With the chance to take command of the NFC North, the Purple began in a snooze that only a goal-line stand woke them from.
This is what the Wilfs envisioned when they spent all that money -- Bernard Berrian outrunning his old teammates to the end zone, and the sweat gleaming off Jared Allen's mullet on HD TVs across the land.
This is what Brad Childress envisioned when he bestowed the unfortunate nickname of "Kick-ass offense'' on his beloved and besieged scheme -- Adrian Peterson running wild, commanding attention from safeties while receivers bolted behind them.
This is what the Triangle of Authority envisioned while sketching this team's blueprint -- a team that pounds the line of scrimmage and devours opposing quarterbacks.
This is what the Vikings craved all decade -- a dominating, consequential victory that seizes command of a division they've never won, the historic NFC North.
Lose this one, at home, against a mediocre team, and the dominos start wobbling. Childress would need a miracle month against a tough schedule to keep his job, the Wilfs would start punching names such as Schottenheimer and Cowher into their Blackberrys, Gus Frerotte would be defined by two unsightly losses to the Bears, and players would start booking their January golf vacations.
Instead, a franchise and a coach known for soul-draining losses actually won a big game in a big way.
Their 34-14 head-butting of the Bears on Sunday night at the Dome leaves the Vikings with no excuses. They should win this division, or find a new one. "It is big,'' said safety Darren Sharper, after the biggest victory he's experienced since joining the team in '05. "This is what we came here for, all the free-agent acquisitions that we've had, was to win games like this, when's it's about to be December.''
Once upon a time, the Vikings were defined by Super Bowl failures. In the past 10 years, they have lost less important games in more creative ways.
In '98, it was the improbable 30-27 NFC title game loss to overmatched Atlanta. In 2000, it was 41-0. In 2003, it was the last-second loss at Arizona, and in 2004 it was Randy Moss messing up the trick play in Philly.
On this Sunday, the Vikings for the second consecutive year participated in a Sunday night telecast of a test of their legitimacy.
In 2007, their five-game winning streak ended with a thorough beating at the hands of the Redskins. In 2008, the Vikings again started as if they were unprepared for the challenge.
You've heard of killer instinct? This was more like Barcalounger lethargy, until the sequence of plays that might have altered the course of the season.
In the second quarter, the Vikings defense stuffed the Bears on third down, only to have cornerback Benny Sapp hit receiver Rashied Davis in the face, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
Given a reprieve, the Bears' Matt Forte ran it down to the 1.
Classic Vikings, right? Taking chicken salad and turning it into chicken droppings.
Then something remarkable happened. The Vikings put together a goal-line stand, stuffing Forte on fourth-and-1, and one play later Berrian returned from sabbatical.
He sprinted down the left sideline, and Bears cornerback Charles Tillman hesitated. Berrian kept running.
He hauled in Frerotte's specialty -- the long, arcing pass -- for a 99-yard touchdown. In two plays, the Vikings had gone from facing a 14-3 deficit to taking a 10-7 lead; had gone from looking inept and star-crossed to taking command of the division.
This stands as the most impressive victory of Childress' reign, even more impressive than the dismantling of the soon-to-be-champion Giants last year, because Eli Manning handed the Vikings that game.
This one, the Vikings took, forcibly, from the team they needed to beat, when they needed to beat it.
Why's everybody so surprised?
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.orgA FRANCHISE AND A COACH KNOWN FOR SOUL-DRAINING LOSSES ACTUALLY WON A BIG GAME IN A BIG WAY.