This article is part of the “30 in 20” series: a compilation of 30 of the most memorable Vikings moments of the past 20 years. To read more entries, click here.
November 30, 2008
Few times in the past 25 years have the Green Bay Packers not been a threat for the NFC North division title.
Some say it’s the cheese, some say it’s the beer, and some say back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks have something to do with the Packers’ recent dominance.
At this point in 2008, the Packers had won the division four of the previous six years. Brett Favre had led the team to a 13-3 record in 2007, and ever so painfully and unwillingly passed the torch to Aaron Rodgers for the 2008 season.
But something atypical happened in Rodgers’ first year as the full-time starter. The Packers weren’t really in the mix.
Come Week 13, it was a two-horse race for the division title: The Chicago Bears, and the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears were in the midst of a mini-resurgence on the backs of two division titles in the past three years and a trip to the Super Bowl. The Vikings, meanwhile, hadn’t won the division since 2000, while missing out on the playoffs in six of the previous eight seasons.
But none of that mattered for the Sunday night game in Minneapolis, with the winner being the undisputed leader of the NFC North with four games to go.
In a comedy of errors, all of the energy and excitement in the building was quickly dissipated as the Vikings got off to a lackluster start.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Vikings managed 20 yards before punting, and managed to lose four yards before punting their next possession.
On the Bears’ second possession, Kyle Orton threw a simple slant pass to Devin Hester, and Hester did what he does best. After avoiding a tackle and outrunning three defenders, the Bears were up 7-0 on the back of a 65-yard reception.
A Ryan Longwell field goal made the score 7-3, and although it was only midway through the second quarter, the Bears looked like they wanted to put the game away.
Devin Hester returned a punt to near midfield, and the Bears started a lengthy, demoralizing, penalty-filled drive that reached its peak with Matt Forte taking a handoff 25 yards to the 1-yard-line.
The Bears were on the verge of both literally and figuratively stepping on the necks of the Minnesota Vikings. They wanted to prove they were not only the better team this game, but also the better team in the division.
Enter Jared Allen.
After lengthy contract dispute talks with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007, Jared Allen voiced his desire for a trade, and the Vikings pounced on the situation sending a first-round and two third-round draft picks to the Chiefs in exchange for the talented defensive end.
The Vikings didn’t hesitate to give Allen the type of contract he wanted; eventually agreeing to a historic $73 million deal.
With such a hefty contract and all the draft capital given up for Allen, questions ran rampant of the acquisition.
Could he continue his performance and be worthy of the first and third round picks the Vikings gave up for him? Would he stay out of trouble and avoid his third DUI and subsequent suspension? Would he play like the highest paid defensive player in the NFL?
Questions were quickly put to bed during Allen’s first year with the team in 2008. He tallied eight sacks with two safeties in his first 11 games, and he didn’t know it yet, but he was about to put the cherry on top of his first year with the Vikings.
It was first down for the Bears on the 1-yard line and the crowd seemed absolutely defeated. The Bears had all the momentum, and half the stadium expected a score on the very first play.
First down came and went, an incomplete pass to the back of the end zone.
Second down came and went, an outside toss to Matt Forte which was swallowed up for no gain.
Third down came and went, a fullback draw up the middle which was stonewalled so viciously by Pat and Kevin Williams that it very nearly lost yards.
During the repeated stops, the crowd had woken up. Through second down, third down, and now fourth down the stadium had gone from a low murmur to a thundering crescendo. The T.V. camera was shaking and commentators Al Michaels and John Madden were barely audible.
The Bears lined up on fourth down, and handed the ball off to Matt Forte.
And wouldn’t you know it? Jared Allen had run across the entire line to make the tackle.
Allen sprung to his feet and led the defense off the field as the Metrodome had exploded into a thunderous ovation. From the fans to the team itself, all the defeatism and pessimism had left the building leaving only the hunger and desire to win. And with all the energy and power of the crowd behind them, the Vikings lined up on their own 1-yard line.
The crowd was still buzzing, but dying down. It is here where most fans anticipate a few runs to get them out of a potential safety.
But not that day.
Gus Frerotte dropped back to pass, and to everyone’s shock, threw it deep.
Time seemed to stand still. You could almost hear the collective silence as everyone watched Bernard Berrian catch the ball at least 15 yards away from any defender, and run the length of the field into the end zone like pre-game warm-ups.
The fans came alive in an instant. Like waves crashing against the shore, the crowd reached its peak at the 4th down stand on the one-yard line, and after a brief moment of calm, peaked again just moments later as the Vikings were now ahead 10-7.
Following this series of events, the Bears were completely demoralized, managing only 94 yards the rest of the game. From the goal-line stand, the Vikings outscored the Bears 31-7 for the remainder of the contest, going on to win 34-14.
Looking back, one has to wonder what was said in the huddle that day.
Was it a broken play that Frerotte identified? Or did Brad Childress and company really have the balls to call a deep pass on their own 1-yard line with all the momentum in the world?
Regardless, that goal line stand and subsequent 99-yard touchdown will live on forever.
It was the moment that won the 2008 NFC North division title.