(Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
Fortunately for the Vikings, while the Niners were doing a great job of stopping Adrian Peterson, they were doing a really, really crappy job of stopping everybody else. The Vikings scored on four of their six first-half possessions, sprinkling in a defensive touchdown for good measure, and were never in any serious danger as they won 27-7. The victory was Minnesota's first in San Francisco since the "Anthony Carter" game in January of 1988.
The Beloved Purple did all of their scoring in the first half of football, and the game showed another step in the maturation process of young quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. On an afternoon where the running game was largely held in check, save for one play (more on that later), Jackson didn't panic. He readily identified blitzes, made good reads, got the ball out quickly, and moved the team down the field.
Admittedly, the Niners aren't a great defense, but Jackson needs these sort of games as he develops into an NFL-caliber quarterback. The Niners didn't register a sack on the afternoon, although they did come close on a couple of occasions. In the first half, Jackson went 10/16 for 116 yards and a 19-yard touchdown strike to Robert Ferguson on another well-executed, well-read play by #7. The Niners were determined to NOT let the Vikings' rushing attack beat them on Sunday afternoon. They were telling the Vikings that they were going to make Tarvaris Jackson beat them.
You know something? That's exactly what he did.
While Adrian Peterson struggled on Sunday afternoon, the Vikings' offense was given a spark by the guy who is, bar none, the best backup running back in the National Football League. . .Chester Taylor. With approximately 6 minutes left in the half, following a 3-yard loss by Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor took a Tarvaris Jackson handoff, rambled over the left side. . .and broke it all the way to the end zone for an 84-yard touchdown run, the longest run from scrimmage in the NFL this season. The best part of the run, in my opinion, was the job that was done by the receivers blocking downfield. Say what you will about the Vikings' receivers from a pass-catching standpoint if you want, but I doubt that you'll find a group of better blocking wide receivers in the entire league. The Vikings lead the NFL in runs of 20+ yards, and the blocking of the Minnesota wide receivers has a lot to do with that.
The biggest thing that the game against San Francisco shows is that "stopping Adrian Peterson" and "stopping the Vikings' offense" are, apparently, no longer one and the same thing. I certainly hope that this trend continues. . .but, on the other hand, I sure as hell wouldn't want to be the Chicago Bears having to come into Thunderdome and see #28 after a) a performance like he just had against the Niners and b) the performance he put together the last time these two teams got together back in Week 6 at Soldier Field.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings' defense did exactly what a good defense should do to a less-than-stellar offense. . .they crushed them. It started on the very first play from scrimmage for the Niners, as Trent Dilfer dropped back to pass and fired a ball that bounced off of the helmet of Kevin Williams. Williams had the ball ricochet right into his hands, and 18 yards later he was in the end zone celebrating his second TD of the year. Not wanting to be outdone by his partner in crime, later on in the game Pat Williams decided that he needed an INT, too, and he got one from former Viking and current Niner Shaun Hill, who entered the game when Dilfer left after taking a nasty shot to the head just before the half. Dilfer was able to walk off the field with help, and we here at DN wish him a speedy recovery.
Pat Williams' interception made the law firm of Williams & Williams the first defensive tackle duo in NFL history to collect interceptions in the same game. I. . .and everybody else. . .thought the Vikings had hit a trifecta late in the game, as newcomer Otis (My Man!) Grigsby hit Hill as he threw, the ball popped up into the air, and DT Spencer Johnson made a VERY athletic play to secure it before it hit the ground. However, after the game it was reported that Johnson's play had actually been ruled a sack for Grigsby and a fumble recovery for Johnson rather than an interception. It was the fifth turnover forced by the Vikings on the afternoon. . .E.J. Henderson also recovered two fumbles on the day. . .and the capper on a great afternoon of Vikings' football.
If the season ended today, the Vikings would be packing their bags for a trip to Seattle for the first round of the NFC playoffs. If the Beloved Purple continues down the winning track, there's nobody in the conference that can take the spot from them at this point. It's all about taking care of business from here on out, and it continues next Monday night against Chicago.