Grading The Game: Bears

For those who like big offensive showings, the Vikings-Bears game was ugly. It also produced some ugly grades for the Vikings.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — The Vikings were so committed to their power running game, they ignored their passing attack for most of the first half of Sunday's 13-10 loss at Chicago. QB Daunte Culpepper passed only twice in the first quarter for six yards. He was sacked on his first two pass attempts. The passing game was jumpstarted in the second half, but the deciding play came down to Culpepper and Randy Moss against rookie cornerback Charles Tillman. Tillman won, intercepting a jump ball in the right corner of the end zone with the Bears leading 13-10 and the Vikings facing second-and-goal from the 10. Culpepper underthrew the ball slightly. Moss got his hands on it, but Tillman ripped it away in a rare occasion in which Moss didn't come down with the touchdown. Moss finished with 93 yards and one touchdown on nine catches. Culpepper had an 85.7 passer rating. But the Vikings' passing game was underused early and underachieved late.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — The Vikings kept the seriousness of starting RB Michael Bennett's sprained ankle a secret from the media all last week. Keeping secrets isn't one of coach Mike Tice's strengths. Bennett was announced as a game-day inactive about an hour before the game. Moe Williams was announced as his starting replacement. But it was rookie Onterrio Smith who not only started, but broke a 42-year-old team rookie record with 148 yards on 27 carries. The Vikings ran for 178 yards on 38 carries for a solid 4.7-yard average. But they didn't reach the end zone with their running game. During a 19-play drive, Smith was stopped for 1-yard gains on first-and-goal from the 8 and second-and-goal from the 7. The Vikings had to settle for a 22-yard field goal two plays later.

PASS DEFENSE: C — Bears rookie QB Rex Grossman won in his NFL debut, but he completed only 13 of 30 passes for 157 yards and no interceptions. The Vikings entered the game with a league-high 25 interceptions. CB Ken Irvin was flagged for a 33-yard pass interference penalty on the first play from scrimmage. That led to a field goal. Also, the Bears' only touchdown was set up by a 39-yard pass to Marty Booker and an 11-yard pass to TE Desmond Clark on third-and-10 from the Vikings 12. Grossman was pressured, but sacked only one time.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Bears ran only 23 times, abandoning its running game the way the Vikings stayed away from their passing game for close to three quarters. The Bears had only 87 yards rushing and a 3.8-yard average. But Anthony Thomas averaged 4.2 yards, carrying 19 times for 79 yards and a 1-yard touchdown. Thomas had a 19-yard run on second-and-goal at the Vikings 19. That led to a field goal that gave the Bears a 13-3 lead.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F — The Vikings special teams continued their month-long slide. P Eddie Johnson bobbled a snap for the third consecutive game. He fumbled it and was tackled at the Vikings 20. Johnson also averaged only 34.3 yards with a net of 29.3. The Bears turned the miscue into a field goal and a 13-3 lead. Punt returner Keenan Howry returned three punts for minus-1 yards and called for a fair catch three times. Overall, Chicago downed four punts inside the Vikings 20. The Vikings also averaged only 12.8 yards on four kickoff returns. Onterrio Smith averaged 11.7 on three returns, including a 4-yard return.

COACHING: D — Mike Tice was so determined to win "a street fight" he stuck with a grind-it-out attack far too long. The Vikings played with a long field the entire game because P Eddie Johnson was horrendous while Bears P Brad Maynard was excellent. The Vikings were forced to pound their way down the field with no quick strikes. That made the margin for error slim. The perfect example was the Vikings' 19-play, 73-yard drive. They were dominant for about 10 minutes, but the end result was a 22-yard field goal. Tice's game plan was designed with poor weather conditions in mind. But the game was played in 6 mph wind with 34-degree temperatures and no snow. He could have opened up the offense more.


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