NOTEBOOK: Unhappy Returns

The Vikings generally showed a statistical advantage against the Bears, except in one category that helped the Bears overcome a lackluster offense and still put up 28 points. Plus, get notes on how the former Bears performed, the new looks the Vikings employed and how the returning contributors did after sitting out with injuries.

The Minnesota Vikings outplayed the Chicago Bears in a number of statistical categories except the most important one – scoring – Sunday at Soldier Field in a 28-3 Chicago win.

The three categories often referenced as reasons for winning and losing – turnovers, penalties and third-down conversions – were about a wash when compared together. The Vikings and Bears each converted three third downs, the Vikings had one fewer turnover and the Bears had 33 fewer penalty yards.

However, there was one statistic where the Bears dominated the Vikings. While return yardage is often an inconsequential statistic, Chicago's lack of offense was overcome with a huge return game.

A 49-yard punt return late in the second quarter gave the Bears the ball on the 49-yard line. Eight plays later, the Bears had their first touchdown of the game and a 7-3 lead with only 37 seconds left in the first half.

A 55-yard interception return by cornerback Charles Tillman gave the Bears the ball only 3 yards (and two plays) away from a touchdown and a 14-3 lead in the third quarter.

And from there, the Bears gained confidence and ran their way to the 28-3 win. Along the way, they averaged 21 yards per punt return to the Vikings' 3.7-yard average, and 27 yards per kickoff return to the Vikings' 18.2-yard average.

As it turned out, the Bears' return game was only the equalizer in the game, it was a big contributor in setting up half of their touchdowns.


The Vikings' opening drive found the offense in a rhythm, but it couldn't capitalize with points after reaching the red zone.

Facing fourth-and-1 from the 18-yard line, head coach Mike Tice elected to kick the field goal and try and put the first points on the scoreboard. When Brad Johnson mishandled the snap, disrupting Paul Edinger's timing, the kicker didn't even attempt the kick. Johnson was forced to stand up and quickly release the ball to Jermaine Wiggins, who wasn't looking for the pass.

That was followed by a 52-yard attempt 10 seconds into the second quarter. On that attempt, the kick was low and sailed right, not even close.

Edinger was good on a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter, but on Minnesota's opening drive of the second half Edinger had a 32-yard field goal attempt blocked.

It was an unceremonious return to Soldier Field for Edinger, who kicked for Chicago up until this season. He faced Chicago for the first time since they let him go last spring. Edinger spent five seasons with the Bears and ranks third in team history with 110 field goals.

Asked about his return to Soldier Field, where he said he kicked "horrible" last year in going 15-for-24, he said he didn't know what kind of reception he'd get in the stadium he used to call home.

"I probably won't even hear it; I'll be so focused on what I have to do," Edinger said last week. "I guess I'll find out afterwards how it went."

Not well, but that should be the last time Edinger has to kick in Soldier Field this year.


The Vikings' much-maligned 32nd-ranked rushing defense was one of the units that did its job on Sunday.

As a team, the Bears rushed for 95 yards, with Thomas Jones leading the way with 89 yards on 23 carries. Chicago averaged 3.2 yards per rush.

Meanwhile the Vikings had a 4.2-yard rushing average as a team, but they weren't able to stick with a running game plan late in the game as they fell behind by 18 points early in the fourth quarter. That meant that despite Mewelde Moore's 4.1-yard average, he was only asked to carry the ball 14 times.

Michael Bennett, who has been used sparingly since starting the first two games, carried three times for 8 yards (note: the trading deadline is Tuesday).

All total, the Vikings rushed for only 80 yards.


The Vikings have a history of making Chicago's unheralded quarterbacks look much better than their statistics against other teams – witness Chad Hutchinson last year against Minnesota.

In a 24-14 Chicago win on Dec. 5, Hutchinson threw three touchdowns in his first start of the season

While rookie Kyle Orton didn't have eye-popping statistics, he did have a couple of firsts. In fact, a number of Bears had a couple of firsts – as in couple of touchdowns. It was Orton's first two-touchdown game, as it was for tight end Desmond Clark and running back Thomas Jones.

