Vikings Defeat Detroit 20-13, Claim Spot Atop NFC North

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 30, 2012 – 6:31 pm

A sensational special teams performance that included two return TDs carried the Vikings to a 20-13 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, the team’s first division win since 2010 and their first division win on the road since 2009. A sound defensive effort and a relentless ground attack complemented the return TDs, allowing the Vikings to fly home Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 record and a seat atop the NFC North standings.

Not all aspects of the victory were pretty, but there are no style points in the rough and tough NFC North. The Vikings defense kept a high-octane Lions offense out of the end zone until the end of the game, and the offense relied on superstar workhorse Adrian Peterson to move the ball on the ground. Peterson traditionally fares well against Detroit, and he did so on Sunday with his best outing of 2012 – 102 yards rushing on 21 carries. While the offense generated just 111 yards passing and didn’t find the end zone, it should also be noted that they did not turn the ball over and they put WR Jerome Simpson – in his first regular season game with the Vikings – in a position to make an impact.

But make no mistake, the story of Sunday’s win was the performance by the Vikings special teams. Percy Harvin fielded the opening kick 5 yards deep in the end zone, started left and then veered right, using a perfectly executed blocking scheme to gain the corner and outsprint the Lions coverage group. The result was a 105-yard return TD and a quick 7-0 Vikings lead.

The Lions responded on their opening series, sending All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson deep and drawing a 56-yard pass interference penalty on their first offensive snap. But the Vikings defense, in a sign of what was to come, withstood that initial shot and forced Detroit to kick a 40-yard FG just 3 plays later. The teams exchanged punts on each of their next possessions, and then Blair Walsh salvaged a Vikings scoring drive by converting a 49-yard attempt, increasing the Vikings lead to 10-3 with 1:21 to play in the 1st quarter.

The Vikings defense forced a Lions 3-and-out on the next series, and Walsh hit another FG – this one from 27 yards – to increase the Vikings lead to 13-3. The Lions tacked on a FG late in the half to make the score 13-6 in favor of the Vikings heading into the locker room at halftime.

Just as they did in the 1st half, the Vikings scored a TD in the 2nd half without their offense seeing the field. Detroit opened the 3rd quarter with a 16-yard connect from QB Matthew Stafford to TE Tony Scheffler. The Vikings defense stonewalled the Lions on the following three plays, though, and Nic Harris punted away to Marcus Sherels. On his 26th birthday, Sherels fielded the Harris punt and danced his way through the Lions coverage group to score a 77-yard TD, riling up the Vikings sideline and giving the visitors a commanding 20-6 lead that would not be relinquished.

After the Sherels return TD, the teams exchanged two more punts each, setting the stage for the Vikings defense to put their stamp on the game. On 3rd and 8 from their own 45, the Lions looked to have something going when Stafford found RB Mikel Leshoure coming out of the backfield. Leshoure advanced well past midfield, but then Vikings S Jamarca Sanford hit him and jarred the ball loose. Sanford also recovered the fumble, giving the ball back to the Vikings and killing the small bit of momentum Detroit was trying to build. The Vikings missed a FG try on the ensuing drive, giving the ball back to Detroit on their own 36 with 13:15 to play in the game.

Stafford drove Detroit 57 yards in 10 plays, setting up a 4th and 5 from the Minnesota 7. With the game virtually on the line, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams dialed up an aggressive blitz that the Lions couldn’t cover up. DE Everson Griffen came untouched across the line of scrimmage and smashed an unsuspecting Stafford, ending the drive and giving the Vikings offense the ball.

A Vikings punt gave the Lions the ball back with 6:08 to play, trailing by 14. Stafford drove his team down for a TD, pulling to within 20-13, but the Vikings would give no more ground. The game ended with another sack by Griffen as Stafford was setting up for a desperation heave toward the end zone. The Lions were forced to begin their last drive on their own 2 after a perfect punt by Chris Kluwe was downed by Robert Blanton before going into the end zone.

