SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS
Big plays were the name of the game between the Vikings and Bears. Daunte Culpepper threw three interceptions in Chicago territory and Randy Moss lost a fumble deep in Vikings territory.
On the flip side, the Vikings defense got five sacks — two from Kevin Williams (who holds the NFL lead for sacks by defensive tackles with nine) and one apiece from Lance Johnstone, Kenny Mixon and Spencer Johnson. However, the Vikings' lack of interceptions continued. They got none again Sunday, despite playing against Chad Hutchinson, who hadn't started a game since Dec. 29, 2002.
The Vikings lost cornerback Antoine Winfield with 50 seconds left in the first quarter. Winfield hurt his ankle on a tackle of tight end Desmond Clark and didn't return for the rest of the game. He was replaced by Derek Ross, who struggled often in coverage.
MOSS NEVER WARMED UP
Charles Tillman vs. Randy Moss. It was a revenge matchup Moss was reportedly looking forward to. Last year, Tillman got the best of Moss on an interception in the end zone, taking away Minnesota's chance for a win in Soldier Field.
It turned out to be more hyperbole than reality. Moss, playing in only his second game since returning from a partially torn hamstring, had an average game for him and didn't get a deep ball all game. He finished with four catches for 31 yards.
But Tillman beat Moss again early in the third quarter when Moss caught a short pass and Tillman stripped him of the ball. Safety Mike Green recovered and gave the Bears prime field position at the 14-yard line.
Three plays later, Lance Johnstone returned the favor when he stripped Hutchinson and Williams recovered, avoiding more points for the Bears off a turnover.
CONTAINING THE RETURN
Given the Vikings' propensity to give up big kick returns this year and the Bears' dangerous return game, containing the most explosive element of the Bears was a key to the game.
Jerry Azumah opened the game by hesitating to take a return out of the end zone and finished his return on the 16-yard line. Azumah averaged only 18 yards on two returns and Bernard Berrian's only kickoff return went for only 14 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS THAT DIDN"T WORK
The Vikings' lack of specialness on special teams didn't end, however. Morten Andersen had a 38-yard field goal attempt partially blocked, and a rush by Brian Russell in a form of a punt formation on fourth down failed to produce a first down. Russell, a quarterback early in his college career, took the snap and avoided pressure while looking for a receiver. He couldn't find anyone and dove for the attempted first down. He came up a few inches short of the necessary 4 yards, allowing the Bears to milk the clock for another set of downs with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Both of those special teams failures came in the second half, when the Vikings were held scoreless.
THE LUCKY PLAY
On Chicago's first possession of the second half, the Bears were facing fourth-and-4. They lined up with much of their regular offensive line on the field, including center Olin Kreutz, but also with punter Brad Maynard in the backfield. Fullback Bryan Johnson sprinted on the field later, Maynard went under center and handed off to Johnson.
The Vikings stuffed Johnson, and Kreutz picked up a personal foul. But after all that, the officials confirmed that they should have blown the call dead because of the illegal substitution. Maynard punted the ball 60 yards after the reset and the Vikings were stuck with the ball at the 9-yard line instead of midfield.
Nat Dorsey and Mewelde Moore are both fourth-round rookies who have been recovering from injury. Both the tackle Dorsey and running back Moore would have been able to play Sunday, but after filling in admirably (Dorsey) and impressively (Moore) early this season, both of them have lost their starting jobs.
Adam Goldberg started at left tackle and Onterrio Smith was the starting running back. Dorsey played on special teams, while Moore was deactivated. Each is just an injury or poor performance by Goldberg or Smith away from another crack at the starting lineup, but for now they are providing valuable depth at important positions.
Moore has now missed the past five games because of a sprained ankle. "At this point, I don't see him having a role," coach Mike Tice said earlier this week.
For Chicago, the main questionables were pass-rushing defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and dominant linebacker Brian Urlacher. The Bears got both of them back for this game, and Urlacher especially looked good with several big plays in pass coverage, including a first-half interception he returned 47 yards.
‘O' SHOW OR BUST?
Last year, the Vikings went into Chicago determined to run the ball. This week, they were determined to take what the Bears' impressive defense was willing to give.
"We're not going to go in there and be bull-headed and say we have to run the ball to win the game," Tice said. "We're going to go in there and say, `We're going to take what's there for us."
The Vikings ran for 146 yards, mainly from Smith's 79 yards and Culpepper's 50 yards, but the quarterback's three interceptions killed drives in Chicago territory.
Two weeks ago, Vikings defensive tackle Chris Hovan didn't start for the first time since his rookie season of 1999. Last week, Hovan was deactivated. Sunday made it a two-game deactivation streak for the formerly full-of-potential yeoman.
Tice was asked Thursday if Hovan still has a chance to make an "impact" on this team. Tice said, "Impact? Let's see if he can suit up first before we talk about making an impact."
He didn't suit up.
100 CLUB STOPPED
Five consecutive game with running backs going over 100 yards on the Vikings. Thomas Jones went for 110 yards in the Vikings-Bears showdown in the third week of the season at the Metrodome.
The Vikings stopped that streak, with Jones getting 55 yards and Anthony Thomas getting 49 yards.
The Vikings deactivated QB Shaun Hill (emergency QB), Moore, LB Raonall Smith, G Anthony Herrera, G Adam Haayer, C Matt Birk, TE Richard Owens and Hovan.
Game 12: Highlights, Lowlights and Notes
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