Already stung by four turnovers and a missed extra point, the Minnesota Vikings were on the verge of another mess-up early in the fourth quarter.
Brooks Bollinger and Adrian Peterson banged into each other before the handoff on third-and-goal at the 8-yard line, and Chicago's Brian Urlacher closed in.
Peterson shook his shoulders, though, and Urlacher bit on the fake. The rookie raced left and into the end zone, giving the Vikings their first lead. They finished with their fifth straight victory, 20-13 over the Bears on Monday night to maintain control of the NFC's last wild-card spot.
"We kept plugging away, plugging away, and kept fighting," said Darren Sharper, who sealed the win with an interception at the goal line of Kyle Orton's long pass. "That's the sign of a good football team, and we have the potential to be a great football team."
Trampled by Peterson the last time they met, Urlacher and the Bears figured out how to stop Minnesota's star back for the better part of three quarters. Just not when it really counted.
"Couldn't finish," said Urlacher, who kept his sparse postgame comments to grouchy sentence fragments.
Tarvaris Jackson's career-high 249 yards passing were overshadowed by three interceptions, mistakes that added up to a 13-3 Bears lead until Peterson's first score early in the third.
Peterson finished with 78 yards on 20 carries, just enough to keep Minnesota (8-6) one game in front of New Orleans and Washington in the conference race. Defending NFC champion Chicago (5-9) was officially eliminated from contention.
"This was kind of the story of our season," tight end Greg Olsen said. "We just come up short at the end. It's tough. It's frustrating."
Peterson's play impressed everyone including Bollinger, who was subbing while Jackson sought treatment for a cramp in his calf.
"I was still going, 'What the?' when he made the move," Bollinger said. "But he made it happen."
Bollinger's dive forward on a draw play gave the Vikings the 2-point conversion and a 20-13 lead with 10:56 left, plenty of time for Chicago to come back.
Orton, though, didn't have it in him in his first start in two years. Too many of Orton's throws were way off target, though he completed 22 of 36 passes for 184 yards.
"The more you play the more comfortable you get, but I didn't make enough plays to win," Orton said. "I felt comfortable in the game. We just didn't make enough plays. Put that on me."
The Vikings have come a long way since Nov. 11, when they were whipped on the road by the rival Packers by a humbling score of 34-0. So what's different about this team now?
"It's really not any of the bodies," coach Brad Childress said. "I think it's mind-set, more than anything."
The Vikings wore purple from head to foot after pulling their dark pants from the back of the closet. This game had the look of one of those black-and-blue Division clashes with the Bears from 20 years prior.
Urlacher played like the six-time Pro Bowl pick that he is, harassing Jackson often, recording two sacks, and twice taking the ball from Minnesota.
He was angry and embarrassed two months ago when Peterson shredded the Bears defense for 224 yards and three touchdowns to send the Vikings to a 34-31 victory at Soldier Field. Never in the history of the franchise had an opposing player gained so much on the ground.
Well, they didn't forget that game, and the return of starting cornerback Nathan Vasher &
after nearly two months because of a nagging groin injury &
gave the Bears' beat-up defense another boost.
"It felt good, but I'm still disappointed about the loss," Vasher said. "We played well enough to win, but they just made more plays than we did, and we're pretty disappointed about that right now."
Peterson has 1,278 yards in only 10 games, after missing two weeks with a knee injury. He looks like a lock for the Pro Bowl. The rosters were to be announced on Tuesday.
"For it to happen in my rookie year, it would mean a lot to me," Peterson said.
Jackson and guard Anthony Herrera each experienced cramping. Ferguson and tackle Ryan Cook were both sick to their stomachs. "We just need to do a better job with hydration," Childress said. ... Minnesota was without top cornerback Antoine Winfield for the second half due to a left shoulder injury. ... Chicago converted only one of 14 third-down situations. ... Orton's longest pass went for 19 yards. Ten of his completions were out of the backfield, including eight to Adrian Peterson &
the other Adrian Peterson &
for 51 yards.
Peterson carries Vikes past Bears