By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings moved a little closer to earning a wild card spot in the NFC playoffs with a convincing 36-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Adrian Peterson led the way with 212 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. His 82-yard touchdown run 18 seconds after the Rams scored their touchdown started a 23-point second quarter.
He now needs 293 yards to tie Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. The Vikings final two games are against the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers; two teams playing for first round byes in the playoffs.
“It’s like front row seats to the best movie ever,” rookie left tackle Matt Kalil described his view of Peterson’s historic season after the game.
The Vikings also received a big contribution from kicker Blair Walsh. The rookie finished with five field goals, including three from beyond 50 yards.
Everson Griffen contributed to the second quarter onslaught with a 29-yard interception to score the last of the Vikings three touchdowns. It may be the easiest interception the third-year veteran will ever record.
“He threw it right to me,” Griffen said after the game. “It was a dream come true. I want to say, ‘Thank you, Sam Bradford.”
The defense also contributed with four sacks, a fumble recovery and two fourth down stops.
This was as good a coaching job that the Vikings staff has had this season. Head coach Leslie Frazier had the team prepared and ready to play and the two coordinators, Bill Musgrave on offense and Alan Williams on defense, made the right calls at the right time.
The 82-yard touchdown run was a terrific play call. The Rams had Peterson bottled up for most of his first eight carries on straight handoffs. Musgrave called a draw play and the middle of the field opened up and Peterson had more room to run on just about every subsequent carry.
Williams called the zone blitz that allowed Griffen to drift back into the passing lane for his pick-six.
Sometimes coaches make play calls that are perfect for what the opposition calls. This was one of those days for the coaching staff.
The only mistake the coaches made was playing too loose in the secondary too early. The Rams got back in the game because the defense lost its aggressiveness, playing the so-called prevent defense, early in the fourth quarter.
Adrian Peterson strikes again. There is not a player more deserving of the MVP award than him. The game really opened up for him and the rest of the Vikings offense after his 82-yard run.
Christian Ponder was efficient with 17 completions on 24 pass attempts, but had only 131 yards. He was at his best during the opening drive of the game. During that drive he completed all three pass attempts and had two runs. The two runs converted a fourth-and-one into a first down and a third-and-goal into a touchdown.
The offense did not pile up a whole lot of yards, but had several short fields. Also it had touchdowns on only two of seven scoring drives, but only got into the red zone twice (one touchdown and one field goal).
The Vikings defense came to play. It put constant pressure on Bradford, despite having just two healthy defensive ends for most of the game. Brian Robison was lost with a shoulder injury during the Rams’ second offensive possession. Griffen stepped up and collected a pass defense and hit on Bradford, in addition to the pick-six.
The unit picked up four sacks (one each by Chad Greenway, Christian Ballard, Erin Henderson and Robison).
The only negative on the day for the Vikings is that the defense lost its edge and aggressiveness late in the third quarter. The Rams eventually scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to cut the deficit to 11 with seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining.
Walsh had a fantastic day going five-for-five on field goals (from distances of 50, 38, 42, 53 and 51 yards). The kickoff unit limited Rams kick returner Chris Givens to 29 yards on two returns, including a 10-yard return in the second quarter.
The Vikings won the special teams battle in all four phases (field goals, punting, kick returns and punt returns).
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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.