Outside of Peterson’s 100-yard rushing performance, the 28th of his career and the 6th he’s logged against the Lions, the Vikings offense didn’t include any standout, signature moments or performances from skill position players. But it was apparent that the Vikings offensive line played well, as they pushed back a stout Lions defensive front to the tune of 127 yards rushing on 28 attempts. QB Christian Ponder finished with modest numbers – 16 of 26 for 111 yards with no TDs – but he took care of the ball and still has not thrown an INT this season. Simpson was the team’s leading receiver with 4 grabs for 50 yards, but his impact was even greater because he drew a pair of long pass interference penalties through the game as well.

Defensively, LB Chad Greenway led the team in tackles with 11. LB Jasper Brinkley and CB Antoine Winfield each had 10 stops. Griffen tallied a pair of sacks, as did DT Letroy Guion. Jared Allen also got to Stafford once, registering his 2nd sack of the season. Credit goes to the Vikings starting safeties, too, as Sanford and Harrison Smith did a good job of roaming the middle of the field to defend the end zone. The combined to knock a TD catch out of Johnson’s hands in the end zone, and overall Johnson was held in check with 5 catches for 54 yards.

The Vikings returned home Sunday afternoon to enjoy their win, and they’ll begin preparations this week to host the AFC South’s Tennessee Titans on Sunday. We’ll have more reaction to Sunday’s game tonight and this week, so be sure to stay tuned to for more coverage.

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Harvin 105-Yard Return TD Paces Vikings To 13-6 Halftime Lead

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 30, 2012 – 12:29 pm

Percy Harvin has been an invaluable player for the Vikings offense in 2012. To open Sunday’s game at Ford Field in Detroit, Harvin reminded everyone just how invaluable he is on special teams, too.

Harvin returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a TD, staking the Vikings to an early 7-0 lead. The Lions responded on their first series, using a 56-yard pass interference penalty to set them up for a FG. Blair Walsh tacked on a pair of FGs in the 1st half and Detroit also got another one in the 2nd quarter, and the Vikings led 13-6 at halftime.

The Vikings defense held Detroit’s offense to just 15 yards rushing in the 1st half, but Matthew Stafford kept the Lions offense in motion with 116 yards on 12 of 17 passing. Stafford’s counterpart – Vikings QB Christian Ponder – was 10 of 15 in the opening 2 quarters for 59 yards. But the Vikings passing offense was more productive than the numbers indicated. WR Jerome Simpson, playing in his first regular season game as a Viking, drew a pair of long pass interference penalties to help the Vikings move the ball.

Also helping the Vikings move the ball in the first 2 quarters was superstar RB Adrian Peterson, who broke tackles constantly and had 52 rushing yards on just 7 carries.

Aside from the pair of FGs, one of which was 49 yards, Walsh is also impressing in Detroit with 3 touchbacks on kickoffs. He now has 18 touchbacks on the season, an incredible number considering the Vikings had just 19 all of last year.

The key for the Vikings in the 2nd half will be to keep the Lions passing game at bay while turning those FG tries into TDs.

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Vikings Welcome Simpson Back To Lineup Today vs. Lions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 30, 2012 – 9:22 am

You may have seen him at training camp or even briefly during the preseason. But you haven’t seen WR Jerome Simpson during the regular season.

Until today.

Simpson makes his Vikings regular season debut today against the Detroit Lions amid much fanfare and anticipation.

A 2nd-round pick of the Bengals in 2008, Simpson had his best season a year ago when he hauled in 50 receptions for 725 yards and 4 TDs. That production, along with his tremendous athleticism, appealed to the Vikings this past offseason as they looked to add explosiveness to the passing game. The design is for Simpson to provide the Vikings offense with the outside, field-stretching explosiveness it needs to complement a strong running game that features Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart and also a pair of other pass-catching playmakers in wide receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

“It adds another chapter to our offense,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “He’s got more burst and more top-end speed than any of the receivers we have on the roster right now. We’ll look to utilize his strengths and add him into the mix.”

