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Jon Krawczynski / Associated Press, Published December 09 2012

Peterson runs over Bears in Vikings' victory

MINNEAPOLIS – Everyone in the stadium knows Adrian Peterson is going to get the ball when the Minnesota Vikings are on offense. No one seems to know how to stop him once he does.

His sights set squarely on 2,000 yards, Peterson’s latest jaw-dropping performance also made sure the Vikings can keep their eyes on the playoffs.

Peterson rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Harrison Smith returned an interception for a score to lead the Vikings to a 21-14 victory over the free-falling Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Peterson topped 100 yards before the first quarter was over, helping the Vikings (7-6) overcome another lackluster day from quarterback Christian Ponder to get a victory that will keep their playoff hopes alive.

“The guy’s unbelievable,” Ponder said of his star running back. “I don’t know if he’s human or not.”

Jay Cutler was 22-for-44 for 260 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and couldn’t finish the game for the Bears (8-5), who have lost four of five. He took a wicked hit to the head from Everson Griffen in the fourth quarter, remained in for the rest of that drive, but was replaced by Jason Campbell with 3 minutes to play.

Cutler has a neck injury, which could leave the reeling Bears without two of their most important players down the stretch. Linebacker Brian Urlacher did not play because of a strained right hamstring that threatens to end his season.

“It started stiffening up more and more,” Cutler said. “I just have to take it day by day.”

Campbell threw a 16-yard TD to Brandon Marshall with 1:48 to play, but Kyle Rudolph recovered the onside kick. Marshall had 10 catches for 160 yards, but Chicago’s struggling offense couldn’t do enough to overcome the two turnovers and Peterson’s relentless effort.

Peterson’s remarkable comeback from a torn left ACL late last season seems to get more impressive every week. Not even a year removed from that major injury in Washington, he broke the 100-yard mark for the seventh straight game. He has 1,600 yards with three games to play, putting a hallowed 2,000-yard season within reach. He ran for 51 yards on the opening play and continued to gash the broken-down Bears the rest of the way.

“I think about it,” Peterson said of 2,000 yards. “I don’t try to think about it too much. I feel like it will happen. It’s obvious we’re going to continue to run the ball and the chips will fall where they may.”

No one was happier to see it than Ponder, who continued to look skittish in the pocket and out of whack with his mechanics. He finished 11 of 17 for 91 yards, including an ugly interception off his back foot late in the first half.

This time, his performance didn’t doom the Vikings. Owner Zygi Wilf addressed the team this week after a string of four losses in five games threatened to spoil a 5-2 start.

“You know when you play the Vikings you’re going to have to stop Adrian Peterson,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “And for him to come out and gain 100 yards in the first quarter, just an amazing feat by him.”

Vikings fans trudged through a snow storm to get to the Metrodome, and they were ornery and ready to give Ponder all the grief they could. They booed him in pregame introductions, then Peterson touched the ball on five of six plays in the opening drive. He also ripped off a 16-yard run and finished it with a 1-yard TD.

“It looks like we weren’t ready for it, but we were,” Bears cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. “We were ready. It was the first drive and there was so much football played after that, I thought we did a pretty good job after that.”

Chicago 0 7 0 7 – 14

Minnesota 14 0 7 0 – 21

First Quarter

Min – Peterson 1 run (Walsh kick), 11:53.

Min – Peterson 1 run (Walsh kick), 8:42.

Second Quarter

Chi – Jeffery 23 pass from Cutler (Gould kick), 1:52.

Third Quarter

Min – Smith 56 interception return (Walsh kick), 3:27.

Fourth Quarter

Chi – Marshall 16 pass from Campbell (Gould kick), 1:48.

A – 64,134.

Chi Min

First downs 22 17

Total Net Yards 438 248

Rushes-yards 18-118 38-171

Passing 320 77

Punt Returns 5-58 0-0

Kickoff Returns 4-59 2-21

Interceptions Ret. 1-0 2-100

Comp-Att-Int 28-53-2 11-17-1

Sacked-Yards Lost 2-4 1-14

Punts 6-37.5 7-45.7

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-0

Penalties-Yards 10-80 7-54

Time of Possession 31:42 28:18

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Chicago, Forte 13-85, Cutler 2-16, Campbell 1-8, Bush 1-6, Allen 1-3. Minnesota, Peterson 31-154, Gerhart 3-17, Ponder 4-0.

PASSING: Chicago, Cutler 22-44-2-260, Campbell 6-9-0-64. Minnesota, Ponder 11-17-1-91.

RECEIVING: Chicago, Marshall 10-160, Forte 6-34, Hester 5-39, Jeffery 3-57, Davis 3-25, Adams 1-9. Minnesota, Jenkins 4-36, Wright 2-29, Peterson 2-16, Simpson 1-13, Gerhart 1-(minus 1), Ellison 1-(minus 2).

MISSED FIELD GOALS: None.