NFL: Vikings get their groove back
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Fewer practices, less time to stew. For the Vikings, it was a recipe for success. NFL teams normally hate playing on Monday night and coming back for a Sunday game. But the Vikings' 26-16 vic...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - Fewer practices, less time to stew.
For the Vikings, it was a recipe for success.
NFL teams normally hate playing on Monday night and coming back for a Sunday game. But the Vikings’ 26-16 victory over Detroit at TCF Bank Stadium came after they had one less day to fret about their ugly 20-3 season-opening loss at San Francisco six days earlier.
“One of the best things coming off last week was having a short week and getting back out there on the field,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “You can’t let (the loss) linger.”
Rudolph didn’t waste any time helping the Vikings get off to a fast start. His 5-yard touchdown reception from Teddy Bridgewater on the first series gave them a 7-0 lead, and they never looked back.
After that, it was a lot of Adrian Peterson for the Vikings (1-1) and a lot of stuffing Detroit’s running attack. Peterson carried 29 times for 134 yards, while the Lions produced 38 yards on 16 rushes.
Peterson, who missed the final 15 games last season and ran for just 31 yards against the 49ers in his first game back, played his first game in Minnesota since Dec. 1, 2013.
“Definitely more calm,” Peterson said of his second game of the season. “Just going out and taking care of business.”
Peterson said it helped getting a big ovation from many in the crowd of 52,319 when he ran onto the field.
“The energy that you can see as I was running (out of the tunnel), that came form the fans,” Peterson said. “It felt good to be back home.”
It felt good for a lot of Vikings. Bridgewater, whose play against the 49ers was criticized by coach Mike Zimmer, looked much more poised and completed 14 of 18 passes for 153 yards and the touchdown to Rudolph. Bridgewater also scored on a 1-yard run that gave Minnesota a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Lions (0-2) got as close as 17-10 in the final seconds of the first half and then closed the deficit to 26-16 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Eric Ebron with 1:48 left in the game.
But a two-point conversation failed, effectively ending the game.
A battered Stafford was under pressure all afternoon from Minnesota’s defense. After the game, he had X-rays on his ribs and chest. Although the Vikings had just one sack, defensive end Everson Griffen said Stafford was “getting the ball out quick (because) he didn’t want to get hit.”
Stafford completed 32 of 53 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He targeted star receiver Calvin Johnson 17 times; Johnson, blanketed by cornerback Xavier Rhodes, finished with 10 catches for 83 yards.
“We had some mental mistakes, uncharacteristic of us,” said Stafford, whose team lost two fumbles.
Part of the reason for that was a Minnesota defense that stymied Detroit’s running game. The effort up front came after the Vikings allowed the 49ers to rush for 230 yards.
“It was night and day, yes,” Zimmer said. “It was more like we expect. ... We were in the right place, we were physical, we swarmed the ball.”
Zimmer said after Sunday’s game he still didn’t know why things went so wrong against the 49ers. After the ugly loss, one of Zimmer’s mentors, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, called him.
“I’m still wondering why we played like we did,” Zimmer said. “Coach Parcells called me last week and said, ‘Hey Mike, it’s human nature. (Leading up to the game) everybody’s been talking about how good you are and how bad (the 49ers) were).’ “
After the loss, though, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Zimmer didn’t have the team watch much tape on the game, that he didn’t want his players to dwell on it.
“We had a short week, so you have to move on,” Munnerlyn said.
Munnerlyn said it helped the Vikings’ confidence that Griffen came out Wednesday and predicted the Vikings would beat the Lions. While many called it a “guarantee,” Griffen said Thursday he was referring to the game as being a “must win.”
“I got faith in my guys,” Griffen said. “I knew they would come out ready and prepared.”
Then again, not all was perfect. The Vikings had 10 penalties, some of which Zimmer said weren’t smart. Peterson fumbled three times, losing one, having one that was lost nullified by a Detroit offsides call and having Minnesota recover one.
Still, Zimmer wasn’t complaining too much. The time spent stewing over the loss to the 49ers was over.
“I’m really proud of how the team responded,” Zimmer said. “Last week’s loss, it felt like we were 0-10, not 0-1. ... We had a lot of grouchy players last week, grouchy coaches, and I thought we answered the bell (Sunday).”
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