On the 20th anniversary of one of the most improbable playoff victories in Bears history, we take a look back at their surprise 35-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 1, 1995.
In Dave Wannstedt's second season as coach in 1994, the Bears went 9-7 and finished fourth in the NFC Central. But they earned the third and final NFC wildcard berth and faced the division champion Vikings in the first round of the playoffs on New Year's Day in the Metrodome.
|Curtis Conway caught 39 passes for 546 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears in 1994.|
A Minnesota victory was obviously a foregone conclusion to most outsiders, but the Bears proved their doubters wrong with an inspiring 35-18 win before 60,347 at the Metrodome.
"I think today's victory, as I told the players, really shows what a group of men who are committed with a very unselfish attitude can accomplish," Wannstedt said after the game.
After being outscored 75-42 in two losses to the Vikings during the regular season, the Bears picked the perfect time to register their highest point total of the season.
"We hadn't had much success against the Vikings," said quarterback Steve Walsh, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. "To come in here against the division champions and play as well as we did and win the ballgame was a big statement for us.
"Getting into the playoffs obviously was a goal of ours in the preseason, but to win a playoff game is a big step."
The Bears committed turnovers on their first two possessions, but their defense held the Vikings to only a 29-yard field goal by Fuad Reveiz.
"Our defense came up big for us and kept it close so we were able to stay with our game plan," said guard Jay Leeuwenburg. "It gave us a lot of confidence knowing that we had made some mistakes early and we were only down 3-0."
The Bears took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter on Lewis Tillman's 1-yard touchdown run, capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive that burned 8:51 off the clock.
After a Barry Minter interception, Walsh completed a 52-yard pass to Jeff Graham down the left sideline, then hit tight end Keith Jennings with a 9-yard TD strike to make it 14-3.
The Vikings cut the deficit to 14-9 with :19 left in the half when Cris Carter caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Warren Moon. But the same duo failed to connect on the subsequent two-point conversion.
The Bears increased their lead to 21-9 on Raymont Harris' 29-yard touchdown scamper, the team's longest run of the season. After a Vikings field goal, Walsh lofted a 21-yard TD pass to Graham down the left sideline, widening the margin to 28-12.
Moon's 11-yard touchdown pass to Amp Lee drew the Vikings to within 28-18, but the Bears clinched the win with their only defensive TD of the season as seldom-used defensive back Kevin Miniefield scooped up a Lee fumble that was caused by Maurice Douglass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown with 3:05 left in the game.
"It's something that you dream about, and it just felt great to be in the position to do it," Miniefield said.
The victory over the Vikings was the Bears' only playoff win in six seasons under Wannstedt. A week later, they lost to the 49ers 44-15 in San Francisco and have not played a road playoff game since.