Seizing the dazed

SportsFootballChicago BearsMark BradleyDesmond ClarkAlfonso BooneRuben Brown

The sun danced on a sparkling Chicago day and a dominant 28-3 victory over Minnesota sat not 20 minutes into the analytical stage Sunday afternoon, with words like redemption being tossed around freely for consideration.

Thanks to a Detroit collapse similar to their own last Sunday, the Bears had assumed first place in the NFC North again.

But none of that mattered to the Bears, who made it clear redemption should stay in the thesaurus, concepts like retribution should be left to armchair psychologists and scoreboard watching should be left for later.

"All we care about is how we play," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "We don't care what the media says. We don't care about the standings right now.

"You can say this victory boosts our morale and maybe it does. But more important, when we play like this, it shows how good we are. This was a total team effort."

Indeed, a dominant defensive performance that featured two interceptions and four sacks, two Kyle Orton touchdown passes to Desmond Clark, a gritty effort from Thomas Jones and a huge special-teams play from Bobby Wade spread the wealth around for 58,972 fans to appreciate at Soldier Field.

It's like, the Bears rule.

That's a sarcastic paraphrase of Mike Brown's blistering rebuke of last Sunday's collapse at Cleveland, in which he said, "It's like, we [stink]." That comment kicked off a tumultuous week in which Jones valiantly recovered from his knee injury and starting offensive linemen Ruben Brown and John Tait succumbed to their ailments.

Then again, Minnesota knows something about tumultuous weeks after dealing with allegations of a sex scandal on a team boat party that rocked the NFL and could bring massive disciplinary action.

Still, the Vikings drew first blood, taking a 3-0 lead on Paul Edinger's 23-yard field goal with 6 minutes 55 seconds remaining in the first half.

The lead could have been larger if holder Brad Johnson had not mishandled a good snap on an aborted 36-yard Edinger attempt on Minnesota's first possession. Edinger also badly missed a 52-yarder early in the second quarter as the Vikings established early momentum.

Enter Wade.

"We needed a spark and it had to come from somewhere, whether it be a blocked punt or a good return," he said.

The Bears chose the latter, green-lighting Wade to field a punt at his own 2 and setting up a return that featured several nifty blocks and moves and ended at the Vikings' 49.

"I was like, 'Let it go in [the end zone]. What the heck are you doing?'" Orton said. "Then I saw him break a couple of tackles. I was like, 'Go, Bobby.' That play flipped the field and energized us on the sidelines."

Eight plays later, after a 15-yard pass play to Mark Bradley and a 16-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad, Orton found Clark for the Bears' first score. Clark, ill the previous two days, made an extremely athletic play to break the goal line with the ball as Fred Smoot tackled him, a play upheld after video review.

Alfonso Boone preserved the four-point lead when he blocked Edinger's 32-yard, third-quarter field-goal attempt.

And then Tillman struck on Minnesota's next possession, shadowing Troy Williams on a Bears blitz and intercepting Daunte Culpepper for a career-long 55-yard return down to the Vikings' 3.

"There were a lot of big plays in the game but none any bigger than that, really," coach Lovie Smith said.

That's because Orton rolled out after play action and hit Clark for a second score two plays later.

"Down in the red zone, Dez did a great job," Orton said.

Jones, who rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns after taking a pain-killing shot to his sore right knee just before kickoff, broke off a 24-yard scoring jaunt early in the fourth quarter to make it 21-3.

By this time, the Bears had started stringing together dominant defensive series. Brian Urlacher had a sack and Alex Brown deflected a pass on one three-and-out Vikings possession.

Chris Harris posted his first career interception when Travis Taylor, covered closely by Urlacher, tipped a long Culpepper pass.

"Last week left a sour taste in our mouth," Harris said. "[Defensive coordinator Ron] Rivera told us to be one play better than we were last week. If 11 guys are one play better, that's 11 better plays. That was our goal this week, to come out and dominate. We did that."

Rivera had challenged Harris and Tillman to rebound from the Cleveland debacle throughout the week, during which Smith considered lineup changes. Rivera challenged his entire defense late Saturday.

"That's the one thing I do appreciate, when we put a challenge in front of them they respond," Rivera said. "We needed this very badly. Any time you can finish a game, it's something to build on for next week. We will try to take this momentum and use it."

The Bears, who face Baltimore next, are 2-0 in division games.

"We're resilient," Orton said. "We don't let a lot of things bother us. There's a lot going on and people making too much of what it is. We have a lot of football to go. I think we're just hitting our stride and really can get on a roll here."

kcjohnson@tribune.com

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