Longwell kicks Vikings into playoffs

The Vikings survived a tight game, won on a field goal with no time remaining and claimed the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs with their first NFC North title.

The Vikings needed every second of their 60-minute game to earn a playoff berth, but after a 50-yard field goal with no time remaining, they will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs, making the postseason for the first time since 2004 and win the division for the first time since 2000.

They did it with the Giants playing Eli Manning for only the first half, when Minnesota had a 10-9 halftime lead. After the Vikings fell behind 19-10 in the fourth quarter, Tarvaris Jackson connected with Bernard Berrian for a 54-yard touchdown pass and Ryan Longwell capped the final drive with a 50-yard field goal that gave Brad Childress his first playoff berth as a head coach with a 20-19 win over the New York Giants in the regular-season finale.

The Vikings will now face the Philadelphia Eagles at 3:30 p.m. Central Sunday at the Metrodome in the wild card round of the playoffs.

They got there with a 103-yard rushing day from Adrian Peterson, who scored a touchdown but also fumbled once more in the first quarter on a play in which he rolled his ankle (he returned to the game and scored on the next drive).

They also got a decent performance from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson against a top-10 defense. Jackson completed 16 of 26 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and an 88.5 passer rating. But, like Peterson, Jackson had one miscue, an interception he threw in the end zone that was returned 45 yards.

Overall, however, the Vikings limited their mistakes on the field after a seven-fumble, four-turnover game last weekend. This time, they had only two penalties and one turnover.

Eli Manning played the first half for the Giants, completing 11 of 19 passes for 119 yards, but backup David Carr actually had more success for New York, completing 8 of 11 for 110 yards and a touchdown. Both had the advantage of a strong rushing attack with an impressive offensive line leading the way. With starter Brandon Jacobs sidelined with an injury, Derrick Ward rushed 15 times for 77 yards, and the Giants rushed for 135 yards as a team.

But the Vikings did just enough to beat the defending Super Bowl champions, earn the division title and enter the playoffs after a 1-3 start to the season. It wasn't easy Sunday either in the Metrodome.

As the two teams traded punts on each of their first two possessions, the Vikings were establishing longer drives and gaining an advantage on field position. On their third drive of the game, Dugan got it going forward with a 9-yard reception on second down and Peterson moved the chains, despite fumbling the ball. After Matt Birk recovered, Chester Taylor took a screen pass on the next play 19 yards into Giants territory and set them up in field goal position with another run. Longwell put the first points on the board with a 48-yarder to give them a 3-0 lead on the second snap of the second quarter.

After the defense forced the second consecutive three-and-out drive for New York, the offense got the explosive element to the running game that Peterson can offer. Peterson took a third-and-1 handoff off right guard and, once past the line of scrimmage, was gone for a 67-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 10-0 lead with 11:22 to play in the first half.

The Vikings didn't handle prosperity well. On the ensuing kickoff, Ahmad Bradshaw returned it 58 yards to the Minnesota 43-yard line. While the Vikings avoided a 33-yard touchdown run by Ward that was called back because of holding, the Giants were just barely able to get into John Carney's range and he snuck a 51-yarder over the crossbar to make it 10-3 with 9:30 to play in the second quarter.

This time, it was the Giants that forced a three-and-out series, and their offense immediately went on the move despite being pinned on their own 9-yard line. Manning converted third-and-10 with a 12-yard pass to Amani Toomer, and third-string tight end Darcy Johnson caught a 26-yard pass to put the Giants in Vikings territory. From there, it was mostly Ward, who had runs of 10, 9, 3 and 10 yards mixed around a holding call. Once inside the red zone, the drive stalled and Carney came on for a 30-yard field goal, making it 10-6, with 1:03 to play in the half.

When the Vikings completed a 20-yard pass in the middle of the field to Bobby Wade, they started to believe they could get into field goal position. However, when Jackson was dropped for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-1, the Giants took possession with 27 seconds remaining and one timeout. That would be enough for Manning to move his team into field goal position. He completed passes of 17 and 16 yards to Domenik Hixon, and Carney converted the 42-yard field goal to pull the Giants within a point, 10-9, as time expired in the second quarter.

The Giants continued that momentum into the second half, even with David Carr taking over at quarterback. Ward was the workhorse to start the drive, picking up two first downs with runs of 5, 6 and 13 yards to midfield, but eventually Carr's arm became a factor. On third-and-8, he connected with Johnson for 18 yards, and on third-and-4 he found Hixon for a 23-yard touchdown to put New York on top, 16-10, with 9:29 to play in the third quarter.

After an exchange of punts, the Vikings went on what looked to be a scoring drive. After moving the chains once, Jackson found Wade for a 41-yard reception down the right sideline. Two Peterson rushes later, Jackson was set up with first-and-goal on the 4-yard line. On second down he forced a throw into traffic and safety James Butler came away with an interception in the end zone that he returned to the 45-yard line before Jackson forced him out of bounds and then hit him late to move the ball across midfield.

Carr continued to find success under duress, hitting Sinorice Moss for a 27-yard pass on third-and-21. While the Giants couldn't punch it in, they took a nine-point lead, 19-10, on a 20-yard field goal from Carney with 11:22 left in the game.

The Vikings responded with their first scoring drive of the second half. Jackson started with a 12-yard pass to Berrian and two plays later returned to him. Just as Jackson released the ball, CB Terrell Thomas lost his balance and Berrian had only a safety to beat in the middle of the field. He did, turning it into a 54-yard touchdown for a two-point deficit, 19-17, with 9:26 to play.

With the Metrodome crowd coming to life, the Giants were still able to move the ball. Rookie Mario Manningham caught slant passes for 11 and 10 yards before their ground game picked up another first down. However, when Carney missed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide right, the Vikings would need only to get into field goal position.

Taking over with 3:17 to play, Jackson converted the initial third down with a 9-yard pass to Berrian. Three plays later, he moved the chains again with an 8-yard completion to Shiancoe to the 30-yard line. After a two-yard loss, a scramble onto the field with mixed personnel and an incompletion to bring the clock to five seconds, Longwell finally lined up for the 50-yarder and was long and true, giving the Vikings the 20-19 win and their first NFC North crown.


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