The Chicago Bears' Monday night jinx seemed alive with 2:17 left when rookie Rashaan Salaam fumbled against the Minnesota Vikings.
But the Bears' defense, which kept the Vikings out of the end zone all night, got a turnover of its own with 1:32 left in a 14-6 victory that ended Chicago's NFL-worst eight-game losing streak on Monday nights."It's a satisfying feeling that the game came down to the last minute and was in our hands," said safety Marty Carter, whose hit on Qadry Ismail forced the decisive fumble that Albert Fontenot recovered. "We finally got the monkey off our back."
The Bears (6-2) entered the game with three consecutive victories, but they allowed nearly 29 points a game in the victories over Jacksonville, Carolina and Houston, winning by a combined 10 points.
Minnesota (3-5) controlled the clock much of the game, with Warren Moon directing a low-risk offense, but the Bears sacked Moon four times and limited Minnesota to Fuad Reveiz's two field goals. Chicago made due with Erik Kramer's two touchdown passes 1:58 apart in the second quarter for its first season sweep of the Vikings since 1991.
They completed their sweep that year with their last Monday night victory, also at the Metrodome. The Bears now enter the second half of the season with a one-game lead over Green Bay in the NFC Central.
"Unfortunately, we don't like to make it easy on ourselves," Kramer said. "But the defense came up big. We ixnayed a lot of demons."
They also put the defending division champions in a big hole.
The Vikings lost their third consecutive game and are 6-10 over their last 16 regular-season games. They probably must win six of their remaining eight games if they hope to qualify for the playoffs.
"Time is getting short," rookie cornerback Corey Fuller said. "We've got to come together as a team. We have to refocus. This loss is difficult, you can't get away from that, but we can't dwell on it."
With the NFL's fifth-worst pass defense entering last weekend's games, the Vikings seemed an easy target for Kramer. He came into the game with 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions, directing an offense that was averaging an NFC-best 29 points.
Yet the Vikings allowed the Bears only one prolonged scoring drive, which Kramer capped with a 4-yard pass to defensive tackle Jim Flanigan, a goal-line substitue, for a 7-3 lead with 2:23 left in the first half.
Then Minnesota made one of its few defensive mistakes. Kramer stunned the Vikings with a perfectly thrown 48-yard touchdown to Curtis Conway, the ball barely clearing the outstretched hand of a leaping Alfred Jackson, as Chicago took a 14-3 lead just 25 seconds before halftime.
"They have a tough time on Monday night, so for them to score twice like that was a real momentum boost for them," Vikings defensive tackle John Randle said.
A 43-yard field goal by Reveiz was the only scoring in the second half, but both teams had chances in the final minutes.
After forcing a punt, the Bears took over at their own 17 with 8:16 remaining. They had only 39 rushing yards to that point, then added 44 on that drive to move into field-goal range. Kevin Butler, who had been perfect in 14 field-goal attempts this season, pulled a 38-yard attempt wide left.
A roughing-the-kicker call against Dewayne Washington gave the ball back to Chicago, but Ed McDaniel stripped Salaam on the next play and Broderick Thomas recovered at the Minnesota 13.
An 18-yard pass from Moon to Jake Reed gave the Vikings a first down at the Chicago 31. After two incompletions, Moon threw to Ismail. Carter hit Ismail in the back as he fought for extra yardage, and Fontenot recovered at the 19.
"That's what we talk about every week, making a big play,' defensive back Kevin Miniefield said. "That's what we think about every time we go out on the field, and fortunately it happened for us."