Bill Brown is in the Vikings Ring of Honor, and there is no one more deserving than "Boom Boom," as he played the game strictly for the love of it. As you watched him rumble down on kickoff coverage as captain of the special teams during his 14th and final year in the NFL, you had to appreciate his passion for the game.
In the modern day, the Vikings were playing a team "Boom Boom" started out his career with, the Chicago Bears, and these 2004 Vikings were lucky this Bears team is in rebuilding mode. The Vikings were hit hard by injuries, losing several key players — Matt Birk, Chris Claiborne and E.J. Henderson — to injuries early in this game. They also were without great blocking tight end Jim Kleinsasser and right tackle Mike Rosenthal. Without question, they had their share of obstacles to overcome.
That's why it hurt so much when those players who were healthy enough to be on the field made mistakes and created penalties. To be a great team, players can't make mistakes like the Vikings did Sunday. If the Bears were a better-than-average team, the Vikings would have had problems coming out with a win. With Chicago missing the best linebacker in the NFC, Brian Urlacher (out with a hamstring pull), Onterrio Smith was able to run all over the Bears. He finished with 104 yards receiving and 94 yards rushing. Many of those yards came on second effort, as he was making some great moves for those extra yards. It could be Smith's last game in five weeks, with a bye next week and a looming league-imposed four-game suspension, but the Vikings did get good news when Michael Bennett was cleared Friday to start practicing this week. It will be great to have him back, but Smith will be missed if his appeal is rejected by the league.
The offensive line had to overcome the Birk and Rosenthal injuries, and after a rough start it did well for having three backups in the game. Adam Haayer, making his first NFL start, and 21-year-old rookie Nat Dorsey filled in for Rosenthal. Cory Withrow, playing in place of Birk for more than half the game, pulled from his center position and led the way for Smith on several long gains.
The experience these substitutes received will help later in the season, as Rosenthal and Kleinsasser will be missed for the year, and this bye week will give other players a good chance to get healthy and to work out the kinks. The Vikings still have a ways to go to overcome all the injuries that came their way and still be the best. But if they can eliminate mental mistakes, even the best teams in the league will have a difficult time stopping them.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Overcoming Injuries
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