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Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - The Minnesota Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive on Sunday with a 21-14 win over the Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field. While 12+ inches of snow fell outside, the Vikings found comfort under the teflon roof of their home stadium and flipped the script on a Bears team that they fell to only two weeks ago.
After winning the coin toss and opting to receive the opening kickoff, it was clear that the Vikings were looking to establish the tempo fast and get on the board early. Well, it didn't take too long as Adrian Peterson took the opening handoff 51 yards do the far sideline pushing the Vikings deep into Bears territory early. Five plays later, Peterson would cap off the drive with a one yard dive into the endzone, giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, rookie Josh Robinson was in the right place at the right time as Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery fell to the ground and Cutler hit Robinson right in the hands with the pass. After the interception, Robinson showed off some of his speed and appeared to have tip-toed the sidelines on his way into the endzone for the score. Upon further review, Robinson stepped on the sideline giving the Vikings the ball at the six yard line.
Three runs later and Adrian Peterson had found the endzone again, putting the Vikings up by a score of 14-0 with 8:46 still left in the first quarter.
"To come out and jump out like that, it felt good," Peterson said. "When I looked up and we still had eight minutes left in the first quarter, I thought ‘Wow.’ But you still have to stay focused in your mind when it gets like that."
With eight carries and 74 yards already on the first two drives, Adrian Peterson was on his way to a career day on the ground. When the final whistle blew, Peterson would have 154 yards (his seventh straight game with more than 100 yards, team record) and a career best 31 carries on the day (also a team record).
With Bears kicker Robbie Gould on the shelf having tweaked his plant leg during warm ups, there were multiple times that the Bears were forced to punt in situations that could have normally turned into three points. So for the next twenty-one minutes of game time, this one turned into a punting match with Chris Kluwe and Adam Podlesh exchanging punts back and forth after their respective teams had slowed around mid field.
It wasn't until just after the two-minute warning that Jay Cutler hooked up with Alshon Jeffery for a 23-yard touchdown down the right sideline, getting the Bears on the scoreboard for the first time.
With clock management again a confusing mess right before the half for the Vikings, they took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
The first portion of the third quarter was much of the same as Kluwe and Podlesh continued to steal the show, successfully pinning their opponents deep on a quite regular basis but with 4:55 seconds left, the Vikings defense struck again.
With defensive pressure wreaking havoc for Cutler all afternoon, he was again pressured in the pocket and unleashed one deep down the field for his favorite target Brandon Marshall. Slightly overthrown, the ball sailed on Marshall and plopped right into the hands of the rookie safety Harrison Smith. After catching the ball, Smith, a stand out running back in high school, channeled his inner-Adrian Peterson and sliced his way 56-yards and into the Chicago Bears endzone for his second pick-six interception return of the season.
The feat tied Smith with DeWayne Washington for the most interceptions returned for touchdowns by a rookie in Vikings history.
With a fourteen point lead once again, the Vikings reverted to the original game plan of pinning their ears back to pressure the quarterback and handing the ball off to their stud tailback Adrian Peterson.
With Jay Cutler standing on the sidelines concussed, backup Jason Campbell made it interesting by hitting Brandon Marshall (who finished the day with 10 receptions for 160 yards and a TD) for the touchdown, but at the end of the day. Once the Vikings got the ball back, Adrian Peterson and a few kneel downs by Christian Ponder iced it moving the Vikings to 7-6 on the season and right back in the hunt for a playoff spot.
"This win was huge," Leslie Frazier told the press after the game. "For a lot of our players, it's uncharted territory. To be playing games in December when every game has major implications, there weren't a lot of people when we were in Mankato thinking that would be the case, so for our players to be at the point where they are, I'm extremely, extremely proud of them. Every game from this point on, because this is probably going to go right down to the last week of the season, has tremendous implications for our football team and other teams around the League so we have to do what we have to do and that's to find a way to get another win next week.
The Vikings head to St. Louis next Sunday to take on the 6-6-1 Rams.
Ponder continues to struggle:
On a not so cheery note, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder did post his third sub-100 yard passing performance of the season. Finishing the game 11-for-17 with one interception, Ponder's passer rating was a meager 53.8. Still head coach Leslie Frazier praised #7 saying that he "executed the game plan just like [they] wanted."
"[Christian] did a terrific job of doing the things we asked him to do throughout the week," Frazier continued. "Sometimes it’s going to require him to do a little more, but we felt with this game plan, the most important thing was to get Adrian going and our defense really stepping up. It may be different next week and we may need more from him, but for this game, this was perfect for what we needed."
2000 yards for Adrian Peterson is a very real possibility:
With three games left on the schedule for the Vikings (STL, HOU, GB), Adrian Peterson is approaching a milestone that only six other players in the history of the game have accomplished. With 1,600 yards already under his belt, AP will need to average 133.333 yards per game the rest of the way to gain 2,000 yards rushing this season. If he continues the pace that he's been on over the past seven weeks (157 yards per game), he would land at 2,071 yards placing him second all-time (Eric Dickerson 2,105).
"Yeah, I think about [2,000 yards]," Adrian admitted after the game. "I don't try to think about it too much. I feel like it will happen. Like I said, it's obvious we’re going to continue to run the ball so I feel the chips will fall where they may."