Often times coaches will downplay the addition of a new player to the plan, with the intention of disguising strategy and decreasing the pressure for that player to live up to external expectations. But the Vikings did not shy away from explaining the impact they expect from Simpson’s return to the lineup.

“We’re going to use him quite a bit,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained. “We want to get him involved and a lot of it will depend on how he does this week in practice, his first action back, but we definitely want to get him involved.”

Added Musgrave: “We’re expecting big things out of Jerome. He has had a good offseason. He had a terrific training camp in Mankato. We’re hoping that translates to more production on game day.”

The Vikings signed Simpson last April and he immediately developed a rapport with QB Christian Ponder. Simpson flashed frequently during the offseason program and training camp. Then he gave the Vikings a glimpse of what he can provide during Week 2 of the preseason. Against the Buffalo Bills in the second exhibition game, Simpson caught a quick slant, hurdled a Bills defensive back and sprinted downfield for a 33-yard gain.  That’s the kind of athletic, game-breaking play that has many expecting Simpson to add flare to this Vikings passing attack.

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Musgrave Discusses Key To Ponder’s Improvement

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 28, 2012 – 5:48 am

Christian Ponder completed 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards with 2 TDs in last week’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers. There have been other games during Ponder’s young career when he has completed more passes (twice) and thrown for more yards (six times) and TDs (once).

But from the sounds of it, there may not have been any other game in which Ponders’ coaches were more pleased with his performance.

Both Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave intimated on Thursday that Ponder’s performance against the stingy 49ers defense last weekend was the best they’ve seen their young passer. Frazier discussed the topic during Thursday’s taping of Vikings Live From Winter Park, and Musgrave was asked about it while meeting with reporters on Thursday morning.

Musgrave pointed out that Ponder has had gaudier numbers in the past, but that too frequently those impressive statistics were accompanied by mistakes such as fumbles, INTs, penalties and sacks.

“I would say it is, all in all,” Musgrave said when asked if that’s as well as he’s seen Ponder play. “He played well against Green Bay last year, he threw for 381 yards against the Denver defense last year. But there were those mistakes that made it tough for us to get the victory. The quickest way to lose in this League or at any level is to beat yourself. And last year, we did some good things, but we had some untimely mistakes that caused it to be really tough for us to get the outcome that we want. And we want to keep playing at a high level, but number one, we don’t want to beat ourselves.”

The Vikings did not beat themselves last Sunday, which led to them beating the 49ers instead. Ponder threw no INTs and wasn’t sacked, which made the Vikings just the second team in the 49ers last 19 games to hold them without either an INT or a sack. The Vikings also committed just one offensive penalty (for 10 yards).

To beat a tough Lions team on the road this weekend, the Vikings won’t necessarily need gaudy numbers from Ponder. They just need to not beat themselves.

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6 Vikings-Lions Storylines To Watch This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 26, 2012 – 6:30 am

The Vikings may be coming off a momentum-generating win last week against the San Francisco 49ers, but they have redemption on their mind this week. This weekend the Vikings will travel to Detroit for a battle against the Lions, a team that swept the season series from them a season ago. The season sweep for Detroit was their first over the Vikings since 1997, and the Lions have now won the past three games against the Vikings.

There’s a lot to talk about in previewing this matchup, and we’ll get it started by pointing out 6 storylines we’ll be chasing this week…

1. Jerome Simpson Debuts For Vikings
The Vikings signed WR Jerome Simpson last April and he immediately developed a rapport with QB Christian Ponder, an encouraging development for the Vikings as they looked to add speed and explosiveness to their passing game. Simpson had to serve a 3-game suspension to begin the season. That suspension is now over, and Simpson was reinstated to the team on Monday. A big question this week is: How will Simpson fit into the Vikings offense?

