Notebook: Vikings make a mess of playoffs

The Vikings had an opportunity to control their ability for a first-round bye, but now the playoff scenarios are getting messy with only one week to play. We detail the NFC scenarios and load up with 40 notes that help tell the tale of the Vikings' 36-30 overtime loss.

Suddenly, the Vikings are fans of the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers – two teams for which most Vikings fans harbor hatred. For one week, anyway, the Vikings may need help from both of them to preserve a chance at earning a first-round playoff bye – something that looked to be all but a foregone conclusion when the month began and the Vikings were 10-1.

With Monday night's 36-30 overtime loss to the Bears, the Vikings fell to 11-4, in a tie with Philadelphia and one game ahead of Arizona. The only NFC playoff seeding that was assured by the Vikings loss was that New Orleans has the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But the loss puts the Vikings in the middle of a mess in which, for the first time all season, their record won't earn them a first-round bye.

Because of a conference record tie-breaker – the Eagles are 9-2 and the Vikings are 8-3 – if both the Vikings and Eagles win next week, Philly gets the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Vikings play host to the Giants, who were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, while the Eagles head into Dallas. If Dallas beats the Eagles and the Vikings win, Minnesota will hold on the No. 2 seed in the NFC and get a bye.

However, if the Vikings lose next week, they lose out on any shot of getting a first-round bye and could fall as far as the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs. Both Dallas and Arizona (which hosts the Packers Sunday) can still earn the No. 2 seed. For Dallas to do it, the Cowboys would have to beat Philadelphia, have the Giants beat the Vikings and have Arizona lose to or tie with the Packers. The Cowboys would have the tie-breaker edge on the Vikings due to a better conference record – if both teams finished 11-5, Dallas would be 9-3 in the conference and the Vikings would be 8-4. If the Vikings were to lose and the Cardinals beat the Packers, all three teams would finish 11-5 and the Vikings would have the worst record of the three in the conference – Minnesota at 8-4 and the other two at 9-3. In that scenario, the Cardinals would get the No. 2 seed, Dallas would be No. 3, the Vikings would be No. 4 and would host the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.

There is still a lot of football to be played before the playoff teams are seeded, but, for the first time all season, the Vikings no longer control their own playoff destiny.

GAME NIGHT NOTES

  • Brett Favre was looking to make some personal history Monday night and came very close to doing it. In his career, he has had a record of 0-42 in games in which his team has trailed by 17 or more points. He twice rallied the Vikings back to tie the game, but his mark fell to 0-43 when the Bears won the game in overtime.

  • Favre had a horrible first half, but finished the game completing 26 of 40 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Favre's passer rating of 106.4 was his ninth game of the season with a passer rating of 100 or higher, setting a franchise record.

  • Favre also set a franchise record with his ninth start without an interception in a season, breaking a record he shared with Culpepper (2004) and Warren Moon (1995).

  • The Bears have allowed just two 300-yard passers this year and both of them were Favre.

  • Favre's touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 16 seconds left in regulation gave him exactly 69,000 passing yards for his career. He would complete just one pass in overtime, which was fumbled by Adrian Peterson and cashed in on by the Bears on the very next snap for the win. Peterson's two touchdowns Monday give him 17 TDs for the season, which leads the league.

  • Nine different Vikings caught passes Monday and seven of those caught two or more.

  • Fans may not have known who Devin Aromashodu was before Monday, but the backup-turned-starter caught seven passes for a career-high 150 yards and the game-winning touchdown. In the six games he had played prior to Monday, he had a total of 12 catches for 102 yards and one touchdown.

  • Jay Cutler had a big night, completing 20 of 35 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns – thrown to four different receivers.

  • Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe moved into second place on the all-time Vikings list for touchdowns by a tight end when he caught his 18th TD in the second half, passing Stu Voigt for second place. Shiancoe would limp off the field in the fourth quarter and didn't return in overtime.

  • The Vikings finished with 423 total yards to 363 for the Bears. Before the 39-yard touchdown that ended the game, from the start of the second half to that point, the Vikings had out-gained the Bears 341-100.

