When the day started, the Vikings had two goals for Week 17.
They wanted to win against the Packers to secure themselves a ticket to the playoffs and they wanted to get running back Adrian Peterson 208 yards so that he could set the single-season rushing record. Achieving the first goal might have oame at the expense of the second as Peterson ran 26 yards to set up a Blair Walsh chip shot that made the Vikings 37-34 winners at the Metrodome.
That run left Peterson with 199 yards on 34 carries, leaving him nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s record when all was said and done. Had the game gone to overtime, perhaps Peterson would have wound up in the top spot. In a postgame interview with Pam Oliver of FOX, he showed no sign that the trip to the postseason was an unwelcome consolation prize.
Peterson got the big last play, but the much-maligned Christian Ponder made some of the biggest throws of the game to get the Vikings to the postseason. He hit Michael Jenkins on a third-and-11 for 25 yards just after the two-minute warning and he hit Jarius Wright with a perfectly thrown strike for 65 yards to set up a touchdown pass to Jenkins earlier in the fourth quarter. Ponder was 16-of-28 overall for 234 yards and three touchdowns, which is a pretty good performance for the biggest game of your brief professional life.
Walsh’s kick ended a thrilling back-and-forth second half that featured a controversial call (referee Mike Carey allowing a review of what was ruled a fumble despite Packers coach Mike McCarthy throwing the challenge flag on what wound up as a James Jones touchdown), a crucial turnover (Bryan Robison’s strip sack of Aaron Rodgers that halted Green Bay’s momentum) and big plays all over the place. There was also a terrible penalty by Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, who got flagged for illegal hands to the face on a failed third down try by the Vikings just before Jenkins’ touchdown.
And we get to do it all over again next week at Lambeau Field. The Packers slip to the third seed with the loss and the San Francisco win, which means they’ll host the sixth-seeded Vikings on the heels of a classic that lifted the Vikings to a playoff berth few saw coming at the start of the season.