It will go down as a loss by a normal NFL score of 17-13, but the 2011 season finale between the Vikings and Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field on Sunday afternoon was certainly not short on drama or excitement. Jim Kleinsasser, a truly great all-time Viking and 13-year veteran, played the final game of his career. And DE Jared Allen capped off the best season of his career by chasing history.
Kleinsasser, never one to embrace pomp and circumstance, went through the emotions of game day one more time, with many family members and friends right by his side the entire time. His last task of the day was to meet with reporters at a post-game press conference, where he spoke eloquently and with perspective about his great career with the Vikings, the love and support from his family and friends along the way, and the camaraderie he enjoyed with life in the NFL.
Allen, who entered Sunday’s game with 18.5 sacks, needed 2.5 to tie the Vikings single-season record (21.0 by Chris Doleman) and 4.5 to set a new NFL single-season record (Michael Strahan had 22.5 in the 2001 season). As he’s done all season, Allen delivered big-time for the Vikings. He chased QB Josh McCown around the field all day, finishing the afternoon with 3.5 sacks, giving him the Vikings record but coming up excruciatingly short of the NFL record.
As for the game, the Vikings jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the 1st quarter behind a 26-yard Ryan Longwell FG and a 5-yard TD dash by Percy Harvin. Chicago came right back and answered in the 2nd quarter, though, scoring on a 22-yard McCown-to-Roy Williams pitch-and-catch and then on a 22-yard INT return by CB Charles Tillman just 2 plays into the Vikings next drive.
And it got worse for Ponder. On the Vikings first play following the Tillman pick 6, Ponder rolled to the right, threw a pass, and was brought to the ground by Bears DE Israel Idonije, re-injuring the hip that has bothered Ponder late in the season and forcing him from the game. Joe Webb replaced Ponder, and right before halftime he drove the Vikings down the field to set up Longwell for another FG, this one pulling the score to 14-13 in favor of Chicago right in front of halftime.
The 3rd quarter was dominated by defense. The Vikings had drives end in an INT and 2 punts, while the Bears were forced to punt 3 times in the quarter. Appropriately enough, it was in the 3rd quarter, on a 3rd-and-14 play from the Chicago 40, where Allen set the new Vikings single-season sack mark. After the sack, Allen raced to the sideline where he was embraced by many of his teammates, and the sold-out Mall of America Field crowd gave their favorite calf-roping DE a huge ovation.
Unfortunately, the Vikings were unable to cap Allen’s record-setting day and Kleinsasser’s emotional farewell with a come-from-behind effort in the 4th quarter. Webb gave a tremendous effort, repeatedly avoiding pressure from the Bears defense, but it just wasn’t enough to put points on the board. The Bears added a FG on the first possession of the quarter and their defense was able to keep Webb and Co. in check the rest of the way to hold onto the victory.
There was obviously plenty of other action and development in the game, and we’ll continue to bring you post-game reaction and thoughts throughout tonight and into tomorrow right here on vikings.com. But for now, the loss drops the Vikings to 3-13 for the season and keeps them winless in the NFC North. The team will gather at Winter Park on Monday for a final team meeting and then will meet with reporters in the locker room before heading out for the offseason. Leslie Frazier will have his end-of-the-year press conference on Tuesday.
Tags: Jared Allen, Jim Kleinsasser, Joe Webb, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 57 Comments »