CHICAGO (AP)—The last time the Chicago Bears scored this many points, Walter Payton was taking handoffs and Mike Ditka was prowling the sideline.
Orton threw two touchdown passes, special teams chipped in with two more and the Bears hung on for a 48-41 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Chicago intercepted Gus Frerotte four times even though its injury-riddled secondary was missing starting cornerbacks Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman along with nickel back Danieal Manning. The Bears also lost star kick returner Devin Hester to a bruised quad in the third quarter, yet still managed to put up their most points since beating Tampa Bay 48-14 at home on Dec. 7, 1986. It was the most points Chicago has allowed in a win, and the total of 89 tied a record set in a 51-38 loss at Baltimore in October 1958.
“We’ve got a group of guys who are together,” Orton said. “It doesn’t matter what happens outside that huddle. It’s everybody inside the huddle working for a common goal and we work together very well.”
The Bears survived a late push by Minnesota after building a 17-point lead and won even though Adrian Peterson ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder.
“It feels like we keep killing ourselves,” Peterson said. “We put up (439) yards on a pretty good defense.”
But it wasn’t enough.
Orton completed 21 of 32 passes for 283 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown pass to Marty Booker made it 41-31 with 2:35 left in the third quarter. Kevin Payne then picked off Frerotte, and after a questionable pass interference call against Vinny Ciurciu on fourth down at the 1, Matt Forte ran it in to extend Chicago’s lead to 48-31 in the opening seconds of the fourth.
But this time, the Bears hung on.
Tommie Harris sacked Frerotte after Minnesota (3-4) took over at the 25 with just over a minute left following a punt, and rookie Zackary Bowman sealed it with an interception after being elevated from the practice squad during the week.
So instead of bemoaning another lost opportunity, the Bears (4-3) breathed a sigh of relief. They’ve blown fourth-quarter leads in each of their losses.
“We’re not playing very good defense right now,” safety Mike Brown said. “Right now, it seems like we’re lost, can’t find a rhythm.”
This loss will only add to the angst of Vikings fans calling for coach Brad Childress’ dismissal. There were several questionable decisions to go with the sloppy play by the special teams.
Berrian, who signed a six-year deal with Minnesota, caught six passes for 81 yards against his former team, but the interceptions by Frerotte were costly.
“We thought with their starting corners down and their starting nickel down we thought were would be able to throw the ball downfield a little bit,” said Frerotte, who was 25-for-40 with 298 yards after winning three of his first four starts. “We had the run and the pass going all day and we mixed them up pretty well, just when it came down to the end we didn’t get it done.”
The special teams were a mess, too, and now they’ve allowed five touchdowns.
The first one Sunday came on a strange sequence in the opening quarter, when Chris Kluwe dropped a snap and had his punt blocked. He then attempted an illegal kick, and Garrett Wolfe returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. Later, Charles Gordon mishandled a punt by Brad Maynard when he tried to block Bowman. Instead, the ball hit him and Bowman recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown that gave Chicago a 24-17 lead.
Ahead by three, the Bears increased it to 10 on the opening drive of the third quarter, thanks to another lucky bounce.
With the ball on the Minnesota 36, Desmond Clark caught a short pass and then fumbled at the 1 when he got sandwiched by Tyrell Johnson and Cedric Griffin. Rashied Davis recovered in the end zone to make it 34-24.
The Vikings were driving for the lead after Orton fumbled but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 36 when Frerotte couldn’t connect on a short pass intended for Berrian with just over 4 minutes left in the third.
Booker then caught a 51-yard touchdown pass that made it 41-31 with 2:35 left in the third. Kevin Payne’s 50-yard interception return to the Vikings 6 led to a 1-yard TD run by Forte that made it 48-31 to start the fourth.
Harris’ sack was the Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s first. … Vasher missed his third straight game with an injured right wrist, while Tillman (left shoulder) and Manning were injured against Atlanta.