Walsh Comes Up Clutch, Vikings Edge Jaguars 26-23 In Overtime

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 9, 2012 – 3:58 pm

The Vikings hadn’t opened a regular season at home since 2007. They sure made up for lost time on Sunday, opening the season at Mall of America Field in front of a spirited crowd with a dramatic victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars that included the return of Adrian Peterson, a pair of clutch FGs from rookie K Blair Walsh, a new team record established and a try at the new overtime rules.

Where to begin? How about with the score? After trailing 9-0 after the 1st quarter and 23-20 with just 20 seconds to go in the 4th quarter, the Vikings displayed some resiliency and clutch kicking on the way to upending the visiting Jaguars by a count of 26-23 in overtime.

Both the Vikings and Jaguars were inches from closing out victories in regulation. Blair Walsh, the rookie kicker from Georgia drafted by the Vikings, converted a 42-yard FG with 5:33 to play in the game that gave the Vikings a 20-15 lead. On the ensuing Jaguars possession, the Vikings forced a punt and took possession with 1:51 to play. But the home team could not tally a 1st down to run out the clock, instead punting away to Jacksonville. Facing a 4th and 3 from midfield, Jaguars second-year QB Blaine Gabbert hit rookie WR Justin Blackmon for the conversion to extend the drive. On the next play, Gabbert lofted a pass downfield and WR Cecil Shorts got underneath it to haul in a 39-yard TD, giving Jacksonville a 23-20 lead following a 2-point conversion pass to Blackmon.

It was, at the time, a devastating blow to the Vikings because it appeared the game was over and the Vikings had lost yet another late lead, something that plagued the team last season. But the Vikings had a little magic left up their sleeve. QB Christian Ponder completed consecutive passes to WR Devin Aromashodu for 26 yards and TE Kyle Rudolph for 6 more, putting the Vikings on the Jacksonville 37 with just :04 to play.

Enter: Walsh. The somewhat controversial move the Vikings made to go with a rookie kicker this year paid off big-time. Walsh split the uprights on a 55-yard game-tying FG as time expired in regulation, sending the game into overtime and Mall of America Field into jubilation.

The Vikings won the toss, elected to receive, and began their overtime possession on the 25 after Percy Harvin returned the kickoff 30 yards; Harvin gave the Vikings a sensational performance on the day with 14 total touches (receiving, rushing, returning) for 192 yards. Peterson, who returned to action and started the game after coming back from tearing two knee ligaments last Christmas Eve, grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns in overtime and helped put the Vikings in position to win. He rushed for 10 yards on the first play of the series, hauled in a 3-yard reception on the second play, and then ripped off a 20-yard gain on the third play to put the Vikings inside Jaguars territory. Ponder found Aromashodu for 19 yards and a few plays later hit Toby Gerhart for 8 more, setting up Walsh to hit a 38-yarder that wound up being the game-winner.

Because of the NFL’s new overtime rules, though, that requires a team to score a TD to win the game on the first possession of overtime, Jacksonville had one last chance to pry a victory from the jaws of defeat. The Vikings defense jumped up, however, and sealed the win. Gabbert threw incomplete on 1st down, RB Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 8 yards on 2nd down, Harrison Smith deflected a pass on 3rd down and then Gabbert overthrew WR Laurent Robinson on 4th down, giving the Vikings their victory and throwing the Mall of America Field crowd into a frenzy.

Sunday’s season-opener was a roller-coaster affair for the Vikings, but it finished on a high thanks to some late-game clutch kicking from Walsh, a solid 2nd-half performance from Ponder, an incredible will-to-win resiliency by Peterson and opportunistic playmaking by the Vikings defense. The Vikings are off to a 1-0 start for the first time since 2009, and they’ll celebrate this victory on Sunday night before returning to Winter Park on Monday to review the victory and begin preparations for next week’s challenge on the road in Indianapolis.

Post-Game Notes
– Adrian Peterson finished the day with 84 yards and 2 rushing TDs on 17 carries. His 2-TD performance in a return from a serious knee injury last season was remarkable enough. Making it even more special, however, is the fact that Peterson broke the Vikings all-time rushing record, previously held by Robert Smith (6,818). Peterson is now at 6,836 career rushing yards.

– It may get lost in the shuffle of post-game reaction because he didn’t get in the end zone, but Percy Harvin was magnificent  for the Vikings. He produced 192 combined yards on 14 total touches, impacting the game as a receiver, rusher and returner. Harvin had 5 carries for 20 yards to go along with his 6 receptions for 84 yards, and then he added 88 yards on 3 kickoff returns.

– Christian Ponder was unspectacular in the 1st half, going into the locker room at intermission with a stat line of 7 of 11 for 78 yards with no TDs or INTs. Not terrible, but not up to standard, either. Ponder finished very well, though, ending the day completing 20 of 27 passes for 270 yards with no TDs or INTs.

