Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
They weren't the Bad News Bears to anyone but the hometown fans last night as they took a lot of the thrill out of Monday night football.
The Minnesota Vikings caught the Chicagoans hibernating in the first quarter and scored almost enough points - 14 - to regain their respectability with a 24-20 victory that knocked the Bears from the unbeaten ranks.
Fran Tarkenton outslicked the Bears with a 69-yard assortment of calls in the third quarter for a touchdown and a 21-13 advantage that was to be enough and in the fourth quarter added a 29-yard field goal by Rick Danmeier for insurance.
The sleep-walking Bears dropped into a tie for first place in the NFC Central with Green Bay at 3-1 and the Vikings tied Tampa Bay for third place at 2-2.
Chicago managed a sort of "gimme" touchdown in the last 13 seconds on a one-yard scoot by running back Walter Payton, who was barely challenged by a Minnesota team that had run out of incentive. That gain gave Payton 58 yards in 24 carries, fewer than three yards a trip.
Tarkenton, 38, rarely has had an easier game. He passed 33 yards to wide receiver Sammy White for one touchdown and his passes set up another second on a one-yard dive by running back Chuck Foreman.
The quarterback taunted some of his recent critics, saying, "Isn't it amazing how youthful my arm has gotten?Even against the wind.
"It doesn't really matter what you've been for 18 years, according to the writers; it's my age. When I was 27 years old, a New York writer said I was too old and on the way down, while Joe Namath was on the way up."
Namath retired at age 34 last season after failing to beat out Pat Haden with the Los Angeles Rams.
Tarkenton completed 14 of 20 throws for 142 yards and was intercepted once last night.
"Yes, we had to win this one," Tarkenton acknowledged. "Now it's time to start playing."
Tarkenton appeared to be picking on cornerback Terry Schmidt, who was the victim of White's touchdown catch. Schmidt is playing in place of Allan Ellis, out for the season with a leg injury.
Foreman left the game in the fourth quarter with a twisted knee and Coach Bud Grant commented, "You know, we're not used to playing on artificial turf. Consequently, we had a lot of bumps."
Grant unbent enough to admit, "Sure, there was a lot of pressure in this game, but there's pressure every week.This was not the Super Bowl, though, it was just a game. Tonight, we got good pursuit. This win got us back in the race. It's going to be a dogfight now."
The Bears' new coach, Neill Armstrong, former Viking defensive co-ordinator, said, "We were victims of the Vikings and our own mistakes. That's was the first long pass that's been scored against us, and they got that cheap touchdown on a bad exchange on a quick count.
"Even then, we felt we could come back, down 14 points in the first quarters, one of the keys to the game was that they did a good job on first down against us."
The "cheap touchdown" referred to when quarterback Bob Avellini fumbled a snap from his center. Defensive end Mark Mullaney recovered the loose ball and, lying on the ground, almost by relflex lateraled to a faster player, linebacker Matt Blair, who ran 49 yards for a touchdown.
The Bears got an easy score, too, when their Lenny Walterscheid blocked a punt by Minnesota rookie Mike Wood and the ball bounded to the Vikings' 13-yard line. On four straight pluges, Payton scored from three yards out.
The Bears pecked away with 27- and 32-yard field goals by Bob Thomas in the second and third quarters, to cut Minnesota's lead to 14-13, before Tarkenton roused the Vikings again on the 69-yard drive.