In a game that was as back and forth as the 17-13 Viking loss to Chicago was Sunday – from injuries that changed the complexion of the game to a pair of missed field goals that could have provided the margin of victory for the Vikings – it was a 42-second span of the second quarter and a pair of 22-yard plays that made the difference between winning and losing and, in a fashion all-too-typical, a depressing turning point for the Vikings in their season finale.
The Vikings took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter, but, as happened so many times in their 2011 season that spilled one day into 2012, the snake bite they became used to came back to haunt them once again.
The Bears started the second quarter on the Vikings 42-yard line, but, after a pair of runs by Kahlil Bell gained 20 yards, the Bears were knocking on the door to get back in the game. On the next play, they would do just that.
Facing second-and-5 from the Vikings 22-yard line, the Bears caught rookie safety Mistral Raymond sneaking a peek into the backfield and, when Asher Allen broke off his coverage to take Bell, who stopped his route for a short sideline opportunity, Raymond was caught flat-footed and behind Bears wide receiver Roy Williams. QB Josh McCown delivered a strike to Williams for a 22-yard touchdown and, with 14:19 remaining in the first half, the Vikings' 10-point advantage was shaved to three at 10-7.
Needing a response, the Vikings offense came back on the field looking to get a measure of revenge, but instead got the momentum snowball growing even faster for the Bears.
After a first-down carry by Toby Gerhart lost five yards, Christian Ponder dropped to pass and fired a short screen in the flat to Gerhart. The ball bounced off Gerhart's hands and straight up into the air, where a closing Charles Tillman had time to react, pluck the wobbling ball out of the air, sidestep Gerhart and race 22 yards for a touchdown, giving Chicago a 14-10 lead with 13:37 to play in the half.
The score would prove to be the game winner. In the other 59 minutes, 18 seconds, the Bears managed to score just three points, but in that brief 42-second window, Chicago scored 14 points and changed the face of the game from that point on.
As has happened so many times during the season, the Vikings had numerous chances to get momentum back and take control of the game but failed to capitalize. Ryan Longwell missed two field goals – one that was blocked by Julius Peppers and another that was an aborted play after a high snap messed up the timing on the kick with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
In many ways, the 2011 season could be summed up by Sunday's game. The Vikings played well on both sides of the ball in spurts and made enough plays to win the game, but, in the end, they also made enough to lose the game. For 53 minutes, the Vikings were as good or better than Chicago, but it was a 42-second implosion that helped give Chicago the 14 points it needed to win in a season-ending turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.
Turning point: 42 seconds to turn the game
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