Oh, the pain, the pain, the pain Sunday at TCF Stadium! The Vikings, a franchise that started in 1961 with a legacy tied to the icy image of former-Hall-of- Fame head coach Bud Grant, had one shining moment to reconnect the past to the present.
On the coldest day in Vikings football history, at -6 degrees with dangerous wind chills at -21, more than 52,090 fans braved the arctic-like elements on a sunny Sunday at TCF Stadium to see if the Vikings could derail the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. It was the third-coldest NFL playoff game ever, and the Vikings were up to the task for three quarters.
Second-year Head Coach Mike Zimmer convinced his young team that if they eliminated mistakes made in the December 6 38-7 game against the Seahawks, the Vikings could win. Since the merger, NFL teams were just 1-43 when they were shut out through three quarters and were 0-2 this post season. So things did not look good for the Seahawks given the tough conditions and the determined Vikings.
With the crowd in a frenzy, the Vikings built a 9-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The game featured the NFL’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, with 1,485 yards and the NFL’s top passing quarterback Russell Wilson, his QB rating of 110.1 leading the NFL.
The cold made it difficult to play for both teams, and the wind affected the ability to try and throw the ball deep. Both teams’ defenses were physical against the run. Yet Wilson the quarterback found a way to get his team in the end zone finally in the fourth quarter.
Wilson misplayed a snap from center, yet recovered it and threw to speedy Tyler Lockett for 35 yards to the Vikings’ four yard line. Two plays later, Wilson hit receiver Doug Baldwin with a three-yard TD pass, making it 9-7 Vikings.
On the very next offensive series, with 11.37 left in the fourth quarter, Peterson fumbled after catching an eight-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater. Kam Chancellor ripped the ball away from Peterson. The Seahawks’ Ahtyba Rubin recovered the fumble at the 40 yard line, and Wilson, six plays later, drove the Seahawks into position for a 46-yard field goal by kicker Steven Hauscka, and it was 10-9 Seattle.
The Seahawks hung in there and battled, as did the Vikings to the end, and got a stunning late Christmas gift when kicker Blair Walsh, who had made 15 of 15 previous field goal attempts in his career at temperatures of 20 degrees or lower, missed the game-winning 27-yard field goal to the left. The crowd was in a celebratory frenzy, but suddenly there was a deafening silence that told the story.
Seattle now advances to play 15-1 Carolina. Green Bay, after beating Washington 35-18, gets Arizona. Kansas City, 30-0 over Houston, plays New England, while Pittsburgh travels to Denver.
The Vikings finish at 11-6. Coach Mike Zimmer, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and the Vikings were that close to winning their first playoff game in the last Vikings home game played outside.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.