Despite a final month to forget, Adrian Peterson ended the season as the second-leading rusher in the league and the top rusher in the NFC. Plus, we offer up nearly 40 game notes that help tell the tale of the Vikings' 22-19 loss and where some of the team leaders finished compared to the rest of the NFL.
It turned out to be a disappointing finish for the Vikings after a long comeback trail that began with the team mired at 3-6. Still, the promise of the future continued to assert itself for the Vikings as rookie Adrian Peterson
made some history.
Peterson entered the game in fourth place in the NFL in rushing – 11 yards behind Pittsburgh's Willie Parker, who was lost for the season a week ago with a broken leg, and 28 yards behind Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook
, who had played in the early games.
In his first series of the game, Peterson picked up the required yardage to pass Parker and, on his first carry of the second half, he eclipsed Westbrook. While he finished more than 100 yards behind NFL leading rusher LaDainian Tomlinson
, Peterson was able to finish second in the league and lead the NFC in rushing.
The significance of that can't be underestimated, because very rarely have rookies led their respective conferences in rushing. The last time someone did it in the NFC before A.P. was Barry Sanders in 1989, and he rushed his way into the Hall of Fame.
While the final couple of games were a disappointment for the Vikings as a team and the final month of the season was forgettable by Peterson standards, it has sent a message to the rest of the league that the Vikings have a thoroughbred running back that will be a difference-maker for years to come after a 1,341-yard performance over 14 games of his rookie season.
Chester Taylor was the rushing star Sunday, carrying 10 times for 83 yards – giving him 844 yards rushing on the season.
Bobby Wade finished as the team's leading receiver with 54 catches for 647 yards. With five catches, Robert Ferguson finished second on the team with 32 – one ahead of injured Sidney Rice, who was inactive Sunday for the second week in a row.
Wade had just three touchdowns in the first 153 receptions of his career. In the last two catches, he scored two TDs.
The Vikings broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a season with 2,634 – shattering the mark of 2,507 set in 2002.
With a couple of long runs in the second half, the Vikings also set a franchise record for average per rushing attempt. The 2007 team finished with an average per carry of 5.332 yards, breaking the old record of 5.300 yards per carry. Officially, it will go down as a 5.3-yard tie.
Tarvaris Jackson finished the season with nine touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in 12 games.
Selvin Young of the Broncos rushed for 87 yards, but was held under 100 by the Vikings, who only allowed one running back – Ryan Grant of Green Bay – to rush for more than 100 yards in a game.
Ryan Longwell scored just three points Sunday, giving him 99 for the season.
The Vikings finished the season allowing 31 more yards (5,410) than they gained (5,379).
Last year, the Vikings lost the record for least rushing yards allowed in a season and the No. 1 ranking of the modern era. This time, despite allowing 128 rushing yards to Denver, the Vikings won the defensive rushing title by allowing just 1,185 yards. Besides the Vikings, nobody had fewer than 1,222 yards the Ravens had coming into Week 17.
For those who didn't know who Brandon Marshall was before Sunday, they know now. The second-year receiver had 10 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and ran two reverses for 31 yards. He needed eight catches to become the fourth Bronco in history to have 100 receptions in a season.
With a sack of Jay Cutler, Ben Leber recorded his fifth sack of the year, finishing tied for the team lead with Ray Edwards and Kenechi Udeze.
Punter Chris Kluwe finished third in the NFL with 34 punts downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
The Vikings finished the game converting 7 of 14 third-down attempts – 5-for-5 in the first quarter and 2-for-9 the rest of the way.
The Broncos were no strangers to playing overtime games. Sunday was the fourth time Denver had to go extra time to determine a winner. They finished 2-2 in those games.
Marshall showed some heads-up savvy in the closing minute of regulation, making a catch and lateraling the ball to a teammate for an extra 10 yards. If not for the awareness of Charles Gordon, the play may have gained much more.
Sunday was just the fourth time all season that the Vikings allowed a team to rush for more than 100 yards against its defense.
In what looked like a pretty ticky-tack call, the Vikings were victims of a seldom-called rule in the third quarter. Elvis Dumervil, who was moved from the right side of the line to the left to work on Ryan Cook rather than Bryant McKinnie, had his facemask brushed by Cook on a pass rush in the end zone. The official nearest the play made a call of a personal foul on Cook and, because it was in the end zone, it went as a safety – which proved to be a critical two points later in the game.
In the first quarter, the Vikings held a time of possession edge of 11:21 to 3:19. In the second and third quarters combined, the Vikings held the ball for just 8:44, as opposed to 21:16 for the Broncos.
With the game still tight at halftime, the Broncos' first drive of the second half looked to be a killer, as the team ran 13 plays and Cutler completed 7 of 9 passes and a Jason Elam field goal gave Denver a 17-3 lead at that point.
Brad Childress had a questionable challenge call early in the second half, arguing a spot by the referee from the far side of the field that made it nearly impossible for the call to be overturned. It wasn't, and the Vikings were charged with a timeout.
In the second quarter, Jackson completed just 1 of 4 passes for minus-3 yards.
Peterson had five carries in the first half and just six the rest of the way.
In the second quarter alone, Cutler completed 8 of 8 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. At one point, he completed 11 straight passes.
Denver held the ball for more than 12 minutes of the second quarter.
In the first quarter, the Broncos weren't credited with a single rushing attempt. In the second quarter, they ran 12 times for 57 yards.
The Vikings had Peterson returning kickoffs Sunday. He had three returns for 88 yards.
On the first Broncos touchdown of the game, Elam connected on his 600th career extra point.
Selvin Young had a 31-yard touchdown run called back due to a holding call in the second quarter.
In what might have been his last game as a Viking, Troy Williamson did little to impress, dropping a sure touchdown on a bomb in which he had 10 yards on the closest defender and then dropping a third-down pass that hit his chest between the "8" and the "2." It seems like a fitting end for a receiver who has been a monumental bust as the seventh overall pick in the draft.
The Vikings didn't have a penalty until three minutes into the second quarter.
Kevin Williams was said to be vomiting in the locker room prior to the game, suffering from a stomach virus that has run its course in the locker room over the last six weeks.
In the first quarter, despite there being no score, the Vikings dominated the action. They had seven first downs to just one by Denver, converted all five of their third-down attempts and had 126 total yards to just 36 by Denver. Yet, the score was 0-0 when the quarter came to an end.
Mike Shanahan and his staff should get huge props for having the foresight to challenge the apparent touchdown by Taylor in the first quarter. Because he challenged, the call was changed from a touchdown to a fumble and a touchback.
Garrett Mills played in his first NFL game and had a pair of receptions in the first quarter.
Taylor got the start Sunday and Peterson spent the entire first series on the bench, despite being healthy. Even backup Mewelde Moore got a couple of rushes, leading some to speculate that A.P. may have done something to anger Childress.
The Broncos had their third punter in as many weeks with street free agent Sam Paulescu doing the kicking.
Antoine Winfield was inactive again for the Vikings and Marcus McCauley started in his place.
With Sunday's loss, the Vikings have lost 14 of there last 16 games played outdoors in December.