There are thousands of possible results on any given NFL play, and the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears were apparently bent on investigating every known one in existence in a single game.
In a game of wild plays, injuries, statistical records, bizarre penalties, two missed game-winning shots, featuring nearly 200 total plays, the Vikings eked out overtime victory over the Bears on Blair Walsh's game-winning field goal.
But not his first crack at it.
Having tasted the thrill of an NFL tie last week against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings opted for a different result in overtime — but it, like most of their season, wasn't easy. Walsh lined up for his first game-winning attempt from 39 yards, and appeared to make it. But a rare facemask call against Rhett Ellison wiped it out and moved the ball 15 yards back.
The Vikings had attempted the kick on third down, so they gave the ball on the third-down redo to Adrian Peterson who lost three yards. Walsh came back out to attempt a 57-yarder the next play, but he missed this one.
Armed with good field position, the Bears moved down the field and were in position of their own ato steal a divisional game on the road, one they had several opportunities to win and put away in regulation. Opting to forgo getting closer and kick on second down, Bears head coach Marc Trestman sent Robbie Gould out for a 47-yard attempt. That, too, missed.
In a game of backup quarterbacks — Josh McCown vs. Matt Cassell, after Christian Ponder was knocked out with a possible concussion — the game featured a shocking display of offensive output. The stars were Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who totaled 249 receiving yards and two touchdowns and an array of tough catches among his 12 grabs against a shorthanded Vikings secondary.
But the closer was Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who totaled 211 rushing yards, with 139 of those coming in the second half and overtime. Peterson's bruising 11-yard run made certain that Walsh would have a far better game-winning FG attempt, from 34 yards out, which he nailed to drop the Bears to 6-6 and teetering on the playoff margins.
In a game filled in comically odd plays that seemed to sum up the general ineptitude of the NFC North, this game had the look and feel of a poetic-justice tie that neither deserved to win. But the Vikings continued to pound away at a sad-sack Bears defense that could be the reason — far more than the loss of Jay Cutler — that the team fails to make the playoffs.
Jeffery was a star, and Matt Forte was strong when the Bears were not busy ignoring him. But the Bears' defense was a sieve most of the game when it was not blitzing. In the first half, pressure allowed the Bears to get to Ponder several times before he was knocked out, and Cassel was dissecting the Bears' secondary with ample time to throw and uncovered receivers.
We could look back at these two road losses, against the St. Louis Rams and Vikings, as the turning point of the Bears' season.
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