After nearly a month away from home, the Vikings returned to Mall of America Field on a snowy Minnesota Sunday and got back on the winning track. Using an early dose of Adrian Peterson and a heavy dose of defense, the Vikings powered their way to a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, avenging a loss to their division rivals just two weeks ago at Soldier Field.
The Vikings got out of the gates gracefully, handing the ball to Peterson and watching him rip off a 51-yard gain on the first play of the game. Five plays later, Peterson plunged in from a yard out to put his team ahead 7-0. Then, five plays into the Bears ensuing drive, rookie CB Josh Robison picked off a Jay Cutler pass and returned it 49 yards for a TD, whipping the home crowd into a frenzy. Officials eventually overturned the TD, ruling that Robinson had stepped out of bounds at the Chicago 5, but Peterson took care of business on 3rd and goal from the 1 to put the Vikings ahead 14-0.
Peterson has been a near unstoppable force since returning from a knee injury in time for the season-opener against Jacksonville. And that continued to be the case on Sunday against Chicago, as he topped the 100-yard mark before the 1st quarter even ended. By halftime, Peterson had 125 yards rushing and 2 rushing TDs on 18 carries.
The Bears were able to add a Cutler-to-Alshon Jeffery TD late in the 1st half to make the score 14-7 as the teams headed for the locker rooms at intermission.
The teams exchanged two punts each to open the 2nd half, and that set the stage for the Vikings defense to strike once again. Facing a 3rd and 2 from his own 39, Cutler dropped back and threw a pass to his top target – Brandon Marshall. The pass sailed on Cutler, though, and rookie S Harrison Smith was there to collect the INT. Smith, a high school running back, used good vision and plenty of solid downfield blocking to weave his way to the end zone, tallying a 56-yard INT return TD to give his team a 21-7 lead.
Forced to come right back onto the field following the return TD, the Vikings defense surrendered a 36-yard run to Bears RB Matt Forte. A personal foul penalty against Jared Allen tacked on 15 more yards, and the Bears were set up with a 1st and 10 from the Vikings 34. But that’s all the further they would get, as the Vikings defense held from there and eventually forced a punt (thanks to a holding penalty against Chicago). The Vikings then embarked on a drive that didn’t result in a score, but took over 6 minutes off the clock. When Chicago got the ball back, they trailed by 14 with 9:13 to play.
Chicago turned the ball over on downs, forced a Vikings punt, and then scored a late TD on a pass from Jason Campbell to Brandon Marshall. Campbell came into the game to replace Cutler, who took a shot to the head from Vikings DE Everson Griffen on an earlier series. After the Marshall TD, the Bears attempted an onside kick. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph recovered the desperation try, however, and the Vikings were able to kneel on the ball from there.
The win was a crucial one for the Vikings as they look to remain alive in the NFC playoff hunt. The Vikings now trail the Bears by one game in the NFC North standings and they’ll await tonight’s Packers-Lions game to see where they stand in relation to Green Bay. The win also moved the Vikings ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Both the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins also won on Sunday, so the Vikings were able to keep pace with both of those playoff-hopefuls as well.
Up next for the Vikings is a contest on the road against the St. Louis Rams, a team that also won on Sunday and is trying to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 319 Comments »