We saw quite a bit of Simpson during the offseason program and training camp. Then we saw him briefly in the preseason, with the highlight being a 33-yard catch-and-run in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills in which he caught a quick slant and hurdled a defender before being tackled downfield. That’s the kind of athleticism that has many expecting Simpson to add some flare to this Vikings passing attack. This week we get to see Simpson in the Vikings offense during the regular season for the first time.

2. Vikings First (and last, for a while) Crack At Division Opponent
Sunday’s contest marks the first divisional test for the Vikings, and it’ll be the Lions first game in the NFC North, too. The Lions will jump right back into divisional play in three weeks, with a Monday Night Football matchup against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. But the Vikings won’t see a division opponent again until Week 10, when they host the Lions at Mall of America Field. It’s an odd scheduling quirk for the Vikings, as they play just two divisional games in the first 11 weeks of the season, and both of those divisional games are against the same opponent.

The Vikings are keepers of the NFC North, boasting more division titles since their inception into the League in 1961 than any other franchise. Lately, though, the Vikings have not taken care of business within the division. The Vikings last division win was September 26, 2010 at home against these Lions, and their last road win in the division was on November 1, 2009 at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. This week the Vikings have a chance to start regaining supremacy within the division.

3. Can Ponder Keep It Going vs. Lions Pass Defense?
Vikings QB Christian Ponder is off to a solid start in 2012. He’s completing 70.1% of his passes, good for 2nd in the NFL, and he has generated a passer rating of 104.9, good for 5th in the NFL. On the flip side, only four teams are allowing opposing QBs to complete a higher percentage of their passes than the Lions, and only three teams have yielded a higher opponents’ passer rating that the Lions. Can Ponder keep it going against Detroit? Don’t be surprised if the game comes down to that question. Granted, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has a per-carry average of 5.2 yards and 8 rushing TDs against Detroit in 9 games, so a large focus for both teams when the Vikings have the ball will be on the running game. But whether it’s because the Vikings want to be aggressive, the Lions slow down the Vikings ground game, or the Vikings need a quick score late in the game, there’s a good chance Ponder will have an opportunity to test this Lions pass defense.

4. Lions vs. Harvin, Vikings vs. Megatron
A wide receiver has been the most dynamic weapon for each of these offenses during the young season. For the Vikings, it’s been Percy Harvin. He leads the NFL with 27 receptions and he’s 7th in receiving yards as well. When you combine his receiving and rushing yards, Harvin has 319 total yards (30% of the Vikings offensive output).

For the Lions, Calvin Johnson has led the way. He’s 3rd in the NFL with 24 receptions and 1st with 369 yards. While he has just 1 TD to this point, Johnson does have 9 plays already of 20+ yards (the next closest Lions has 2) and he has accounted for twice as many 1st downs (18) as any other Lions non-QB.

A big factor in this week’s game, obviously, will be how each team’s defense fares in neutralizing the opponent’s #1 threat. The difficulty for Detroit is how versatile Harvin can be because the Vikings line him up everywhere, from the slot to out wide to in the backfield and then of course as a kickoff returner. The difficulty for the Vikings is Johnson’s size-speed combination. He simply overpowers defenders of all types.

5. Vikings Offensive Line Faces Another Nasty Defensive Line
Not many defensive fronts have been nastier than the San Francisco 49ers the past couple seasons. Last Sunday, though, the Vikings offensive line was even nastier. They paved the way for Vikings rushers to gain 146 yards – the most any team has gained on the ground against the 49ers since 2010 – and offense as a whole generated 344 yards, which is the 5th highest total against the 49ers over their last 19 games. It may have been the offensive line’s best performance over the past two seasons.

The time for looking back on that performance is over, though, because the Vikings offensive line has another tough assignment this week. While the numbers through three games don’t necessarily show it, this is a talented Detroit defensive line. A pair of disruptive DTs – N’Damukong Suh and Cory Williams – anchor the line and then left DE Cliff Avril and right DE Kyle Vanden Bosch come from the edge. Nick Fairley adds good depth at DT as well, and this group of 5 players have accounted for all 7.0 of the Lions sacks this season. The Lions have permitted 13 rushes of 10+ yards this season (3rd worst in the NFL) and they’ve forced just 4 three-and-out drives (tied for fewest in NFL), so there are opportunities for the Vikings offensive line to expose flaws.

