Vikings put Bears out in the cold Minnesota weathers revenge storm, picks off two-game lead

November 03, 1992|By Ray Richardson | Ray Richardson,Knight-Ridder News Service

CHICAGO -- Any questions?

Whatever uneasy feelings or questions that hovered over the Minnesota Vikings before last night disappeared with their 38-10 romp over the Chicago Bears in front of a stunned gathering of 61,257.

For the first time since 1978, the Vikings (6-2) won a Monday night game away from home. Outdoors. In the cold. In the wind. In the drizzle. It was weather fit for a Bears payback, but it never happened.

"We did a lot of things right and we're happy with the results," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "But this was just one game. We're going to go back to our philosophy of one game at a time.

"Our goal all along has been to win the division. You can't count on making the playoffs as a wild card."

Bears fans expected last night's game to push their team back to the top of the NFC Central Division. The Bears now appear headed for destinations unknown. The Vikings are en route to an elite status they had been seeking since the beginning of training camp.

They have a two-game lead over the Bears (4-4), who have won six of the past eight NFC Central titles. More importantly, the Vikings are 5-1 in divisional games with only Tampa Bay on Sunday and Green Bay (Dec. 27) remaining.

Skeptics who wanted to see the Vikings establish themselves in hostile territory got their answer. Respect comes to those who march into Soldier Field in front of a national television audience and beat the Bears at their own game.

Not only did the Vikings take a commanding position in the divisional race, they started the mission by putting the Bears on the run early.

Long before Jack Del Rio broke the Bears' spirit in the third quarter with his 84-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Vikings had set the tone for the outcome with a bruising ground game that Bears coach Mike Ditka had to admire.

The Vikings' first possession, which ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Roger Craig, featured five rushing first downs, more than they had in their Oct. 25 loss to Washington. They also had 98 yards rushing in the first half, surpassing the 75 they had in four quarters against the Redskins.

The Vikings finished with a season-high 164 yards rushing. They were so effective in running the ball that quarterback Rich Gannon attempted only 15 passes. He completed seven,

including a 60-yard scoring pass to tight end Steve Jordan early in the fourth quarter to bury the Bears.

Showing the Bears that they can muscle up a running game allowed everything else to fall into place.

"They showed they meant business and they did it very well," Ditka said of the Vikings. "They took the ball right down the field on us by running it, and we couldn't stop them. They're a good team and certainly deserved to win."

Jordan's play, aided by a vicious, open-field block from wide receiver Cris Carter on safety Mark Carrier, sent a chilling message to the Bears. The Vikings already were leading 24-3, but Green and his staff just wanted to show the Bears they still knew how to score through the air.

Everything else the Vikings had done last night was on the wet and cold Soldier Field grass. Even second-year linebacker Carlos Jenkins got into the ground attack by returning Peter Tom Willis' first pass attempt in the fourth quarter for a 19-yard touchdown, the first of his career.

Fuad Reveiz complemented the Vikings' five touchdowns with a 28-yard field goal.

But it was Del Rio who applied the Todd Scott Back-Breaker this time. Scott's interception return of a Jim Harbaugh pass on Oct. 4 ignited the Vikings' 21-point comeback.

They needed a similar play last night. The Vikings were leading 14-3 at halftime, but Terry Allen fumbled on the first play of the third quarter. Safety Shaun Gayle recovered at the Vikings' 21, and Chicago appeared ready to get back into the game.

On the Bears' first play, Harbaugh fired a short pass over the middle to wide receiver Tom Waddle, who collided with umpire Neil Gereb. The ball sailed into the arms of a sprawled Del Rio. The next thing Del Rio knew, he had a convoy of blockers to steer him to the end zone and give the Vikings a 21-3 lead.

The game was over at that point.

"The defense was unbelievable," Gannon said. "They came up with some really key turnovers. Jack's play was the turning point in the game."

Like Green, Ditka downplayed the consequences of the outcome. There was a feeling around Chicago that a Bears loss would end their playoff hopes. Ditka was even on his best behavior on the sidelines.

He showed restraint after running back Darren Lewis' fumble in the second quarter helped swing the momentum in the Vikings' favor. Lewis' fumble led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Allen, which gave the Vikings a 14-0 lead.

Ditka also kept composed after Harbaugh threw two interceptions. Ditka knew his quarterback was under duress all night. Harbaugh was sacked four times and didn't play the final two series.

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