By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings took control of its 20-13 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field from the opening kickoff.
Percy Harvin received the opening kickoff five yards deep into the end zone and was barely touched for the first touchdown of the game. The 105-yard return was the longest kick return in Vikings history. Harvin did not have a big statistical game, but his presence on kickoffs was a factor as a kick returner, rusher and wide receiver.
The Vikings (3-1) later added a touchdown on a 77-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels. The Rochester, Minn. native and former Minnesota Golden Gopher broke the initial tackle immediately after catching the ball and then numerous before rumbling down the sideline.
The Lions have now allowed six combined kick, punt, fumble and interceptions returned for touchdowns this season, including five in the last two games.
According to the Elis Sports Bureau, the Lions became the first team since 1940 to allow a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in consecutive games.
The Vikings had just 227 total yards, including 127 rushing yards. But because of the special teams play, the offense just had to protect the ball. The Vikings won the turnover margin by recovering a fumble late in the third quarter. It was the only turnover of the game.
Jamarca Sanford hit Mikel Leshoure to force the ball out before it was batted back to him at the Viking 29-yard line.
The Vikings were unable to take advantage when the ensuing drive stalled at the Lion 28-yard line and Blair Walsh missed the field goal. He started the season 9-for-9, including three over 50 yards, before missing the 46-yarder.
Statistically it was a less than impressive game from the Vikings, except for Adrian Peterson. The star running back rush for 102 yards on 21 carries and had four catches for 20 yards. It was the 28th time in his career and first since returning from the knee injury he topped 100 yards rushing.
The last time the Vikings beat a divisional opponent was in Week 3 of the 2010 season against, which happened to be against the Lions.
The Vikings offense did enough not to lose the game. Statistically it is ugly.
The numbers were ugly; 15 first downs, 3-for-12 on third downs, 100 passing yards, 3.8 yards per pass and 0-for-1 in the red zone.
With that said, the Vikings offense took what was there and did not turn the ball over.
The Vikings defense had five sacks and a fumble recovery and held Calvin Johnson to five catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns.
Everson Griffen and Letroy Guion each recorded two sacks and Jared Allen added his second of the season. The Vikings defensive line was all over Matthew Stafford with nine total quarterback hits.
Sanford had the game’s only turnover.
The Vikings special teams single-handedly defeated the Lions. A kick return and punt return for touchdowns and two field goals.
Chris Kluwe averaged 43.2 yards per punt, including two downed inside the 20-yard line. The biggest punt of the day came with just under two minutes remaining when rookie Robert Blanton downed his punt on the Lion two-yard line.
Walsh had the only blemish on the special teams record by missing a 46-yard field goal. He made up for it with two other field goals, including a 49-yarder and getting touchbacks on all five of his kickoffs.
The second-year quarterback did enough to manage the game.
Statistically, it was his worst game of the season. He has done a good job of protecting the ball (no interceptions this season). He recorded season-lows in completions (16), yards (111) and quarterback rating (71.2).
He converted a huge completion on second down with two minutes and 47 second remaining. It was a gutsy call and a perfect throw down the sideline to Jerome Simpson. If the pass were not completed, it would have been third-and-11, stopped the clock and allowed the Lions to keep a timeout.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.