but it didn't matter. Tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who entered the game with two touchdowns in 80 career receptions, had touchdown catches of 3 and 11 yards on third-and-goal. Nine players caught passes. Culpepper still hasn't thrown an interception in the regular season or preseason this year. The passing offense would have gotten an A-plus, but Culpepper fumbled three times, losing one when he was sacked from the right side on first-and-goal at the 7-yard line. That ruined a perfect opportunity to go up 14-3. Culpepper has five fumbles this season, losing three.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Bears kept their safeties back to defend Moss. They succeeded in taking Moss out of the game, but they also got pummeled for 202 yards rushing on 39 carries (5.2). Re-signing veteran running back Moe Williams in the offseason was the best move of several the Vikings made since last season. Williams has made everyone forget about Pro Bowler Michael Bennett, who is out until at least November because of a fractured foot. The Vikings also were without Doug Chapman (ankle) against the Bears. But Williams responded with a career-high 158 yards from scrimmage. He had 108 yards rushing on 21 carries (5.1) and caught four passes for 50 yards. Williams accounted for 12 of the Vikings' 25 first downs. Rookie Onterrio Smith ran hard in his first NFL game. He had 47 yards on nine carries for a 5.2-yard average. The running game couldn't have been better in the clock-busting 16-play drive in the fourth quarter. Eleven of those plays were runs.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- It isn't difficult to play pass defense against the Bears. Their offensive line is in shambles, and quarterback Kordell Stewart seems lost and limited in the offense. Stewart completed only 13 passes for 137 yards, but he did get cornerback Denard Walker turned around on a 14-yard pass to David Terrell that made it a 17-10 game in the second quarter. Later, Stewart threw a 49-yard strike to Dez White to set up a field goal that made it 17-13. It was one of the few times Stewart was able to step up in the pocket and launch the ball. The Vikings notched three sacks, but none by their front four. Linebackers Greg Biekert and Chris Claiborne, and cornerback Brian Williams got Stewart on blitzes. The Vikings also got their fifth interception in two games when free safety Brian Russell grabbed his second of the season to end the Bears' last-ditch threat.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Bears' running game didn't hurt the Vikings consistently, but it had two big plays that could have cost the Vikings the game. Strong safety Corey Chavous, playing on a sprained right knee, whiffed big-time on a run that allowed Anthony Thomas gain 34 yards and set up a field goal on the Bears' first drive. In the second quarter, the Vikings lost containment on Stewart, who gained 25 yards to set up a touchdown that made it a 17-10 game at halftime. The Bears had no business being that close at halftime. Throw out those two big gains and the Bears gained only 21 yards on 16 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Up. Down. Up. Down. That's the best way to describe the Vikings' special teams against the Bears. The only good news is that's a lot better than last year when it was down, down, down all the time. The Vikings got a game-opening 34-yard kickoff return by John Avery that set up a touchdown. But they also gave up kickoff returns of 34 and 35 yards in the first half. The Vikings got a 35-yard punt return by Keenan Howry to set up another touchdown. But punter Eddie Johnson had another poor outing. He averaged 27.3 yards on three punts, including a 7-yarder that he downed himself. Kicker Aaron Elling was wide left on a 53-yard field goal attempt, but his biggest mistake was kicking off out of bounds. That gave the Bears the ball at the 40 and started a touchdown drive.

COACHING: B -- The first play of the game, in which the Vikings used Moss as a decoy and threw 51 yards to Kelly Campbell to the Bears' 5-yard line, was expert coaching. But the coaching staff, particularly offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, got too cute on the Vikings' second possession. After runs of 9, 15, 9, 8 and 9 yards, the Vikings had second-and-1 at the Chicago 15. But then they attempted three consecutive passes. On first-and-goal at the Chicago 7, Culpepper dropped back to pass, but was sacked and stripped of the ball. The Bears recovered at their 20. There's no reason to pass there, and Linehan admitted as much after the game. The Vikings knew they were going to beat the Bears. But the closeness of the game surprised them.


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