Vikings save season, get comeback win

The Vikings may have saved their season and possibly Brad Childress' job with a 27-24 comeback win in overtime, scoring two touchdowns in the final five minutes of regulation. They put themselves in a 24-10 hole with numerous mistakes, but this time they were able to overcome them late.

Brad Childress may have dodged a bullet and summarized the Vikings' 27-24 overtime win over the Arizona Cardinals perfectly.

"I think they came expecting to see an execution and it ended up a pretty good football game," Childress said.

Childress didn't specify if the "they" he was referring to was the crowd or his own players, but after a week of a speculation that his job was in jeopardy and reports of confrontations with players, the Vikings rallied from a late 24-10 deficit, forced overtime with two touchdowns in the final five minutes and got the game-winning field goal when they needed it.

Moving the ball against the Cardinals wasn't an issue – Brett Favre finished with a career-high 446 yards passing and Percy Harvin had a career-high 126 yards receiving – but costly mistakes put the Vikings in their second-half hole.

The miscues were many: A Favre interception in the end zone, failing to score another drive that ended at the 1-yard line with two incompletions over a three-play period, a fumbled kickoff by Harvin that was returned for a touchdown and a 96-yard kickoff return by the Cardinals' LaRod Stephens-Howling for a touchdown.

Throughout most of the first game, the fans were looking for a reason to start up the "Fire Childress" chants, and the mistakes on the field offered them a few chances.

"I kind of expected it," Childress said. "We saw it a couple years ago with the Detroit game. It's part of people wanting to get involved. It's certainly their right."

Eventually, the offense got things right, the defense got pressure and the Vikings moved to 3-5 with the win.

The defense looked solid to start the game, but the offense was fortunate to get away with a sloppy pass on its first series. On third down, Favre was throwing for Greg Lewis and safety Kerry Rhodes intercepted it and appeared to be going in for a touchdown. However, Greg Camarillo caught Rhodes at the 3-yard line and chopped the ball out from behind to get a Vikings touchback when it rolled out of the back of the end zone.

That kept the game scoreless into the second quarter, but it didn't take the Vikings long into the second quarter to get into the end zone. On his fourth drive, Favre got hot. He started with an 18-yard pass to Bernard Berrian. One play later, he found Harvin for a 25-yard pass play to the 9-yard line. Two plays later, after a delay-of-game penalty, Peterson took a well-designed swing pass 12 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 12:17 left to play in the first half.

But the Vikings quickly relinquished the lead when Stephens-Howling took the ensuing kickoff, a low one in which seams were created, 96 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

The Vikings came back for another solid drive that didn't feature the explosive plays of the previous drive. Favre simply used the short passing game and enough of Peterson to get inside the red zone, but when Toby Gerhart tripped on his own on a swing pass and Peterson couldn't pick up one more yard, the Vikings elected to have Longwell come on in a similar scenario to last week – facing fourth-and-1 – and Longwell kicked the 21-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 6:22 left in the second quarter.

After an exchange of punts, the Vikings' two-minute defense couldn't hold, despite getting a sack on the second play of the drive. On third-and-19, Larry Fitzgerald caught a 30-yard pass and followed that up with a 14-yarder across midfield. After a scramble and a Vikings penalty, Anderson hit Andre Roberts on a short pass, but missed tackles by Husain Abdullah and Chris Cook allowed Roberts to make it the end zone as the Cardinals claimed the lead for the first time in the game, 14-10, a score that held until halftime.

The special teams let down again at the start of the second half when Harvin was stripped of the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half by O'Brien Schofield and Michael Adams recovered and returned it 30 yards for the touchdown and a 21-10 Cardinals lead.

They extended that lead to 24-10 at the tail end of a 14-play drive that featured passes of 16 and 17 yards to Steve Breaston and 17 yards to Fitzgerald and was capped with a 22-yard field goal by Jay Feely.

The Vikings responded with a 16-play drive that got shut down at the 1-yard line when Favre missed on two of the last three passes he threw, the final one a fourth-down incompletion in the back of the end zone for Jeff Dugan.

With hope fading fast and the Cardinals backed up to the 1-yard line, the defense responded with a three-and-out stand and the Vikings offense had a couple of last gasps left in them. They drew an illegal contact penalty on first down and Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe combined for passes of 31 yards before Peterson capped the drive with a 4-yard run to pull within a touchdown, 24-17, with 3:33 to play.

Once again, the defense did its job and the Vikings took over with 2:24 to play. Berrian and Peterson picked up first downs on consecutive passes – 15 to Berrian and a screen to Peterson that went 33 yards across midfield. A 15-yard pass in the middle of the field to Shiancoe put the ball on the doorstep of the red zone, and after a penalty Favre lofted a perfect pass to his tight end one more time and Shiancoe came away with the 25-yard touchdown with 24 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.

On the Cardinals' final drive of regulation and first drive of overtime, the Vikings defense was smothering, sacking Anderson four times in six plays. The last one forced a final Arizona punt, setting up Minnesota's game-winning drive. Starting at their own 31-yard line, Peterson took the first run 30 yards. After a holding call, Berrian responded by taking a short slant pass 22 yards and the Vikings advanced to the 18-yard line, where Longwell sealed the comeback with 35-yard field for the 27-24 overtime, season-saving win.

It might have been enough to also hold off the execution.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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