That sweeping sound you hear is not just Chicago sweeping its series with the Vikings and cleaning up the NFC Central Division, it very well may be the Vikings' playoff aspirations getting swept under the door mat.
Despite a tremendous effort defensively, the Vikings offense could muster only a two field goals despite crossing midfield numerous times and despite having first-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter when they needed a touchdown. Chicago's defense stifled the Vikings offense when it had to in a 13-6 loss at the Metrodome Sunday night.
The loss drops the Vikings to 4-6, trailing Chicago, Green Bay and Tampa Bay (at least temporarily) in the division and toward the bottom of a congested pile of NFC playoff hopefuls.
The offense was missing fullback Jim Kleinsasser, guard Corbin Lacina and tackle Brad Badger, out with injuries, and still gave Daunte Culpepper good protection. The defense lost linebacker Ed McDaniel for a few series in the middle of the game and lost middle linebacker Kailee Wong for the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. Still, those units banged up the most held together to perform their duties.
The defense held Chicago to 93 yards passing and 235 total net yards, but despite running back Michael Bennett rushing for a career-best 75 yards and 6.3-yard average and offense moving 316 yards, the Vikings could only put six points on the board. It started that way early in the game for the Vikings and they couldn't turn it around.
The first quarter was a whole lot of opportunity with no returns. With eight possessions between the two teams, neither even got close to scoring.
Jim Miller didn't complete a pass in six attempts, Vikings defensive end Stalin Colinet recovered a fumbled exchange between he and running back James Allen with under tackle Chris Hovan grabbing Miller's legs and the Bears lost their only decent field position of the quarter.
The Vikings had the field-position advantage most all of the first quarter, crossing midfield on their first three possessions. But passes by Culpepper sailed dangerously close to defenders on numerous occasions, and Chicago finally got an interception when defensive lineman Phillip Daniels deflected a pass and linebacker Rosevelt Colvin caught it in stride. Still, Chicago couldn't capitalize on that break either.
But on the Bears' first possession of the second quarter, they got on the board. The eight-play drive started on the 20-yard line with another touchback off a Mitch Berger punt. Dez White picked up one first down with a 17-yard reception, and Allen got the ball to midfield with a 15-yard run and a facemask penalty on Tyrone Carter. But the key play was a 39-yard run by fullback Leon Johnson. He brought it to the 4-yard line with that run and, after a 3-yard run by Allen, Johnson finished the job with a 1-yard dive to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 9:43 left in the first half.
After Minnesota failed to get anything going in their next two possessions, the Bears set themselves up inside two minutes in the half with a lateral on a punt return to get the ball at the Vikings 34-yard line and they took advantage of the field position with a field goal. A 15-yard run by Allen and a 10-yard pass to White put the Bears inside the red zone, but a penalty and incompletion forced kicker Paul Edinger into a 30-yard field goal to give the Bears their halftime lead of 10-0.
The defense continued its relatively strong play to start the second half, shutting the Bears down in three plays on their first drive, and the offense put together its first scoring drive of the game. It came with a dink-and-dunk mentality, with passes to Harold Morrow, Andrew Jordan, Jake Reed, Byron Chamberlain and Cris Carter to move 43 yards and set up a 44-yard field goal by Gary Anderson midway through the third quarter.
The Vikings had another chance to move into scoring position on their next possession, moving across midfield with runs by Michael Bennett and Culpepper and a pass to Carter. But facing fourth-and-1 on the 44-yard line, Culpepper reversed his field on a rollout run and picked up the first down, but the play came back when Moss was flagged for holding and Mitch Berger punted another one into the end zone for a touchback.
Chicago wide receiver David Terrell almost single-handedly put his team in field goal position with catches of 26 and 25 yards to move the chains to the Vikings 26-yard line. From there, Edinger put points on the board with a 43-yard field goal with 13:29 to play for 13-3 Chicago lead.
Both teams failed to pick up a first down on their ensuing possessions, and the Vikings moved into desperation mode. With 9:54 to play, the offense methodically picked up first downs, starting with a 6-yard pass to Chamberlain and an 8-yard run by Bennett. Culpepper picked up another with a 10-yard run, and Byron Chamberlain moved the chains for the third time on the drive with a 23-yard catch. That put the Vikings on the 12-yard line, but even after picking up a first down on the 1-yard line they couldn't get the ball in the end zone. First, Travis Prentice was stopped for no gain on the 1-yard line. Culpepper, now limping noticeably, couldn't get outside fast enough on a rollout and was shut down at the 1-yard line. Then, on third down, Culpepper fumbled the snap from center and fell on the ball at the 3-yard line.
That was enough of the bumbling offense for head coach Dennis Green, who sent out the field goal unit for a 21-yarder from Anderson. It pulled the Vikings within one touchdown, 13-6, but time was running out with 3:17 remaining.
It was all but over when Chicago back Allen picked up two first downs. When the Vikings finally stopped him and got the ball back, only 16 seconds remained. A short pass to Moss and another to Bennett never threatened to cross midfield.
The loss dropped the Vikings to 4-6 and all but out of the NFC Central race and possibly the playoff chase with road games at Pittsburgh, Detroit, Green Bay and Baltimore. It starts next Sunday at Pittsburgh, with desperation ripe in every game from here to the end of the season.
Offense Offensive in 13-6 Loss
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