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The Chicago Bears, a disorganized, inept group that in its first two games of the 1968 season had looked more like the Midgets than the Monsters of the Midway, rose from the dead last week. Their resurrection came at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings, a club whose performance this season had been the exact opposite of Chicago's. While the Bears were losing by thumping scores to Washington (38-28) and to Detroit (42-0), the Vikings, playing with style and dash behind the cool, crisp leadership of Canadian import Joe Kapp, had demolished Atlanta (47-7) and had beaten the World Champion Green Bay Packers (26-13). On the face of it, the game in bright, chilly Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn, seemed a major mismatch. So, of course, the Bears won 27-17.
Chicago had numerous heroes. Jack Concannon, who had been erratic in the first two games, was deadly in this one. He threw 12 passes and completed nine for 103 yards and one touchdown. He also carried the ball four times for 25 yards before he was injured on a run in the second quarter. Gale Sayers, easily the most fascinating runner in pro football, skittered through the befuddled Viking defense like a demented waterbug for 108 yards and a touchdown. Rudy Bukich, Concannon's replacement, lasted only briefly before he, too, was injured early in the third period. But Larry Rakestraw, who had completed five passes to Detroit the week before, came in and completed four out of four for 44 yards, leading the Bears on a long drive for the clinching touchdown.
Heroes aside, the biggest reason the Bears beat the Vikings was the fertile mind of the bespectacled young man who celebrated his nomination as Chicago head coach by pouring $25,000 in cash out of a sack at a team picnic a few weeks ago, to impress his players with the rewards available for winning the NFL title and the Super Bowl.
Jim Dooley, the 38-year-old who succeeded 73-year-old George Halas after the 1967 season, is a tall, scholarly man who looks more like a high school mathematics teacher than the coach of a professional football team. Since he once was a math teacher in Miami, this is perhaps unsurprising. He was the first draft choice of the Bears in 1952, and played nine years as an offensive end and defensive halfback.
He became an assistant to Halas in 1962 and worked with the offense through 1965, when the Chicago club set a team record by scoring 409 points. Halas, figuring that anyone who could devise a way to score that many points might also be capable of devising a way to stifle such an offense, switched him to defense. He was a success, but last week—on the eve of the Viking game—his woebegone features testified eloquently to the fact that his vaunted defense had already yielded a shocking 80 points in the first two games of the season.
"When I was named head coach," he said, "the first thing I said was that this team would live or die on its defense.
"I am not quite sure what has happened to us," he went on. "There have been some fundamental breakdowns, and the teams we have played have used some different offensive sets, sets we were not accustomed to. They used a slot-back offensive quite a lot [an offense in which one of the running backs is set out as a wingback to one side or the other, putting four receivers at or near the line of scrimmage in good position for a quick pass]. We did not react well to it. I will make some adjustments in the defense for next year, but it is too late to do anything about it now. We'll just have to go with what we have."
Dooley's primary contribution to the pro football philosophy of defense came last season when he began substituting a defensive back for a linebacker where a pass seemed likely.
The Dooley defense was extraordinarily sticky during the latter part of the 1967 season.
"In the last half of the season only 36% of our opponents' passes were completed," Dooley said.