A Head-to-Head History: The Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings joined the NFL's Western Division as an expansion team in 1961 and wasted no time making their mark with a surprising upset in their very first game, a 37-13 whipping of their new Western Division rival Chicago Bears in Metropolitan Stadium. Possibly even more unique than their rookie scrambling quarterback Fran Tarkenton was the fact that the Viking's uniforms featured purple as their primary color, the last team to do so was the 1933 Portsmouth Spartans. Tarkenton had a magnificent afternoon in his debut, throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns against George Halas' normally stout defensive unit that featured future Hall of Fame members Bill George and Doug Atkins. 

Normalcy returned in their second match-up that year as the established team Chicago rolled to a 52-35 win at Wrigley Field. That win set off a period of domination where the Bears record against the Vikings would be 11-2-2, which included and NFL Championship for the Bears in 1963.
Butkus and the Bears captured the 1963 NFL Title, while Marshall and the Vikings
got theirs in 1969, before losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
Payton carries against
Minnesota in 1983
In 1984 the Bears emerged as the divisions dominant team and had one of the great season in NFL history in 1985 when the 15-1 Bears ran roughshod over the NFL on their way to a dominant victory in Super Bowl XX. By the time Chicago came to visit Minnesota in Week 7 of the 1986 season, the Bears had won 12 consecutive games, which included six-in-a-row against their divisional foes. The most recent came just two weeks earlier in Soldier Field where the Bears bullied Minnesota quarterback Tommy Kramer with seven sacks in a miserable 11-for-30 performance in a 23-0 rout. Things were quite the opposite in the Metrodome however. Kramer was six for six for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, giving Minnesota an early lead and allowing his defense to return the favor on Bears signal caller Steve Fuller with seven sacks of their own. The Vikings out-gained Chicago 263-56 in total yards in the first half as they built a 16-0 lead. The final tally ended 23-7 as the stout Minnesota defense limited Payton to 28 yards on nice carries. The Vikings finished in second place in the division with a 9-7 record but did not qualify for the playoffs. Chicago went on to a 14-2 record but were upset at home in the Divisional Round by the Washington Redskins.
Harbaugh and Ditka get into it in 1992
The division rivals met in Week 14 of the 1994 season with the NFC Central title on the line. The 8-4 Bears and 7-5 Vikings exchanged the lead four times through the first three quarters as the Bears lead 24-16. Warren Moon lead Minnesota on scoring drives for a field goal, then a touchdown capped with a two-point conversion to retake the lead for Minnesota 27-24 with 4:12 remaining. Steve Walsh then lead the Bears on a drive that tied the game with a 33-yard Kevin Butler field goal at 1:55 tying the score 27-27. Butler had a chance to win the game with a 40-yard attempt in overtime but the ball sailed wide left. From their own 35, Moon lofted a pass to Chris Carter at mid-field, who had made a double-move, and outraced the Bears secondary the final 50 yards for the deciding 65-yard touchdown for a stunning 33-27 win.  Minnesota went on to win the division at 10-6 and the Chicago finished second at 9-7. The two met again at the Metrodome in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Chicago took the rematch with an opportunistic defense, intercepting Moon twice and recovering two fumbles, while limiting the Vikings to only 49 yards on the ground in a 35-18 win. The Bears would lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers the following week. 
Although most Vikings-Bears meetings were fairly typical uniform-wise, in 2007 in the Metrodome, the Vikings went mono-purple, while the following year they
went retro and the Bears went mono-white...
...and in the second game in 2008 in Chicago, the Bears broke out the Orange Alts...
...and two years later in November 2010, the Bears went retro themselves,
while the Vikings donned purple pants
The Vikings won the next two meetings in Minnesota, while the Bears then won the following two meetings in Chicago.  The second meeting, in late 2010, after a winter storm collapsed the Metrodome roof, was played in frigid temperatures at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank stadium.  It would be memorable for being the final appearance of Brett Favre's career, and the Vikings would lose 40-14.
The arrival of head coach Bud Grant from the CFL and the Purple People Eaters front four featuring Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen turned the tide of the series. From 1969 through 1983 the Vikings record against Chicago was 22-6. This period included 10 Division Titles and many epic playoff contests with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, all four Super Bowl appearances for the Vikings ended with disappointing losses.

In the midst of this Minnesota NFC Central domination, came a record setting performance from a remarkable player. In  Week 10 of the 1977 season the 6-3 Vikings visited the 4-5 bears. Halfback Walter Payton was ill with the flu, but coach Jack Pardee knew his star back was Chicago's only chance against Minnesota's strong defensive front.  Chicago's first play on the cold, damp, windy afternoon at Soldier Field was an end run where Payton charged ahead for 29 yards. The all rush drive ended in Minnesota territory on a failed fake field goal attempt, but Payton would fin the end zone in the second quarter on a one yard plunge, and a Bob Thomas field goal gave the Bears a 10-0 halftime lead. The weather conditions were so foul that Bears quarterback Bob Avellini attempted just one pass in the half, a six-yard completion to Payton, who had 26 carries for 144 yards - an impressive total for a full game! The first Bears possession of the third quarter resulted in a punt being blocked for a Viking touchdown, cutting the lead to 10-7. Both defenses clamped down and yards were at a premium. When the Bears received the ball at their own 20 yard line with 5:38 Payton had 201 yards on 36 carries. After picking up a first down, Payton gained 58 yards on his 38th carry, being tackled at the Vikings nine-yard line. Two rushes and a sack gave Chicago a fourth-and-goal and coach Pardee did not have confidence in a field goal attempt, even from short range. Payton rushed for six and was tackled at the two, giving him 275 yards, breaking O.J. Simpson's record of 273. The Bears defense held on for the victory, evening Chicago's record at 5-5. Both teams finished the season at 9-5. The Bears qualified for the post season for the first time since 1963 but lost to Dallas in the Wild Card Round. Minnesota won the Central Division, defeated the Rams in the Divisional round but lost to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game.

