MINNEAPOLIS—Most teams and competitors win when they play their best. Champions typically win when they don't. What the Bears managed to do Sunday--rally to beat the Minnesota Vikings 19-16 in a place where they had lost four straight times--felt like one of those defining moments for a team with dreams.
"I don't think you can overstate how huge this is," said defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, whose fumble recovery preceded the game-winning touchdown pass. "We didn't play a perfect game. But for us to find a way to win against a team like this in our division is huge, especially the way the Vikings are. They are good. They have improved. To go 3-0 is huge."
For most of the first 58 minutes of this game, the Bears did not look huge. But it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Former Bear and current Viking Marcus Robinson stopped by to say a few hellos. The man who still holds the Bears' single-season record with 1,400 receiving yards had a parting question: "Is that [Bears] offense for real?"
Hard to tell when that offense is on the field for only nine snaps in a quarter. The Bears managed only two first downs and Robbie Gould's 41-yard field goal as Minnesota made good its boast of last week that it would try to overwhelm the Bears' offense. The Vikings did not do a whole lot more on offense than get to the Bears' end of the field on both possessions.
What went right: Gould ran his perfect season to seven straight with another long field goal. The Bears stayed with a balanced offensive plan, using five runs and four passes, even if it got them only 30 yards for the quarter.
What went wrong: The Bears had to burn a timeout getting their field-goal unit on the field after an elbow injury to John Tait. Ricky Manning Jr. got "picked" by Troy Williamson and lost wideout Travis Taylor for a 39-yard completion on third-and-4, the longest gain allowed by the Bears all season. It led to a field goal, the first points allowed by the Bears in a first half.
Quote: "I think we did a pretty good job of making [Rex] Grossman move in the pocket and throw off his back foot." Minnesota linebacker Napoleon Harris.
Key number: 5 Minutes of possession by the Bears. They started their lone possession of the quarter at their 43 and advanced only as far as the Minnesota 24 as the crowd noise clearly took a toll on execution.
The offense rocked the Vikings backward to start the half, avoiding penalties and driving from its 28 to the Minnesota 9-yard line before the Vikings stiffened and forced Gould to kick a game-tying field goal from 24 yards.
The defense produced a three-and-out with the help of a Vikings penaltyone of four in the quarterand the offense pounded the ball again, with Jones carrying six times on nine plays down to the Minnesota 13. That set up Gould for another field goal and a brief 9-6 lead.
What went right: Jones' running began to take effect. He carried eight times for 37 yards, matching Grossman's eight passes, six of which were completions. The Bears did not get into the end zone but went back to selling the run and forcing the Vikings to defend it, setting up play-action that was effective as the game wore on.
What went wrong: Two red-zone chances were squandered in a game that did not appear to present very many great opportunities.
Quote: "We made some adjustments at halftime, started running some different plays, and the offensive line did a good job blocking for me. I was able to take advantage of it. But the [Minnesota] defense stayed in its gaps and really didn't give me chances for cutbacks and took away all my options." Jones, whose 37 rushing yards were his most in a quarter this season.
Key number: 7: Number of penalties walked off against the Bears, costing them 62 yards, field position and momentum when they desperately needed all three.
Mistakes built on mistakes in the Bears' roughest quarter of the season. Of the Bears' nine penalties for the half, seven came in the second quarter. Only one of their four possessions went penalty-free, and that was a three-and-out. The offense appeared to lose its compass as Thomas Jones ran one time and Grossman threw 16 passes, completing only seven and throwing an interception to set up Minnesota's go-ahead field goal. The Bears outgained the Vikings 116-68 but failed to score.