The Vikings' playoff hopes have been rehabilitated in the last 28 days, and they are now driving into Week 14 with the lead spot in a race for the final NFC playoff position. We break down the contenders after Sunday afternoon's action and supply you with 37 game-day notes that put the latest win in perspective.
While that time period is probably better known for a stint at a rehab clinic, the Vikings have rehabbed their season in the last 28 days. As a result, they find themselves heading into next Monday night's game a lead in the race for the final wild-card playoff spot and others trying to catch them.
It didn't seem possible a month ago, especially in light of the hammering the team took at the hands of the Packers at Lambeau Field, but with their fourth straight win Sunday, the Vikings are at 7-6, alone in the battle for the second wild-card spot.
Things again fell the Vikings' way with respect to the teams looking to catch them in the wild card chase. The two other 6-6 teams in the NFC – Detroit and Arizona – both lost. Both in fortunate fashion for the Vikings.
The Lions had a 27-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but let the Cowboys put together touchdown drives of 10 and 11 plays – the final score coming with just 18 seconds to play – to lose 28-27. The Cardinals went on the road to Seattle, where the Seahawks pounded them into submission, 42-21.
With both of the other 6-6 teams entering Sunday now sitting at 6-7, five teams entered Week 14 with 5-7 records looking to run the table and put themselves in a position to get back into the wild card race. Two of those teams – Washington and Chicago – met Thursday night and the Redskins won to move to 6-7 and drop the Bears to 5-8. The Giants went on the road and beat Philadelphia to drop the Eagles to 5-8, and the Panthers went on the road to Jacksonville and got pounded 37-6 to drop Carolina to 5-8.
The Saints are the fifth team that came into the weekend's play at 5-7 and they have a better-than-average shot of beating the woeful Falcons. If that happens, there will still be four teams at 6-7 – the Lions, Saints, Redskins and Cardinals – chasing the Vikings. But, 28 days after their winning streak began, the Vikings have all the chips on their end of the table and are looking more and more like a team that can head into the playoffs on a roll and pull one of the more improbable season rehabilitation projects in recent memory.
The playoff picture got a lot clearer Sunday, as the Cowboys and Packers clinched their respective division titles and the Seahawks put a stranglehold on theirs. Tampa Bay needs just one win to clinch the weak NFC South and, with nine wins, the Giants need just one win in their final three games to clinch a playoff spot – meaning the Vikings are going to hold the key as to the final NFC playoff entrant.
So who says the AFC is so dominant against the NFC? After this week's games, the AFC and NFC have played 54 interconference games. The tally stands at 27-27 in those games. But, the NFC South has gone 3-13 against the AFC, while the rest of the NFC has posted a 24-14 record.
The Vikings are now 7-0 in games in which they score 20 or more points this season.
Tarvaris Jackson improved to 7-2 as a starter this season.
Pat Williams and Kevin Williams became the first defensive tackles in NFL history to both have interceptions in the same game. Spencer Johnson appeared to join them in the final two minutes of the game, but what appeared to be an interception was ruled a fumble recovery. However, that play might be subject to review and revision when the league goes through the game film early this week.
Thanks to playing a prevent defense that allowed a lot of short passing in the second half, the 49ers actually won the yardage battle – posting 284 yards to the Vikings' 280, while running 69 offensive plays to just 54 by the Vikings.
The Vikings had 117 yards rushing on 31 carries, while the 49ers had 73 yards on 20 carries. The Vikings had 163 yards passing, while former Viking Shaun Hill led the 49ers with 211 passing yards.
The 49ers defense came into the game leading the NFL by yielding 58 opponent rushing plays with no gain or a loss. On Sunday, the Vikings had four runs for no gain and seven runs for a loss.
The Vikings were just 5-for-14 on third-down conversion attempts, while the 49ers were 8-for-16.
The 49ers held the edge in time of possession, 31:47 to 28:13, after trailing in time of possession in the first half.
Jackson had another efficient game, completing 16 of 25 passes for 163 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Adrian Peterson spent most of the game at or below zero yards rushing and by far had the worst day of his pro career – rushing 14 times for three yards. Linebacker Patrick Willis made his own bid for rookie of the year by stuffing A.P. on a couple of rushing attempts.
Seven different Vikings caught passes and were led by Robert Ferguson, who caught four passes for 57 yards – including his first touchdown as a Viking.
