In what has been one of the most trying season for the Minnesota Vikings franchise, the team showed punch and panache to fight through injuries, roster questions, coaching decisions, media cruelty, and a murderer’s row of competition, to finally find their ultimate goal; To become NFL Champions!
Super Bowl XVLI will always be remembered as the day the Minnesota Vikings finally broke through to “win the big one.” After years of getting close and appearing in many different games, the Vikings found success in unlikely places when Christian Ponder led the team on a game winning drive with one minute left to knock off Tom Brady and the New England Patriots with a last-second, Ryan Longwell field goal for an 20-17 win. Defensive end Jared Allen continued his remarkable year by totaling five sacks in the game and eight total tackles, winning Super Bowl MVP.
The game was tight throughout, as the Vikings received the opening possession. Ponder showed the expected rookie nerves with a couple of errant throws that may have been picked off against a better defensive team, but proved why he was a top NFL draft pick by calming his nerves and leading the team to 10 first half points. The Vikings took an early 3-0 lead over the Patriots as a big play to Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Rudolph drove them within field goal range as the first quarter ended.
The Patriots answered quickly with two touchdowns of their own, however, in the second quarter, as Chad Greenway and EJ Henderson had no answer in covering Aaron Hernandez and injured Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots. Tom Brady’s two quick strikes to both tight ends after swift drives gave New England a 14-3 edge when the Patriots got the ball again with 3:00 minutes left until halftime. Tom Brady made a critical error, however, when he threw a deep interception to Antoine Winfield, who had been moved to safety for this game in a brilliant coaching decision by Vikings head coach, Leslie Frazier. Winfield was able to return the ball to mid-field where Ponder took over. Two quick strikes to Percy Harvin and a sure-handed Greg Camarillo brought the Purple People Eaters within the red zone with a minute until half. That was when Purple Jesus took over, juking three Patriot defensive backs on his way to the endzone in what will undoubtedly be on Super Bowl highlight reels for the next millenia. The Vikings went in to halftime down 14-10, but with momentum on their side.
In the second half, Jared Allen came out with his proverbial hair on fire. With the Patriots first possession of the second half, he got to quarterback Tom Brady twice, forcing a punt that return man Lorenzo Booker brought back into Patriots territory. Ponder showed much greater poise after halftime, checking down to receivers and taking calculated risks as called for. Late in the third, Ponder hit Percy Harvin running a crossing route, who looked like he may gain a modest 10 yards until Visanthe Shiancoe laid a monster block on Devin McCourty, and springing Harvin down to the Patriots 30. McCourty would leave the game with a broken ankle. Purple Jesus methodically drove the Vikings closer as the third quarter came to an end, and with the first play of the fourth quarter, hit quarterback-turned-receiver Joe Webb for a jump ball in the corner of the endzone, giving the Vikings a 17-14 lead.
The Patriots were not to be deterred, however. After a volley of punts, Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field in true veteran fashion. Hitting Deion Branch for 15 yards, then Chad OchoCinco for 20, the Patriots were within field goal range with three minutes left. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead continued to attack a tiring Vikings defense on misdirection runs and between the tackles, until it was 3rd and goal from the seven yard line. As Tom Brady began his play action, Jared Allen made the play of the game when he spun around his defender, strip-sacked Tom Brady at the 15, and knocked the ball back to the 25 where the Patriots recovered it. They lined up for a field goal to tie the game late, just barely sneaking it in through the left upright with 1:07 left in the game.
The Vikings received the final possession with a kick to the endzone, and started at the 20 yard line with two time outs left. Christian Ponder threw incomplete on his first attempt, but then connected with Rudolph for a laser on a 15 yard completion. Hurrying to the line, Ponder found Purple Jesus in the flat, who broke several tackles before sneaking out of bounds with a 10 yard pick-up, and a first down. Another incomplete pass to the sidelines forced Ponder to throw to Percy over the middle on second down for eight yards, putting them at the Patriots 47 yard line with 30 seconds left, calling a timeout. Ponder came to the line on the next play and was seen calling an audible, making eye contact with Shiancoe who was lined up wide. When he snapped, he threw to Shiancoe streaking right along the sidelines, who caught it above a disoriented Patriot defender for a 17 yard gain. The Vikings lined up again quick and ran a draw play to Purple Jesus up the middle, and centered, for four yards, before calling a time out with 4 seconds left.
Ryan Longwell and the field goal unit trotted on to the field among a cacophony of crowd activity. Bill Belichick called his final time out as the Vikings were lining up the first time, allowing Longwell to further orient himself to the distance of a 43 yard field goal. In a remarkable effort, Vikings holder Chris Kluwe pulled down an errant snap to ensure a perfect kick. To Longwell’s credit, he didn’t break stride and hit a beauty straight down the middle. His arms were up in triumph before it even passed the cross bars. As Leslie Frazier was doused with Gatorade and Purple Jesus pointed to the Indianapolis sky, the Minnesota legislature simultaneously passed a bill to build a new Vikings stadium in the Arden Hills area, officially making Sunday, February 5, 2012, the greatest day in the history of the state.
Enjoy the win, Vikings fans! You are now SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!