Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
MINNEAPOLIS (MCT) — It wasn’t difficult to see. The bright lights of the nation were shining down on the Metrodome, and for much of Monday night, the Vikings weren’t reacting well.
They were nervous and mistake-prone. They made bad snaps and missed an extra point.
They committed four turnovers and managed only six points in the first half against the Chicago Bears.
Hopes of continuing their improbable playoff run seemed awash in a mix of Tarvaris Jackson’s three interceptions and Adrian Peterson’s sudden mediocrity.
Yet when it was done, the Vikings had accomplished an important step in their continuing maturation.
Peterson rushed for 37 of his 78 yards in the fourth quarter, leading a comeback from a10-point first-half deficit in the Vikings’ 20-13 victory.
His 8-yard scoring run - with backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger playing for a cramping Jackson - proved to be the game-winner with 10 minutes, 56 seconds remaining.
The victory lifted the Vikings’ record to 8-6 and left them in good position to claim an NFC wild-card playoff berth. Just as important, said receiver Bobby Wade, “I would think this would ensure that other teams are going to have to take us seriously.”
Yes, the Vikings have won five consecutive games and six of their past seven. Monday night, the Bears scored 10 points off Jackson’s turnovers - he committed four in all while also throwing for a career-high 249 yards - and led 13-3 after Jason McKie’s 1-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
But Jackson and the Vikings offense persevered, and the Vikings scored a pair of second-half touchdowns.
“I’ve been watching our guys grow on a weekly basis,” coach Brad Childress said. “I just thought that this was just another step in the process growthwise. You find yourself down. You’re not playing particularly well on offense. I thought we were pretty amped up for `Monday Night Football.’
“It was the biggest stage you’re in. I thought we had to calm down a little bit. The defense didn’t quite have that illness the way the offense did. But the big thing is you don’t get mentally ill about it. You come in and fix it.”
Yes, the offense fixed itself while the Vikings defense played a stellar game throughout, despite losing cornerback Antoine Winfield in the second quarter because of a left shoulder injury. New Bears quarterback Kyle Orton led his team to 11 first downs and 209 yards.
Yet it was Peterson who started the Vikings’ grueling go-ahead drive. With his team trailing 13-12, Peterson broke off a 16-yard run to give the Vikings a first down at the Bears 49 yard line late in the third quarter.
Jackson converted a fourth-and-1 play at the 40 with a quarterback sneak at the Bears 40, and his 9-yard run gave the Vikings a first-and-goal at the 5. Peterson lost 3 yards on the first play, and that’s when things got interesting.
Jackson threw his second-down pass away as he scrambled to the sideline, and suddenly doubled over in pain and limped to the bench. After a timeout and a few warmup throws, Bollinger came in for the critical third-down play.
Despite a backfield collision with Bollinger, Peterson grabbed hold of the ball, burst through the left side of the line and scored on an 8-yard run.
Bollinger displayed his mettle on the ensuing two-point conversion, running a quarterback draw out of a five-receiver set and just getting the ball over the goal line.
Earlier, receiver Robert Ferguson made the biggest play in getting the Vikings back in the game during the third quarter.
Facing a third-and-9 at their 28-yard line, Ferguson hauled in a 12-yard pass from Jackson, broke tackles from safety Daniel Manning and Nathan Vasher, and didn’t stop running until Bears cornerback Charles Tillman ran him down at the 1-yard line.
Peterson’s dive gave the Vikings their first touchdown, but they score remained 13-12 when holder Chris Kluwe couldn’t handle a low snap cleanly from Cullen Loeffler. Ryan Longwell’s kick hooked and was wide left.
The Vikings got themselves back in the playoff race by putting an equal emphasis on each game, but it was clear they considered Monday a special night.
It began in pregame warmups, when players jogged onto the field in their rarely seen purple-on-purple ensemble.
Typically, the Vikings wear purple jerseys and white pants at the Metrodome. Monday’s wardrobe shift might have brought them some pregame hurrahs, but the excitement didn’t translate into a sharp performance at the outset.
Jackson was involved in turnovers on the Vikings’ first two possessions.
On the Vikings’ second offensive play, Jackson’s short slant pass bounced off Ferguson and into the hands of linebacker Brian Urlacher, who returned the gift 14 yards to the Vikings 12-yard line.
Robbie Gould’s 29-yard field goal gave the Vikings their first deficit in 15 quarters, dating back to the second quarter of their Nov. 18 game.