6. Is This The Week Adrian Peterson Registers A Breakout Performance?
Adrian Peterson’s comeback from knee surgery has been remarkable. His presence in the lineup for Week 1 was inspirational to both his teammates and fans, and he’s played an important role in both of the Vikings victories this season. But he’s yet to have a trademark Adrian Peterson performance in 2012 – the kind of performance that keeps fans on the edge of their seats the entire game. Peterson has gained 84, 60 and 86 yards in his first three games, and he’s averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Not bad, but again, it’s not the standard Peterson has created over his first five seasons.

This week presents Peterson with a great chance to author a signature performance. The Lions have a talented and deep defensive line, but as we pointed out in headline #5, this is a defense that has allowed 13 explosive runs already this season. On top of that, Peterson has a great track record against the Lions. In 9 career games against Detroit, Peterson has 169 carries for 892 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 8 rushing TDs. In his second career game against the Lions back in 2007, Peterson ran for 116 yards and 2 TDs on 15 carries, and he followed that up with a pair of 100-yard rushing games in 2008. In November of 2009, Peterson rushed for 133 yards and 2 TDs on 18 attempts, and the next season on September 26 he rushed for 160 yards and 2 more TDs on 23 carries, including his career-long rushing TD of 80 yards.

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Listen To Tonight’s “Vikings Country” Featuring Christian Ponder

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on September 26, 2012 – 6:00 am

For the first time this season, QB Christian Ponder will be the guest on tonight’s “Vikings Country” radio show, which airs live from Dick’s Last Resort on the fourth floor of Mall of America from 6:30 to 7 PM CT on KFAN 100.3 FM.  Fans in the Twin Cities are encouraged to attend the show, which is hosted by Mike Mussman, live and in person.

The TV version of Vikings Country Sunday mornings at 11 AM CT on Fox Sports North.

Fans can listen live online at and past versions of the show can be found here.

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Ponder In Command On Early Downs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 24, 2012 – 9:10 pm

It’s been well-publicized that Vikings QB Christian Ponder set a goal during the offseason of completing 75% of his passes on 1st and 2nd down this season in order to avoid the dreaded 3rd-and-long scenario as much as possible. We’ve followed Ponder’s 1st and 2nd down passing numbers through the first two games of the regular season, and the results have been very good.

Through the first two games, Ponder was 32 of 40 (80%) for 339 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs (110.3 passer rating). Those are terrific numbers for Ponder, but it resulted in a mediocre 3rd-down conversion rate of 36% (9 of 25) and average 3rd down to-go distances of 6.4 yards in Week 1 and 6.7 yards in Week 2.

This past Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Ponder’s numbers were less gaudy on 1st and 2nd down, but the end result was a marked improvement in a couple different ways. Ponder was 14 of 24 for 139 yards with no TDs or INTs, which equates to a modest 74.8 passer rating. But the Vikings converted 7 of 14 attempts on 3rd down (50%) and the average to-go distance on 3rd down was just 5.4 yards, a full yard better than in Week 1 and 1.3 yards better than in Week 2.

It’s a lot of data to crunch and compare, but suffice it to say that Ponder’s choice to set ambitious goals for 1st and 2nd down passing is paying dividends. Ponder is completing 71.8% (46 of 64) of his passes on 1st and 2nd downs for 478 yards, and he’s protected the ball well with 0 INTs and 1 TD toss. Those numbers yield a passer rating of 98.3, but more importantly it’s allowed the Vikings to convert 41% (16 of 39) of the 3rd downs, which represents a 2.6-point improvement from a season ago.

