NFC North: Vikings-Bears

Not your typical day at Soldier Field

October, 19, 2008

Posted by's Kevin Seifert

 AP Photo/Rob Carr
 Chicago's Kyle Orton spent Sunday afternoon running and gunning in an old-fashioned sandlot game with Minnesota that resulted in a 48-41 win for the Bears.

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.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Bears 48, Vikings 41

October, 19, 2008

Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- This isn't the way we do things here in the Black and Blue division.

We run and push and shove and slop and gouge, but one thing we don't do is sprint up and down the field on Sunday afternoons.

But, there's no other way to describe the way Chicago and Minnesota exploded for a total of 89 points and 775 yards Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears hadn't scored 48 points since the 1986 season.

The Vikings scored 41 points last season against the New York Giants, but three of their touchdowns came on interception returns. Sunday, the Vikings were the ones giving up free scores. They made three huge mistakes on special teams, essentially giving the Bears 17 points.

In total, the Vikings had five turnovers.

But the Bears were not innocent bystanders to all this; Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton continued his takeover of the Bears offense with a pair of touchdown passes. The Bears will hit their bye week at a good time, hoping their decimated secondary has a chance to get healthy. The Vikings have a bye as well. Maybe it's time for a special teams boot camp.

Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- The Bears are going for gold.

They're two points shy of 50 after turning safety Kevin Payne's interception into a 1-yard run by Matt Forte early in the fourth quarter. There are more than a few people shaking their heads while witnessing a shootout between two traditionally slow-placed offenses.

Through three quarters, though, there have been 613 yards of offense. Its 48-31 as we type, and the Bears, for one, haven't scored this many points in more than 20 years. (We'll bring you all the juicy details postgame once the scoreboard stops.)

Other than a tremendous 54-yard run from Adrian Peterson in the third quarter, the Bears have done a nice job clogging the passing lanes in the second half. And the Vikings? All you need to know is that as part of a zone blitz package, they had defensive end Jared Allen defending receiver Marty Booker midway through the third quarter. The result was a 51-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Barring more total craziness, we'll be back with you shortly after the game and then again a few hours later.

Hester out

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- We just got word that Chicago receiver/kick returner Devin Hester will miss the rest of the game because of a quadriceps injury.

We're assuming Hester suffered the injury on the opening kickoff of the second half. Garrett Wolfe has replaced him as the Bears' kickoff returner and we haven't seen a punt since the injury.

Posted by ESPN's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- If you're watching this game from a Minnesota perspective, you're wondering how your team in essence gave Chicago 17 points.

If you're watching from the Bears' angle, you're thanking your lucky stars that the Vikings' mistakes have overshadowed the weaknesses of your depleted defense.

We're busy talking about the blocked punt (see two posts previous) and the muffed punt (see previous) and the Vikings ill-advised decision to squib kick late in the second quarter. (The latter play, along with a five-yard encroachment play, gave the Bears an opportunity for Robbie Gould's 48-yard field goal.) But if it weren't for all that, we'd be talking about Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte throwing for 153 yards in the first half.

The Vikings offense rarely has produced such balanced success under coach Brad Childress. Tailback Adrian Peterson has 50 yards, and the Vikings scored on all of their drives except Chris Kluwe's ill-fated punt and a second-quarter interception by Bears cornerback Corey Graham.

You would think Chicago will need to commit more players to the pass rush if it wants to slow down Frerotte in the second half. He's a statue in the pocket but to this point the Bears can't get to him.

A special teams debacle for Minnesota

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- Maybe Minnesota should ship out all of their special teams and not just punter Chris Kluwe.

The Vikings just handed Chicago its second special teams touchdown of the game. Punt returner Charles Gordon allowed a Brad Maynard punt to bounce off his arm for a muff. The ball rolled about five yards into the end zone, where the Bears' Zackary Bowman fell on it for a touchdown.

The Vikings are driving up and down the field on the Bears, and their offense rolled up 162 yards through the middle of the second quarter. But the special teams disasters have the Bears ahead 24-17.

See the preceding post for an account of Kluwe's earlier circus act.

Tough one for Kluwe

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- We interrupt the track meet in Chicago to wonder how much longer punter Chris Kluwe will be in a Vikings uniform.

I like Kluwe, but a few minutes ago he made one of the worst plays you'll see a punter make. Standing at about the Chicago 9-yard line, Kluwe dropped a perfect snap. He picked it up and tried to punt, but by then Bears safety Craig Steltz was in position for the block.

The ball landed close to Kluwe's foot, where it seemed destined to be downed. The Bears would have had excellent field position but would have had to earn a score. Instead, Kluwe kicked the ball out of the scrum -- which, of course, is against NFL rules. As it turned out, the ball bounced right into the hands of Bears special teamer Garrett Wolfe, who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

The penalty was declined, and the score counted.

Kluwe clearly panicked, which isn't a good sign considering the pressure Kluwe is under. As you'll remember, Vikings coach Brad Childress threatened Kluwe's job two weeks ago after he failed to kick the ball out of bounds as directed at New Orleans. The result was a pair of touchdown returns from the Saints' Reggie Bush.

Was Kluwe thinking too much about his orders to -- no doubt -- kick the ball out of bounds against the Bears' Devin Hester? It's a good bet -- and a bad turn of events for Kluwe's job security.

More wind than you might think

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- It's a beautiful day along Lake Michigan, but don't be fooled by how placid Soldier Field probably appears on TV.

The flags on the goalpost are pretty flat, but trust me, there's a pretty good breeze at field level. I know that's usually the case here, but just something to keep in mind as this game progresses.

By the way, the Bears are wearing their orange jerseys Sunday. They've encouraged their fans to wear orange as well.

Meanwhile, one late roster move to bring you: The Vikings activated linebacker Rufus Alexander from the practice squad and waived linebacker Erin Henderson. Alexander is active for this game.

Tillman, Vasher out for Bears

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- Both of Chicago's top cornerbacks will miss Sunday's game against Minnesota

Charles Tillman (shoulder) and Nate Vasher (wrist) are among the Bears' inactive players. Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride will start. The possibilities for the nickel back position are Marcus Hamilton, Craig Steltz and Zackary Bowman.

Meanwhile, Vikings receivers Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice will both play. The Vikings also said that Vinny Ciurciu will start at middle linebacker. There had been a lot of discussion last week about whether Ciurciu, Dontarrious Thomas or Napoleon Harris would start. Thomas and Harris are both active for this game.

Rice looks like he's playing

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

CHICAGO -- I've been spending the past 20 minutes or so watching Minnesota receiver Sidney Rice work out at Solider Field. From everything I can tell, Rice will play Sunday against the Bears. He's running pretty well and he doesn't look like he's been told he's not playing.

Rice has missed three of the past four games because of a knee injury.

As for another Vikings receiver, there has been some pre-game talk citing an NFL Network report suggesting Bernard Berrian will not play Sunday. We should know soon enough, but I'm not aware of anything that would keep Berrian from playing.

Check back in a bit for this game's inactive list.

Video: Blogger's Blitz

October, 17, 2008

Kevin Seifert breaks down the latest in the NFC North.




Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8