You thought the Vikings were going to blow this one, too, didn’t you?
And, oh, did they try. Nick Collins took a Gus Frerotte interception back 59 yards for a touchdown, Will Blackmon shredded Minnesota’s hideous punt coverage team for a 65-yard score, and suddenly Green Bay had the third-quarter lead and everything seemingly going its way.
That made the Vikings’ eventual 28-27 victory at the Metrodome on Sunday so thrilling, and so filled with angst, no matter which flag flies on your car. The Green Bay player who yelled an F-bomb in the hallway after the game spoke for an entire state, an emotion that easily would have transferred across the border had Mason Crosby’s 52-yard game-winning field goal try with 26 seconds to play hooked inside the right upright instead of sailing inches wide.
“When Driver got that tipped ball, when the ball was in the air for like three seconds and he came down with it, I was like, you can’t tell me the Packer gods are stronger than the Viking gods,” said safety Darren Sharper, an oddly theological reference to a Donald Driver catch on the Pack’s final drive.
“I thought the Vikings gods were tough. I thought they were going to knock the Packers gods out. But they came through for us.”
Brad Childress beat the Packers for the first time after five consecutive losses as Vikings head coach. But both he and Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy will be second-guessed all week for wuss-dom.
With 9:04 to play and the Vikings down by a field goal, Adrian Peterson begged Childress to go for it on a fourth and inches from the Minnesota 41. Childress initially sent out the punt team, triggering the loudest boos of the day and then burned a timeout to challenge the spot of the ball. After Childress relented and tried for the first down, Peterson turned his decision into an even bigger fiasco by fumbling short of the first-down marker, as the Vikings turned it over on downs.
One guess where fingers would point had the Vikings not scored again. After Crosby hit a 40-yard field goal for a six-point lead, Peterson burst 29 yards over the right side for the game-winning touchdown, extending the ball over the goal line with his right arm as Atari Bigby tackled him.
Though the signaling official stood 3 feet from Peterson, suggesting he probably had the call right, McCarthy threw a challenge flag anyway. The call was upheld, leaving Green Bay with only one timeout for the final 2:22 of regulation time.
“In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have challenged it,” McCarthy said. “I’d rather have the second timeout.”
Then McCarthy, after Blackmon’s 31-yard kick return to the Pack 40, turned conservative. Two runs and two short passes left Crosby a hefty kick to win it. “I hit it. I thought it felt good,” Crosby said. “Then I was surprised when it went right and stayed over there.”
Since the Vikings spent most of the afternoon blitzing and pounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy had little confidence in his line protecting Rodgers long enough to throw deeper. The Vikings pressured Rodgers into two safeties, one on a whip-throw intentional grounding in the end zone, another on a Jared Allen sack. Rodgers, who threw for only 142 yards and was sacked four times in his first Metrodome start, called it one of the most disappointing games of his career.
“I think we confused him a little bit with what we were doing as a defensive scheme,” Sharper said. “And our front four did a great job getting to him and knocking him around.”
Allen, his separated right shoulder numbed with a painkiller, appeared to line up slightly farther right than usual to protect the injury. Though unable to grab with his right arm, Allen spent much of the game in Rodgers’ face. “I’m going to have to learn to fight with my left arm,” Allen said.
Sharper jokingly suggested Allen wasn’t hurt that badly. But Sharper did not see Allen start to cock his right arm to toss a rolled-up ball of tape into the trash like a basketball, then stop and switch hands.
“Any time you have an upper-extremity injury, you can play through those,” Sharper said. “Jared’s a tough guy. He didn’t come here to sit out games like this.”
So what did Childress have to say about the victory that saved his season, if not his job? We’ve seen glimpses of goofy humor from Childress. Last Wednesday, he joked that Bernard Berrian sometimes limps on cue at practice like Lassie, then for effect whistled the theme song from the 1950s TV show about the legendary collie. (ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert found a black-and-white clip online and played it for a bunch of us; Childress’s whistle-memory is impeccable.)
Instead, Childress buried his audience with pseudo-intellectual jargon. He praised his team’s “sweat equity,” whatever that is; used “crease” as a verb (that one’s gotta be explained to me); called his team “a group of fighting fools” in a good way; and spoke plainly only once, when everyone understood what he meant.
“Great to beat those people,” he said.