With their razor thin playoff hopes in play, and a fan base with patience as thin as the ice on most of Minnesota's 10,000 plus lakes, the Vikings returned home Sunday to face division rival Chicago for the second time in three weeks. The start was exactly what the team needed, scoring on the first series then watching as the defense forced a turnover leading to another score. It was all the team needed as they came away with an important 21-14 home win.
"So very proud of our football team. All three phases played at a high level," said head coach Leslie Frazier. "We thought there were some things from our previous game we could learn from. Looking from the way our guys played today and the way our staff prepared our players, makes myself and everyone in our entire organization extremely proud."
The offensive starters were announced and the chorus of boos aimed directly at quarterback Christian Ponder were quickly drowned out by a roar of applause as Adrian Peterson ran for 51 yards on the games first play setting up the teams first score. Peterson ran five times for 69 yards capped by a one yard score giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
"It was big for us man, the crowd got into it, the offensive front was pumped up," said Peterson about his first play.
The defense took over as on third down Jay Cutler threw a pass intended for Alshon Jeffrey that was intecepted by Josh Robinson and returned to the five yard line setting Peterson up for his second touchdown of the game.
Chicago was finally able to get onto the scoreboard in the second quarter when Cutler found Jeffrey for a 31 yard touchdown strike making the game 14-7.
The Vikings defense intercepted Cutler again in the third quarter but this time Harrison Smith took it the distance, returning it 56 yards for a touchdown and giving the team a 21-7 cushion.
That lead would hold until late in the game when Jason Campbell entered the game for Cutler and found Brandon Marshall in the endzone. Marshall caught 10 passes for 160 yards in the game.
Peterson who finished the game with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries now has 1600 yards with three games to play. The all-time Vikings rusher needs to average 133 yards per game over the next three to eclipse the 2,000 mark. Which Peterson feels is attainable.
"Yes I think about it," said Peterson about the threshold. "But I try not to thinik too much about it."
After a rough week of fan and media scrutiny, Christian Ponder finished the game completing 11-of-17 passes for just 91 yards. In Frazier's eyes, it was the perfect way for Ponder to bounce back.
With three games remaining, the team heads on the road next week to St. Louis to play the Rams followed by a trip to Texans to play Houston. They finish their regular season at home against division rival Green Bay.