On a historic day and in the final matchup versus their division rival in Mall of America Field history, the Vikings showed relied on heart and rode the back of reigning NFL MVP
After Peterson ran the Vikings within scoring range, Walsh came on to convert a 34-yard field goal late in overtime to give the Vikings their 23-20 win over the Bears in a game that went back and forth, up and down and seemingly sideways at times.
So what went right for the Vikings in the thrilling overtime win? Here are a few ideas…
1. The Vikings didn’t quit
Many will tell you the Vikings have nothing for which to play. But the Vikings have shown that couldn’t be further from the truth. Head coach Leslie Frazier’s team offered maximum effort from start to finish on Sunday and refused to go away even though Chicago was in position to win the game several times.
Chicago struck first in the game, opening up a 3-0 lead on a 30-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. Chicago opened up another lead on the first drive of the second half when Alshon Jeffery hauled in an 80-yard catch for a touchdown, putting the Bears in front 13-7. Jeffery scored once again later in the second half to give the Bears a 10-point cushion with a little over five minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. And then, after Walsh hit what appeared to be a game-winner with 8:04 to play in overtime, a facemask penalty was called against the Vikings. Walsh’s try a play later sailed wide left, and Chicago took over with a chance to win it with a field goal of their own.
Through it all, the Vikings didn’t quit. They took the hits and kept on ticking until finally they sealed the deal when the defense made a stand, Peterson ran his teammates into scoring range, and Walsh kicked the ball through the uprights (with no flags on the play, this time).
2. Adrian Peterson could not be stopped
You had the feeling something special could happen on this day, with Adrian Peterson 154 rushing yards from 10,000 for his career and with the Bears bringing the NFL’s worst run defense to town. Something special certainly happened. Peterson could not be stopped, particularly after halftime. The final numbers were incredible – 211 rushing yards on 35 attempts. But the numbers in the second half and overtime were key. Even when Chicago knew No. 28 was coming at them, they couldn’t stop him. Peterson had 139 rushing yards on 24 carries after halftime, including 51 yards on nine carries in overtime. On the overtime drive that setup Walsh for the game-winner, the Vikings fed Peterson four times for 30 yards, with the last run netting 11 yards and moving the Vikings from to the Chicago 16 to give Walsh a better look.
In his herculean effort on Sunday, Peterson reached yet another career milestone. The Vikings trailed 20-10 and faced a 4th and 1 from the Chicago 31 with a little over nine minutes to play. They handed it to Peterson, who began running right and then cut back to the left and raced around the corner for a 19-yard gain to extend the drive and keep the Vikings in the game. That run also put Peterson over the 10,000-yard mark for his career, a feat only two others have done faster and just four others have done within their first seven seasons.
3. The defense stepped up in key moments
It wasn’t a perfect day for the Vikings defense. They yielded 480 yards of net offense, with Bears quarterback Josh McCown throwing for 355, running back Matt Forte rushing for 120 and Jeffery dominating with 249 and two touchdowns on 12 receptions. But in some key statistical categories (Bears were 18% on 3rd downs) and, more importantly, in some key moments, the Vikings defense was game.
-- The Vikings first four offensive drives totaled just 15 plays, 13 yards and two first downs. But thanks to sharp special teams play and stout defense, the Bears managed just three points of their own following those four drives.
-- Later in the 2nd quarter, Vikings defensive end
-- After giving up long touchdowns to Jeffery on consecutive drives in the 3rd quarter, the Vikings defensed forced a punt, turnover, punt and missed field goal on the next four Bears drives. The turnover came on a bizarre play in which rookie defensive tackle
-- The next Vikings drive ended on an interception that occurred when tight end
-- Robison came up big late in the 4th quarter when, with the game tied at 20 and just :14 on the clock, he sacked McCown at midfield to prevent the Bears from moving closer for Robbie Gould’s game-winning attempt as time expired in regulation.
On an individual level, expect
4. Matt Cassel provided a spark in relief
Veteran backup Matt Cassel played a key role in Sunday’s victory after replacing starting quarterback
Also, Cassel made one of the biggest plays in the entire game when he chased down and tackled Bears linebacker Khaseem Greene following an interception at the Bears goal line. Greene took the interception and sprinted down the left side of the field, and had Cassel not angled Greene off, forced him back to the middle of the field and ultimately tackled him, the interception return would’ve gone for a game-clinching touchdown.
5. Blair Walsh is clutch
Outside of a long return by Devin Hester late in the 4th quarter, the Vikings special teams group was once again solid and helped to keep the Vikings in the game and in position to mount a comeback and, ultimately, a win.
But the special teams story of Sunday is Walsh, who converted the third game-winning kick of his career and once again proved the Vikings right for using a fifth-round pick on him in April of 2012. Walsh did miss the 57-yarder after his 39-yard game-winner was negated by penalty, but he was able to redeem himself moments later by splitting the uprights on the 34-yard try that gave the Vikings the final 23-20 margin.