The sun danced on a sparkling Chicago day and a dominant 28-3 victory over Minnesota sat not 20 minutes into the analytical stage Sunday afternoon, with words like redemption being tossed around freely for consideration.
Thanks to a Detroit collapse similar to their own last Sunday, the Bears had assumed first place in the NFC North again.
"All we care about is how we play," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "We don't care what the media says. We don't care about the standings right now.
"You can say this victory boosts our morale and maybe it does. But more important, when we play like this, it shows how good we are. This was a total team effort."
Indeed, a dominant defensive performance that featured two interceptions and four sacks, two Kyle Orton touchdown passes to Desmond Clark, a gritty effort from Thomas Jones and a huge special-teams play from Bobby Wade spread the wealth around for 58,972 fans to appreciate at Soldier Field.
It's like, the Bears rule.
That's a sarcastic paraphrase of Mike Brown's blistering rebuke of last Sunday's collapse at Cleveland, in which he said, "It's like, we [stink]." That comment kicked off a tumultuous week in which Jones valiantly recovered from his knee injury and starting offensive linemen Ruben Brown and John Tait succumbed to their ailments.
Then again, Minnesota knows something about tumultuous weeks after dealing with allegations of a sex scandal on a team boat party that rocked the NFL and could bring massive disciplinary action.
Still, the Vikings drew first blood, taking a 3-0 lead on Paul Edinger's 23-yard field goal with 6 minutes 55 seconds remaining in the first half.
The lead could have been larger if holder Brad Johnson had not mishandled a good snap on an aborted 36-yard Edinger attempt on Minnesota's first possession. Edinger also badly missed a 52-yarder early in the second quarter as the Vikings established early momentum.
"We needed a spark and it had to come from somewhere, whether it be a blocked punt or a good return," he said.
The Bears chose the latter, green-lighting Wade to field a punt at his own 2 and setting up a return that featured several nifty blocks and moves and ended at the Vikings' 49.
"I was like, 'Let it go in [the end zone]. What the heck are you doing?'" Orton said. "Then I saw him break a couple of tackles. I was like, 'Go, Bobby.' That play flipped the field and energized us on the sidelines."
Eight plays later, after a 15-yard pass play to Mark Bradley and a 16-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad, Orton found Clark for the Bears' first score. Clark, ill the previous two days, made an extremely athletic play to break the goal line with the ball as Fred Smoot tackled him, a play upheld after video review.
Alfonso Boone preserved the four-point lead when he blocked Edinger's 32-yard, third-quarter field-goal attempt.
And then Tillman struck on Minnesota's next possession, shadowing Troy Williams on a Bears blitz and intercepting Daunte Culpepper for a career-long 55-yard return down to the Vikings' 3.
"There were a lot of big plays in the game but none any bigger than that, really," coach Lovie Smith said.
Bears 28, Vikings 3