With the game on the line in the fourth quarter on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Vikings put themselves in a position to win not once, but twice. After getting a huge defensive play on the 3-yard line from Pat Williams to force a Rashard Mendenhall fumble, despite being backed up three times due to penalty, the Vikings had a first-and-goal on the Pittsburgh 10-yard line with eight minutes to play and trailing 13-10.
Despite the fact they got jobbed out of the go-ahead touchdown on a phantom tripping penalty on Jeff Dugan that negated a Brett Favre-to-Sidney Rice touchdown that would have given them a 17-13 lead and a subsequent fumble returned for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead, the Vikings didn't quit.
You get the feeling that such a reversal of fortune would have decimated Vikings teams of recent vintage. But those teams didn't have Favre and they didn't have Percy Harvin.
Although only seven games into his professional career, Harvin already holds the Vikings franchise records for kickoffs returned for a touchdown. Considering the team has played for 50 years, you would have thought someone would have done it twice, yet Harvin became the first. Harvin's was the 13th kickoff return for a touchdown in team history. With his second, he broke a 12-way tie.
Favre also stood up, completing nine of 10 passes on the drive that would end in the fumble return for a score and, in the final three minutes, he completed three of four passes to get inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line with a little over a minute to play – highlighted by William Gay's introduction to Adrian Peterson, joining the back of Gay's shoulder pads to the Heinz Field turf.
As bad as things turned out Sunday, the Vikings had not one, but two chances to win the game late. The fact it didn't happen is disappointing, but the fact it was possible was something Vikings fans have grown accustomed not to seeing. Would Gus Frerotte have led the Vikings back? Probably not.
Starting today, the border battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin will heat up like few times in their long and storied rivalry. The wait is almost over. Brett returns to Lambeau, but this time, he's wearing purple. There couldn't be much more on the line. A loss and the Vikings will have a season split against Green Bay and be just a half-game up in the standings heading into the bye week. A win would give the Vikings a two-and-a-half game lead with all the tie-breakers in their favor heading into the bye and armed with the knowledge they won't go on the road again for a month – all three games coming out of the bye (Detroit, Seattle and Chicago) are at home.
A year ago, there would have been the sentiment that Sunday's game is a sign of gloom and doom. The Vikings have consistently struggled at Lambeau Field. The Packers are on a roll and getting their offensive line healthy. But, instead, the general feeling among the media types is that the Packers had better be ready because they're facing a Vikings team that is angry and looking to take it out on someone. What a difference a year can make in the consensus of opinion as it pertains to the Vikings.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.