Sudden death has given sudden life to the Minnesota Vikings' playoff chances.
Two plays after the Bears' Kevin Butler missed a 40-yard field goal attempt in overtime, the Vikings' Warren Moon passed 65 yards to Cris Carter for a touchdown and an improbable 33-27 victory Thursday night in front of 61,483 fans at the Metrodome. The victory pushed the Vikings into a first-place tie with the Bears (8-5) in the NFC Central. But the Vikings hold the tiebreaker on the Bears by virtue of their two victories in head-to-head games.
Butler, who had made 29- and 33-yard field goals, barely hooked his overtime try wide left.
"Usually, when I hook it, I'm just a little quick on the ball," said Butler, who had been the hero the previous game against Arizona with an overtime field goal. "I felt like everything was fine. It's hard to put a finger on it right now. Whatever happened, I just missed it."
The Bears were attempting to win their first road game in December since Dec. 27, 1987, a 6-3 triumph over the Los Angeles Raiders. The Vikings snapped a three-game losing streak; the Bears had won four in a row.
"It was a tough game," said Vikings coach Dennis Green. "If there was one thing that happened in the way of (divine) judgment, it was the missed field goal. The rest of them went against us."
"Our goals are still attainable. We've still got three more games left, and we can still win the division," said Bears cornerback Jeremy Lincoln. "We'll have to wait and see."
The Bears play at Green Bay on Dec. 11 before winding up the season at home against the Rams and Patriots.
"The bottom line today was three turnovers," said Bears coach Dave Wannstedt. "The guys laid it on the line. The effort by our football team was good tonight. We had it in position to win it at the end. We don't make the field goal."
The lead changed four times.
"It was just a knock-down, drag-out heavyweight fight . . . and we lost the decision," said defensive back John Mangum.
The Vikings took a 27-24 lead when Moon passed one yard to Carter on a fourth-down play with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter. Moon passed to tight end Andrew Jordan for the two-point conversion.
A disputed fumble by Tillman at the Vikings' 15 set up the Minnesota score. The fumble was forced and recovered by linebacker Jack Del Rio.
Nate Lewis (seven kickoff returns for 221 yards) returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to set up the Bears at the Vikings' 36. Seven plays later, Butler booted a 33-yard field goal to tie the game 27-27.
The Bears won the coin toss for the overtime, and Lewis returned the kickoff to the Chicago 33. The Bears drove to the Vikings' 23 before Butler hooked his 40-yard try wide left.
Minnesota took over on its own 30. After Terry Allen ran to the 35, Moon and Carter hooked up. Carter eluded linebacker Joe Cain near the sideline and outran strong safety Shaun Gayle to the end zone.
Asked if it was a defensive mixup having a linebacker covering Carter, Wannstedt replied: "No. It's called having Mark Carrier (thumb) out, having Dante Jones (torn pectoral muscle) out and Kevin Miniefield (knee, inactive) out.
"We played the whole last quarter and the overtime with Joe Cain in there at nickel. We had no bodies. And Joe didn't practice all week with a bad shoulder. No, we were just in zone coverage, and after about a quarter of that, they figured it out. They figured it out, basically, that we had linebackers in there. We had nobody else."
The game began on a familiar ominous note for the Bears. Vikings rookie cornerback Dewayne Washington intercepted a Steve Walsh pass and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown with 13:25 left in the first quarter.
The sideline pass was intended for Jeff Graham. Washington also returned a Bears pass 81 yards for a touchdown on Sept. 18. Erik Kramer was the victim in that game.
In 1992, it was former Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh throwing an ill-advised pass toward that same sideline after calling an audible. Todd Scott returned that one for a touchdown as the Vikings overcame a 20-0 fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Bears 21-20.
Thursday night, the Bears answered quickly with a nine-play, 67-yard drive that was capped by a marvelous run by Robert Green after a short pass over the middle from Walsh. The play covered 39 yards as Green escaped the grasps of at least five tacklers.
Fuad Reveiz gave the Vikings a 10-7 lead on a 45-yard field goal with 4:38 left in the half.
The Bears drove to the Minnesota 23 late in the second quarter before Walsh bobbled the snap from center Jerry Fontenot and botched the handoff intended for Tillman. The Vikings recovered and proceeded to drive 53 yards in 10 plays before settling for Reveiz' 15th straight field goal, this one 41 yards, as the half ended and Minnesota led 13-7.
Walsh, who celebrated his 28th birthday Thursday, completed 9 of 16 first-half passes for 97 yards and one TD. He wound up completing 24 of 33 for 233 yards and two TDs.
The Bears sacked Moon three times.
The Bears took their first lead of the game at 12:55 of the third quarter when Jeff Graham returned a Mike Saxon punt 61 yards for a touchdown.
It was the first Bears punt return for a touchdown since Dec. 29, 1990, when Johnny Bailey ran one back against Kansas City.
Reveiz booted a 29-yard field goal to put the Vikings up 16-14 after a 10-play, 55-yard drive that featured a 20-yard pass play from Moon to Carter.
Butler added a 29-yarder with 2:30 left in the third quarter, and the Bears regained the lead 17-16. Walsh passed 36 yards to Greg McMurtry to set up the score on that drive.
The ensuing kickoff was returned by Qadry Ismail, who fumbled when hit by rookie Jim Flanigan. The ball was recovered by linebacker Barry Minter at the Minnesota 34. Three plays later, Walsh found McMurtry in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard TD passCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times