For the record, Orton had only 117 yards passing and Jones had 89 yards on 23 carries as the Vikings held the Bears to 192 total net yards.


The Chicago Bears were the team that invented the Super Bowl Shuffle, but it was the Vikings doing the linebacker shuffle Sunday in Soldier Field.

Minnesota started Keith Newman for the first time this year and, partly because of their lack of healthy defensive ends, the Vikings started in a 3-4 defense with Raonall Smith also making his first start at outside linebacker.
The Vikings mostly used the 3-4 defense and the results, while measured against a dismal Bears offense, produced an effort that yielded only 192 total net yards.

Newman and Smith each finished with three tackles, while Newman added a fumble recovery.

Kevin Williams played right end, Pat Williams played nose tackle and Darrion Scott played left end.


The Vikings also came out of their bye with a revamped starting offensive line. Melvin Fowler made his first start at center in place of Cory Withrow and Adam Goldberg made his first start of the season at right guard in place of rookie Marcus Johnson.

After being sacked 20 times in the first four games, including nine sacks in their last game against the Falcons, Daunte Culpepper was sacked four times by a good Chicago defense. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who entered the game with a team-leading four sacks, added two more against Culpepper.


Quarterback Daunte Culpepper was said to be more spry in practices last week while recovery from season-opening bursitis in his knee. However, that didn't translate into big rushing numbers for the normally mobile QB.

Culpepper rushed only one time – for 14 yards and a first down.

Culpepper had 13 carries for 73 yards and three rushing touchdowns against Chicago on Sept. 3, 2000, in his first NFL start. That set a Vikings record for rushing attempts and touchdowns by a quarterback in a game.


Like Edinger, wide receiver Marcus Robinson was also making a return to his former home team. Robinson played the first five seasons of his career with the Bears (1998-2002) and set a franchise record with 1,400 receiving yards in 1999.

Sunday, Robinson had a season-high four receptions for 41 yards.

Tight end Jermaine Wiggins paced the Vikings with a career-high 10 receptions for 68 yards.


Several Vikings returned to the lineup after sitting out previous weeks with injuries.

Free safety Darren Sharper returned after a two-game absence because of a medial collateral ligament sprain in his left knee. He had two tackles and no passes defensed or interceptions. Sharper has seven career interceptions against Chicago, the most against any opponent. All of the picks came when Sharper was a member of the Green Bay Packers.

Defensive end Lance Johnstone returned after missing one game because of a partially torn right pectoral muscle suffered against New Orleans. Johnstone had one of the Vikings' three sacks of Chicago QB Kyle Orton.


The Vikings did have a few key contributors sitting out because of injuries.

Wide receiver Nate Burleson (knee), nickel back Brian Williams (knee) and defensive end Spencer Johnson (knee) were all inactive for Sunday' game.


  • The Vikings lost 27-23 to the Bears on Sept. 8, 2002, in Mike Tice's second game as head coach. Tice made his coaching debut on Jan. 7, 2002 in the Vikings' 19-3 loss at Baltimore in the regular-season finale after Dennis Green was fired.

  • Bears quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson was an eighth-round pick of the Vikings in 1981 and played 11 seasons for the team.

  • The late Walter Payton had his best single-game performance against the Vikings, rushing for a then-NFL record 275 yards on 40 carries in a 10-7 Bears victory on Nov. 20, 1977. Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon broke the mark in 2000 against Denver, going for 278 yards on 22 carries.

  • The Vikings and Bears met three times in the 1994 season, with Minnesota winning both regular-season matchups. The Bears got revenge in the playoffs, though, when they beat the Vikings 35-18 in a wild card game at the Metrodome.

  • Mike Tice's record against NFC North teams is now 12-8.

    Syndicated content contributed to this report.

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