When a team is winning tight games, there are usually about a dozen plays that can make the difference in winning and losing. The Vikings didn't have such issues Sunday, as three long drives sapped the energy of the Tennessee Titans in a 30-7 win and created a drawn-out turning point of the game.
The Vikings had three scoring drives of nine plays or more that helped open up a big lead that would never be challenged and rookie left tackle Matt Kalil said that is the key to the Vikings' newfound success.
"We're continuing to grow as an offense and I think you can see that on the field," Kalil said. "The more we're together the more we're comfortable with one another and are getting on the same page. Week by week, we're starting to put more steady drives together. Most important, we're finishing more drives in the red zone. We're confident and we're playing to our potential."
The first of those drives came midway through the first quarter. On the opening drive, the Vikings started out pinned on their own 10-yard line. On their second drive, they started on their own 9-yard line but rattled off a nine-play, 91-yard drive highlighted by a 45-yard bomb to Percy Harvin from Christian Ponder and ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Harvin to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
Being able to remain patient and impose their will is something Harvin said is the goal of this offense. Big plays will come, but, if the Vikings take what the defense gives them, they can string together long scoring drives that will make the difference between winning and losing.
"It's very important – it keeps our defense off the field and switching field position," Harvin said. "The more Christian can get in a rhythm, the more it helps our offense. The more snaps we get the better."
With the Vikings leading 10-0 in the second quarter, they got another long drive – a 12-play drive that ate almost six minutes off the clock as the first half was winding down. While it stalled in the red zone and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal, it gave them a 13-0 lead heading into halftime and continued to set the tone for the game.
"That helps the entire team," Loadholt said. "If we can work the clock and impose our will, it not only tires them out, but it gives our defense some rest and gets them fired up to get back on the field. When you've got both sides of the ball working together, you can accomplish a lot of things."
In the second half, after an interception on the opening drive, the Vikings scored on their next three drives, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal. The field goal drive was another 12-play drive that took six-and-a-half minutes off the clock and drained the Titans defense, which may have led to the two touchdowns on the ensuing two drives.
Adrian Peterson said he wasn't happy with his performance despite rushing 17 times for 88 yards. Asked if the team's confidence is at a high point, he agreed – but for different reasons than many fans have for why the Vikings are winning.
"Yes it is, especially when we look back and see how many opportunities we blew," Peterson said. "(Those drives) that we got three points, we have to turn those into seven. It could easily have been 30-0 at halftime. It built our confidence, but we have a lot to improve."
If there's much to improve on, it would appear the Vikings are close to cleaning up those mistakes.
In a game that the Vikings had their most complete performances since they dismantled Arizona last year at the Metrodome, it was three long, time-consuming drives that opened up a lead, took the fight out of the Titans and made for a methodical turning point of the game.
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.
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