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Why We Won: 5 Takeaways From Sunday's Win Over Chicago

Posted Dec 2, 2013

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 Adrian Peterson and the leg of kicker Blair Walsh to complete an edge-of-your-seat comeback victory over the Chicago Bears.

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 Brian Robison batted down a McCown 3rd-down pass intended for a wide open Martellus Bennett, which stalled a promising drive and prevented Chicago from taking the lead.
-- 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 Sharrif Floyd forced McCown to scramble up in the pocket and shovel a pass forward. The pass was deflected back toward the line of scrimmage by Audie Cole and it was caught by Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long, who was then tackled by Floyd and fumbled. The fumble was recovered by Marvin Mitchell at the Chicago 18.
-- The next Vikings drive ended on an interception that occurred when tight end Rhett Ellison couldn’t handle a pass from Matt Cassel. The pass was intercepted by Chicago and returned 49 yards to midfield. But the Vikings defense responded by forcing a three-and-out from Chicago even after giving up a nine-yard rush on 1st down.
-- 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.
-- Jared Allen tallied a sack on the Bears opening drive of overtime. Chicago was facing a 3rd and 11 from near midfield when Allen but Jermon Bushrod and strip-sacked McCown.

On an individual level, expect Chad Greenway to come away with a total tackle number in the high teens (including three tackles for loss) after coaches review film and modify the numbers. Xavier Rhodes was solid and broke up a number of passes. Cole played well in his second start of the season. Robison was disruptive all day once again. Floyd looked explosive in his snaps and his pressure on McCown forced the double fumble play in the 4th quarter.

4. Matt Cassel provided a spark in relief
Veteran backup Matt Cassel played a key role in Sunday’s victory after replacing starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who exited the game late in the 2nd quarter with concussion-like symptoms. The Vikings had just three completions for 40 yards at halftime, but in the end the Vikings netted 250 yards through the air. Immediately Cassel connected with fellow veteran Greg Jennings, who after a catch-less first half finished the game with team highs in receptions (seven), receiving yards (78) and receiving touchdowns (one). Jennings came alive with Cassel under center, as did several other receiving threats because Cassel targeted 11 different receivers in the second half and spread his 20 completions out to nine different players. For the game, Cassel finished 20 of 33 for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception on a pass that should’ve been hauled in for the game-winning touchdown.

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. Jeff Locke played arguably his best game as a pro last week in Lambeau Field and came back this week with another outstanding showing. He was flawless as a holder and punted six times, with two of them landing inside the 20, a long of 55 and a net average of 42.7. The ever-dangerous Hester had just two returns for eight yards on Locke’s six punts.

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.

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