If you hung around Winter Park this past week, the last thing you expected to see Sunday night was the Bears to dominate the Vikings to the tune of 39-10, with the visitors really never in the game.
The Vikings defense had dominated the Arizona offense the week before, as defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison spent all day in the Cardinals backfield. The Vikings coaching staff believed that the secondary had found itself.
Those coaches were convinced that the Cardinals game was a turning point in the season and that the Vikings could handle a Chicago team that had been dominated last Monday by the Lions.
But everything went in reverse on this particular evening in Chicago, with the Vikings not getting a sack until the third quarter and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler having all night to find his receivers.
The game was over at the half with the Bears up 26-3.
The Vikings' pattern this season had been to outscore their opponents in the first half and then get dominated in the second. But this game saw them beaten soundly from the outset.
The contest was similar to the Packers' visit to the Metrodome a year ago, when Aaron Rodgers passed his team to a 31-3 victory after the Vikings had lost 27-13 in Chicago the week before. Coach Brad Childress lost his job after the Packers loss.
The performance of the Vikings had to be especially embarrassing to coach Leslie Frazier, whose Soldier Field appearance was a homecoming, as he played cornerback for the Bears for five seasons before a knee injury in the Super Bowl cut his career short.
Tice's group steps up
Late in NBC's broadcast Sunday, they showed how the Bears offensive line has changed throughout the season. The Bears already came into this year with a new-look offensive line that no longer had longtime center Olin Kreutz and had only one starter returning in his same position from 2010, left guard Chris Williams.
This week the Bears started their fifth different offensive line in six games, with all the turmoil coming at right guard and right tackle. Lance Louis, their Week 1 starting right guard, became their third starting right tackle in six games.
All the changes had taken a toll on Cutler, who was sacked three times by Detroit last week, making it 16 sacks in five games.
Well, Sunday night, until Allen was able to sack Cutler in the middle of the third quarter, nobody in a Purple uniform got close to the Bears quarterback. This after the Vikings had four sacks against the Cardinals last week.
NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth described it as a flawless performance by a Bears offensive line, a group that is coached by former Vikings coach Mike Tice.
The Vikings were never in this game. The result appeared to be decided when the Bears took a 16-0 lead in the first quarter, taking only three plays before Cutler's 48-yard touchdown pass to Devin Hester indicated what was going to happen on this night.
The Vikings had not won a game in Chicago since 2007, when, as a rookie, Adrian Peterson set a club record by running for 224 yards in a 34-31 victory. Peterson broke that record three weeks later with his NFL-record 296 yards against San Diego.
Sunday night, the Bears held Peterson to 12 carries for 39 yards as they stacked eight and nine men on the line of scrimmage and challenged Donovan McNabb to beat them with the passing game.
It seems that maybe the Bears have figured out how to slow down Peterson when he visits Soldier Field. Last season, he was held to only 51 yards on 17 carries and had no touchdowns.
That was the first time the Bears were really able to stop Peterson in Chicago. In addition to his 2007 outburst at Soldier Field in which he also scored three touchdowns, he ran for 121 yards on 22 carries and two TDs in a 48-41 loss there, and in 2009 he ran for 94 yards on 24 carries with two TDs while also catching three passes for 43 yards in a 36-30 overtime loss.
The same can be said for Allen, who has never won a game in Chicago during his time with the Vikings. Allen had three tackles and sacked Cutler once, forcing and recovering a fumble that set up the lone Vikings touchdown in the process. In his three previous games at Chicago, Allen had a total of four sacks and 13 tackles.
Can't blame McNabb
McNabb was responsible for a first-quarter safety that was followed by a 3-yard touchdown run by former Gophers star Marion Barber. But statistically, McNabb wasn't bad, completing 19 of 24 passes for 177 yards and a respectable 97.4 rating despite being rushed all night. Two of the incompletions were drops, one by Visanthe Shiancoe and one by Bernard Berrian.
Viking receivers wound up catching 28 passes for 276 yards, a season high, but the receptions didn't lead to scores.
The McNabb haters should be happy because rookie Christian Ponder did finally get his chance in the fourth quarter, and I thought he did a pretty good job even though he was being pressured from all sides on most every play.
The first-round draft choice from Florida State wound up completing nine of 17 passes for 99 yards and a 70.5 rating. He also rushed one time for 8 yards, saw another 9-yard run called back by a holding penalty and did a decent job evading blitzers.
With a 1-5 record and no chance to win the division on the basis of Sunday's performance, one would hope that Ponder, the future quarterback, would get an opportunity to see what he can do the rest of the season. However, Frazier might decide to see if Joe Webb can perform like he did in his victory over the Eagles last year.
Manning got blitzed
One comparable embarrassing Vikings performance in Chicago was on Oct. 28, 1984, when coach Les Steckel allowed one of his assistants to completely change the personnel on the offensive line. Quarterback Archie Manning almost got killed that night.
The Bears won by a score of only 16-7, but Manning got sacked 11 times. Manning went 14-for-24 passing for 138 yards with one interception.
Richard Dent had 2 1/2 sacks, Todd Bell had two sacks and five other Bears tallied at least one sack. The lone Vikings score came in the fourth quarter after Wade Wilson had replaced the battered Manning.
That 1984 Vikings team went 3-13, a record this Vikings team hopes it doesn't get stuck with.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org