With 6:18 to play in the fourth quarter, after being stopped on the 1-yard line on a fourth-down incompletion by Brett Favre with the Vikings trailing 24-10, it appeared as though the 2010 season might be dead. With a loss, the Vikings would have slipped to 2-6 and their postseason prospects would have been in the “extreme long shot” category. But with a furious comeback that produced 17 unanswered points, the Vikings offense looked like the 2009 offense and created what may well turn out to be a season-saving turning point.
The comeback began with the defensive stop on the Cardinals that forced a punt from their end zone that got the Vikings the ball back at the Arizona 40. Despite being down 14 points with 4:39 to play, there was still confidence on the Vikings sideline that they could continue to gash the Cardinals defense.
“We had that feeling from the first half,” guard Anthony Herrera said. “We kept moving up and down the field and pretty much doing whatever we wanted to do but kept making mental mistakes and kept beating ourselves. Once we put in our heads, ‘Hey, let’s do it,’ we got it accomplished. When you’ve got Brett Favre at the helm, you can do anything.”
Favre got the first score quickly, completing passes to Bernard Berrian for 11 yards before zipping a 20-yard pass to Visanthe Shiancoe to set up an Adrian Peterson touchdown run of four yards to cut the deficit to 24-17.
Throughout the second half, Favre found a way to use all of his receivers. Percy Harvin led the team with nine catches for a career-best 126 yards and Berrian, who had just nine catches in the first seven games combined, had nine on Sunday. The team didn’t have Randy Moss, but Greg Camarillo, who had his Vikings-best day with four catches for 66 yards, said the offense was working as a unit and not looking to force the ball to one receiver as they had in the past.
“It wasn’t a matter of not having Randy,” Camarillo said. “It was a matter of playing as a group. You could do that with or without Randy. We had a good rotation. It is a microcosm of the whole team. The receivers played together as a group. The team played together as a group. We had some ups and downs, but when it counted we came together.”
The comeback was far from assured. A defensive stand was needed and the Vikings came through. They stopped running back Tim Hightower on consecutive carries and burned their remaining two timeouts and, when Lito Sheppard stopped Larry Fitzgerald three yards short of the first down to force a punt, the momentum had swung completely to the Vikings sideline and the players were getting jacked up.
“We made big plays on both sides of the ball when we needed them the most,” Peterson said. “Me and a couple of the other guys kept pumping the guys up (saying), ‘Hey, we’ve got time. These guys aren’t stopping us. We’re stopping ourselves. I saw the look in guys’ eyes. I knew that they believed that we could pull this game off. I’m overwhelmed and excited.”
With no timeouts and needing to drive 77 yards, Favre produced again – completing passes of 15 yards to Berrian, a 30-yard screen to Peterson and a 15-yarder to Shiancoe to get the Vikings into scoring position and, facing a third-and-6 from the 25-yard line, Favre threw a strike to Shiancoe for the tying touchdown.
“It was emotional, man,” Shiancoe said. “We’ve struggled late in games and it was great to get things going our way. You play on emotion and momentum and we got both.”
With the game tied 24-24, the Vikings defense made sure the comeback wouldn’t be for naught, sacking Derek Anderson twice to send the game to overtime. Once in OT, Chad Greenway got a sack of Anderson to force a punt and the Vikings wouldn’t need much time to put the game away.
On the first play of the drive, Peterson bounced a run outside for 30 yards and, when Favre hit Berrian on a slant for 22 yards, the Vikings were in scoring territory and completed the improbable comeback with a 35-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell for the 27-24 win.
“I’ve played in a lot of games,” Jared Allen said. “I don’t know if it was the best game ever, but it was the best of this year and it felt good.”
With their season – and quite possibly the coaching future of Brad Childress at stake – the Vikings produced one of their biggest comebacks in years by maintaining the belief that they could win and the result was clear – a 27-24 overtime win.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.