Staying Alive

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Minnesota Vikings got the job done last night against their hated NFC North rivals the Chicago Bears, upping their season record to 8-6 and moving another notch closer to securing a berth in the playoffs.

The 20-13 victory was without question the most nail-biting of all the games during the Vikings’ current winning streak (which has now reached 5). Things actually looked quite dire late in the second quarter, with the Vikes trailing Chicago 13-3. The half had been a miserable one for the Vikes – penalties at bad times, no running game to speak of and a Tarvaris Jackson performance inept enough to nearly wipe out all the goodwill accumulated by the quarterback during his recent spate of success. But, things took a turn for the Vikes at the very tail end of the quarter: They got the ball back from Chicago after the Bears’ lone first-half touchdown. It didn’t seem the Purple would be able to do much, as there were only 30 seconds left on the clock. Tarvaris Jackson still wanted to make something happen though. He scrambled on second-down, and as he was being ridden out-of-bounds by Tommie Harris, cornerback Charles Tillman came up and inexplicably hit him late. The fifteen-yard penalty gave the Vikes a first-down on the Bears’ 40. A quick 10-yard pass to Sidney Rice gave Ryan Longwell a good shot at a field goal, and Longwell indeed booted it through, allowing the Vikes to go into the half down only a touchdown.

To be trailing only 13-6 after such an atrocious 30 minutes of football must have given the Vikings a shot of confidence, because they came out in the second-half looking better. Adrian Peterson, who’d been utterly skunked in the first half, started seeing a few creases, though still not many. Tarvaris Jackson, whose two interceptions contributed mightily to the first-half struggles, was able to get his act together a little too. Early in the third, Jackson made the one big game-changing play, hitting Robert Ferguson for a 71-yard reception down to the one. An Adrian Peterson dive later and the Vikings were within one point. But, as if to underline how difficult things would be for the Vikes all night, Ryan Longwell missed the PAT, keeping the score 13-12.

The offense was, to be charitable, inconsistent. Thankfully the Vikings are also stout on defense, and last night that defense carried the load. The big star in the first half was Antoine Winfield, who played some of his best football of the year, highlighted by a beautiful play where he stalked Devin Hester across the field on an attempted trick play and tackled the Bears superstar for a one-yard loss. Unfortunately Winfield would injure his shoulder leaping for a badly-thrown ball late in the first half and would not return to the game. In the second half, the Vikings’ Pro-Bowl tackle Kevin Williams took over, getting incredible push up the middle and disrupting what little passing game the Bears were able to mount. The final defensive highlight came at the very end, when a desperation Kyle Orton pass to Bernard Berrian was tracked down and picked by Darren Sharper to seal the Vikings’ victory.

Notes

Sidney Rice injured his ankle when getting tangled up with Charles Tillman and had to be ridden off on a cart.

Tarvaris Jackson came up lame with cramps and had to leave the game; Brooks Bollinger took over long enough to hand off to AD for a touchdown (a funky-looking hand-off) and then run a QB draw for a two-point conversation.

Cullen Loeffler had three bad snaps. Get Mike Morris on the phone!

Matt Birk was manhandled by unheralded Bears DT Matt Toeaina, who was in the backfield tackling AD altogether too often.

Ron Jaworski openly ripped Brad Childress for trying to run right too often, and advocated the Vikes trying more misdirection plays to overcome the Bears’ fast pursuit.

Brian Urlacher sees something that lets him know which way guys are going to block. He had two sacks on plays where he shot up between Matt Birk and Anthony Herrera, and even had there been a running back filling, the blocker would not have gotten there fast enough.

Kyle Orton stinks.

Bobby Wade had 6 catches for 70 yards.

E.J. Henderson was our leading tackler with 7.

Antoine Winfield had 6 tackles in the first half.

Kenechi Udeze had our only sack.

Devin Hester was not a factor in the game despite Chris Kluwe kicking straight down the middle of the field to him on several occasions.

The Vikings finally ditched that idiot strategy of squib-kicking and letting the up-man return it to the 50 every fricking time.

Tarvaris’s first INT was not his fault (it flew out of Ferguson’s hands). His fumble was not his fault cause AD didn’t close his arms around it. His other turnovers were all just bonehead plays that can’t happen if a team expects to be a real contender.

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Tags: Adrian Peterson Anthony Herrera Antoine Winfield Bobby Wade Brad Childress Chris Kluwe Darren Sharper E.j. Henderson Kenechi Udeze Kevin Williams Matt Birk Minnesota Vikings Nfc North Robert Ferguson Ryan Longwell Sidney Rice Tarvaris Jackson