Hill had a career game, which is truly a career game since in four years with the Vikings, his only game action was to take one snap and take a knee. After Trent Dilfer couldn't complete two consecutive passes in the first half, Hill completed 22 of 28 passes for 180 yards with one TD and one interception.
Frank Gore had 16 carries for 68 yards, but because the 49ers were so far behind, he had just seven rushes for 43 yards in the second half against the Vikings' lead-protecting defense.
Tight end Delanie Walker led San Francisco with six catches for 69 yards – all in the second half. Gore led the team with eight receptions, six of those coming in the second half. TE Vernon Davis had all five of his receptions in the second half as well.
Chad Greenway led the Vikings with 11 tackles (seven solo), while Willis paced the 49ers with eight tackles (six solo).
Kevin Williams' interception for a touchdown was the fourth touchdown of his career and the second on an interception this season.
The defense and the passing game remain in sync through 13 games. The Vikings have nine passing touchdowns and nine touchdowns by the defense and special teams.
Andy Lee came into the game as the top-rated punter in the NFC, but he averaged just 33.3 yards on six punts.
With Alex Smith expected to have surgery this week and Dilfer clearly out with what looked to be a concussion, the 49ers tried to get Hill as much work as possible. With five minutes to go and trailing by 20, San Francisco burned all three of its timeouts to give Hill more time to try to get a scoring drive working.
Peterson had a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter, but it got brought back on a holding call on center Matt Birk.
Chester Taylor racked up his eighth career 100-yard game with 101 yards – almost all of it coming on one huge 84-yard run. Peterson and Taylor have combined for 1,916 yards rushing, leaving them just 75 yards short of the franchise record for a running tandem of 1,991 yards set in 2000 by Robert Smith (1,521) and Daunte Culpepper (470).
The Vikings got a scare when Brian Robison went down with what appeared to be a back injury in the third quarter. But Robison later returned to action.
Newly acquired Otis Grisby made an impact by forcing a fumble in the second half in his first action as a Viking. He was signed off Carolina's practice squad this week after Ray Edwards was suspended for four games.
In the first half, Dilfer completed just 7 of 19 passes for 45 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. In his first drive of the second half, Hill completed 6 of 7 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson completed 10 of 16 passes in the first half for 115 yards and a touchdown, completing throws to seven different receivers. Taylor finished the first half with six carries for 99 yards and a touchdown, followed by Jackson with four rushes for 14 yards. Peterson had minus-2 yards on six carries in the first half.
The Vikings had nine first downs in the first half (they would only have two in the second half), as opposed to just five for San Francisco. The Vikes had a 226-79 advantage in total yardage, as well as big leads in rushing (111-43) and passing (115-36). The Vikings held a time-of-possession edge in the half of 15:21 to 14:39.
The Vikings need to be concerned about kick coverage. After allowing Maurice Hicks to have a pair of 55-yard kickoff returns, when the Vikings tried to avoid Hicks, Ryan Longwell kicked the ball out of bounds.
The Vikings outscored the 49ers 27-0 in the first half, which shouldn't have come as any surprise. For the 2007 season, San Francisco has been outscored 205-57 in the first half – 74-30 in the first quarter and a whopping 131-27 in the second quarter.
In the first quarter, as the Vikings built their lead, they did it without the run. Jackson led the team with 12 yards on one carry, while Taylor and A.P. combined for 11 yards on six carries. Jackson completed 6 of 9 passes for 68 yards in the first quarter.
Vernon Davis had a rough first quarter. Not only didn't he have a reception, he cost his team 10 yards with a pair of false-start penalties.
On the first offensive drive of the game, the Vikings had to settle for a field goal, but Jackson engineered a 13-play drive in which he completed 4 of 6 passes for 35 yards.
Peterson didn't get the start because, as the Vikings offense took the field, he was on the sideline getting an adjustment to his knee brace.
Gore showed his grittiness during the game. He limped off the field twice in the first quarter with an recurring ankle injury, but he returned to the game and played well the rest of the way.
The Vikings got their first points just 14 seconds into the game – the third time in the last four games that they have scored in the opening minute of a game.
Sunday's win snapped an eight-game losing streak at San Francisco. Prior to Sunday, the last time the Vikings won in San Fran was in the 1987 playoffs when Anthony Carter had one of the greatest games in postseason history.