It never seems easy against the Bears, no matter how good or bad, healthy or banged up each team is. That's just the way games between the Bears and Vikings go.
It was no different Sunday, as both teams entered the game with black and blue players with the Vikings taking even more lumps as the game wore on. Despite digging deep into their linebacker ranks, the Vikings came away with a 27-22 win over the Bears and moved to 2-1 in the NFC North Division.
Onterrio Smith had 94 yards rushing and 104 yards receiving, Daunte Culpepper had 360 yards passing, including two passing touchdowns and one rushing TD, and Randy Moss had 119 yards receiving and two TDs.
The Vikings had injuries of varying degree to Onterrio Smith, Marcus Robinson, Matt Birk, E.J. Henderson and Chris Claiborne.
The Vikings spent most of the first half hurting themselves with fumbles. But it took them 4 minutes and 44 seconds to undo all the damage they did to themselves, take the lead and hold on for the with in the closing minutes.
The Bears opened the game with a heavy dose of running back Thomas Jones, who touched the ball six times for 19 yards, but when the Vikings clamped down on him inside the red zone the Bears settled for a 34-yard field goal from Paul Edinger.
The Vikings offense moved the ball just as smoothly, with passes of 10 yards to Randy Moss for a first down and a creative misdirection delayed screen to Onterrio Smith that broke open for 36 yards. Rookie tight end Richard Owens picked up the final first down of the drive with a 10-yard reception over the middle, but the drive stalled when Adewale Ogunleye sacked Daunte Culpepper. The drive came up empty, however, when Morten Andersen left his 46-yard field out to the right, and the Bears maintained their 3-0 lead.
Jones was the primary threat again on the Bears' next drive and continued to deliver with a catch for 27 yards and a run for 8 to start the drive. After a first-down pass to fullback Bryan Johnson, Jones picked up the final first down of the drive with an 11-yard run. But Lance Johnstone and Kevin Williams put an end to the drive when, on first-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Johnstone sacked Grossman and forced a fumble that Williams recovered.
The Vikings gave it right back to Chicago when Ogunleye took the ball away from Smith on the first play of the ensuing drive and ran it to the 7-yard line.
Once again, the Bears relied on Jones, but he could only get them to the 5-yard line before Edinger came on for a 23-yard field goal and a 6-0 Chicago lead with 13:41 to play in the first half.
Minnesota spent 17 minutes and 19 seconds giving the Bears the lead, but it needed only four minutes and 44 seconds to reverse the fortunes. The Vikings finally completed a drive. Culpepper started with a 10-yard pass to Kelly Campbell and went back to Campbell three plays later for a 40-yard pass play on third-and-11. Moss put them at the 7-yard line after a 15-yard reception and, after a 4-yard Culpepper scramble, the Vikings faced second-and-goal on the 3-yard line. Culpepper found Moss in single coverage with R.W. McQuarters on the right sideline. A high throw was all that was needed for the 3-yard touchdown pass to Moss, and just like that the Vikings had overcome their first-quarter mistakes and had a 7-6 lead.
Minnesota's defense started to come together and shut down Chicago in the second quarter. After getting off the field in three plays, the defense set up the offense on their own 44-yard line. Smith gained all the yardage on the drive — 20 yards with three touches — and this time Andersen came through with a 42-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead with 5:09 left in the half, a lead they would have to be content with heading into halftime when, on the ensuing drive, Gus Frerotte couldn't handle a snap and threw incomplete after the Vikings lined up for the field goal.
The second half started much more efficiently for the Vikings than the first half did — at least they had the ability to recover from miscues. Despite facing third-and-19 thanks to two penalties, Culpepper stuck in the pocket and threw a deep pass to Moss in a seam between three defenders for a 44-yard gain. After a sack of Culpepper, Smith broke another long run for 38 yards to the 4-yard line. One play later, Culpepper sneaked for a 1-yard touchdown and a 17-6 lead.
A 19-yard pass to David Terrell and a 40-yarder to Bobby Wade were all the Bears needed to get into field goal position on their next drive, but Edinger pushed his 39-yard attempt wide right.
Minnesota returned the favor. The Vikings drove into the red zone with a 12-yard pass to Moss and completions of 17, 11 and 11, reaching the 13-yard line. But Chicago's Michael Haynes blew up a reverse to Campbell and forced a fumble that Hunter Hillenmeyer recovered.
This time Chicago took advantage, driving inside the red zone but forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal to pull to 17-9 with 14:46 left in the game.
Big gains were the theme of the game, and the Vikings' next drive was no exception. Moss picked up the initial first down with a 33-yard catch and, two plays later, Nate Burleson drew the flag when safety Todd Johnson led with his helmet with Burleson in the air. The Vikings had the ball on the 16-yard line, but this time they had to settle for a 24-yard field goal for a 20-9 lead with 11:20 to play.
The Bears answered with a touchdown drive. Grossman scrambled twice during the first half of the drive, the second one picking up a first down. He followed by connecting with Jones on a 13-yard pass on third down before hitting Justin Gage for a 32-yard completion to the 1-yard line. Jones finished it off with a 1-yard dive, but the two-point conversion pass failed, and the Vikings still had a five-point lead, 20-15, with 6:20 to play.
Burleson answered the call with a 63-yard catch-and-run to open Minnesota's next drive, moving the ball to the 2-yard line after a facemask penalty at the end of the play. After two incompletions, Culpepper hit Moss in motion for the 2-yard touchdown and a 27-15 lead with 5:39 to play.
It wouldn't last too long, as Grossman led the Bears on another touchdown drive. He started with two completions to Jones for a first down, then hit his running back for an 11-yard gain to the 11-yard line four plays later. After a 5-yard run by Jones, Grossman finished the deal with a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 27-22 with 2 minutes to play.
However, Grossman's dive for the goal line proved costly, as he left the field with an injury. When the Vikings returned the ball after three plays, Jonathan Quinn took over and ended the game with three straight incompletions and a sack by Williams.
The Vikings lost a number of players before and during the game, and the bye couldn't come at a better time, but they won the game itself 27-22 and were able to creep into a first-place tie in the division with Detroit.
Vikings Lose Players, Win Game
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