Vikes don't waste time, fire Tice

Published: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Mike Tice left the Metrodome a winner, but it didn't matter.
Tice was fired Sunday, despite the Minnesota Vikings' 34-10 victory over the Chicago Bears that gave them a winning record after a poor start.
Minnesota finished 9-7, one positive for Tice during yet another up-and-down season marred by a scandalous boat party during the team's bye week. But despite rebounding from a 2-5 start, owner Zygi Wilf decided not to keep the coach around.
Brad Johnson passed for 247 yards and two touchdowns against the NFC North champion Bears.
Thomas Jones ran 12 times for 62 yards in the first half to finish with 1,335 yards for Chicago (11-5), which used a dominant defense and an eight-game winning streak to take control of the division. Jones' rushing total was the highest for a Bears player other than Walter Payton and the greatest sum since Payton's 1,551 yards in 1985.
The only thing Chicago really had to play for was a franchise record for fewest points allowed, 187 set by the 1986 squad. But Johnson, who completed 27 of 40 passes, made sure that didn't happen. The Bears gave up 201 points this season.
Michael Bennett, in probably his last game with Minnesota, ripped off a late 61-yard touchdown run and totaled 82 yards on six carries. A pending free agent, Bennett never built on his breakout 2002 season because of injuries and failed to give the Vikings the reliable featured back they've badly needed the last two years.
Kevin Williams had two sacks, and tight end Jim Kleinsasser blocked a punt to set up a touchdown for Minnesota, which had four scoring drives that lasted 2 minutes or less.
Less than three weeks ago, it looked like this game could determine the division title - or at least give the Vikings a chance to get a wild card spot with a win and some help from others. But Chicago clinched last week, and Minnesota fell out of postseason contention by losing at Baltimore - a second consecutive defeat following six straight victories.
Predictably subdued on this New Year's Day, Vikings fans filled most of the 64,000-some seats - though the crowd included plenty of navy blue and orange in support of the Bears.
Chicago, which has a first-round bye and won't play again until Jan. 14 or 15 against the highest remaining seed in the NFC field, rested most of the regulars. Receiver Muhsin Muhammad, safety Mike Brown, cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and nose tackle Ian Scott were all on the inactive list.
And rookie Kyle Orton returned at quarterback in place of Rex Grossman, looking as shaky as he did before he lost the job to Grossman in the second half of a victory over Atlanta on Dec. 18. Orton tripped once while handing off to Jones, had to recover his own fumble on a dropped snap and finished 6-for-14 for 59 yards with no touchdowns or turnovers before yielding to Jeff Blake in the fourth quarter.
Center Olin Kreutz played briefly in an uneventful first quarter against Minnesota's Pat Williams. The two traded several barbs through the media this season, with Kreutz cracking derogatory jokes about Williams' weight after Williams' agent alleged that Kreutz campaigned to other players to keep him out of the Pro Bowl.
Blake threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Justin Gage with 7:08 left, bringing the Bears within 27-10. Gage had six catches for 67 yards.

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