Bears win NFC North, dominate Vikings

My how time flies. I was there 29 years ago, and I was there Monday night for the first time since December 20, 1981 to see the Vikings playing a regular-season NFL game outside.

Yes sir, in the cold, in the snow, in the wind — 29 years ago it was the Met Stadium in Bloomington. Monday night it was at TCF Stadium on the U of M campus, where 40,504 fans braved the elements in the Vikings’ final home game of the year.

And the weather was bad — it snowed and kept snowing, the wind blew and kept blowing. And yes, some players got hurt on the hard, frozen surface.

The game was played outside because the Mall of America Field-Metrodome roof collapsed last week under the weight of 17.1 inches of snow. You might say the Vikings were out of their element: (10-4) Bears 40, (5-9) Vikings 14. Chicago wins the NFC North and clinches a playoff spot.

Quarterback Brett Favre started at quarterback for Vikings and was knocked out of the game with a head injury in the second quarter. He was slammed to the frozen turf headfirst by Bears lineman Corey Wootton, who beat Bryant McKinnie at the 11:32 mark.

Favre lay motionless on the cold turf until he was helped off the field by Vikings medical staff. He was woozy and his night was done — and so were the Vikings. The score was 10-7 Bears; the Vikings were, at that point, putting up a fight.

Favre was a surprise starter — as late as Sunday he was listed as out of the game because of a right shoulder injury. But Favre is a one-of-a-kind player; the man has an umbilical cord tied to the game. He absolutely loves the game of football. He felt he could play late Sunday night and asked Coach Leslie Frazier if he could.

But it’s not smart to tussle with big, hungry Bears outside in the cold, especially those hungry for a playoff spot. The Bears exposed the Vikings and were more physical, forcing five Vikings turnovers. While quarterback Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes, Devin Hester did it again: He broke the game open by returning a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.

Hester now has returned 14 kicks for touchdowns in just five years in his remarkable career — that’s the most all-time in NFL history. Vikings rookie Joe Webb got some playing time at quarterback and did some good things. His lack of playing time and limited experience showed, however.

Webb was intercepted twice, but he has a bright future. The Vikings had to play without star running back Adrian Peterson, who still has swelling on his right knee from colliding with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson last Monday in Detroit.

Frazier, now 2-2 as interim head coach, takes his team on the road next Sunday to Philadelphia to play MVP candidate Michael Vick and the NFC East-leading Eagles.

Fitz Notes & Quotes

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was here for NFL business and the Monday night game, and he was busy. He met several people, including Minnesota Governor-elect Mark Dayton and Brett Favre. Goodell said this trip to Minnesota was planned long before the collapse of the Dome.

Goodell said, “We had a series of meetings, including with the governor-elect. They were all productive. I think there is a recognition that we need to find a long-term solution for the Vikings here and get a new stadium built.

“We are all going to work together. We met with the business community; we met with legislators; we met with members of the union. We are all going to be working hard to develop those solutions and keep the Vikings here in Minnesota.”

Goodell on Favre and the Jenn Sterger sex-texting investigation: “As soon as I have reached a conclusion, I will be announcing that. I hope that will be by the end of the season. I’m still following up on some of the information, making sure that we have been thorough. We want to be thorough and serious about it and reach the right conclusion.”

The Arizona Cardinals were one of the NFL teams that took the bait: no salary cap for the 2010 season. 2011 might be a lockout year imposed by the owners on the players. So the league had no mandatory salary cap for each of the 32 teams.

Last year, each team’s salary cap was $111 million for all 32 teams. The Cardinals, a playoff team the last two years, spent just $85 million in 2010. No wonder they are 4-10 now with the team’s fourth quarterback of the 2010 season playing.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzger ald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.