Vikings fall to Bears as Jared Allen just misses NFL sacks record
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings' regular-season finale Sunday at the Metrodome held little real intrigue except for two things.
Could defensive end Jared Allen break Michael Strahan's single-season sack record and could the Vikings keep from falling in the draft given they were playing a Chicago Bears club that also was out of the playoffs?
Allen came close and the Vikings did indeed not hurt their draft position. The Vikings' 17-13 loss to the Bears gave them a 3-13 finish, tying them with the 1984 Vikings for the worst finish in franchise history.
The Indianapolis Colts (2-14) will have the top pick and St. Louis (2-14) will pick second. That means the Vikings will draft third.
Allen entered the game with 18.5 sacks and finished with 22. That was a half-sack behind Strahan's mark set in the 2001 season. Allen also broke Chris Doleman's single-season Vikings record of 21 sacks set in 1989.
Allen, meanwhile, came very close to Strahan's record of 22.5 sacks set in the 2001 season.
Allen got a half-sack late in the opening quarter splitting it with Erin Henderson. In the second quarter, Allen had an 8-yard sack of McCown to reach 20.
He tied Doleman's record on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and then broke it and came within a half-sack of Strahan's mark with a sack on third-and-14 on the Bears' fourth possession of the quarter.
The Vikings again struggled to convert a turnover into a touchdown for the second consecutive home game. Two weeks ago, the Vikings failed to capitalize twice in the first half against New Orleans.
On Sunday, defensive tackle Letroy Guion recovered a fumble by Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett at the Chicago 49-yard line early in the first quarter. Bennett was initially ruled to be down but Vikings coach Leslie Frazier won his challenge.
Gerhart had a 24-yard run to the Bears 25 on the Vikings' opening play of the drive, and on third-and-7 Ponder completed an 11-yard pass to Percy Harvin that put the ball on the Chicago 11.
The drive, however, stalled at the Bears 8 and the Vikings had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell.
The Vikings took advantage of another Bears' miscue with 4:25 left in the opening quarter, when Kahlil Bell fumbled after being hit by E.J. Henderson and safety Jamarca Sanford recovered at the Bears 18.
Harvin ran 13 yards on the first play and scored on a 5-yard run on the third play to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead.
The lead did not last long.
The Bears pulled within three points with 14:19 left in the second quarter when Josh McCown found a wide open Roy Williams in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.
McCown had kept the drive alive on third-and-9 with a 28-yard run from his own 11. Dane Sazenbacher caught a 22-yard pass from McCown on second-and-13 from the Chicago 36, and Bell followed with runs of 15 and 5 yards.
Chicago took a 14-10 lead less than a minute later as Ponder's pass from his own 15 was tipped by Gerhart and intercepted by cornerback Charles Tillman. Tillman returned the ball 22 yards for the score.
Ponder left early in the second quarter after reinjuring his right hip and was replaced by Joe Webb. It marked the second time in as many weeks that Webb had to step in for an injured Ponder.
Webb got the Vikings to the Bears 30-yard line, but Ryan Longwell's 48-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Julius Peppers.
Webb wasn't done.
On the Vikings' next possession, he found Devin Aromashodu on a 19-yard pass, then following a 3-yard run by Gerhart, Aromashodu caught another 19-yard pass at the Bears 38.
Webb's 21-yard completion to Harvin got the ball to the Bears 17.
Webb's 9-yard run got the ball to the Bears 8 and after some indecision on fourth-and-1, the Vikings decided to have Longwell kick a 26-yard field goal late in the quarter.
Webb threw his first interception of the season early in the third quarter when his pass was picked off by cornerback Tim Jennings after the ball went in and out of the hands of Harvin.
The Bears weren't able to do anything with the ensuing possession as defensive tackle Kevin Williams sacked McCown on third down with the ball at midfield.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Bears increased their lead to 17-13 with 10:19 left in the fourth quarter on Robbie Gould's 27-yard field goal. McCown had completions of 14, 15 and 17 yards on the drive.
McCown, though, made a costly mistake with 6:05 left in the fourth quarter when his pass for tight end Matt Spaeth was intercepted by cornerback Cedric Griffin.
That gave the Vikings the ball at the Bears 20-yard line. Webb's pass for Aromashodu was incomplete on first down and Webb was sacked on second down to move the ball back to the Chicago 23.
Webb's third-down pass for Harvin was broken up in the end zone by safety Major Wright and linebacker Brian Urlacher, who suffered a knee injury on the play when he collided with Wright.
The Vikings got the ball back late for a final drive but Webb's pass was picked off by cornerback D.J. Moore with 31 seconds left to secure the victory for the Bears.
Tillman's interception gave the Bears quick back-to-back touchdowns and was another costly miscue by the Vikings in a season filled with them.
• 2: Rushing touchdowns for Harvin this season, a Vikings record.
• 3: Rushing touchdowns for Harvin in his career, a Vikings record. Anthony Carter had held both marks with two.
• Ponder left the game early in the second quarter because of a right hip injury when Bears defensive end Israel Idonije drove the quarterback into the ground as he threw a pass for Webb. Ponder has been bothered by the hip problem since the Vikings' loss on Dec. 4 against Denver. Ponder ended up being replaced by Joe Webb in three of the last four games either for performance reasons (at Detroit) or because of injury (at Washington, vs. Chicago).
• Gerhart left the game with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter after he injured his left knee. He did not return.
• Tight end Mickey Shuler, recently promoted from the practice squad, was among the Vikings' inactives. He suffered an ankle injury in Friday's practice.
Odds and ends
• Tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who has announced he will retire after 13 NFL seasons, was the last player announced in pregame introductions Sunday and received a nice ovation from the Metrodome crowd. Kleinsasser also was the lone captain for the Vikings on Sunday.
• In addition to Shuler, the Vikings' inactives included running backs Jordan Todman and Caleb King, cornerback Chris Cook, linebacker Xavier Adibi, offensive lineman DeMarcus Love and defensive end D'Aundre Reed.
Vikings: Ryan Longwell 26-yard field goal, 8:53. Drive: 8 plays, 41 yards, 3:38. Vikings 3, Bears 0
Vikings: Percy Harvin 5-yard run, 3:42. Longwell kick. Drive: 3-18-0:43. Vikings 10 Bears 0
Chicago: Roy Williams 22-yard pass from Josh McCown, 14:19. Robbie Gould kick. Drive: 8-90-4:23. Vikings 10, Bears 7
Chicago: Charles Tillman 22-yard interception of Christian Ponder pass, 13:37. Bears 14, Vikings 10
Vikings: Longwell 26-yard field goal, 0:55. Drive: 9-71-3:17. Bears 14, Vikings 13
Chicago: Gould 27-yard field goal, 10:19. Drive: 15-65-7:19. Bears 17, Vikings 13
The Vikings completed one of the worst seasons in franchise history on Sunday and now the team's chief decision-makers will be charged with figuring out how to turn this thing around.