MINNEAPOLIS HC CRB — MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have been struggling all season to live up to their reputation of being a talented team.
They have a forum to silence the critics tonight (9, Ch. 13) in a nationally televised game against the Chicago Bears at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
"If we can't get up for the Bears and play well, we can't do it against anybody," nose tackle Henry Thomas said.
The Vikings (5-5) have little choice, considering the hole they dug for themselves with losses to teams they expected to beat. Expectations rise when the Bears (7-2) come to town, but the Vikings will settle for a win.
Anything short of that probably will reduce whatever playoff hopes the team had to mere mathematics. The Bears, who own a 2 1/2 -game lead over the Vikings in the NFC Central, share their sense of urgency.
"Nobody throws a party or wins a championship after nine games," Bears coach Mike Ditka said. "You do that when it's over. We're facing our toughest test of the season."
Vikings coach Jerry Burns said a consistent performance from the offense is the key tonight.
"The Bears' defense is still a force to be reckoned with," Burns said. "Any time you have a team playing defense as well as they do, they're in every game. We have to do what we can to attack them."
Ditka, who has lost his past three games in the Metrodome, seems to have a phobia about domed stadiums. But the Bears left the Superdome two weeks ago with a win over previously unbeaten New Orleans.
Ditka just isn't sure which Vikings team he will see. He hinted that the Vikings lacked heart after the Bears beat them 10-6 in the season opener. Their character remains a debatable topic, but the Vikings have undergone a definite facelift since Week 1.
Reliance on the one-back offense has diminished, Herschel Walker is being platooned, Rich Gannon has replaced Wade Wilson at quarterback and the defense has found a way to pressure the quarterback.
Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh was not sacked in the first game, in which he completed 17 of 24 passes for 186 yards. The Vikings' defensive line has since revived itself with 20 sacks in six games.
"Looking for weaknesses, you don't find any [on the Vikings]," Ditka said. "I got a headache thinking about it. It's the same old thing. You're going up against good people."