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Thud, thud, thud, thud.

That was four teams' playoff hopes coming down to earth last night when Minnesota wheezed their way past Chicago, 20-13, in a wretched game.

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The Vikings (8-6), winners of five straight, eliminated the Bears, Lions, Cardinals and Eagles from the NFC playoff chase with one blow, an 8-yard touchdown run by star rookie Adrian Peterson on a play that  had disaster written all over it. Peterson bumped into backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger on the handoff and the Bears seemed poised to close in in the backfield before Peterson danced into the end zone.

Minnesota won the game despite committing four turnovers, but the Bears' impossibly bad offense gained just over 200 yards and 11 first downs. Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton was playing in his first game in two years and while his stats seemed OK -- 22-for-36 for 184 yards, one TD and one interception -- he really wasn't that effective. The game essentially ended when he threw an interception in the end zone, trying to hit Bernard Berrian with a long throw that actually had a chance had it been further inside.

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The curse of the Super Bowl runner-up strikes again.

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