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Vikings Begin their Playoff Run Against Bears (12/12/2012)
By Patrick Marek
The Vikings unlikely run for a playoff spot this season has the ethereal quality of a man who dreams about eating peanuts, and wakes up with shells on his pillow. While no one can dispute that the team is vastly improved over last year’s 3-13 version, there still seems to be something missing. That was never more evident than in the Vikings’ 21-14 upset victory over the Chicago Bears. Minnesota rode a two-touchdown, 156-yard rushing performance by Adrian Peterson and never trailed, despite only 99 yards passing, and a careless interception from Christian Ponder.

The Vikings offense is so one dimensional that it’s a miracle it shows up on high definition television. That’s why this victory and Adrian Peterson’s performance were so amazing. The Bears have a pretty good defense, and they came into the game vowing to put up a “Maginot Line” and not let Peterson beat them. It didn’t work for the French, and it was disastrous for the Bears.

On the first play from scrimmage the Vikings had the ball on their own 20 yard line. The Bears had nine men in the box when Peterson took the handoff and found a crease on the right side of the line. Fifty-one yards and three missed tackles later, Peterson had set up the Vikings’ first touchdown and proven why he is the best back on the planet. With an awesome blend of power, speed, vision, and agility, Adrian Peterson is the NFL’s version of Superman. His league high 1,600 yards proves that no other team has been able to step on his cape or find enough Kryptonite to stop him.

All the experts on ESPN and the NFL Network maintain that today’s NFL is a passing league. That might be true for most teams, but the Vikings game plan was so basic that I expected them to don leather helmets, and to see Papa Bear Halas and Red “The Galloping Ghost” Grange on the sidelines. By employing a punishing running game, smash mouth defense, and staying away from modern inventions like the forward pass, the Vikings beat the Bears the old fashioned way.

The purple defense harassed Cutler all day, making him uncomfortable in the pocket and punishing him with hard hits and sacks. The best one was an Everson Griffin/Jared Allen high-low tag team smash that earned a roughness penalty but was worth every yard. Rookies Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith both snared timely interceptions and did a commendable job covering the Bears supersized receiving corps. Smith played running back in high school, and showed some nifty moves while taking his pick 56 yards for a touchdown. Robinson’s interception return was initially ruled a touchdown, but a replay revealed that he stepped out of bounds while athletically hurdling a Bear’s defender. Both of these 2012 draft picks have transformed the Vikings’ secondary from a sieve to a strength.

So, here are some things to think about (notice I didn’t say ponder), as the Vikes continue their unlikely run towards a playoff berth. How can an offensive line be so good at run blocking and so horrible protecting the quarterback on passing plays? Is Christian Ponder injured? He certainly doesn’t have the zip on his passes that he displayed at the beginning of the season. Is it time to give Joe Webb an opportunity? If we’re going to be a run-only offense, why not make him an option quarterback. It was good to see a number 84 (Michael Jenkins) catching passes for the Vikings again, and it also good to see that the defense seems to have solved the opponent’s roll right safety valve play. Finally, if Minnesota really does have to win out to get in the playoffs, let’s hope that the Texans have already clinched their division and they choose to rest their starters. Then the Metrodome will be rocking for a return engagement with the Packers. If you attend, be sure to bring ear protection! 


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