The first half of yesterday’s home opener had all the hallmarks of 2011: miscommunication, bad tackling, poor judgement, and an air of general ineptitude. The game matched up two remarkably similar teams: both led by second-year quarterbacks, both with franchise running backs returning to the game (one from injury, one from a contract dispute), and both desperate to improve on a very disappointing 2011 NFL season.
In spite of the miscues and mistakes, the Vikings kept the game close while the offense tried to get it together. Just before the end of the first half, things started to look positive for the purple, getting on the board with an Adrian Peterson TD (highlights here).
Early in the game, it was looking like penalties were going to be the deciding factor, with a bad offside penalty against Jared Allen wiping out a lightning-fast speed sack, and another offside penalty against Kevin Williams keeping a Jacksonville drive alive. A third penalty was assessed against Letroy Guion for unnecessary roughness after he landed on Blaine Gabbert for what he thought was a sack. After that, though, the referees kept the hankies off the turf for the most part.
Instead of a token start, Adrian Peterson had a moderately active day, rushing 17 times for 84 yards and scoring two short touchdowns in limited action. He also passed former Viking Robert Smith to take the franchise record in rushing yards (6,841 yards).
Christian Ponder, after a rough first half, ended up 20 of 27 for 270 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a 105.5 passer rating.
Dan Zinski at The Viking Age:
Caught your breath yet? Good. Let’s go over what a crazy, exciting game that was. It didn’t exactly start very excitingly for the Vikings … well outside of Adrian Peterson making his long-anticipated return. But once the euphoria of Adrian’s return subsided, fans settled in to a sad reality. The Vikings offense looked terrible. The line wasn’t blocking that well, Christian Ponder looked out of sync, Bill Musgrave was making some of his usual puzzling playcalls. And, worst of all, Percy Harvin was MIA.
Thankfully, the Vikes’ defense held up okay during the offensive malaise. Jacksonville only managed nine points when they easily could’ve run out to a two-TD lead. The Jags were held in check long enough for the Vikings to figure it out on offense. And once they figured it out, it stayed figured out.
The heroes of the game: Percy Harvin for sparking the offense when they most needed a spark. Chad Greenway for defensive heroics that had his name mentioned many times in the second half. But most of all: rookie kicker Blair Walsh for a great first NFL game, tying the game in the last seconds and kicking the overtime winner.
Tom Pelissero and Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN:
At the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan says you should always trust Adrian Peterson:
If Adrian Peterson sends you an e-mail asking for money, claiming he’s a prince from a foreign land with a once-in-a-lifetime deal, cut him a check.
If he tells you eating 18 grapefruits a day will help you lose 20 pounds, rent a refrigerated truck and drive to Florida.
In a league overflowing with disinformation, Peterson’s word, from now on, is bullion. He earned the Better Business Bureau stamp of approval and his teammates’ awe on Sunday, leading the Vikings to a victory as improbable and timely as his comeback.
Eight months after shredding his knee in a meaningless game in Washington, D.C., Peterson proved his vows to play in the Vikings opener were neither wishful thinking nor an unhealthy obsession, carrying 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ 26-23 overtime victory over Jacksonville.
Peterson promised this all along, but the Vikings, citing the severity of his injury, sowed doubt. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier admitted Sunday afternoon that Peterson moved so well in practice that he held him out of preseason games not to preserve his health but because he had little to prove.
Update: Cornerback Antoine Winfield was a surprise addition to the injury report on Thursday, as he had to miss practice for a “personal reason”. Today it was revealed that the reason was that his brother had been murdered on Wednesday night in Akron, Ohio. The police have not released any further details and have made no arrests in the case.
Winfield will be handling funeral arrangements early this week and his availability for the early part of preparation for the Indianapolis Colts will likely be in question. The pain of the tragedy last week is still fresh. But, the one place where he will be able to feel “normal” and not consumed with his personal grief is with his teammates.
In a sport of tough guys – Winfield being arguably the toughest pound for pound – the emotion they go through as an extended family was obvious when Winfield described the previous four days with his teammates. He could have internalized his pain, but he opted to share it with his teammates and let them know what emotions he was going through. He lost a brother, but has a lot of love and prayers going out for him from his brothers in the Vikings family.
“With these guys, some of them I’ve been around for a very long time, I shared it all with them,” Winfield said. “I let them know how I was feeling. They knew the situation and they were all love. Guys came up and said, ‘I’m sorry about your brother’ or ‘We’re playing for you.’ That was a great thing. I love every man in this locker room. It’s good to have a locker room like ours.”