MINNEAPOLIS -- Their mission, which the Chicago Bears have chosen to accept, is to go 8-0 within the Central Division this season.
They are more than halfway there (5-0) after last night's 34-17 dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings.
"That is the goal we have set for ourselves. We feel it is very important to control our division," said Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who completed 18 of 27 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Winning for only the second time indoors on a Monday night, the Bears broke open a close game with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth period. Neal Anderson (91 yards on 20 carries) reversed his field and burst for a 24-yard touchdown at the end of an 81-yard drive to make the score 27-17.
Then cornerback Lemuel Stinson picked off a Rich Gannon pass and returned it 34 yards for a 34-17 advantage.
The Bears (8-2) have opened a comfortable two-game lead over the second-place Detroit Lions (6-4), while the Vikings (5-6), perhaps not these particular Vikings, prepare for next season because a wild-card playoff berth is all but a dream.
The Metrodome, which sounded like a rock concert at the game's start, was transformed into a chamber of horrors for the 59,001 booing Vikings fans poised to make Bears coach Mike Ditka eat his words of last week.
Ditka hates to lose. Consequently, he hates any team that stands in his path.
Last week, he hated the Vikings. This week, he will hate the Indianapolis Colts.
Such is the rhetoric of coaches obsessed with winning. Now Ditka is concerned about the health of his troops.
"I don't know if we will have enough guys to field a team next Sunday, we have so many guys nicked and bruised," Ditka said. "We will give it our best shot."
The Bears harnessed their dislike for the Vikings in the first half, forging a 17-10 lead at intermission.
Anderson's running exploits were complemented by fullback Brad Muster's 56 yards on 11 carries (a 5.1-yard average).
"We tried to do some things that we thought we might be able to get away with from the films we had seen," Ditka said of a running game that netted 191 yards.
"Some of it worked and some of it didn't. You are not going to make a living running on those guys. I mean, the touchdown Neal ran was just a great individual effort.
Tom Waddle (five catches for 35 yards), Wendell Davis (three for 31), Dennis Gentry (three for 33) and Anthony Morgan (two for 18, including a touchdown) keyed the most prolific game for Bears receivers.
The Bears converted seven of 13 third-down situations (54 percent) and their only fourth-down play.
"I think [receivers coach] Vic [Rapp] and [offensive coordinator] Greg [Landry] and the whole offensive staff did a good job of trying to straighten out our third-down package," Ditka said.
The Vikings got the upper hand on the Bears on their first possession, marching 80 yards in 15 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
The Bears retaliated with an 80-yard scoring drive of their own to tie the game at 7 early in the second quarter. Anderson carried the ball eight times on the drive, including a six-yard scoring run. Kevin Butler's kick knotted the game.
The Bears nearly lost the ball i their ensuing possession when Harry Newsome's punt was fumbled. But teammate John Mangum pounced on it.
The Bears went on to march 68 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, capped by Morgan's first career touchdown reception from seven yards out. Butler's extra point was his 247th, breaking George Blanda's Bears career record.
Butler later suffered a hip injury similar to the one he endured last season. He kicked off leftfooted in the fourth quarter because of the pain, and he missed a 35-yard field goal rightfooted late in the game.
"He's really hurting," Ditka said.