When you're the NFL's leading active interception leader, big things are expected of you. Sunday night, Darren Sharper got his first pick of the year, but it couldn't have come at a bigger time. Plus, get dozens of game notes that help tell the tale of the Vikings' biggest win of the season.
For the all-time leader in active interceptors in the NFL, the first pick of the 2008 season was a long time in coming for Vikings safety Darren Sharper
Sharper said the Vikings' building momentum in the first half and into the third quarter played a major role in his ability to get his first interception of the season.
"It seems like whenever you get up on the scoreboard, more opportunities come for the defense to make big plays," Sharper said. "Once they got behind, they had to take more chances and that's when our defense is at its best."
Going 11 games without an interception was something that Sharper has never been used. It was the longest interception drought of his career and he was thankful to finally have it over.
"You always get frustrated when you don't make plays to contribute to the team," Sharper said. "I've been playing solid, but haven't been making spectacular plays. Whenever you can get your hands on a pick, it's big. But to turn into points on the other end was more important."
Sharper's interception set the Vikings offense up on the Bears 35-yard line and, five plays later, Chester Taylor
scored on a 21-yard run to give the Vikings a 24-14 lead that kept the Bears at arm's length for the rest of the game.
THE LONGEST PLAY
The 99-yard touchdown to Bernard Berrian
on the heels of a big defensive stand was the talk of the locker room following the game. Just about everybody who was part of it had nothing but good things to say about it.
"We made up for our mistakes," defensive end Jared Allen
said. "We were able to make the big stop on four plays from the 1-yard line and that turned momentum around. To burn them with a 99-yard pass was a big shift in that momentum. We took advantage of the opportunities when we had them."
Once the defense had done it's job, the offense took over and made the longest play in Vikings history on the 99-yard pass and catch from Gus Frerotte
"A play like that happens once in a lifetime," center Matt Birk
said. "The biggest thing about it was that we needed it at the time. That gave us a lot of confidence. It was a huge swing and we rode that wave the rest of the game."
ALL DAY AT NIGHT
had his fourth straight huge game against the Bears, scoring his eighth touchdown in four career games. He said the offensive line elevates its play against teams like the Bears and there have been huge days that have resulted.
"I think the level of our play rises against division teams like them," Peterson said. "The offensive line did a great job. They didn't win every battle, but they fought all night and got the plays when we had to have them."
The Vikings finished with 378 total yards (200 passing, 178 rushing), while the Bears managed just 228 yards (125 passing, 103 rushing).
Neither team was impressive on third down. The Vikings made good on just 5 of 17 chances, while Chicago converted just 3 of 14 third down opportunities.
Peterson was again a workhorse, rushing 28 times for 131 yards and a TD. But he wasn't alone. Taylor had 10 carries for 46 yards and a TD of his own to help the cause.
Kyle Orton had not thrown an interception in 185 passes coming into Sunday's game. He had three interceptions in the game, bringing his 11-game total to seven – four in 10 games prior to Sunday and three Sunday night.
The Vikings have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this year, but rookie Matt Forte came as a close as any has this year, rushing 22 times for 96 yards.
Berrian had 122 yards on four receptions. The rest of the team had 88 yards on 12 receptions.
Of their first nine drives of the game for the Vikings, seven of them started from their own 20 or worse, including starts from the 1, 4, 5, 11, 14 and 15-yard lines.
Sunday provided a coaching rarity, as both coaches won challenges. In the first half, Lovie Smith won a challenge on a punt ruling at the 2-yard line and Brad Childress won a challenge in the fourth quarter on what was ruled a fumble by Ben Leber following an interception of Kyle Orton. Both times, replay showed the initial calls to be wrong and in both instances, the challenges proved correct.
On the Bears' first drive of the third quarter, Jared Allen recorded his 10th sack of the season, making him the first Viking since 2004 to record double-digit sacks. That season, both Kevin Williams and Lance Johnstone had 11.5 sacks.
Thanks to a dominating second quarter, the Vikings held a substantial advantage in total yards in the first half. The Vikings had 287 yards (180 passing, 107 rushing) to 165 for the Bears (97 passing, 68 rushing). The Vikings had 12 first downs, while Chicago managed only six.
Neither team was very effective on third down in the first half – the Bears converted just 2 of 9 third downs, while the Vikings made good on just 1 of 7 – but it was a big one on a catch by Taylor with a little more than two minutes to play in the first half that led to a Vikings touchdown.
Individually, Frerotte completed 10 of 16 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 124.5 in the first half. Berrian was clearly the leading receiver with three catches for 118 yards and a TD. Peterson had 14 carries for 100 yards.
For the Bears, Orton completed just 5 of 16 passes for 105 yards and a TD in the first half. Hester had two receptions for 65 yards and a TD and Forte had 14 carries for 63 yards.
Peterson's day of more than 100 yards was the 20th time the Vikings have had a 100-yard rusher since signing guard Steve Hutchinson.
