By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings remained in the playoff hunt with a 21-14 win over the Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field.
Adrian Peterson added to his case that he deserves the MVP Award with a 154-yard, two-touchdown performance. It did not take him long to get going with a 51-yard carry on the first play of the game. He capped the drive with a short touchdown run. He now has 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season while accounting for nearly 41 percent of the Vikings offensive yards this season.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier defeated the Bears (the team he played for for five seasons) for the first time since being named the interim head coach late in the 2010 season.
The Vikings had a pretty good game plan early: give the ball to Peterson. The star running back and MVP candidate got the ball on 12 of the team’s 15 offensive plays in the first quarter. He responded with 104 yards.
The Bears responded and the Vikings were reeling the rest of the game. The Vikings held on to win, but could have dominated the game the whole way.
Alan Williams’ defense still has no answer for big receivers and Bill Musgrave’s offense lacks balance.
Peterson makes the offense go. The offensive line was very good at opening holes for the sixth-year running back. The only blemish on Peterson’s day was a fumble along the sideline as he was going out of bounds.
The passing game remains a problem. Christian Ponder completed nearly 65 percent of his passes, but managed only 91 yards passing. He finished with a passer rating of 53.8. He threw one interception, which was a poor throw and bad decision.
On this day, Ponder’s favorite target was Michael Jenkins. The ninth-year wide receiver led the team in receptions (four), receiving yards (36) and targets (five). He made several big catches, including one very outstanding third down grab.
The Vikings’ receivers cost the team at least two big play pass interference calls by going into a slide to catch passes that were not going to get to them. Devin Aromashodu had his arms hit just before the ball got to him, but because he tried to dive for rather than go up for it, there was no penalty. Jarius Wright did not adjust to an under thrown ball and Major Wright claimed the interception. If Wright had attempted to come back to the ball, he would have been mowed down by the linebacker trying to catch up. The linebacker never looked back for the ball and ran into Jarius Wright as Major Wright (no relation) caught the ball.
The Vikings’ defense made some big plays and some bad plays. It had absolutely no answer for Brandon Marshall. A.J. Jefferson drew the assignment most of the game. The biggest cornerback on the Vikings roster was in very good position most of the game, but has very poor ball skills. He mistimes his jumps and struggles to locate the ball in jump ball situations. He made one very good play to knock the ball out of Marshall’s hands to force a punting situation.
The two rookie defensive backs made the huge plays for the Vikings. Josh Robinson intercepted Jay Cutler and nearly took it back for a touchdown to end the Bears’ first offensive possession. It set up Peterson’s second touchdown. The other was Harrison Smith’s pick-six in the third quarter. It was his second interception touchdown of the season. Both scores were the eventual game-winning touchdowns of a 21-14 Vikings victory. He became the first Vikings rookie to record two pick-sixes in a season since Dewayne Washington did it in 1994.
The Vikings coverage unit did a very good job of limiting Bears kick returner Eric Weems to 14.8 yards per return, but allowed punt returner Devin Hester to average 11.6 yards per return.
The other highlights include recovering the onside kick and Cullen Loeffler downing a Chris Kluwe punt at the Bears five-yard line in the fourth quarter.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.