NFL Wire News

Dream comes true for Vikings, Zimmer


The Sports Xchange

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Two weeks ago, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wistfully longed for a day when his team would resemble the 49ers squad that physically manhandled his team in a 20-3 season-opening beatdown in San Francisco.

Well, things do change quickly in the NFL because the Vikings are now that team. The 49ers are 1-2, the Vikings are 2-1, and it’s the latter team that might have the kind of pass rush and power running game to upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver on Sunday.

A 31-14 rout of the San Diego Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday was similar to the 26-16 win over the Detroit Lions at the same venue the week before. The pass rush harassed a dangerous quarterback while running back Adrian Peterson and the running game imposed its will on an overmatched defensive front.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked four times, threw an interception, lost a fumble and was hit 12 times total. His 91-yard pick-six to linebacker Chad Greenway came after being knocked down by his 6-9, 330-pound left tackle, King Dunlap, who surrendered 1 1/2 sacks to right end Everson Griffen.

“I picked (Dunlap) up and dumped him on his back,” Griffen said. “He fell into Rivers, Rivers fell down, Chad got the pick.”

Offensively, the Vikings won with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completing only 13 passes for 121 yards, an interception and a 50.9 passer rating. That’s because Peterson followed up last week’s 134-yard rushing effort with 126 yards, including his first two touchdowns since the 2013 season.

All three offensive touchdowns were runs out of power formations, including Peterson’s 43-yarder, which featured three tight ends, including two at the point of attack.

“It was awesome,” left tackle Matt Kalil said. “It’s a mindset that says, ‘We’re going to move your guys and you can’t do anything about it.'”


–PASSING OFFENSE: D. Teddy Bridgewater had the second-lowest passer rating (50.9) of his career. He completed just 13 passes for 201 yards and a poorly thrown pick into the end zone. A play before the pick, tight end Kyle Rudolph had what should have been a 24-yard touchdown pass slide through his fingers in the end zone. The Vikings were more focused on pounding the Chargers after Bridgewater’s interception.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus. For the second straight week, the Vikings’ power running game had its way with an opponent. The Vikings ran for 163 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries (5.3 yards per attempt). All three touchdown runs, including Adrian Peterson’s 43-yarder, were out of power formations with multiple tight ends or six linemen. Peterson took another step toward midseason form with 126 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

–PASS DEFENSE: A-minus. There were only a couple of glitches, including completions of 39 yards and 34 more for a touchdown right before halftime. But overall the Vikings dominated Philip Rivers with four sacks, a forced fumble, 12 hits and Chad Greenway’s knockout punch — a 91-yard pick-six.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A. Unlike the time eight years ago when the rookie Peterson took the torch by outrushing LaDainian Tomlinson 296-40, the 30-year-old Peterson wasn’t upstaged by Chargers rookie Melvin Gordon. Gordon, a first-round pick, had only 51 yards on 14 carries (3.6 yards per attempt). The Chargers averaged only 3.2 yards on 28 carries.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A. The Vikings have given up only 2 yards on punt returns in three games. The Chargers called for a fair catch on the only punt they fielded. Meanwhile, Marcus Sherels averaged 12.7 yards on three returns, while Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 26.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Blair Walsh made his only field goal attempt (24 yards) and all four PATs.

–COACHING: A. It’s hard to believe this is the same team that was so weak in the 20-3 season-opening loss at San Francisco. Coach Mike Zimmer has done something to bring out the brute force and confidence in a team that was woefully meek and jittery in San Francisco. Being at home helped, but the Vikings still thrashed a good Chargers team with an elite quarterback. Norv Turner’s offensive game plan against his former team was simple in its sheer force. He just loaded the box with extra blockers and pounded away on the smaller Chargers. Defensively, Zimmer’s liberal use of blitzes straight up the middle rattled and battered Rivers until he was mercifully pulled late in the game.

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