The Vikings thoroughly dominated the second quarter – outgaining the Bears 234-57. Frerotte had 150 yards passing, Berrian had two catches for 107 yards and Peterson rushed six times for 77 yards.
Jim Kleinsasser was less than a foot away from scoring a touchdown late in the first half. It would have been just his second TD in his last 62 games.
Berrian will forever be in the record books as of Sunday. Since there can't be 100-yard offensive plays in the NFL, his 99-yard touchdown catch will tie for the all-time longest play in the league history. It shattered the all-time longest reception in team history by 10 yards – the old record was 89 yards from Frank Tarkenton to Charley Ferguson in 1962.
Berrian became just the 11th player in NFL history to score a 99-yard touchdown – a list that includes greats like Bobby Mitchell, Cliff Branch and Mike Quick. The last to do it was Andre Davis of the Browns in 2004 against the Bengals.
Benny Sapp made one of the worst plays of the season in the second quarter. A third-down run by Forte was stuffed for a 2-yard loss that appeared to end the Bears drive. Wide receiver Rashied Davis was blocking Sapp on the play and, although the play never came in his direction, Sapp threw two open-hand punches at Davis' head – drawing a personal foul and giving the Bears a first down.
Ray Edwards had a pair of offside penalties in the first half – both of which came on Vikings sacks that were negated and would have ended drives.
The officials missed a call that clearly won't be missed by the league office when they hand out fines on Friday. Well after Gus Frerotte let go a third-down pass to Bobby Wade, he was hit with a forearm from behind by Adawale Ogunleye and, for about the 10th time this season, laid motionless on the ground for a short period of time. He would return on the next drive.
On his first carry of the second quarter, Peterson put himself in the record books for Vikings history as well as for the 2008 season. His incredible 59-yard run moved him past Fran Tarkenton (2,548 career rushing yards) into 10th place on the all-time Vikings list. The play also moved him from third to first for most rushing yards this season, passing Michael Turner (1,208 yards) and Clinton Portis (1,228 yards) on the same play.
Thanks to the big pass to Hester, Chicago dominated the first-quarter team stats. The Bears had 108 total yards (89 passing, 19 rushing) to 53 for the Vikings (30 passing, 23 rushing). The Vikings held the ball for 9:52 of the quarter, but the big play for the Bears made the big difference in the quarter's yardage totals.
Orton completed just 3 of 9 passes in the first quarter for 89 yards and a touchdown. Two of them went to Hester for 65 yards and the other went to Lloyd for 24 yards. The team ran four times for 19 yards – all rushes by Forte.
Frerotte completed 5 of 8 passes in the first quarter for just 40 yards – half of those going to Visanthe Shiancoe on one pass. Peterson had all eight rushing attempts for the Vikings for 23 yards.
Chris Kluwe had a big first quarter punting the ball. On his first kick of the game, he boomed one 60 yards into the end zone. On his third punt of the first quarter, he hit a 60-yarder that was downed by Vinny Ciurciu on the 2-yard line. The Bears challenged the call and the officials ruled the David Herron had touched the ball while a foot was in the end zone and the ball was moved out to the 20-yard line.
Hester showed why is so dangerous on the Bears' second drive of the game. He took an innocent-looking 7-yard slant play and raced by Darren Sharper for a 65-yard touchdown to give Chicago a 7-0 lead.
On the Bears' first punt, the Vikings dropped Bernard Berrian back into return formation and he continued to return punts throughout the game.
To the surprise of nobody, when the Bears lined up in punt return coverage, Devin Hester was back in his customary role after being removed from return duties last week vs. the Rams. Hester finished with three returns for 12 yards.
The Bears won the opening toss and deferred – allowing the Vikings offense to take the field first.
The Vikings wore throwback uniforms Sunday night – complete with the gray facemasks that marked that era of Vikings football.
Among the Vikings inactive players was offensive lineman Artis Hicks. He took over for Ryan Cook last week at Jacksonville at right tackle, but suffered an elbow injury in the fourth quarter. Cook started at right tackle tonight.
The other Vikings inactives included John David Booty (3rd QB), RB Maurice Hicks, TE Garrett Mills, LB Dontarrious Thomas, DE Otis Grigsby, WR Aundrae Allison and DT Letroy Guion.
Sunday night was the first time in four weeks that WR Robert Ferguson was active on the game roster.
The Bears inactives included RB Kevin Jones, FB Jason McKie, G Terrence Metcalf, and WR Marty Booker.
Although active, Hunter Hillenmeyer was removed from the starting lineup at strongside linebacker and replaced by second-year man Nick Roach.
The Vikings entered play Sunday with a 50-43-2 all-time record against the Bears.
In the previous 20 meetings between the teams, they had a record of 10-10, with each team posting a 7-3 record at home.
Pat Williams made his 125th career start Sunday.
Sunday's game was the 100th of Ben Leber's career and his 75th career start. He had an important interception to help celebrate the mark.
The paid attendance was 63,722 – the 112th straigh sellout dating back to 1998.