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Not your typical day at Soldier Field

10/19/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- Someone laughed Sunday afternoon and asked Kyle Orton if he was having any flashbacks to his days as a college gunslinger at Purdue.

"A little bit," Orton said, shaking his head moments after Chicago's rollicking 48-41 victory over Minnesota. "We're out there throwing the ball a bunch. It was fun."

Up was down and left was right at Soldier Field, where two supposedly grind-it-out teams combined for 48 first downs, 89 points and 766 total yards.

It was the highest-scoring game in the series' 47-year history, an unanticipated shootout the Vikings almost certainly would have won were it not for five turnovers and a boneheaded play by their punter.

How unusual was this? Only six of the 94 previous games between these teams featured a 40-spot from one team. In the past 10 seasons, the winner of Chicago-Minnesota has scored less than 30 points in 83 percent of the contests.

"A lot of us have been playing football a long time," Vikings safety Darren Sharper said, "and none of us have seen anything like this. The history of this series, games don't go like it did [Sunday]. ... It's supposed to be a smash-mouth game, a low-scoring game, a defensive-dominated game. [But] I looked up at the scoreboard and there was like 30-some points in the first quarter."

Sharper's Vikings departed Soldier Field with the ignominy of scoring the most points ever in a Bears victory. In other words, Chicago had never allowed at least 41 points in a game and still won.

It was a stunning offensive show from a Vikings team that had improved its attack this season but never shown the type of balance it displayed Sunday. The Vikings rushed for 155 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown jaunt by tailback Adrian Peterson, and quarterback Gus Frerotte threw for 298 yards and two scores.

The Vikings were confident they could exploit the Bears' injury-depleted defense. Starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher were both inactive on Sunday, as was nickel back Danieal Manning. Chicago used its nickel package only once the entire game, leaving cornerbacks Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride to defend the passing game.

"We were talking about that all week," said receiver Bernard Berrian, who caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown against his former team. "We were going to focus that way, even if [Tillman, Vasher and Manning] were in. We still wanted to attack them because we know what they give up, and especially me. I know what they're about. I know their tendencies."

The Vikings have been waiting years for this kind of balanced offensive explosion, but in what must have been a maddening turn of events if you're a Vikings fan, it was overshadowed by a slew of mistakes. Most notably, punter Chris Kluwe exacerbated a blocked punt by kicking the ball a second time into the waiting arms of Chicago's Garrett Wolfe, who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, punt returner Charles Gordon allowed a kick to bounce off his arm for a muff, giving the Bears a second score. (Altogether, the Vikings have given up five touchdowns on special teams this season. I wonder what they'll be focusing on during the bye week.)

"Sometimes the football gods aren't shining on you," Sharper said.

On the other hand, the deities gathered at Mt. Olympus were looking favorably upon Orton, who continued his takeover of the Bears' offense. Chicago threw on 20 of its first 26 plays and 30 of its first 44 before turning to tailback Matt Forte to run out the clock. Running their no-huddle, the Bears looked more like a finely tuned sports car than a muddy truck.

"I don't think a whole lot of people were expecting [such an explosive offense] to this extent at the start of the season," Orton said. "But we've got a bunch of guys out there who really make plays."

Orton, in fact, threw touchdown passes of 18 yards to tight end Greg Olsen and 51 to receiver Marty Booker, who had dropped a sure score in the second quarter. Overall, Orton threw for 283 yards and finished with a passer rating over 100 (114.5) for the second time in the Bears' past three games.

"The thing is they did exactly what we expected them to," Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "They came out with Orton checking out of plays at the line of scrimmage, getting the ball out of his hands. It's just that we didn't make any plays on them."

Sharper was more blunt.

"Defensively, we allowed them some plays," Sharper said. "You can say that they made the plays. Orton played well. We know he would do that. But it's stuff that we can stop. And that's what we need to get better at. But it all comes down to, you can't kill yourself like that. Especially against a team like that, especially on the road."