CHICAGO - No matter where or how he got the ball Sunday, Adrian Peterson seemed to find the opening in the Chicago Bears’ defense.
Through the line, around the end, across the field with a split-second cutback and even on kickoff returns, he made the Bears miss.
Peterson’s record-setting performance put the Minnesota Vikings in position for victory, one they secured Sunday when Ryan Longwell kicked a career-long 55-yard field goal on the final play to beat the Bears 34-31.
“I just got comfortable, more comfortable with the speed of the game,” Peterson said after showcasing the talent that made him the first running back taken in this year’s draft.
“I knew anything was possible.”
With a blend of power and speed, the rookie from Oklahoma finished with 224 rushing yards on 20 carries and scored on runs of 67, 73 and 35 yards. He broke Chuck Foreman’s club-record of 200 yards rushing set against the Eagles in 1976, and gained the most yards against the Bears in their 88-year history.
“We stunk. We played horrible,” Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. “He’s a good player, but ... he shouldn’t get that many yards.”
Peterson set up Longwell’s game-winner by returning a kickoff 53 yards. His afternoon at Soldier Field overshadowed a great one from the Bears’ Devin Hester, who returned a punt 89 yards for a score and caught a game-tying 81-yard TD pass from Brian Griese with 1:38 left.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Peterson said. “Guys come up to me and they say, ‘When you got the ball it’s kind of like holding your breath.’ I experience that when that guy (Hester) is on the field. I’m holding my breath knowing he can take it to the house any time he touches the ball.”
After the Griese-to-Hester connection tied it up, Peterson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bears 38.
Why did the Bears kick to Peterson after he’d run all over the field?
After Peterson was thrown for a 4-yard loss back to the 37 on third down, Longwell floated a kick that just cleared the crossbar, setting off a Vikings celebration at Soldier Field.
“It was on line. I couldn’t tell how far it cleared, but I knew it wouldn’t be much,” Longwell said.
Muhsin Muhammad caught a 33-yard TD pass from Griese with 2:36 remaining. After the Vikings recovered an onside kick at the Bears 40, Chicago held and forced a punt, taking over at its 19 with 1:53 to go.
On second down, Griese dropped back and lofted the long pass to Hester. The kick return specialist made a nice move and raced by Dwight Smith, catching the ball at the 35 and completing the touchdown.
Peterson went through the middle, made a fake, cut back to the left and ran away from the Bears secondary on the 73-yard score late in the third quarter. That put the Vikings up 21-14.
Late in the first half, he stormed through a hole on the left side, broke the tackle of Bears safety Brandon McGowan, reversed his field and outran the Chicago defense to tie the game.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The Bears took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter when Griese connected with Bernard Berrian for a 39-yard TD pass. It came open when Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield slipped as Berrian made his move.
Griese finished 26-of-45 for 381 yards and a pair of interceptions in his third start, and first at home, since replacing Rex Grossman as Chicago’s starter.
On his first TD, Hester raced to the left to catch Chris Kluwe’s 54-yard punt and then came back across the field to pick up blockers. He split two defenders, pulled his ankle away from a potential tackler and eluded another on his way up the sideline.
The Vikings responded quickly, as Troy Williamson got behind Bears safety Adam Auchleta and gathered in a pass from Jackson for a 60-yard touchdown on the final play of the opening quarter.
Notes: The Vikings won a road game against the Bears for the first time since 2000. ... Chicago played without starting defensive tackle Darwin Walker, who was inactive after spraining his knee last week. ... Ricky Williams of Miami had 216 yards rushing against Chicago in 2002.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Jets 'throwing the kitchen sink at the offense'
Jets coach Rex Ryan talks to the media following Wednesday's OTAs and says New York's defense is much further along than the offense, but they're throwing everything they can at the offense to get them ready for Week 1.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.