Reeling from allegations of sexual misbehavior and drunkenness during a charter cruise last week, the Vikings were manhandled and their season continued to spiral out of control.
It was their lowest point total since the final game of the 2001 season, when Baltimore beat them 19-3. While players declined comment about the party, Vikings coach Mike Tice said the allegations had a negative affect.
“If I was to say it didn’t at all, I kind of would be lying to you,” he said. “And I don’t think any of the local (media) would tell you that I’ve lied.”
How big was the impact?
“I don’t know,” Tice said. “I’m not a psychologist. I can’t tell you how much.”
Across the field, the Bears let out a collective sigh.
Brian Urlacher had two sacks. Charles Tillman and Chris Harris each had an interception, and Thomas Jones rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries as Chicago (2-3) snapped a two-game losing streak. Jones, questionable after stretching a ligament in his right knee last week at Cleveland, saw his streak of 100-yard games end at three.
Kyle Orton completed 16 of 25 passes for 117 yards with an interception and two touchdowns, both to tight end Desmond Clark. Daunte Culpepper was 26-of-48 for 237 yards and two interceptions, and the Vikings fell to 1-4. Former Bear Paul Edinger kicked a 23-yard field goal in the first half after missing a 52-yarder, but had a 32-yarder blocked early in the third quarter.
Urlacher credited defensive coordinator Ron Rivera for the aggressive game plan.
“Rivera turned us loose today,” Urlacher said. “He called a bunch of blitzes—they worked. We got a bunch of pressure, and when he did get rid of the ball we tackled the guys. We flew around and had a good time.”
The Bears led 7-3 at halftime despite being outgained 182 yards to 87, driving 49 yards late in the half for the game’s first touchdown. Orton hit a lunging Clark—who reached across the goal line before his knee hit the ground — along the right sideline for a 3-yard score with 37 seconds left in the half.
Midway through the third quarter, Tillman intercepted a pass along the sideline and returned it 55 yards to the Vikings 3. That set up a 2-yard pass from Orton to Clark that made it 14-3.
Troy Williamson had Tillman beat on that interception, but Culpepper threw behind his receiver.
“There were a lot of big plays in the game, but none any bigger than that,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
From there, things just got worse for Minnesota.
Keith Newman sacked Orton for a 9-yard loss and forced a fumble, which E.J. Henderson returned for a 25-yard touchdown—only to have the play negated by an offside call against teammate Kevin Williams.
The lead grew to 21-3 when Jones scored on a 24-yard touchdown run early in the fourth.
Jones wasn’t sure he would be able to play until Saturday. He had the knee taped and wore a brace, which he said “was uncomfortable. I had never worn a knee brace.”
“Sometimes when you’re thinking about the game more than your injury, it kind of helps you,” Jones said.
Despite Jones’ injury, rookie Cedric Benson remained in a limited role, with three carries for 2 yards.
After Edinger missed that 52-yarder in the first half, Orton slipped trying to hand off to Jones near midfield, and Minnesota’s Corey Chavous recovered. The Vikings drove to the Bears 2, but a false start by Jermaine Wiggins and hold by Adam Goldberg put the ball on the 17. Minnesota settled for a 23-yard field goal with 6:55 left in the half.
“The penalties at the inopportune time killed us,” said Tice, whose team had 14 for 91 yards. “Taking away a score defensively—that was one of the big plays of the game, I felt.”
Meanwhile, the Bears might have saved themselves.
With talk of possible changes—especially in the secondary—Tillman and Harris were solid.
“I wasn’t really worried about being replaced,” said Harris, a rookie from Louisiana-Monroe. “I just knew I had to come out and step it up.”
Harris’ interception was his first. … Jones has scored two touchdowns twice in a game this season. … Minnesota settled for one field goal on three trips inside the Bears 20.