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Vikings MVP? Harvin Just Might Be

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 24, 2012 – 12:26 am

Percy Harvin has yet to score a TD during the 2012 season. But make no mistake, Harvin has been one of the Vikings most valuable players to this point. He put together another solid outing on Sunday and helped the Vikings upend the heavily-favored San Francisco 49ers by a count of 24-13.

In the game, Harvin caught 9 of the 11 passes thrown his way and collected 89 receiving yards. For the season, Harvin has caught 27 of the 32 passes thrown his way for 277 yards. Six of Harvin’s 10 offensive touches on Sunday resulted in 1st downs, and one of the touches that didn’t was a quick 5-yard gain at the end of the 1st half that set up Blair Walsh for a 52-yard FG.

On top of his offensive production, Harvin also registered 3 kickoff returns for 74 yards and 1 rush for 9 yards against San Francisco. Add it all up, and you get 12 touches that generated 172 yards against a 49ers defense that ranks as one of the fiercest in the NFL.

For the season, Harvin has 43 touches and 559 combined yards, which amounts to 13.0 yards per touch. Also, Harvin’s 319 total offensive yards amount to 30% of the Vikings total offensive output on the season, and Harvin has generated 17 first downs for the Vikings offense.

Harvin’s value to the Vikings offense is not lost on its triggerman – QB Christian Ponder.

“It’s huge,” Ponder responded when asked about having Harvin as a weapon. “Again, when you can throw a short, little bubble route or a swing to him and he gets 15 or 20 yards on it pretty much every time, I mean it’s something that you can just rely on, and that’s a big part of this offense and also in the running game. When you start seeing San Francisco start doubling him, you’re taking away a defender on the run game when they’re worried about Percy Harvin. And he’s such a big part of this offense, and we’re going to keep giving him the ball and he’s going to keep making plays for the rest of the season.”

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Quick-Starting Vikings Blitz 49ers, Win 24-13 At Home

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 3:59 pm

Not many teams looked better than the San Francisco 49ers through the first two weeks of the 2012 season, but the Vikings prepared all week to change that. On Sunday at Mall of America Field, the Vikings preparation paid off in a big way. After jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, the Vikings never looked back as they blitzed the heavily-favored 49ers and came away with a thorough 24-13 victory.

“Our preparation this week was on point,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “The way we prepared this week, you knew that we were going to play good football. I didn’t say that to our team before we played Indy (last week). We did not handle the success against Jacksonville the right way. And I mentioned that to our players during the week prior to Indy. We came back this week and our guys were locked in. They were focused throughout the week and it showed in the way we played.”

The Vikings outstanding preparation definitely showed right off the bat, as Christian Ponder and the offense methodically drove down the field on the game’s opening drive. When all was said and done, Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 1-yard TD on 4th and goal to cap a 16-play, 82-yard drive that took 7:40 off the clock. The drive featured balanced playcalling, with 8 rushes and 8 passes, and it included only three 3rd-down plays.

San Francisco QB Alex Smith and his offense couldn’t match the execution on their first possession, as they were forced to punt away after just one 1st down. It was clear at that point that San Francisco was in for a day-long battle against the Vikings. The Vikings and 49ers exchanged punts after that, and then San Francisco got on the board with a 29-yard FG by David Akers.

Ponder, in the midst of perhaps his best game as a pro, responded following the 49ers FG. He drove the Vikings offense once again through the fierce 49ers defense, this time going 80 yards in 11 plays and capping the drive with a 23-yard TD sprint right through the heart of the 49ers defense. That score gave the Vikings a 14-3 lead with just 5:39 to play in the 1st half.

The 49ers offense gained some rhythm on the following drive and looked as if they’d be able to help the team carry some momentum into the locker room at halftime. They drove from their own 24-yardline to the Vikings 25 in 11 plays to set up Akers for a FG with just a minute play in the half. But the Vikings got a fantastic push up the middle and DT Letroy Guion extended his arms to block the kick, which gave Ponder and Co. possession on their own 33-yardline. Eight plays later, Blair Walsh came on to salvage a late-half score by splitting the uprights on a 52-yard kick. Walsh’s FG – the 3rd consecutive game he’s converted a FG of 50+ yards (Vikings record) – gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead at halftime.

