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SI correspondent Kevin Lamb reports on the Vikings' 23-7 upset of the Bears on Sunday:
When Mike Ditka kept saying the Super Bowl champions needed to get better, his warnings were generally dismissed as the ravings of a mad perfectionist. Here was a team that had won its first six games in '86 and had won 24 of 25 before heading off to Minneapolis.
The Vikings stopped the Bears' running game and unleashed their pass rushers for seven sacks. They controlled the ball 17 more minutes than the Bears, who had led 43 of their last 44 regular-season opponents in possession time.
"They dominated us, up front on the line of scrimmage, on offense and defense," Ditka said.
Most of all, the Vikings gave hope to the rest of the NFL as it reaches the season's midpoint this weekend. It will take a few weeks to see whether Minnesota's victory was an ominous alarm for the Bears or merely a wake-up call. "You hope you don't have to get beat to get the players' attention," Chicago's defensive coordinator Vince Tobin said, "but maybe you do."
Ditka has measured the whole season against what it will take to win the first back-to-back Super Bowl championships of the '80s. That was why the Bears underwent a minor shake-up even though they were 6-0.
The day after the Houston game on Oct. 12, Ditka announced backup guard Kurt Becker would share time with starters Tom Thayer and Mark Bortz. "They ought to take their shoulder pads off and put on hand pads," he said of the guards' blocking at Houston. Ditka also took William Perry out of the goal-line offense. Perry's weight is up to nearly 330 pounds and he hasn't qualified all season for the twice-weekly $1,000 bonuses he could get for weighing 320. And Perry, suffering from a slightly dislocated kneecap, no longer has the quick start that prompted Ditka to put a defensive tackle at fullback.
On Oct. 13 testiness grew at the Bears' camp when the team traded with the Rams for Doug Flutie, the USFL refugee. In protest, Jim McMahon, who missed the Vikings game with a sore shoulder and bruised kidney, wore Flutie's college No. 22 on his red quarterback jersey at practice. He cried about Ditka's lack of loyalty to Steve Fuller and Mike Tomczak, the backup quarterbacks who have started and won for the Bears. On Monday Ditka said the Bears would sign Flutie "for this year" and added, "I could carry four quarterbacks."
Ditka says he has put more pressure on himself this season "because of personal goals." He had occasionally alluded to going undefeated. Now that possibility is gone. The bickering and controversy remain. The Bears and Ditka met Monday for what the coach called an "air-clearing session."
"A lot of players," he said, "have become offended about being criticized." Said safety Gary Fencik, "One of the problems we've had this year is that every time we win a game, no one's happy."