(Photo courtesy: www.gamedaygold.com)
The View from Section 123:
Win and you're in against your arch-rivals. It's a full house at Mall of America Field, and here from the old baseball press box we're huddled with the best football minds imaginable to witness the season finale between the Packers and Vikings. As of 2:50 p.m. central time, this is what it looks like inside:
And, here's what it looks like outside. My, oh my, look at all of the empty alcohol containers. The Green Bay Packers must surely be in town:
In Chicago, Bears fans will be cheering for the Packers -- which is like the Red Sox rooting for the Yankees. A Green Bay win is the only way they can get into the playoffs. Earlier, the Bears beat the Lions to improve to 10-6. That means the Vikings have to win to get in. They can't get in by going 9-7.
With that in mind, it's time to pay attention. From here on out, our observances as they warrant, starting with this from BMTN's William Willcoxen, lifetime Bears fan:
3:08 p.m.: "I guess I have to root for the Packers (!?!), 'cause it's the only way my team can make the playoffs. But it's just too weird to root for the Packers."
3:14: Chorus of boos greets the NFC North Champions, who came out to the "Chicken Dance" polka. Nice.
3:15: "The Voice" finalist -- Nicholas David -- sounds horn. Very soulful.
3:16: Led Zeppelin intros take over. A ton louder. Ear-bleeding awesome, in a sea of purple-clad fans waving white towels:
3:25: Packers win toss, and choose to defer. Vikes get the ball first. Sherels takes it out to the 23. Game on.
3:32: VIKINGS 3, PACKERS 0 -- Walsh gets Vikes on board with a 54-yard FG. Wow.
3:39: Pack goes three and out. Vikes get it back at the 40 after a 25-yard return from Sherels.
3:45: Clay Matthews sacks Ponder, backing up Vikes on drive. He might be the wild card today.
3:50: VIKINGS 10, PACKERS 0 -- AP in for the TD from 7-yards out. Vikes up by 10.
3:52: In first quarter, AP has 61 yards. He'll bust the 2,000 mark before the half....
3:57: Vikes go for it on 4th down at the Packers 43 --- fourth and inches, and they freaking make it. Building pretty loud. As AP gets the first down on a 6-yard run.
4:00: VIKINGS 13, PACKERS 0 -- Walsh with a 37-yarder to give Purple 13-point lead.
4:06: Big 45-yard return by Packers' Jeremy Ross. Green Bay on move.
4:08: Jared Allen sacks Rogers back at the Packers' 48. Wham. Pack, on 4th and 11, force to punt.
4:17: First three-and-out for Vikings, who punt for the first time today. Kluwe gets off a great one, and Ross has another big return. Packers starts on Vikings 42.
4:29: Crowd so loud, Packers forced to take a third time out ... second this drive.
4:33: VIKINGS 13, PACKERS 7 -- Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings for a 3-yard TD. Pack on board.
4:35: Astute Tweet from Dave Campbell of the Associated Press: "Sure can't give Rodgers that much time to scramble and look around and not expect a completion. TD pulls #Packers within 13-7 late in 2Q."
4:36: Marcus Sherels having great day. Returns it to the Vikings' 40.
4:38: Jarius Wright makes circus catch. Ball on Packers' 40 for a big, weird gain. It was a pass Ponder should have never thrown.
4:42: VIKINGS 20 , PACKERS 7 -- Ponder pass to Jarius Wright from 7-yards out to get the lead back up to 13 points.
4:47: Vikings giving up big yardage in a big tw0-minute drill. Packers go for FG with 1 second left. Crosby nails it. Terrible end to half.
4:46: VIKINGS 20, PACKERS 10 -- Mason Crosby hits 51-yarder FG to end half.
5:03: Packers start second half with the ball on their 20. Now word that Antoine Winfield has a hand injury and his return is questionable. Ouch.
5:10: VIKINGS 20, PACKERS 17 -- Rodgers to Jennings again, from 5-yards out. 80 yards in 6 plays.
5:11: Peterson crosses the 2,000 yard mark with a 20-yard run. He has 2,015 right now -- only the 7th player to cross the 2G mark. He's 91 shy of Dickerson's all-timer.
5:13: Vikings forced to punt. "GO PACK GO" cheers start up. Missed tackles killing Purple.
5:20: Vikings' Jarmaca Sanford picks up a fumble at the 50. Brian Robison with the strip sack. Minnesota ball. Could be a huge momentum turner.
5:31: Adrian Peterson with a huge 28-yard run, down to the Packers' 7-yard-line. Babe Ruth on the field.
5:34: Jerome Simpson gets up, and then falls down hard. He' s being walked off the field...running OK. That was scary.
5:36: VIKINGS 27, PACKERS 17 -- Ponder to Adrian Peterson TD pass from the 2-yard line.
5:44: VIKINGS 27, PACKERS 24 -- Rodgers hits James Jones from 8-yards out to get it back to a 3-point game.
5:54: Vikes forced to punt. Pack has opportunity to take lead as 4th quarter starts.
6:04: VIKINGS 27, PACKERS 27 -- Crosby hits a 40-yarder to tie score.
6:07: Ponder tosses a monster pass to Jarius Wright. A 65-yard completion. Longest of season by Ponder.
6:11: Huge defensive penalty by Packers' Tramon Williams. Could be a game-killer. First and goal Vikes from the 7.
6:08: VIKINGS 34, PACKERS 27 -- Michael Jenkins catches 3-yard TD pass from Ponder. Vikes up by 7 with 7:54 left.
6:19: Rodgers sacked by Everson Griffen...his third of the game, five for the day by the Vikes.
6:22: Packers, in four-down territory, driving again. Down the the Vikings' 30. This one may be tied soon. Last team with the ball wins this game.
6:24: VIKINGS 34, PACKERS 34 -- Jordy Nelson gets the TD pass from Rogers.
6:27: 2:54 left. It's Adrian Peterson time.
6:35: Ponder to Jenkins for a 24-yard connection. Likely the biggest pass of Ponder's career.
6:40: VIKINGS 37, PACKERS 34 -- Vikes make playoffs as Blair Walsh hits a chip shot. Minnesota wins.
6:41: FINAL -- VIKINGS 37, PACKERS 34 -- We'll see you next week...