Bench-warmer Bob Avellini threw his first touchdown pass in more than two years, a 72-yarder to Brian Baschnagel with 13:06 left, to rally the Chicago Bears to a 10-9 victory today over the Minnesota Vikings.
The pass came one play after Minnesota had taken a 7-3 lead on Tommy Kramer's three-yard pass to Ahmad Rashad.
Avellini, who replaced Vince Evans in the second quarter, threw to Baschnagel on the Minnesota 45 and the former Ohio State wingback ran down the right sideline.
Baschnagel said he suggested the stop-and-go pass.
"They didn't expect us to go deep," he said. "We had the play in our game plan and they were vulnerable. I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but Bob hit me in full stride."
Avellini was playing because Evans has a cold and had been ineffective. But Coach Neill Armstrong said Evans didn't lose his job. "We're not making any quarterback changes now," he said. "It's too late for that."
Walter Payton gained 112 yards in 33 carries to lead the Bears' offense, which produced the first half's only points on John Roveto's 29-yard field goal with 3:11 left.
Kramer completed 21 of 36 passes for 268 yards. His third-period touchdown pass was his 25th this season, tying Fran Tarkenton's team record.
With two minutes left, Kramer nearly saved the game for the Vikings by passing to Rashad. But Rashad, hit from behind, fumbled on the Chicago four and the Bears' Reuben Henderson recovered.
The Bears yielded a safety in the closing seconds when punter Bob Parsons purposely ran out of the end zone. On the ensuing kick, Minnesota's Eddie Payton fumbled and the Bears ran out the clock.
The loss was the third straight for the Vikings (7-7) and their fifth in the last seven games. The Bears (4-10) had lost three straight.