Vikings owner Zygi Wilf clapped nervously on the sideline Sunday awaiting Ryan Longwell's 50-yard field-goal attempt with 5 seconds left in regulation and his team trailing by two. "I was just praying for that to go through," Wilf said.
And when it did, when the Vikings had a 20-19 victory over the New York Giants that gave them their first NFC North title and first playoff berth since the 2004 season, Wilf let loose. The billionaire, who had been waiting for this moment since buying the Vikings in 2005, became a kid again. Wilf half-skipped, half-danced to midfield, his shoes never appearing to touch the ground. Hugs were exchanged with anyone in the vicinity.
The fact the victory had come over the Giants, the team Wilf had lived and died with his entire life before getting his own franchise, made this moment all the sweeter.
"It's as good as it gets," said Wilf, who talked in the locker room after slipping on a T-shirt that declared the Vikings NFC North champs. "That's all I can say. To win our division after working so hard and going through all we did this year. To be here where we are at and to be here in the playoffs is something very special. It's what we've been working really hard for, and we're here right now. I'm just glad that we took care
Wilf's reference was to the fact the Vikings would have wrapped up the division even if they had lost Sunday. Houston's 31-24 victory over visiting Chicago -- a score that coach Brad Childress made sure was not shown in the Metrodome -- would have enabled the Vikings to back into the postseason, and it appeared that might happen when the Giants took a 19-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
But the Vikings rallied when quarterback Tarvaris Jackson hit Bernard Berrian for a 54-yard touchdown with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left, and then Longwell made the winner after a curious sequence in which three timeouts were called just before the kick.