By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings had no trouble dispatching the Tennessee Titans 30-7 Sunday at Mall of America Field.
The Vikings got on the board first with an impressive nine-play, 91-yard drive in its second possession of the game. Percy Harvin capped the drive with a four-yard run.
Christian Ponder had a perfect drive completing all four pass attempts for 76 yards, including a 45-yard lob pass down the sideline to Harvin. Harvin later added a 10-yard touchdown reception. He finished the game with eight catches for 108 yards, two carries for eight yards and two combined touchdowns.
Blair Walsh added a pair of field goals in the second quarter to get the Vikings to halftime with a 13-0 lead. He made all three field goals.
The Vikings (4-1) had a chance to extend the lead right before half, but Ponder had a high throw for Kyle Rudolph get tipped a couple times before Robert Johnson intercepted the ball. It was the first interception Ponder has thrown this season, becoming the last starting quarterback in the NFL to do so. The second-year quarterback followed it up by throwing his second pick of the game on his next pass attempt. Ponder responded with two touchdown passes in the second half, including a perfectly placed 15-yard pass to Rudolph in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings’ defense dominated the game by holding the Titans to just 267 total yards, 52 rushing. The Titans (1-4) avoided the shutout by scoring a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings’ offense was given little resistance from the Titans’ defense. Harvin, Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Rhett Ellison all had big plays after a Titans defender had a chance to make a tackle. Ponder made a couple throws that should have been picked off, but survived to throw another pass.
The offensive line allowed just one sack and opened big running lanes for the running backs, especially Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan and Brandon Fusco up the middle.
The Vikings’ only mistake on defense was letting Titans tight end Jared Cook free up the seam in the end zone. Jasper Brinkley got turned around and had the pass sail just passed his outstretched hand.
Other than that it was as good a game as the Vikings could have played. Excluding a one-play, kneel down drive to end the first half, the Titans went three-and-out on three consecutive drives.
The Vikings’ defense got sacks from Brian Robison and Jared Allen, a fumble recovery from Harrison Smith and interception from Antoine Winfield.
Walsh was the special teams star for the Vikings. He made all three field goal attempts, all three extra point attempts and forced touchbacks on five of seven kickoffs.
The other units were not as strong. The kick return coverage did not have a return in the only deep kickoff from the Titans and nearly allowed a successful on-side kick attempt. Marcus Sherels had two punt returns, which totaled minus-one yard.
Chris Kluwe was okay punting the ball, but nearly out-kicked his coverage on his first attempt. He had a long of 52 yards and downed one punt inside the 20-yard line.
Ponder threw his first two interceptions of the season. After throwing the second pick, he completed 11 of his remaining 12 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The most encouraging thing to see from Ponder is that he played better after making a couple mistakes.
Ponder also had three rushes for 31 yards.
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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.