There haven’t been a lot of big games for the Vikings in the Brad Childress era, but tonight’s is one for sure. They face they Bears, at Metrodome, with first place in the division on the line. The teams’ first ’08 meeting was expected to be a defensive battle but turned instead into a shootout. Gus Frerotte threw for 298 yards and 2 TDs but was picked 4 times; meanwhile, Adrian Peterson ran for 121 yards and 2 TDs of his own. The Bears were hardly overwhelming offensively – the Vikes outgained them 439-327 – but they limited their mistakes, and took advantage of all those Viking turnovers and prevailed by a final score of 44-41. That win made Chicago 4-3 while dropping the Vikes to 3-4. The teams have been up-and-down since then, and now both find themselves at 6-5, comfortably ahead of the Packers who lost earlier today to drop to 5-7 and almost out of the race.
So what needs to happen for the Vikes to win? Obviously, they need to hold onto the ball. They lost the turnover battle 5-1 to the Bears in Game 1 – that can’t happen again. Gus Frerotte, meanwhile, needs to get back to doing what he does well – firing the ball downfield (and throwing it away when there’s no one open – Dear Gus, I love ya but you’re no Steve Young). Bernard Berrian needs to get involved in this offense again. All the Vikes need from their running game is a typical Adrian Peterson showing against the Bears. This is a big game for Minnesota, and Peterson is supposedly a big-time player – so it’s time for him to have a great performance in an important game, on a national stage. A dominant game by AD would go a long way toward establishing him as not only a phenomenal talent but a true elite player in the league.
As for the defense…we managed to survive another great statistical game by a quarterback last week, because his teammates kept turning the ball over and otherwise scuttling his efforts. Kyle Orton is another quarterback who can stand in the pocket and throw peas all night if you let him – he went for 283 on 21/32 passing with 2 TDs and 0 picks in the first game, and was sacked only twice (both times by Jared Allen). The defensive line looked bad against Tampa Bay, and a little better in the second half against Jacksonville (especially Kevin Williams who took the game over). Tonight, we need a great effort by our front four. We need pressure on the quarterback, something we haven’t gotten enough of the last few games. We need Jared Allen to start wreaking havoc again after disappearing for two straight contests. I’m done complaining about the play of certain of our secondary guys – Cedric Griffin and Darren Sharper are what they are; we have to live with them the same way we have to live with Gus Frerotte. Let’s hope one or both of them can dig down deep tonight and give a better effort than we’ve seen all season. This is arguably the biggest game the Vikes have played the last three years and everyone needs to step it up.
(P.S. – I have to apologize for the problems with the site. The entire Fan-Sided network has been slow all day. Apparently the head cheeses are working on it or at least that’s what they said.)