The Vikings avoided a second tie in a row, but not before both teams blew OT chances.
The ball sailed through the uprights and the party began. Fireworks exploded high above Mall of America Field. Fans cheered. Vikings players and coaches streamed onto the field to celebrate Blair Walsh’s game-winning field goal in overtime.
Wait a second. What’s that on the field?
“You look out there and see that little yellow flag,” veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams said.
Facemask penalty on Rhett Ellison. Hold the fireworks.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings was halfway up the tunnel when he heard someone yell for him to return to the field.
“Oh my gosh,” Jennings said.
Imagine safety Jamarca Sanford’s reaction. Heck, he was actually inside the Vikings locker room when a stadium worker informed him of the penalty.
“I walked back down there because I was exhausted from running and celebrating,” he said.
He should have known better. These are the 2013 Vikings, after all. This team invents new ways to make a dreary season interesting, dramatic and, on Sunday, downright goofy.
The Vikings stepped to the edge of the cliff on more than occasion, but they somehow managed to escape another plunge that would have defined their circus season.
Given a second chance, Walsh connected on a 34-yard field goal with 1:43 left in overtime to secure a 23-20 victory against the Bears and allow the Vikings to celebrate a second time.
Owner Zygi Wilf sprinted onto the field, pumping both fists, the emotion of the moment overriding the reality of his team’s 3-8-1 record.
“Just a wild football game that I’m so glad that we came out on top,” coach Leslie Frazier said.
Sunday marked the first time the Vikings have played back-to-back overtime games since 1995. The Vikings left Lambeau Field with a 26-26 tie against the Packers last week. Linebacker Audie Cole admitted that “nightmare” possibility flashed through his mind again on Sunday.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I don’t think there’s ever been two ties in a row,’ ” he said. “I was like, ‘No way can that happen again.’ ”
Anything seemed possible after Ellison’s facemask penalty on Chicago’s Chris Conte nullified Walsh’s 39-yard field goal with 8:04 left in overtime. Ellison said he was so worried about Devin Hester’s speed rush off the edge that he reached without looking to disrupt Conte on the inside and grabbed his facemask.
His reaction when he saw the flag?
“That I really screwed over the team,” Ellison said.
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