It doesn't seem like a year ago, does it?
A year ago at this time, the Minnesota Vikings were coming off of a bye week, prior to which they had lost three consecutive games by a touchdown or less. They were sitting at 1-3, the offense was sputtering, the natives were restless, and they were looking at a trip to a place that had been a personal house of horrors for them for about a decade. Yes, trips to Soldier Field for the Vikings in recent history generally had not gone well. . .they had lost their previous six meetings at the spaceship by the lake, and though the Bears were 2-3, they were carrying the momentum of a victory over the Green Bay Packers the previous week, and were considered to be favorites going into their Week Six matchup.
The game got off to an auspicious start, with the first score of the afternoon coming on a 89-yard punt return by the phenomenonal Devin Hester. However, the Vikings quickly answered, as on the ensuing drive Tarvaris Jackson. . .yes, that Tarvaris Jackson. . .performed a beautiful play-action fake and lofted a 60-yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson. . .yes, that Troy Williamson. . .to tie the score at 7 after one quarter. What everyone had expected to be a defensive slugfest was getting ready to turn into a shootout.
That's when the real show started.
The Bears quickly jumped back into the lead on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Brian Griese to Bernard Berrian on a play where Antoine Winfield lost his footing and fell in coverage, letting Berrian run free to the end zone. The teams exchanged two punts a piece, and the Vikings took over again at their own 20. After a first down advanced them to their own 33-yard line, Tarvaris Jackson turned and handed the ball to Adrian Peterson going left. After he got through to the second level, Bears' safety Brandon McGowan attempted to tackle Peterson. . .and, basically, just bounced off of him harmlessly. Peterson then proceeded to cut all the way back across the field and outrun the entire Chicago defense on the way to the end zone. The 67-yard run put the Vikings back into a tie game, and that's the way they went to the half.
We again got dueling punts to start the third quarter. . .two from each team. . .and the Vikings set up shop on their own 12-yard line. After another first down, the Vikings had moved to their own 27. Peterson took another Jackson handoff and started moving right. Seeing nothing there, he made a quick shift back to the left, threw in a couple of moves, and went untouched for another long touchdown run. This one was 73 yards, and it put the Vikings ahead 21-14 with about two minutes remaining in the third quarter, and that's how we went to the final stanza.
After the teams exchanged field goals to make it 24-17, the Vikings put together a fairly long, sustained drive. After a penalty, they found themselves with 2nd and 13 from the Chicago 35. While many. . .myself included. . .were hoping the Vikings could just get to within field goal range to give themselves a two-possession lead, #28 had other ideas. He took a Jackson handoff, headed through a hole on the left side, got to the sideline, and "dodged" a really pathetic tackle attempt by a Chicago safety to coast to his third touchdown of the day, a 35-yarder that gave Minnesota a 31-17 lead and should have put the game out of reach.
But, the Bears just wouldn't go away.
Brian Griese threw an interception to Dwight Smith on a deep ball, but the Vikings failed to get a first down and had to punt the ball back to the Bears. Chris Kluwe shanked the punt, and it went out of bounds at the Chicago 47. Three plays later, Griese redeemed himself by hitting Mushin Muhammad from 33 yards out to close the gap to 31-24.
The Bears squibbed one downfield, stopped the Vikings and used their time outs, and the Vikings had to punt away again. The Bears took over at their own 19-yard line with no time outs left and 1:53 remaining on the clock. After an incompletion on first down, Devin Hester somehow got behind Dwight Smith. . .who, apparently, thought Hester was in the game to run 5-yard hitches or something. . .and Griese hit him for an 81-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 31. All of the momentum had shifted to Chicago, and it looked like we were headed to overtime.
But, when you have Adrian Peterson on your team, you can make your own damn momentum.
Peterson went back to return the Robbie Gould kickoff, and for some reason Gould blasted it down the center of the field right into Peterson's hands. Peterson made NO moves at all. . .just blasted through the Optimus Prime-sized hole in the middle of the Chicago special teams and flew down the field. Gould slowed Peterson up just enough to allow Ricky Manning, Jr. to tackle him at the Chicago 38-yard line.
After a couple of really strange play calls. . .like throwing the ball on 2nd and 5 from the Chicago 33 with :55 left on the clock and Chicago having no time outs. . .Ryan Longwell came out to attempt a 55-yard field goal for the win. The ball sailed over the crossbar, and the Vikings managed to escape Soldier Field with an incredible 34-31 victory.
When that one was over, I declared it to be "The Adrian Peterson Game." Yeah. . .that distinction lasted about a month.
I just couldn't believe that it's already been a year. I wouldn't bet on seeing anything similar this weekend. . .but I don't think I'd bet against it, either.