Vikings' Patterson sparks opening win
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press ST. LOUIS -- So what if Adrian Peterson didn't take his first carry into the end zone. A one-play touchdown drive courtesy of Cordarrelle Patterson turned out to be good enough for the Vikings. Peterson, wh...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. LOUIS - So what if Adrian Peterson didn’t take his first carry into the end zone. A one-play touchdown drive courtesy of Cordarrelle Patterson turned out to be good enough for the Vikings.
Peterson, who had vowed to score on his first rushing attempt of the season for a second straight year, was held to seven yards on the first play of Sunday’s game at the Edward Jones Dome. But a wide receiver ended up putting the game away with a 67-yard touchdown sprint late in the third quarter of a 34-6 win over St. Louis.
“I just want the ball in my hands,’’ Patterson said. “I try to be special with it. When I get the ball in my hands, I expect great things.’’
It isn’t often that somebody takes Minnesota’s running headlines away from Peterson, but Patterson carried three times for 102 yards while Peterson was mostly held in check. His 75 yards on 21 carries marked the lowest output of his eight-year career in a regular-season opener, the previous having been 84 yards in 2012 against Jacksonville.
But nobody on the Vikings cared about that Sunday. Players and coaches were too busy celebrating Mike Zimmer’s debut as a head coach and Minnesota’s biggest opening-day win since defeating the Houston Oilers 38-7 in 1989.
When quarterback Matt Cassel was concluding the game with a pair of kneeldowns, Patterson and fellow Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings were busy dousing Zimmer with a bucket of water. Later in the locker room, Zimmer was handed the game ball by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.
“I am a little wet,’’ Zimmer said with a smile. “The guys have been wanting to dump on me for a little while. … I felt good about the game; I felt good about the game plan; I felt good about the players.’’
The Vikings had been itching to turn loose Patterson, who showed great promise as a rookie in 2013 and is expected have a breakout season. With Minnesota leading 13-3, he took a pitch from Cassel on the right side and weaved his way down the field, cutting to the left before just making it into the end zone for a 20-3 lead.
It was the longest run by a wide receiver in Vikings history. Cheering Patterson on as much as anyone was Peterson.
“As soon as he got that pitch, I saw a great block by (Matt) Asiata and I threw my hands up because I knew he had the ability to take it the distance,’’ Peterson said.
Peterson last week talked about telling several teammates before last year’s opener at Detroit that he would score on his first attempt of the season, and he delivered with a 78-yard run. This past week, he made a public declaration that he would do it again.
As it turned out, Patterson’s run, a pair of touchdown passes by Cassel, field goals of 52 and 46 yards by Blair Walsh and a stout defense were more than enough for the Vikings. Minnesota kept the Rams out of the end zone all day, allowing only field goals of 56 and 46 yards by Greg Zuerlein.
“We went out there and we executed the defenses that were called,’’ said defensive end Brian Robison. “If we do that, we’ve got a chance to be a really good team.’’
The Vikings weren’t good enough to win a single road game last season, going 0-7-1. Sunday’s triumph was their first away from home since a 23-6 win over the Houston Texans in the 2012 season road finale.
The game’s most important defensive play was turned in by cornerback Josh Robinson. With the Vikings up 6-0, Robinson picked off a pass by Rams quarterback Shaun Hill at the St. Louis 35 with 1:09 left in the first half, barely keeping his two feet inbounds.
“We were able to stop their momentum and really get back in the end zone, which really helped the offense get going,’’ Robinson said.
Robinson’s play led to Cassel throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jennings for a 13-0 halftime lead.
The Vikings added three second-half touchdowns on Patterson’s run, a 7-yard toss to tight end Kyle Rudolph and an 81-yard interception return for a TD by safety Harrison Smith off Rams backup quarterback Austin Davis.
St. Louis signal-callers had a rough day, with starter Shaun Hill and Davis each throwing an interception. Hill was lost after the first half due to a thigh injury.
Meanwhile, Cassel had an efficient afternoon, completing 17 of 25 passes for 170 yards and the two touchdowns.
“It was huge, to start the way that we did on the road in a tough environment,’’ Cassel said of the win. “It gives us a lot of confidence as we go forward.’’
Cassel hit Jennings for six catches and Patterson for three. But he said he didn’t have to do much except watch after he pitched the ball to Patterson.
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