  • Both teams converted just five of 14 third-down opportunities.

  • With two sacks Monday, the Vikings have 45 on the season, which ties them for the ninth-highest total in team history – tying the numbers from 1993 and 2008. With two sacks next week, they can finish the season tied for fifth place all time.

  • With a win Monday, the Vikings would have gone undefeated in division play for the first time since 1973.

  • The Vikings also blew a chance to have the first winning record on the road since 1998. They finished the season 4-4 on the road and are 7-0 at home, which is why getting the No. 2 seed has been viewed as so important.

  • The Bears opted to kick to Percy Harvin, something recent Vikings opponents have refused to do. They got away with it too. Harvin averaged 23 yards on six returns with a long of 27 yards.

  • Chicago's Hunter Hillenmeyer was the defensive star of the game. He had 15 tackles (13 solo) and forced the fumble that eventually won the game for Chicago.

  • The teams combined for just seven penalties, the Vikings being called for four and Chicago called for three.

  • The Vikings scored four touchdowns in four trips into the red zone, while the Bears scored two TDs on three red zone trips.

  • The Vikings held the ball for just 13:55 of the first half, but had a time-of-possession advantage of 23:30 to 13:15 after the half.

  • The Vikings have six players who have caught 40 or more passes this year – Sidney Rice with 77, Harvin with 53, Bernard Berrian with 53, Shiancoe with 49, Chester Taylor with 42 and Peterson with 42. It is the first time since the 1983 Dallas Cowboys that a team has had six players with 40 or more receptions in a season.

  • The Bears are known for throwing to their running backs, but had just one completion to a RB – Matt Forte, who was tackled for a 7-yard loss.

  • The Vikings out-gained the Bears 157-26 in the third quarter.

  • Monday was the ninth time the Vikings scored 30 or more points in a game, but it was the first time they have lost when doing so.

  • The 36 points scored by the Bears were the most the Vikings have allowed this season.

  • Defensive line starters Jared Allen, Ray Edwards and Kevin Williams combined for just three tackles and no sacks. Allen had two tackles, Edwards had one and Williams had none.

  • The Vikings' touchdown early in the third quarter ended a drought of 71 minutes, 44 seconds in between Vikings scores.

  • The Bears dominated the first half. Aside from leading 16-0, they held significant advantages in total yards (225-82), rushing (69-53), passing (156-29), first downs (11-4) and time of possession (16:05-13:55).

  • After converting four of eight third downs in the first half, Chicago made good on just one of seven in the second half and overtime.

  • In the first half, the Vikings offense was anemic. Favre completed five of nine passes for just 36 yards, Peterson was the leading rusher with 28 yards on nine carries and Rice was the only player with more than one reception (two for 16 yards).

  • In the first half, Cutler completed 12 of 21 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. Matt Forte had 10 carries for 39 yards and four Bears had two or more receptions.

  • The 13-0 first-half deficit, which later became 16-0, was the largest deficit the Vikings have faced in a first half all season.

  • With four catches Monday, Harvin has 53 on the season, the second highest total by a Vikings rookie in franchise history. He passed both Sammy White (1975) and Paul Flatley (1961) – each of whom caught 51 passes. Randy Moss (69 in 1998) holds the franchise record.

  • Steve Hutchinson made his 63rd consecutive start as a Viking, putting him in fourth place all time among Vikings guards.

  • Ben Leber made his 100th career start Monday.

  • Monday was the 51st time the Vikings have played on Monday Night Football and have a record of 26-25, including a 6-5 record against Chicago.

  • Favre came into play Monday 5-0 in his career against the Bears on Monday night.

  • Nose tackle Pat Williams was inactive Monday. Jimmy Kennedy took his place and recorded five tackles (four solo).

  • The Bears were without both of their starting safeties – Al Afalava and Kevin Payne – both of whom were inactive, and lost their top cornerback – Charles Tillman – to an injury in the fourth quarter.

  • The game-time temperature was 22 degrees, adding fuel to the fire that the Vikings can't win in cold weather.


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