Bears Aplenty Share Blame for Errant Pass
It was not a play to be proud of, but there were more than enough Chicago Bears willing to take the blame for Walker Lee Ashley’s 94-yard interception return for a touchdown that clinched a 28-27 victory for the Minnesota Vikings.
“I made the call at the goal line,” Chicago coach Mike Ditka said after Monday night’s game.
But Mike Tomczak, who threw the third-and-2 pass from the Minnesota 8 with the Bears trailing 21-20 and 2:37 to play, said Ditka wasn’t at fault.
“I’m going to take some responsibility, too,” Tomczak said. “I threw the pass. He didn’t throw it. I threw it.”
But wait. Backup fullback Brad Muster, the intended receiver on the play, said he was the culprit.
“I was supposed to go weakside,” said the rookie, who admitted he turned the wrong way in his pass pattern. “That was a big mistake. I guess you could call it a rookie mistake.”
“Muster ran the wrong route,” the coach said. “It was a good call, but it was just inexperience showing for us.”
Trailing 21-0 late in the first half, the Bears scored 20 straight points to cut Minnesota’s lead to one midway through the fourth quarter.
Starting at the Vikings’ 38 with 8:02 to play, Tomczak, playing his first game since suffering a separated shoulder on Nov. 27, drove the Bears 54 yards to the 8.
The Bears were in position to take the lead with a field goal, but instead of protecting the ball by running, they decided to gamble and pass.
Minnesota defensive end Stafford Mays hit Tomczak just as he threw the ball in the direction of Muster.
But Ashley was in the way. He grabbed the pass at the 6 and rambled down the left sideline for the Vikings’ longest-ever interception return.
“I just made a bad pass,” Tomczak said. “It was in the right spot in the right time. But if I could have one pass back in my life, that would be it.
“He (Ditka) called it. I threw it. Unfortunately, I didn’t throw it in the right spot. I think it was a good call down there.”
Tomczak chased Ashley for several yards before being blocked to the turf.
“I made a good effort. I tried to tackle him,” Tomczak said.
Muster, a first-round pick out of Stanford, had his best day as a pro, rushing six times for 38 yards and catching two passes for 43 yards
“I’m happy with what I did, but then again my mistake may have cost us the game,” Muster said.
The play also ruined a good day for Tomczak. He got off to a slow start, completing just two of his first 11 passes for 12 yards, but several of those passes were dropped. He finished 16 of 32 for 285 yards and two touchdowns, including a 76-yarder to Dennis McKinnon.
“If you’re going to judge me on one play, then I didn’t have a very good game,” Tomczak said.
“What’s that guy’s name, Walker Lee Ashley? Big time. He’s a hero for one day. We’ll let him enjoy it, but we’ll be all right. We’ll come back.”