The Bears won the first half of the National Football League seasonSunday and decided to look at it as half empty rather than half full.
They did admit they aren't half bad after their 27-9 victory over theVikings in Soldier Field. But on a day when the Los Angeles Rams' loss to the San Francisco 49ers made the Bears the only 8-0 team, they preferred to dwell on their imperfections.
They complained of poor execution on a day when they half killed the team that used to dominate the NFC Central Division the way they are doing.
They refused to claim they have the title wrapped up on a day when the0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were mathematically eliminated.
"Not when Detroit beats Miami and goes to 5-3. We have to play themtwice," said coach Mike Ditka. "Plus, Green Bay next week will come afterus."
"We should have scored 40 points," said tackle Keith Van Horne.
"What today showed is we have a lot of ways to win. If we put it all onthe right track, we can be pretty darn good," said Ditka.
Quarterback Jim McMahon needed only seven plays to put the Vikings down7-0 on a 32-yard touchdown pass to flanker Dennis McKinnon on an audible. Then the defense treated the Vikings like a cigarette butt under their heels.
Kevin Butler kicked field goals before and after the Vikings scored their only touchdown with help from a 27-yard pass interference penalty against Shaun Gayle.
In the third quarter, linebacker Otis Wilson returned an interceptioncaused by end Richard Dent 23 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-7.
Linebacker Wilber Marshall ended a Viking threat with an interception atthe 3-yard line later in the third period.
When Walter Payton caught a 20-yard screen pass from McMahon for atouchdown with 9:36 to play, the Vikings pulled starting quarterback TommyKramer and packed their bags.
"I think they let us score from way out because they didn't want William Perry to get in the backfield," said Payton.
Perry played no offense, but the Refrigerator did get into the Vikingbackfield to stop Kramer cold. He got the first sack of his career and thefirst of the game against Kramer.
"It was better than scoring a TD," said Perry. "It was much better."
Before it was over, the Bears had five interceptions, matching theirtotal of 21 for all last season. Otis Wilson sacked Kramer twice and MikeHartenstine sacked Wade Wilson once. Dent was penalized for unsportsmanlikeconduct and then complained that Kramer was shoving him.
"The Bears are certainly deserving winners," said Minnesota coach BudGrant, who should know one when he sees one. But Grant stopped short in hispraise of the Bears, a team that seems more interested in winning games thanfriends.
Grant has played the Rams and the 49ers, but wouldn't comment on how theBears stack up. "That`s for you people to decide," he said.
Kramer was limited to 176 yards passing and Wade Wilson to 60. TheVikings ran only 14 times for 30 yards.
Kramer had 436 yards against the Bears six games ago, much of it aftersquirting through the rush and stepping up in the pocket. Perry discouragedthat move this time after Ditka encouraged defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan to let his 308-pound No. 1 draft choice play.
Perry did not start on defense but played most of the game.
"I mentioned it to somebody and they responded," said Ditka of hissuggestion to Ryan.
Ryan has been reluctant to use Perry, just as he was reluctant to usestar linebackers Wilson and Marshall when they were rookies.
Ryan put Perry over center Dennis Swilley in the Bears' special "46"formation. Usually, tackle Dan Hampton plays over the center. On Sunday,Hampton moved over guard in place of Hartenstine. Steve McMichael also played over a guard and Dent rushed from outside.
"Ming (McMichael) and I have a quicker outside rush," said Hampton."William is the guy who will take the center and move him back three orfour yards. He`s like a wave coming at you."
"We didn't have a chance to use the reverse to him," said Ditka."We'll get to it next week."
When will Perry pass?
"As soon as he jumps over the goal post," said Ditka.
The Vikings' defense tossed their own version of the "46" at the Bearswith less success.
"That defense is only as good as the personnel," said fullback MattSuhey.
Payton ran for 118 yards in only 19 carries.
"We didn't block a soul and he gets 118 yards," said Van Horne.
The running again enabled the Bears to control the clock as they dobetter than anyone else. They had the ball for 34:42. "We wanted to keep itaway from Kramer," said Van Horne.
For that, Kramer should have been thankful.
Safety Dave Duerson intercepted him first, and then Wilson broke open the game after Dent grabbed Kramer`s arm as he threw.
"Somebody tipped it, and I just tried to get outside. I beat that guy to the corner (tackle Tim Irwin). It would be embarrassing if a fat offensive lineman caught me," said Wilson.
Marshall's interception at the goal line kept Kramer from closing in onthe 20-7 lead. He took the ball away from Darrin Nelson. Marshall laterintercepted Wade Wilson for his fourth theft of the season, twice lastseason's total by the free agent he replaced, Al Harris.
"Wilber might take away my spot in the Pro Bowl," said Otis Wilson."He has so much athletic ability."
"I guess he showed he does know a little bit about football," saidDitka.
"I'm starting to feel like I know what they`re doing back there," saidMarshall.
Free agent rookie Ken Taylor got an interception against Wade Wilsonafter replacing injured Mike Richardson in the first quarter. Richardsonstrained a hamstring muscle.
The Bears were less critical of their pass blocking. McMahon got out ofthe game without a sack. Steve Fuller took over with 8:33 left and was sacked for a safety by Neil Elshire. McMahon and Fuller were nursing sore backs.
"We talked about having two hurt quarterbacks, and we couldn't afford to have them touched," said Ditka. "They responded to the challenge."