Vikings bear bad news, lose 36-30 in OT

The Vikings survived a miserable first half and a 16-0 deficit and sent the game to overtime, where one last mistake cost them the game and possibly a first-round bye in the playoffs. It was a complete team loss, with bad special teams throughout, bad offense in the first half and bad coverage at times on defense.

The Vikings came into the Week 16 looking to bear down on their playoff positioning. Instead, it was Chicago that was the bearer of bad news for the Vikings, handing Minnesota a 36-30 overtime loss after assuming a 17-point second-half lead.

The Vikings looked lifeless again for the first 30 minutes on offense, trailing 16-0 at halftime, and simply had too many mistakes on offense, defense and special teams to come away with a road win. They entered the Windy City hoping to control their fate and earn a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Instead, the Bears blew the Vikings over in the first half, held on for overtime and took advantage of one last mistake in a 36-30 Chicago victory.

Brett Favre fumbled away the Vikings' best scoring opportunity in the first half and Adrian Peterson fumbled away their last possession in overtime. In between those offensive miscues were a series of special teams blunders and explosive plays yielded by the Vikings defense.

The Bears raced out to a 16-0 halftime lead with a tale of two quarterbacks. Jay Cutler completed 12 of 21 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown while Favre completed 5 of 9 for only 36 yards. The Bears also held Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on nine carries, a 3.1-yard average.

But by the time the game was over, Favre and Cutler's performances were similar, with Favre completing 26 of 40 attempts for 321 yards and two touchdowns for a 106.4 rating and Cutler completing 20 of 35 for 273 yards, four touchdowns an interception and a 108.4 rating.

Peterson also rebounded to rush for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries as the Vikings clawed their way back to force overtime on a fourth-down touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 16 seconds remaining. However, it was a costly Peterson fumble in overtime that put the Bears in scoring position. On the next play, Devin Aromashodu burned Antoine Winfield for a game-clinching 39-yard touchdown.

The Vikings might never have been in that position if they would have started the game with more life.

After trading punts to begin the game, the Bears drew first blood with a field goal drive. Cutler converted one third down with a 26-yard completion to TE Desmond Clark, and Cutler got another first down when he connected with Rashied Davis for 9 yards to the 10-yard line. On third down, however, the Vikings defense batted down the ball in the end zone and forced Robbie Gould onto the field for a 22-yard field for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

The Vikings followed by driving into Bears territory with mostly an intermediate passing game, but the cold weather got to Favre when he dropped the ball. The Bears answered with another field goal drive to keep the pressure on. Cutler did most of the work, converting first downs with a 16-yard pass to Greg Olsen and then an 8-yard scramble. When Matt Forte avoided three tackles on a third-down run in which he reversed his field, the Bears were in range for Gould to hit a 42-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter.

The first-half domination by the Bears didn't end there. Cutler took the Bears on a 64-yard touchdown drive with two explosive passes – a 24-yard connection to Olsen and a 26-yarder to Aromashodu. After a penalty, Cutler fired a bullet for Olsen for a 7-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead.

But the Bears weren't content with that. Getting the ball back with just 1:48 left in the first half, Cutler converted a third-down pass to Earl Bennett for 13 yards and Aromashodu for 12. But that wouldn't even be Aromashodu's biggest contribution of the drive. One play later, he caught a pass in the deep zone for 24 yards to set up Gould's third field goal of the half, a 41-yarder, for a 16-0 Bears halftime lead.

The Vikings emerged in the second half with more urgency, scoring a touchdown on their second drive of the half. They did it with the passing game. Favre hit Bernard Berrian for 13 and 38 yards on successive plays, and Rice drew pass interference in the end zone on the next play. On first down, Peterson bounced a run to the left for the first Minnesota score of the game, but it was tarnished with a block extra point that would eventually prove to be ultra-costly.

With momentum starting to swing the Vikings' way, the special teams allowed Danieal Manning to return the ensuing kick 57 yards into Minnesota territory. Cutler went to work from the 34-yard line and tried to hit Olsen on the third play. The tight end drew pass interference on LB Jasper Brinkley, and two plays later Clark slipped into the back of the end zone wide open for a 2-yard touchdown and a 23-6 Bears lead midway through the third quarter.

But after being shut down throughout the first half, the Vikings offense came alive. Favre started with a 21-yard pass to Jim Kleinsasser, and three straight 9-yard gains – two runs by Peterson and a catch by Percy Harvin – put the Vikings in scoring position. Favre got it to the 2-yard line with a 12-yarder to Rice. After a 4-yard loss on a run, Favre fired for Visanthe Shiancoe in the end zone and the tight end delivered with the touchdown reception to pull within 10 points, 23-13.

Three plays later, the Vikings offense was back on the field following a Cedric Griffin interception. Peterson dominated the ensuing drive early, getting the first three touches for 23 yards. After an intentional grounding penalty, Favre came back with an 18-yard pass to Shiancoe, but the Vikings had to settle for a 41-yard field goal when they couldn't convert third-and-2, cutting their deficit to seven points, 23-16.

When the defense held, Favre was in a position to complete the comeback. On third-and-10, he hit Taylor for 20 yards. Two plays later, it was Greg Lewis for 27, then Rice and Harvin for 12 each before Peterson finished off the drive with 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game 23-23 with 5:49 to play.

The special teams didn't do the team any favors, allowing Manning to escape for a 59-yard kickoff return, setting up a 20-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett to give the Bears a 30-23 lead with 4:55 to play.

With one last shot to extend the game, the Vikings offense responded. Favre led the Vikings past midfield with completions of 16 yards to Peterson and 9 yards to Jeff Dugan. Harvin kept the chains moving with a 19-yard reception inside the red zone and Rice converted third down with a 10-yard reception. Four plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line in the waning seconds of the game, Rice delivered again. Favre threw in the end zone at the left sidelines and Rice came down with the touchdown to tie the game 30-30 and send it to overtime.

The Vikings got the first break when Gould's 45-yard field goal attempt stayed wide right, but Minnesota's offense followed that by allowing back-to-back sacks of Favre on its first possession. The Vikings' second overtime attempt would be even worse. On second down, Peterson took a reception up the right sideline and fumbled away the Vikings' best shot to secure a bye in the playoffs. After Nick Roach recovered Peterson's fumble, Cutler immediately went to the air and Aromashodu pulled down the 39-yard dagger for a touchdown and a 36-30 overtime win.

After an unequivocally bad first half, the Vikings offense came alive in the second half and gave them a shot in overtime, but a stream of mistakes in all three phases ended with one final one in overtime.

The loss dropped the Vikings to 11-4, took them out of contention for the NFC's No. 1 seed and brought the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals into the picture for the conference's second seed in the playoffs. If the Eagles win next week, the Vikings will be playing in the first week of the playoffs without much momentum, no matter what happens in Week 17.

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