December 1, 2010

1994: Vikings Prevail Over Bears with Moon-to-Carter TD in Overtime

The Minnesota Vikings had obtained 37-year-old QB Warren Moon (pictured at right) from the Houston Oilers after the 1993 season, with the hope that, having fallen short in the postseason in 1992 and ’93, the addition of the prolific passer would take them deeper into the playoffs. For sure, the addition of Moon, who had been operating in a pass-heavy run-and-shoot offense in Houston, changed the complexion of the offense and Head Coach Dennis Green’s team got off to a 7-2 start in ’94. But coming into the December 1 game against the Chicago Bears, the Vikings had lost three straight and were 7-5.

The Bears, under second-year Head Coach Dave Wannstedt, had won four consecutive games and were 8-4, putting them ahead of Minnesota in the NFC Central division. QB Erik Kramer had been brought in as a free agent to direct the offense, but struggled when he wasn’t injured. Fifth-year veteran Steve Walsh had been effective in his place – a career backup with a notoriously weak arm, he was also a smart game manager who could be effective in a conservative offense. Chicago was a team of no-names, but it was in the thick of the playoff race and had not lost with Walsh starting at quarterback.

There were 61,483 fans for the Thursday night game at the Metrodome. Things started off well for the Vikings when, on the game’s third play from scrimmage, CB Dewayne Washington intercepted a Walsh pass and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. The Bears came right back, however, driving 67 yards in nine plays with Walsh throwing to RB Robert Green for a 39-yard TD to tie the score at 7-7.

The teams traded punts until midway through the second quarter when Fuad Reveiz kicked a 45-yard field goal that put the Vikings ahead again at 10-7. After LB Ashley Sheppard recovered a Walsh fumble with just under two minutes left in the half, Minnesota put more points on the board as Reveiz booted a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the half. It was 13-7 in favor of the Vikings at the intermission.

Minnesota went three-and-out in the first possession of the third quarter, and the ensuing punt was returned 60 yards for a touchdown by WR Jeff Graham. With the successful extra point, the Bears were in front for the first time at 14-13. The Vikings responded by driving 55 yards in 10 plays, and Reveiz kicked his third field goal, of 29 yards, to put Minnesota back in the lead at 16-14.

Chicago came back to score again. An 11-play, 64-yard drive that was highlighted by a 30-yard pass completion from Walsh to WR Greg McMurtry resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Kevin Butler and renewed lead of 17-16. That one-point margin expanded quickly when Minnesota WR Qadry Ismail fumbled the kickoff return and LB Barry Minter recovered for the Bears at the Vikings’ 33 yard line. Three plays later Walsh passed to McMurtry for a 15-yard touchdown and Chicago had a 24-16 lead after three quarters.

Early in the fourth quarter, Reveiz kicked a fourth field goal for the Vikings, from 38 yards, to narrow the score to 24-19. The teams traded punts, but a fumble by Bears RB Lewis Tillman gave Minnesota the ball at the Chicago 15 yard line. The Vikings capitalized when Moon tossed a one-yard touchdown pass to WR Cris Carter. Following a successful two-point conversion on a Moon pass to TE Andrew Jordan, Minnesota was back in front at 27-24.

Still, the Bears came back as WR Nate Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards and Butler tied the game just after the two-minute warning on a 33-yard field goal. Both teams had opportunities to win in regulation, but after trading punts, a long bomb by Moon was intercepted by CB Donnell Woolford at the Chicago three yard line.

The Bears won the toss in the overtime period and appeared set to win as they drove to the Minnesota 22 in nine plays. But Butler’s 40-yard field goal attempt was wide to the left, and two plays later Moon connected with Carter for a 65-yard touchdown that produced a 33-27 win for the Vikings.

Minnesota outgained the Bears, 385 yards to 312, and had 21 first downs to Chicago’s 15. Warren Moon completed 27 of 48 passes for 306 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Cris Carter (pictured at left) caught 9 passes for 124 yards and two TDs. RB Terry Allen gained 74 yards rushing on 18 carries.

For the Bears, Steve Walsh was successful on 24 of 33 passes for 233 yards with two TDs and one picked off. Robert Green led the receivers with 6 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield, and ran the ball three times for 15 more yards. Lewis Tillman led the running attack with just 49 yards on 21 attempts.

Minnesota went on to place first in the NFC Central with a 10-6 record while the 9-7 Bears, along with Green Bay and Detroit, made it into the playoffs as a wild card team (officially, due to tiebreakers, they finished fourth in the division). Chicago had lost both of its games against the Vikings during the season, but avenged the losses in the Wild Card playoff by a score of 35-18. The Bears lost to the 49ers in the Divisional playoff game.

Warren Moon became the first 4000-yard passer in Vikings history, with an NFC-leading 4264. However, while he threw 18 touchdown passes, he also ranked second in the league with 19 interceptions.

Cris Carter set a new NFL record with 122 pass receptions and ranked seventh in the NFL in receiving yards with 1256. While he would duplicate the pass receiving total in ’95, Detroit’s Herman Moore broke the record with 123 catches.

Steve Walsh (pictured below) went 8-3 as the starting quarterback for the Bears, and while Moon outranked him in the passing rankings (79.9 to 77.9), Walsh had the lower interception percentage (2.3 to 3.2). However, he threw just 10 TD passes to his 8 interceptions and averaged a lowly 6.1 yards per attempt. He went back on the bench in ’95 and started a total of three games (all in 1996 with the Rams) in the remaining five years of his career.