Monday, September 10, 2012

Minnesota Vikings Season Opener: A Recap

Genevieve Ross/ Associated Press

Sundays are back, baby! Woo! Our Minnesota Vikings kicked off the 2012 NFL regular season against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. It’s not often that the opening game of the season is a must win, but in this case, it was a must win. The Jags are a much worse team than us on paper, but they haven’t played games on paper since the infamous 1966 Paper Bowl, captured by the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Vikes were to make any progress this year after a disastrous 2011 campaign, they had to start with a win against the Jags. Week 1 also represented the potential return (resurrection?) of Purple Jesus himself, Adrian Peterson. His recovery after tearing everything in his knee last December has been nothing short of, well, miraculous. Would his ascension to the end zone be complete? Would he return to lead the Vikings to football heaven? Find out the answers to these questions, as well as more blasphemy, after the jump.

The game started off slowly for the Vikings offense. Playcalling and execution were way too reminiscent of last season, as the first four Vikings drives stalled. Luckily, we have Most Valuable Punter and hero to nerds everywhere Chris (@ChrisWarCraft) Kluwe. His leg kept the Jags back at around their 20 yard line after every failed offensive possession. The problem was, though, that the pass defense looked just as porous as last season. Blaine Gabbert, by no means a great quarterback, led the Jags to points on two of their first three possessions.

At this point, the Vikes were down 9-0. Negativity was running high in our cadre of die-hards. Then, after getting the ball in good field position, the Vikes strung together a couple of good plays. Ponder finally got the ball in Percy’s hands. AP burst forward for a nice run. Ponder completed another pass, and Peterson ran it again twice, punching it into the end zone. Adrian silenced any and all naysayers with that drive. He was making cuts, taking contact (looking for it, even, like he always does), bouncing up from hard tackles, and finished the drive with a vintage 3-yard plunge.
Andy King/Getty Images

That drive essentially ended the half, and after the break, the Vikes defense forced a fumble, giving the offense good field position once again. Once again, the offense was clicking, and AP ran for a second touchdown, giving the Vikes a 14-9 advantage.

The offenses went through the second half, trading punts and field goals, until the two minute warning in the fourth quarter. The Vikings held a tenuous 20-15 lead, and had just punted the ball back to Jacksonville with 78 seconds left on the clock. Gabbert then, against all odds (or not, depending on your pessimism level) led the Jags down the field and threw a 39 yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining on the clock. They converted the two points, and took a 23-20 lead. Things were looking down in Vikingtown.
Andy King/Getty Images North America

Jacksonville kicked the ball off away from Percy, but it still got returned past the 30. Ponder then, against all odds (or not, depending on your optimism level) connected on two quick throws to Aromashodu and Rudolph, getting us barely into range for a 55-yard field goal with barely enough time left on the clock. Keep in mind, 55 yards is in cannon-footed Blair “Brian” (Thanks, play-by-play man Kevin Harlan) Walsh’s range, not Ryan Long(not)well’s range. So the game rested squarely on the foot of cold-blooded rookie Blair Walsh. Welcome to the NFL, kid. Do you think you got what it takes? Do you have the stones to put the team on your back in crunch time?

He did.

Walsh drilled the 55-yarder right down the middle, with distance to spare, to send the game into overtime, and came up big again later, hitting the eventual game winner in the overtime period. Kudos to the defense, too, for stopping the Jags on four downs in OT after almost giving up the game just a few minutes earlier. Gabbert threw incomplete on fourth down, sealing the victory for the Vikings with a final score of 26-23.
You can bet he's happy

Main takeaways:

  1. AP is back, and in a big way. Limited action, my ass, Adrian got the lion’s share of the carries today, and scored twice for the Vikes. He looked just as amazing as before, if not better. He truly is not human.
  2. Rudolph could very well lead the team in targets this year. It’s apparent Ponder likes looking his way, and who can blame him. The guy is huge, athletic, and catches everything. Today he was second on the team with 7 targets, one behind…
  3. Percy Harvin. Mother of God, get this man the football. I emphasize man because Percy Harvin is a man. He does it all. He is this team’s most explosive receiver by far. After this game, and parts of last season, one could argue that he should be the primary backup running back.
  4. The secondary is improved, but still needs a lot of work. Last year’s secondary was gawd-awful, as we all try not to remember. It’s still not great, as we still suffer from Chad Hutchinson Syndrome (we make mediocre to terrible quarterbacks look amazing). Gabbert was way too successful throwing the ball, and that last touchdown was inexcusable. Harrison Smith is a definite bright spot, and it will be interesting to see him develop this season as I think he has the tools to be a long-term solution at safety.

Those are my main thoughts from this game. It wasn’t pretty at times, and we’ve still got a ways to go, but we walked off the field winners today, which is more than the Packers and the Saints can say, so we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice. Post your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll see you next week. Skol Vikings!

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