MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—As its injury list grew longer, Minnesota’s high-powered offense was consistently limited to low-risk plays by Chicago’s cover-2 defense.
But the Vikings passed this patience test against the similarly banged-up Bears.
“We just take whatever the defense gives us,” said Onterrio Smith, who rushed for 94 yards and caught six short passes for 104 yards out of the backfield.
Minnesota (2-1) has a week off to heal, but Chicago (1-2) hosts unbeaten Philadelphia next week with several ailing starters.
Quarterback Rex Grossman scored on a 6-yard scramble at the 2-minute warning, but he sprained his right knee on the play and left the stadium wearing a brace and using a crutch. He went 21-for-31 for 248 yards.
“We have faith in him and have confidence in him,” coach Lovie Smith said.
Culpepper completed 19 of 30 passes for 360 yards, 119 of them to Moss. The Vikings never found a rhythm, but they made enough long gains to control a game otherwise bogged down by injuries, penalties, turnovers, more injuries and more penalties.
“All that matters is we got a win,” Culpepper said. “It wasn’t all good or all pretty, but we’ve got to learn to win games like this.”
“You have to score touchdowns on the road,” said Lovie Smith, whose team was coming off an impressive 21-10 victory at Green Bay.
The Bears pulled within 20-15 on a nine-play, 79-yard drive, capped on a 1-yard TD run by Jones. The 2-point conversion failed.
Morten Andersen, who made field goals of 42 and 24 yards, broke George Blanda’s NFL record for career games played when he missed a 46-yard kick in the first quarter. This was the 44-year-old Andersen’s 341st appearance, spanning 23 seasons.
Bears free safety Todd Johnson added some tension when he lowered his head and leveled the Vikings’ Nate Burleson to break up a fourth-quarter pass. Moss didn’t like it, so he confronted Johnson—igniting a brief scrum that knocked off back judge Keith Ferguson’s cap. Johnson was penalized for a late hit.
“People give him a hard time sometimes about running out of bounds and not taking a hit,” Burleson said of Moss, “but he’s as tough as it comes.”
Culpepper, whose two first-half fumbles were recovered by the Vikings, spent much of the half running away from a strong Bears rush led by defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. The AFC’s sack leader with Miami in 2003, Ogunleye faced substitute Adam Haayer, who started for injured right tackle Mike Rosenthal.
Minnesota’s top two tight ends, Jim Kleinsasser and Jermaine Wiggins, were also out. Pro Bowl center Matt Birk sprained his left ankle in the second quarter, and the Vikings lost two starting linebackers to first-half injuries— Chris Claiborne (strained left calf) and E.J. Henderson (sprained left knee). Wide receiver Marcus Robinson also aggravated a hamstring injury he first suffered in training camp.
“We’ll just continue to battle our way through the injury bug,” coach Mike Tice said.
But Chicago had plenty of health problems, too. Star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher missed his first career game with a pulled hamstring, three other defensive starters were out, and backup strong safety Bobby Gray’s game ended when he hurt his shoulder in the second quarter.
“We still have 13 games to go,” Lovie Smith said. “That’s why there’s 53 guys on the roster.”
Moss had his moments, including a 44-yard reception on third-and-24 early in the third quarter, but Smith was the Vikings’ best weapon.
Later on that drive, Smith rambled for 38 yards, juking defenders with a pair of nifty stutter-steps, and set up a 1-yard plunge by Culpepper that gave the Vikings a 17-6 lead.
“The defense was focused on stopping Moss. Period,” strong safety Mike Green said.
Birk and Claiborne might be ready for Minnesota’s next game, Oct. 10 at Houston, but Henderson will be out longer, Tice said, from two to six weeks. … Chicago had 14 penalties for 101 yards.