Chad Greenway (Andy King/AP)
The Vikings defense had been solid in the first two games, but after halftime of the third game it finally got an assist from the offense and special teams, and the combination was enough to put the Lions away.
For two-and-half games in the regular season, the Vikings struggled to find any sort of continuity on offense and, when needed, the defense wasn’t able to come up with a big stop. But a huge 15 minutes from the offense, defense and special teams made the difference in a critical game to give the Vikings their first win of the 2010 season and create an all-encompassing turning point.
The Vikings led 14-10 at halftime, as a pair of interceptions led to all 10 Lions points. The defense had again put in a strong performance, but, as the second half began, the Vikings led by just four points and needed a big half to get their season on track. They did so on both sides of the ball, as well as the special teams, to pull away in the second half.
“This was the kind of game we needed,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “We wanted to finally have a game where we got contributions in all three phases. Adrian has that great run, we got a big turnover on special teams and we were able to put the game away late with a couple of interceptions. That’s what you look for.”
The Vikings started the second half with the ball and ran a 13-play drive, kept alive by a penalty against the Lions on a Favre interception. The Vikings split things up between the run and the pass, but most of the yardage was gained through the air. Favre completed passes to convert first downs on plays of 17 yards to Adrian Peterson, 10 yards to Greg Camarillo, 10 yards to Jim Kleinsasser and 10 yards to Jeff Dugan to get the Vikings into scoring position. While the drive would bog down at that point and they had to settle for a field goal, the Vikings ate more than seven minutes off the clock and gave the Vikings much-needed momentum back.
“That first drive of the second half set the tone for us,” guard Steve Hutchinson said. “We were able to move the ball and eat up a lot of clock. We’ve been a power running team in the past and we able to show we can still do it.”
The Vikings defense would do its job on its first chance of the second half, getting off the field and getting the Vikings offense back on the field. On the first play of their second offensive drive, Peterson broke off an 80-yard touchdown run – the longest run of his NFL career – to give the Vikings a 24-10 lead.
With the game well in hand at that point, the onus fell to the defense to preserve the lead. It did just that, allowing the Lions to eat up game clock in the fourth quarter with short check-down passes and, once in the red zone, the defense jumped up with a pair of interceptions – one by Ben Leber and another by Antoine Winfield.
In a game the Vikings absolutely had to have heading into their bye week, the offense, defense and special teams came through when they were needed to give the Vikings a much-needed win and a little momentum heading into their bye week.
“You hate to use the term ‘must-win’ this early in the season, but this was a big one for us,” Leber said. “We can head into the bye week with a win behind us. Hopefully, we will be able to come back and keep hitting on all cylinders like we did today in the second half.”
It took 10 quarters to see the offense and defense work in concert with each other to pull away for a victory, but during the span of 12 minutes in the second half, they did just that – scoring 10 points and frustrating the Lions offense for what may have been a season-saving turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.