Monday, December 1, 2008

Vikings 34, Bears 14

OK, so maybe I was a little premature in my consideration of Kyle Orton as future quarterback of the Vikings. The Vikings defense dominated Orton and the Bears for most of the game, forcing three interceptions and putting up an amazing goal-line stand in the 34-14 win. The three Bears turnovers resulted in 17 Vikings points, but it was the stop at the Vikings one that resulted in the most exciting play of the game -- if not of the season.

When the Vikings took over inside their own 1, I thought, "A pass might not be the worst thing in the world here." After being harassed much of the first quarter, Gus Frerotte had received decent protection the last few drives, so a safety wasn't much of a concern. When he launched the ball deep down the near sideline, my only thought was "Just complete it." When I saw Bernard Berrian running free, I thought, "Can he catch up with it?" When he caught it in stride and kept going, I leaped out of my chair and, if they were sleeping, I woke up the neighbors. 99 yards later, and the game had completely changed in just a few plays, and the Bears never recovered.

How big a turnaround was it? Before that play, the Bears had 171 yards of offense to the Vikings' 117. After that play, the Bears managed just 94 yards the rest of the game. The Vikings outdid that on the next play and amassed 268 total yards the rest of the game.

How did the Vikings stuff the Bears so completely in the second half, limiting them to just 6 yards on 7 plays in the fourth quarter? Would you believe by running the ball? Yes, Brad Childress finally appears to have figured out that it's good for the Vikings to run the ball, exclusively when they have the lead. The Vikings' play calls in the fourth quarter? Two passes against 16 runs, including 15 handoffs in a row to close out the game. Overall, in the second half, the Vikings ran 23 times while putting it up only 9 times, the perfect formula for sitting on a team's throat and throttling them, especially with the talent the Vikings have on offense.

The defense wasn't too shabby either, picking off Orton three times and limiting the Bears to just 228 yards of total offense. Nearly a third of that yardage came on one play, the quick slant that Devin Hester took 65 yards for a touchdown (which even John Madden called as being Darren Sharper's fault, further indicating that he's likely done with the Vikings after this season). Though Matt Forte ran the ball surprisingly well (22 carries for 96 yards), the goal-line stand will be what people remember from this game from the defense.

So, what does this leave for the Vikings now? The good news is they're at 7-5, a full game up on 6-6 Chicago and two up on 5-7 Green Bay. The bad news is that the Vikings clearly have the toughest schedule remaining of the three teams. After a visit to 0-12 Detroit, the Vikings travel to 7-5 Arizona, followed by home games against 8-4 Atlanta and 11-1 New York (which, hopefully, will have everything sewn up and can rest some of its starters). The Bears have three straight home games, and all of their opponents are under .500, while the Packers' only .500 or better opponent down the stretch is Chicago -- and they get to play Detroit again, too. Then there's the Kevin Williams/Pat Williams suspensions, which the league is expected to come to a decision on Tuesday, though it's said that the players could ask for an injunction against the suspension, allowing them to continue playing.

But that's all in the future. For now, let's just bask in the glow of another win over a division rival, a one-game lead in the division, and a league-record-tying 99-yard touchdown pass. It was about as complete a win as a Viking fan could hope for, so let's not spoil the moment.

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