1991 & 2002 Bear-Vikings Openers
by Roy Taylor © 2002
Not recognized, endorsed by, or affiliated with the NFL or Chicago Bears.
Ironically, no game in Bears history mirrors the 2002 season opener more than the September 1, 1991 matchup against, yes, the Minnesota Vikings. Some facts:

Minnesota played at Chicago.
The Bears were coming off their last division championship season, until 2001.
Chicago opened with an unproven left tackle to guard their veteran quarterback's blindside.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Landry's new passing offense was in its second year, and the teams' overall philosophy focused on running the ball, controlling the clock and playing strong defense. That is exactly what the '91 Bears needed to do to win that opener against Minnesota, much as this 2002 team will need to do.
Due to strong play from rookie left tackle Stan Thomas, the defense, and an unknown wide receiver, Chicago clinched a victory with less than 2:00 remaining in a 10-6 thriller at Soldier Field.
All eyes were on rookie first-round pick Thomas, who had been forced into the lineup due to the career-ending back injury suffered by pro bowler Jim Covert during the offseason. That day, Thomas whould face a huge test in the defensive end that would line up across from him all day-Minnesota pro bowler Chris Doleman. After the game's first play, Doleman stared facemask-to-facemask with Thomas in an attempt to intimidate him, but the Bears' rookie didn't budge. Thomas stood tall the rest of the game, holding Doleman to 3 tackles and zero sacks, providing time for QB Jim Harbaugh and blasting open holes for HB Neal Anderson. Anderson made key runs to keep drives alive, but was limited to 58 yards on 23 carries. His highlight came on an 8 yard carry to gain a first down, thanks to a crucial block delivered by Thomas.
On the other side of the ball, Chicago's defense was the key to the successful afternoon. The mix of veteran and young defenders gelled together to stop the Vikings, led by RB Herschel Walker, on six different plays inside the Bears' five yard line.
Early in the first quarter, Minnesota uncharacteristically employed a no-huddle offense and drove 73 yards for a first-and-goal at the Bears' 2. The defense tightened, dropping Walker for successive losses, then forced an incompletion from QB Wade Wilson on third-and-goal from the five. Fuad Reviez kicked a 25-yard field goal, but the Bears' defense emerged victorious. Later in the game, the defense would intercept Wilson three times and preserve the win on a Steve McMichael tip that triggered a Markus Paul interception.
Lastly, the Bears discovered an offensive weapon and fan favorite in an unlikely place-right under their noses on their own scrap heap. WR Tom Waddle, repeatedly signed and cut from the team since 1989, caught a crucial, diving 39-yard touchdown pass to put the Bears up for good 7-3 just prior to halftime. Waddle was forced into duty as the team's third receiver due to starter Ron Morris' injury. Coach Mike Ditka started a rookie on offense for the first time since 1983 in speedster Anthony Morgan from Tennessee, but the tough and important passes went Waddle's way. "He plays the game with his heart," Ditka said of Waddle after the game, and "Every ounce of talent God gave him." "I don't know how much talent that is, because he's working too hard for me to see it," Ditka said.
So what will be the recipe for opening day success against the Minnesota Vikings in 2002? Perhaps the current team can learn from their 1991 ancestors.