CHICAGO – A few weeks ago, it felt like an adventure every time the Vikings called on Blair Walsh, and there was understandable concern outside the walls of Winter Park about the performance of the fourth-year kicker. Now it’s fair to wonder where the Vikings would stand without him.
A week after making five field goals in a comeback win against Detroit, Walsh made three more, including the winning kick as time expired, in Sunday’s 23-20 victory over the Bears.
“Those are moments you dream about as a kid,” Walsh said of the winning kick. “Those are what you work for every single week — to be put in those situations where the games come down to the wire and they depend on you.”
Walsh has made 13 consecutive field-goal attempts dating to the Denver game in Week 4. He is 17-for-19 on field goals this season.
“I’m kind of hitting my groove,” Walsh said. “It’s just making kicks. That’s huge for us. We’re going to play in a lot of close games. That’s how our division is.”
Walsh already had been successful from 43 and 48 yards when he lined up for a 36-yard field goal with four seconds left on the clock. He split the uprights for his first game-ending field goal since December 2013.
“I knew he was going to make it,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “You can tell when a guy is kicking the ball [well]. There’s a thump to it, and he thumped it pretty good. It was dead down the middle.”
Peterson gets 103
With 103 yards on 20 carries, Adrian Peterson reached triple digits in rushing yards for the first time since Week 3.
“Adrian looked like Adrian, to get that thing going downhill,” Zimmer said. “We had a nice scheme. The offensive coaches did a nice job. We stayed on our blocks. We got to the second level better today, I thought. He ran like he runs — with violence.”
Peterson didn’t break a long run like he has in recent weeks, but he had solid gains on the majority of his carries. In the previous two games, 29 of Peterson’s 45 carries went for 2 or fewer yards. Against the Bears, he only had four such runs.
“[Offensive coordinator Norv] Turner did a great job of game-planning and putting us in the best position to be able to make plays,” Peterson said.
A pair of Vikings starters suffered stingers but are expected to be fine.
Right tackle T.J. Clemmings left in the third quarter and was replaced by fellow rookie Austin Shepherd until cleared to return. Defensive end Everson Griffen suffered his stinger midway through the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
Rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs got banged up twice in the fourth quarter, which led him to chuck his helmet into the Vikings bench area.
“[Diggs] is all right,” Zimmer said. “I’m not sure what he did. They said they haven’t checked him out yet. But he’ll be fine.”
The Bears coped with some injuries to key players, too, including Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte. Forte was knocked out in the third quarter because of a knee injury after a hard hit in the open field from safety Harrison Smith.
Forte had 69 yards from scrimmage before exiting. He was replaced by rookie Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 46 yards on 12 carries.
Jeffery has big day
Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery continued to create problems for the Vikings secondary. Jeffery led all players with 10 catches and 116 receiving yards. He made a leaping grab over cornerback Xavier Rhodes to score a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
“That’s why we throw it up to him,” Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler said. “That’s why we have him out there. That’s why we take chances with him because he can make plays like that. I thought he played well.”
Unlike their last meeting in Week 17 last season, the Vikings chose not to have Rhodes, who has now been beaten for five touchdowns this season, shadow Jeffery throughout the game. He remained at right cornerback and left cornerback Terence Newman covered Jeffery whenever he wandered over to his side.
In six career games against the Vikings, Jeffery has 39 catches for 602 yards and five touchdowns.
Linebacker Audie Cole (finger), tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) and defensive end Justin Trattou (foot) missed the game because of injuries. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke and offensive linemen Nick Easton and Jeremiah Sirles were also inactive.
The Bears scratched center Hroniss Grasu, linebacker Shea McClellin, tackle Jermon Bushrod, running back Ka’Deem Carey, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, wide receiver Cameron Meredith and defensive end Bruce Gaston.
With Grasu injured, the Bears started Matt Slauson at center. Former Vikings lineman Vladimir Ducasse moved to left guard. Patrick Omameh replaced Ducasse at right guard. Charles Leno started at left tackle for Bushrod, who was a healthy scratch. Despite all the changes to his line, Cutler was sacked only once.