Mistakes come in many forms, and the Vikings found a number of different ways to showcase them Sunday in Soldier Field.
They gave up touchdowns with a blocked punt attempt that was returned 24 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. They were so scared of Devin Hester and their own coverage units that they allowed the Bears' first two drives to start on the Chicago 46- and 48-yard lines with squib and high kickoffs. And that was just the first quarter.
They also displayed how to have a punt bounce off the would-be return man and recovered by the opposition in the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter. And, finally, by the time the game was done, they showed how four interceptions can thwart any hope for a comeback in a wild 48-41 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Through all the incredible gaffes, the Vikings took a 7-0 lead, turned it into a 48-31 deficit and still had a chance to win it or send it into overtime at the end of the game. Quarterback Gus Frerotte's fourth interception ended that desperate hope and sent the Vikings out of a first-place tie for the division lead and into the bye week with a 3-4 record.
Throughout the first half of the season, the Vikings continued to talk about how all their mistakes were correctable, but their special teams continued to torture them, accounting for two of Chicago's six touchdowns, and their fear of their own coverage abilities led to 10 more points with Chicago drives starting near midfield.
Lost in all the mistakes was a 121-yard rushing day for Adrian Peterson and 298 yards passing from Frerotte. In the midst of it all, the defense limited the Bears to 53 yards rushing, but Kyle Orton picked up the slack with a 283-yard performance that featured two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 114.5 passer rating.
It didn't start poorly for the Vikings immediately, but it didn't take long to turn.
The Bears won the coin toss but deferred the opening kick and the Vikings made them pay early. Peterson was on his game running the ball and Frerotte was equally sharp throwing it. Peterson started with a 16-yard run up the gut and Frerotte followed with a 14-yard completion to Berrian. Through a series of three runs, including an 8-yard end-around to Peterson, the Vikings moved the chains again and, once across midfield, Frerotte found Wade for a 10-yard completion inside the red zone. On third-and-goal, Chester Taylor got the ball to the 1-yard line with a reception and Vikings coach Brad Childress elected to go for the touchdown. Peterson rewarded that decision with a hard-fought, stretching touchdown lunge for a 7-0 lead with 9:18 to play in the first quarter.
The Vikings elected to squib kick and avoid Hester right away, but Jason McKie returned their first offering to his own 46-yard line. Five plays later – the final three going 10 yards or further, with back-to-back completions to TE Greg Olsen netting 28 yards – the Bears had tied it up quickly.
Minnesota's series of special team gaffes started at the end of their next possession, when Chris Kluwe dropped the snap, had his late attempt blocked and kicked it again when the ball was on the ground. His flailing second attempt scooted on the ground to Garrett Wolfe, who returned it 24 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Bears lead with 5:43 still to play in the opening quarter.
But before the first quarter could end, the Vikings would answer back. The combination of Berrian and Peterson picked up the initial first down, and two more passes to Berrian – a 7-yard reception and a 17-yard interference penalty on CB Corey Graham – put the ball across midfield. Three plays later, Frerotte found Visanthe Shiancoe for a 24-yard touchdown to tie the game again.
But the first-half scoring was far from over, even the first quarter was.
Once again, the Vikings kicked it short and McKie returned this one to the 48-yard line. When Matt Forte picked up one first down and Jared Allen was flagged for a late hit, the Bears were on the verge of entering the red zone. A 12-yard pass to Marty Booker put it on the 9-yard line, but Chicago would have to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Robbie Gould.
What else would you expect but a response in kind from the Vikings the way this game started out? That's the way the first half went, and that's what the Vikings would do. Their fourth drive got moving with a 34-yard completion to Berrian, and Taylor and Peterson combined to move the chains again. However, the next three consecutive running plays to that combination all lost yardage and forced Ryan Longwell on for a 42-yard field goal to make it 17-17.
Minnesota's defense finally stopped Orton and company, but the second special-teams meltdown resulted in another Chicago touchdown. This time, Charles Gordon went to block a gunner on a punt and the ball bounced back to hit Gordon and ricocheted into the end zone, where Zack Bowman recovered for a 24-17 Chicago lead.
The mistakes compounded immediately when Frerotte threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive. While the Bears had field position at the 26-yard line, it wasn't enough on that occasion, as Pat Williams got penetration on a field goal attempt four plays later and blocked Gould's 42-yard try.
The Vikings got back to even on their next drive. Two completions to Shiancoe for a combined 37 yards were sandwiched with a 14-yard pass to Berrian. Frerotte went for Berrian again in the end zone and drew a pass interference penalty on CB Trumaine McBride. Two plays later, Taylor dove over the top for a 1-yard touchdown and a 24-24 tie with 22 seconds left in the half.
But the Vikings' decision to kick it high on the next kickoff cost them three points when a first-down pass to Olsen gained 19 yards and the Bears were at the 40-yard line. After a 4-yard pass to Rashied Davis was compounded with an encroachment penalty on Fred Evans, Gould's kick was shortened to 48 yards, and he gave his team a three-point lead at the half.
Chicago's offense would continue to lay it on in the second half. Forte picked up one first down on the ground, but Desmond Clark provided the big plays in the air. He caught passes of 21 yards and 35 yards, the second being fumbled at the 1-yard line and into the end zone and recovered by Davis there for a 34-24 Bears lead.
The Vikings continued to try to stay with Chicago's suddenly potent offense. Peterson did it this time, breaking loose for a 54-yard touchdown run, making it 34-31 with 10:40 to play in the third quarter.
However, that would be as close as the Vikings would come, despite the defense getting stops on consecutive drives with Jared Allen sacks on third downs.
The Bears used the big plays to their advantage, sandwiching a 51-yard Marty Booker touchdown on offense for a 41-31 lead in between interceptions by McBride and Kevin Payne on defense.
Chicago extended that lead to 48-31 when Payne's interception was returned 50 yards to the 6-yard line and got some help. A fourth-down interference call on Vinny Ciurciu gave Chicago new life and Matt Forte found the end zone with a 1-yard run.
The Vikings responded with a with a drive inside the red zone, thanks mainly to catches of 10 and 18 yards by Aundrae Allison, but eventually they called on Longwell for a 23-yard field goal to draw within two scores, 48-34, with 8:59 to play.
When the defense stopped Chicago on the next possession, Minnesota still had a chance. Taking over 7:11 to play, Frerotte connected with Shiancoe once, Taylor twice and Wade twice, including a 19-yarder on fourth-and-16. With three minutes to play, Frerotte connected with Berrian for a 5-yard touchdown for a 48-41 deficit.
Childress elected to kick the ball off, and after the Bears picked up one first down and used up the Vikings' final two timeouts, they finally had to punt it away with 1:13 to play. With the offense in a frenzy to go 75 yards in 1:06, Tommie Harris started with a sack and Bowman followed with the game-ending interception.
It was Frerotte's fourth interception of the day, but those were only part of the many mistakes that led the Vikings' demise at Soldier Field.
Vikings kick themselves in 48-41 loss
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