The Vikings made no bones about the importance of Sunday's game to their playoff aspirations. Plus, more than a dozen notes that helped tell the tale of the game.
For the better part of the last week, after falling to Green Bay at Lambeau Field the previous Sunday, the Vikings knew their playoff hopes almost surely hinged on running the table for the final four games of the season to have a chance to make the playoffs.
On Sunday, the Vikings got the first step of that process accomplished, defeating Chicago 21-14 to keep their playoff hopes alive and kicking. While nobody was wanting to say the Vikings were in panic mode, there was clearly a sense of urgency that played itself out Sunday.
"We knew what position we were in," Kalil said. "The term ‘must-win' gets used a little too often in football, but you could say this one would qualify. We had to beat Chicago if we wanted to make the playoffs because they're one of the teams we're chasing down. This one was big."
The Vikings vowed not to shift their focus from anything but the Bears game today and they were able to make plays in all phases of the game to get the win while keeping their finger off the panic button.
"We never panicked, but there was a sense of urgency," Griffen said. "Our No. 1 thing was to play as a team, to play as one, and play our hearts out. It was do or die today, so we didn't want to leave anything on the field. We came up with the courage, we did it and I'm very proud of us."
With one win in the books in the final-four run for the postseason tournament, the Vikings still have three to go. After their win Sunday, they jumped up only one spot in the playoff seeding – to No. 9 in the six-team NFC playoff format – with three games to improve that standing.
They know they have to keep their foot on the gas pedal if they're going to keep the dream alive.
"Now we have three games to give us our best shot to make the playoffs," Brian Robison
said. "This was a big one, but it's far from over. Every week is pretty much a playoff game for us. If we lost this one, more than likely we weren't going to get in the playoffs. We've just got to have every man do his job – not try do too much – and good things will happen."
With Sunday's win, the Vikings improved to 6-1 at home this season, but are 1-5 on the road and, if they're going to make the playoffs, they will have to prove they can win on the road – starting next Sunday at St. Louis, which moved up to No. 10 in the playoff picture at 6-6-1.
"If we want to make a run, we know what's in front of us," Greenway said. "These next two are brutal on the road – a St. Louis team that's surging and Houston team that is as good as anyone. If we want to have a chance we have to go to St. Louis and prove we can win on the road. That's the next step for this team."
GAME DAY NOTES
The amazing Adrian Peterson continued to cement his legacy and make a case that he should be the Comeback Player of the Year. He added another 154 yards Sunday, giving him an even 1,600 for the season.
With two touchdowns, Peterson scored double-digit touchdowns for the sixth straight year – every season of his career.
Peterson set a franchise record with 104 rushing yards in the first quarter alone and tied a career high with 31 rushing attempts.
Christian Ponder again struggled to gain much in the way of yardage. He completed 11 of 17 passes for just 91 yards, marking the fourth time this season that Peterson has had more yards rushing than Ponder has had passing, including each of the last two.
Brandon Marshall was all but unstoppable again. He was targeted a whopping 19 times, catching 10 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Jay Cutler was hurt late in the game on a hit by Everson Griffen and was replaced by Jason Campbell for the final Bears drive. Griffen said he's unsure if he will be fined for the hit, but defended his actions, saying, if he had it to do over again, he wouldn't' change a thing.
"You're supposed to have a target zone, but he still had the ball in his hands and I was just going to make a tackle," Griffen said. "I wasn't worried about where I was throwing my body. I was just making a tackle. If I get fined, that's just how the NFL works these days. But, if we win, I don't care if I get fined a million times."
The Bears were somewhat hamstrung in the kicking game. Kicker Robbie Gould was injured in pregame warmups and punter Adam Podlesh had to handle kickoffs. Gould was fine to handle extra points, but his role was extremely limited due to the injury.
Thanks to the early lead and the struggles in the passing game, Chicago outgained the Vikings by a whopping 438-248 margin and ran 73 plays, as opposed to just 56 by the Vikings.
Of the Vikings' 56 plays, 31 of them were Peterson runs and two more were A.P. receptions, leaving just 23 plays for the rest of the offense.
The Vikings had more yards on interception returns (100) than in the passing game (77).
Phil Loadholt had a tough time Sunday. With Julius Peppers jumping from one side to the other, Loadholt was called for three false start penalties.
The Vikings have struggled in the red zone, but thanks to a strong start, scored on both of their opportunities Sunday.
Prior to their touchdown in the final two minutes of the game, the Bears had five drives in the second half – three ending on punts, one on the Harrison Smith interception and one turning the ball over on downs.
Chad Greenway entered play this week leading the NFL in tackles, but had just three on Sunday. Jasper Brinkley led the Vikings with 12 tackles.
Coaching legend John Gagliardi, who recently announced his retirement from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. after more than 60 years on the job, sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to the start of the game.
Despite the dismal weather conditions, the crowd Sunday was announced at 64,134.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.