Past Is The Past, But Vikings’ Peterson Is A Blast

By Patrick Reusse
Updated: October 15, 2007

CHICAGO – Monday was the seventh anniversary of the Vikings’ previous road victory against the Chicago Bears. The score was 28-16, and it was the sixth victory in a seven-game winning streak that opened the 2000 schedule.

That was also the season that provided the last legitimate excitement involving this football team. The pizzazz came out of the entire franchise after that season, when the Vikings lost 41-0 to the New York Giants in the NFC title game.

The Vikings had played 100 regular-season games since 41-doughnut and won 44. They had one playoff appearance, backing in with an 8-8 record in 2004.

Sunday’s game at Soldier Field marked the start of a new 100 games in the post-41-0 era. And let’s make the official announcement: This next 100 are going to be much more exciting than the last.

Fred Zamberletti, the trainer for the ages turned team historian, was hinting at this a half-hour before kickoff. The Bears were five-point favorites, but Zamby said:

“I think the visitors are going to win today. Our defense is as good as theirs, our offensive line is as good as theirs, the quarterbacks are a push. The difference is they have [Cedric] Benson, an average running back at best, and we have Adrian Peterson.

“He’s the reason we should win.”

Unfortunately for Zamby, he was standing in the back of the Soldier Field press box and not in the sports book at Mandalay Bay, where he could have profited from this advance wisdom.

The Vikings ended their six-year road losing streak against the Bears, and they also ended the six-year absence of high excitement, and both for this reason: Adrian Peterson.

Kevin Garnett, gone to the Boston Celtics? Good riddance. Torii Hunter, ready to depart as a free agent? Nice knowing you, pal.

We’re going to be OK here in Minnesota, because we have a young man — only 22 and five games into his professional career — to fill the superstar gap.

Stop whining about Randy Moss being long gone and now prancing in New England. Stop complaining that the Vikings should have filled the quarterback gap with Matt Schaub or Jeff Garcia. And, for sure, put the Chilly jokes on ice.

Coach Brad Childress, 3-11 since the end of last October, was able to stroll into an interview room 40 minutes after the Vikings’ 34-31 victory and talk about his team’s explosive plays.

There were no smirks, and there was no urge to break out another reference to Childress’ West Crawl Offense.

The coach came here with a team that had scored four offensive touchdowns and, magically, saw his offense put up four touchdowns against the Bears’ previously nasty defense.

The magic came from Peterson’s piston-like legs and powerful torso. He had touchdown runs of 67, 73 and 35 yards. He set a Vikings team record of 224 yards rushing with a modest total of 20 carries.

Was he aware that this was a team record? “I’m aware of that, yes,” Peterson said.

He was made aware during an on-field interview. He came into the locker room, took off his jersey, handed it to a member of the Vikings’ equipment staff and said:

“Keep this someplace for me, and don’t wash it.”

Peterson had been the last of the Vikings to reach the locker room. There was a gaggle of glad-handing Wilfs inside, but Zygi’s college-age son, Jon, was in the small crowd on the outside.

As the star of the afternoon came past, Jon punched the air with his right fist and hollered, “Great game … ah, Peterson.”

Here’s some advice, son: Get this Peterson lad’s first name right there on the tip of your tongue, because he’s the one chance your papa has to coerce Minnesota into building him a billion-dollar stadium.

Inside, behind the wall of Wilfs, were members of the front wall that helped create the openings that loosed Peterson for these wondrous TDs.

What did you think about that performance?

“What did you think? You’ve been writing about sports for 68 years,” center Matt Birk said. “I can’t remember one run from the other. He can bounce outside, he can cut back, he can leave guys behind.

“He might be all right.”

Bryant McKinnie, the left tackle, said: “Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and Najeh Davenport all came through Miami when I was there, so I’ve been around great backs for a while.

“But this today was amazing. If he did this in college, it would be on ESPN Classic tonight. This was an instant classic.”