The loss dropped Minnesota (8-6) into a tie with Green Bay in the NFC North after the Packers beat San Diego. The Vikings, 2-6 since starting 6-0, will win the division if they win their final two games—with Kansas City at home and at Arizona—even if the Packers win their last two.
At 10-6, the Vikings would win on better conference record, the fourth tiebreaker, because the other three (head-to-head, division record, record against common opponents) would be tied.
“Charles just wanted the ball more than Randy did,” Grossman said after several of his teammates, including Tillman, mobbed him on the field after the win.
“Moss is a veteran and I’m a rookie. He’s famous for going up and catching high balls, so I just kind of put two-and-two together in watching film. I knew it was going to come,” Tillman said.
“He had one hand on it, then I just kind of yanked it out of his hand and that was pretty much it.”
Moss, who had nine catches for 93 yards, declined to be interviewed.
“I guess I could have put it a little higher. I think he (Moss) misjudged it a little bit,” Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. “I think he jumped a little early. But the guy made the play.”
Culpepper drove the Vikings from their 11 to the Chicago 8 in the closing minutes with two passes to Moss and a 37-yard pass to Moe Williams. Two plays later, he lofted the ball to the corner and Tillman went right up with the high-leaping Moss and came down with the ball.
“A lot of corners in today’s age are like 5-foot-10. I’m 6-2 and Randy is 6-4,” Tillman said, explaining his ability to stay with Moss.
The Bears (6-8) then ran out the clock, thanks to a 23-yard run by Anthony Thomas.
Grossman, a first-round pick who spent the season watching veterans Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler, settled in after a shaky start. He was solid if not spectacular, completing 13 of 30 passes for 157 yards. He was sacked just once.
“I felt like I was going to be a lot more nervous than I was,” said Grossman who heaved a long pass on the first scrimmage play of the game, watching as the Vikings were called for pass interference.
“To start off with about a 40-yard penalty to put us in field goal range made me feel a lot more comfortable.”
Grossman missed on four of his first five passes, but on Chicago’s third series, the former Florida star got more comfortable. He hit Marty Booker down the sideline on a 39-yard play that was upheld by video review. He then passed 13 yards to David Terrell, 9 to Thomas and then 11 more to Desmond Clark, setting up Thomas’ 1-yard TD run. That capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive and put the Bears up 10-0.
“I thought he (Grossman) played smart. But I think he was really trying to rely on his receivers to make plays more than himself. He was throwing the ball up and having them try to make plays. He’s going to be good,” Minnesota defensive tackle Chris Hovan said.
Hovan then issued a challenge to his teammates.
“If you want to stand up and fight, we’ll go 10-6. If you want to turn it in, we’ll go 8-8. Guys aren’t going to turn it in. We’re going to go 10-6,” he said.
Smith finished with 148 yards on 27 carries—124 yards on 21 carries in the first half. Culpepper, the top-ranked passer in the NFC, was 24-of-34 for 222 yards.
The Vikings ate up almost the entire second quarter with a drive that last 9:43. But after getting a first down at the 8, the drive collapsed and Aaron Elling’s 22-yard field goal cut the lead to 10-3 at the half.
A special teams blunder was costly for the Vikings in the third period. When punter Eddie Johnson dropped a snap and then tried to run after picking up the ball, he was smothered by a host of Bears at the Minnesota 20.
After Edinger missed a 46-yard attempt, the Vikings finally got their offense going early in the fourth quarter. Helped by a personal foul penalty on the Bears, they moved 64 yards, with Culpepper hitting Moss on a 16-yard scoring pass that made it 13-10 with 10:23 to play.
With 93 yards receiving, Moss set a Minnesota single-season record. He now has 1,465 yards receiving, breaking his own mark of 1,437 yards set in 2000. … Chris Claiborne, the Vikings’ leading tackler, sat out with a sore Achilles’ tendon. The Bears were without starting left tackle Mike Gandy (shoulder) and guard Chris Villarrial (ribs). … The Vikes lost despite having a 393-232 advantage in yards and a nearly 15-minute edge in time of possession.