One of the series most unforgettable moments occurred in the fourth quarter of a game at the Metrodome in October 1992 with Chicago nursing what seemed like a comfortable 20-0 lead. Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh had played well, leading four scoring drives, throwing for a touchdown and running for another. On a first down he called an audible, but telegraphed a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Coach Mike Ditka was apoplectic, and met Harbaugh on the field, screaming, cursing and gesturing wildly. After the game, Ditka did not back down, and told the press, "I'll just say this...if it happens again, there will be changes made and they will be definite and they will be permanent. I'm not going to put 47 players' futures in the hands of one player who thinks he knows more than I do." The sudden change in momentum was palpable. The Chicago offense stagnated, gaining only two first down the rest of the way, while the Minnesota offense capitalized. Quarterback Rich Gannon was a perfect 7-7 in leading two touchdown drives to complete the improbable comeback. This was the beginning of the end for Coach Ditka in Chicago. The Bears struggled to a 5-11 record, their worst in a decade. The Vikings won the NFC Central title with an 11-5 mark but exited the playoffs in the Wild Card round with a loss at home to the Washington Redskins.

Chicago and Minnesota had a memorable meeting in 2007 when the teams traded scores six times in nine possessions during a back-and-forth, fourth quarter scoring barrage.  The Vikings broke a 14-14 tie with a 73-yard touchdown run by rookie Adrian Peterson in the third quarter (who had also scored from 63 yards out in the second quarter.) and extended the lead to 24-14 following a Ryan Longwell field goal at the start of the fourth. Chicago answered with a field goal on the next possession to cut the lead to seven, but Petersen swept around left end from the Bears 35 and raced for his third touchdown of the game to extend the Minnesota lead to 31-17 at 4:20. Brian Griese had a deep pass intercepted, but the Bears defense bailed him out by forcing the Vikings to go three-and-out.  A three play 53-yard drive finished with a Griese-to Mushing Muhammed touchdown cutting the Viking lead to 31-24. The onside kick attempt failed, but the Vikings again went three-and-out, punting the Bears deep. On second-and-ten, Griese lofted a deep pass to Devin Hester, who caught the ball at the Chicago 35, juked a defender and raced into the end zone for the tying score to complete the 81-yard play at 1:49. Peterson returned the kickoff 53 yards for Minnesota, setting the Vikings up at the Chicago 38. After three plays netted just one yard, Longwell was good on a 55-yard field goal attempt, the longest of his career, for the 34-31 Vikings victory, their first in Chicago in seven years. Peterson finished the game with a Minnesota club record 224 yards rushing on only 20 carries.

Special teams played a pivotal role for the Vikings in the 2008 Soldier Field meeting, but this time it was to the Bears benefit. Chicago scored twice on punt plays, but surprisingly neither involved return ace Hester. With the game tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Chris Kluwe bobbled the snap and had his punt blocked. Kluwe illegally kicked the ball a second time while it was on the ground right to defender Garret Wolfe who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown (second picture above). Midway through the second quarter with the score tied at 17, Viking returner Charles Gorman had the ball bounce off his leg inside his own 10 yard line, which Chicago's Zackary Bowman recovered in the end zone for the touchdown. The back-and-forth scoring continued through the half and third quarters, which included a 51-yard touchdown catch by Marty Booker. After a one-yard rush by Matt Forte opened the lead to 17 points, Minnesota attempted a comeback attempt. Gus Frerotte lead the Vikings to a field goal and touchdown to close the gap to 48-41, but with a chance to tie the game his final pass was intercepted and the Bears ran the clock out. The 41 points were the most Chicago has ever surrendered in a victory.  

Last year, the 8-8 Bears swept the 3-13 Vikings, winning in October on Sunday Night Football at Soldier Field and again in Minnesota for the season finale in December.  The 2012 Bears are 7-3 and are reeling having lost two straight primetime games with QB Jay Cutler being injured.  Cutler should be back today, but the Vikings are revitalized this year behind QB Christian Ponder and at 6-4 are in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race.  In just two weeks these two teams will meet again in the Metrodome, possibly with the Division title on the line, although the 7-3 Green Bay Packers also figure to have in say in that as well.

1 comment:

  1. I love this type of articles that allow us to compare two teams. As a Bears fan, I want to thank you. Very interesting post. I found a nice Bears shirt right here the other day. Pretty cool site:




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