San Francisco came out fast in the 3rd quarter, as Kyle Williams returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Minnesota 14-yardline. But the Vikings defense rose to the occasion, forcing the 49ers to settle for a 29-yard FG. The Vikings went 3-and-out on their next drive, and the 49ers filled the building with anxiety by driving 86 yards in 9 plays to score on a 1-yard TD from Alex Smith to TE Vernon Davis, making the score 17-13 in favor of the Vikings.

As they did most of the day, though, Ponder and the Vikings fought through the 49ers defense to produce points. Ponder found Rudolph for another TD – this time from 2 yards out – to cap a 12-play, 86-yard drive that took 7 minutes off the clock. At that point, the lead was 24-13, and the Vikings defense took it from there.

The 49ers following 5 drives ended in a lost fumble that was forced by S Jamarca Sanford and recovered by LB Marvin Mitchell, two punts, an INT by CB Josh Robinson and then another lost fumble that was forced by DE Jared Allen and recovered by DE Brian Robison. After the sack-forced-fumble by Allen, the Vikings offense took the field in the victory formation.

The Vikings defense was paced all day by LB Chad Greenway, who finished with 13 tackles and 2.0 sacks. CB Antoine Winfield was credited with 8 tackles, and both Sanford and fellow S Harrison Smith had 6 stops each. Sanford came in to replace starter Mistral Raymond, who went down with a leg injury early in the game.

Ponder finished the day going 21 of 35 for 198 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs (94.7 passer rating). Percy Harvin was Ponder’s favorite target, as he hauled in 9 of the 11 passes thrown his way for 89 yards. Rudolph had the 2 TDs on 5 receptions for 36 yards. It may not have been sensational, but the Vikings running game was solid against one of the best run defenses the NFL has seen in recent memory. Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Harvin and Ponder combined for 146 rushing yards on 41 carries.

The win moves the Vikings to 2-1 on the season as they prepare for a road contest against the Detroit Lions this week.

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Vikings Sharp In 1st Half, Lead 17-3 After Two Quarters

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 12:34 pm

The Vikings got off to a fast start on Sunday at Mall of America Field and they kept it going through the first half. The result was a 17-3 lead over the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers at halftime.

A 16-play, 82-yard drive to open the game netted the Vikings a TD when QB Christian Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph in the corner of the end zone on 4th and goal from the 1. The Vikings and 49ers exchanged punts after that, and then San Francisco got on the board with a 29-yard FG by David Akers.

Ponder, who was 15 of 23 for 143 yards with 1 TD in the 1st half, responded after the 49ers FG by driving the Vikings 80 yards on the ensuing drive and capping the drive with a 23-yard TD sprint that included two broken tackles and a desperate lunge at the end of the play to get into the end zone. That made the score 14-3 late in the 1st half.

San Francisco responded by driving down the field to set up Akers for another FG try. This time, though, the Vikings got a great push up the middle and DT Letroy Guion blocked the kick. Ponder and Co. came out and drove across midfield to set up Blair Walsh for a 52-yard try, which he nailed to send the Vikings to the locker room at halftime with a 17-3 advantage.

Adrian Peterson finished the 1st half with 14 carries for 29 yards and Percy Harvin had 5 receptions for 45 yards in the opening 2 quarters. Kyle Rudolph chipped in with 4 grabs 34 yards, including the 1-yard TD. Devin Aromashodu had 2 grabs for 24 yards as well.

Chad Greenway leads the way for the Vikings defensively. Unfortunately, starting S Mistral Raymond suffered a serious leg injury early in the game and was carted off the field.

The Vikings finished the 1st half with 15 1st downs, 206 total yards and 0 turnovers. More to come, so stay tuned.

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