– We’ve got to give some love to the defense. There were breakdowns, particularly in the 1st half and then at the end of regulation when Gabbert hit Shorts for the go-ahead TD with just 20 seconds to play. But there were also times when the Vikings defense stepped up to the challenge. Jacksonville had it 1st and goal from the 5 on their first possession of the game, but the Vikings stood their ground and forced a FG. Down 9-0 late in the 1st half, the Vikings punted away to Jacksonville, giving the Jaguars a chance to blow the game open. The Vikings defense responded, forcing a 3-and-out and setting up the Vikings offense for a drive that ended in a TD right before halftime. Kevin Williams recovered a fumble on Jacksonville’s first drive of the 2nd half, setting up the Vikings for another TD drive on the ensuing possession. Jacksonville began a possession on the Minnesota 16 following a Ponder fumble, but they were forced into a FG try after going 3-and-out. After the Vikings hit a FG on their first possession in overtime, the Vikings defense came on the field and forced a 4-and-out, ending the game.

– Vikings outside LBs Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson cleaned up, combining for 23 total tackler, 1.0 sack and 2 passes defensed. Greenway led all defenders in the game with 13 tackles.

– Both Henderson and CB Chris Cook registered sacks on the afternoon.

There’s much, much more to cover in terms of post-game reaction, including quotes from Vikings players and Head Coach Leslie Frazier. We’ll also review the performance of some other Vikings rookies in the season opener, most notably 1st-rounders Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith. All of that and more will come later tonight and tomorrow, so stay tuned to for more.

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Peterson Returns, Passes Robert Smith To Become The Vikings All-Time Leading Rusher

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on September 9, 2012 – 2:22 pm

Not only did Adrian Peterson return to the field on Sunday just eight months after tearing his ACL in his left knee, but he also passed Robert Smith to become the team’s all-time leading rusher.  He entered the game just 67 yards behind Smith’s previous record of 6,818, a record that had stood since 2000, which was Smith’s final NFL season.  Peterson finished last season with 6,752 yards before suffering the knee injury in week 16 against the Redskins.

Peterson scored the team’s first two touchdowns in Sunday’s dramatic 26-23 overtime win over the Jaguars.  He finished the day with 17 carries for 88 yards to go along with the two scores.

After Peterson broke the record, Smith tweeted (@ESPNRobertSmith) “How appropriate! #AD in OT becoming the Vikings all time leading rusher! Congrats man! Happy it was you “

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He’s Back! Peterson Active and Will Start For Vikings

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on September 9, 2012 – 9:29 am

Adrian Peterson, who was listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report, is both active and will start for the team in today’s season-opener against the Jaguars at Mall of America Field.  Peterson of course tore ligaments in his left knee during last season’s week 16 contest against the Redskins but, as it turns out, will only have missed one game due to the injury.

Vikings inactives: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Jarius Wright, CB A.J. Jefferson, S Andrew Sendejjo, LB Marvin Mitchell, LB Audie Cole, and OL Mark Asper.

Jaguars inactives: WR Brian Robiskie, 21 Derek Cox, LB Daryl Smith, OL Josh Beekman, DE George Selvie, DE Austen Lane, and DT Jeris Pendleton.

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A Few Vikings Opening-Day Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 9, 2012 – 9:07 am

If you’re like us, the anxiety is building as kickoff approaches on opening day. To help you burn some time between now and kickoff, here are a few interesting opening-day notes…

Good From The Get-Go
The Vikings historically have been solid on opening day, boasting a 28-22-1 record in 51 season openers prior to today’s game against the  Jacksonville Jaguars. The last time the Vikings won on opening day was in 2009, when Adrian Peterson led the Vikings with 3 TDs along the way to a 34-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings last opened the season at home in 2008 when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons 24-3, in a game that featured Peterson’s first career NFL TD.

Opening Day Quarterbacks
Christian Ponder will be the 18th different QB to start on opening day for the Vikings. Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton has the most opening-day starts in Vikings history with 12, and Tarkenton led the Vikings to victory in 6 of those 12 starts.

Best Opening Day Performances
The Vikings have seen prolific performances on opening day, including Percy Harvin’s 103-yard kickoff return against San Diego last season, a team record for season-opening games. The record for passing yards is held by Tommy Kramer with 395 vs. Atlanta in 1980, and the record for rushing yards is held by Peterson, who had 180 yards against the Cleveland Browns in 2009. Ahmad Rashad holds the record for receiving yards on opening day with 160 from Kramer back in 1980, and Keith Millard holds the record for sacks in a season-opener with 3.0 against the Houston Oilers in 1989.

Did You Know?
The Vikings have opened the season against an AFC opponent in 3 of the past 4 seasons.

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Game Day Has Arrived – Are You Ready?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 9, 2012 – 8:28 am

The day we’ve been anticipating for months has arrived. It’s game day. The photo above is what Mall of America Field looks like 2.5 hours before kickoff. But soon enough, the seats will be filled with boisterous, passionate Vikings fans looking to will their team to a Week 1 win over the Jaguars.

We’re glad you’re here for coverage of today’s season-opener. We’ll have all the normal coverage for you, from pre-game updates and in-game photo galleries and highlights to post-game reaction and press conferences streamed live. This is your place for non-stop, comprehensive coverage of the Vikings.

You can also follow today’s game with us during the live chat. From kickoff until the closing moments of the game, we’ll be hosting a live chat with Vikings fans so we can all share our thoughts and opinions on the game.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned to all morning for more updates and analysis of opening day in the NFL.

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