Chad Greenway (Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire)
Since the Vikings lost at Indianapolis, they haven’t trailed during their three-game winning streak. Plus, get 20 notes that help tell the story of the game.
A funny thing has happened since the Vikings watched an Adam Vinatieri field goal sail through the uprights at the end of their Week 2 loss. In the three games they have played since – a span of 180 minutes of game clock, the Vikings have never trailed and barely been tied.
Against San Francisco in Week 3, the Vikings took the opening kickoff and drove 16 plays and 82 yards, scoring a touchdown with 7:20 to play in the first quarter and never looked back. Against Detroit last week, it took just 12 seconds to get the lead – which they would maintain the rest of the game. Sunday’s 30-7 win over the Tennessee Titans was the most dominating win of the season, but took the longest to get the lead – two drives and 12½ minutes. The Vikings scored with 2:31 to play in the first quarter, capping a nine-play, 91-yard drive that gave them a lead they would build upon through the game.
While the Colts game has long since been in the rearview mirror, offensive tackle Matt Kalil said the Vikings haven’t forgotten the lessons learned from that game and have carried them over to their current three-game win streak.
“It’s about getting off to a fast start,” Kalil said. “That’s what we emphasized after the Colts game because we never should have been in that position to have to rally late. If we can get on the board fast, our defense can put pressure on the other team and the two work hand in hand.”
Quarterback Christian Ponder said the key for the Vikings has been getting seven points from long drives instead of three. That was a problem early in the season, but one they have corrected as they have gone on.
“It’s important to us,” Ponder said of establishing the offense early. “We always talk about starting fast and keeping the pressure on the other team. In Jacksonville, we didn’t do it that way. (At) Indianapolis, we started out with a good drive and got three points. It’s important for us to get touchdowns and get points early to keep the pressure on the other team.”
Getting an early lead is a recipe for success in the NFL and linebacker Chad Greenway said it’s a mirror image of what the Vikings did much of last season – struggling early and playing from behind too often.
“It’s just like the opposite of last year,” Greenway said. “You start 0-4 and things just snowballed. It’s just easy for things to snowball the other way. If you can get the ball going in the right direction, those games can fall to you and games like this can happen.”
As the Vikings’ confidence (and dominance) grows, so does their ability to correct the mistakes that they make in one game and not repeat them in the next.
“The best thing is that we’re seeing what we do in practice transfer onto the field in games,” linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. “We’re challenging each other every day and feel like we’re improving week to week. We’ve done a good job or correcting the things we did wrong the previous week and that’s how you play winning football.”
How good are the Vikings getting this year? Even a 30-7 win doesn’t seem like quite enough.
“Defensively, we’re not where we need to be yet,” Greenway said. “We’re playing good football, but we can get better. That’s the encouraging thing.”
GAME DAY NOTES
The Titans didn’t score until 10:35 remained in the game, breaking the Vikings’ shutout bid. The Vikes haven’t shut out an opponent since beating Detroit 19-0 in 1993.
The Vikings continued a sad trend for the Titans of struggling early in both halves of games. The Vikings outscored Tennessee 7-0 in the first quarter and 10-0 in the third. Through five games, the Titans have now been outscored 46-13 in the first quarter of games and 45-14 in the third quarter.
The Vikings have outscored their opponents 120-79 and have a scoring edge in every quarter, including overtime.
With the Vikings without safeties Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo, rookie safety Harrison Smith was ejected from the game for putting his hands on an official after an interception by Antoine Winfield in the second quarter. A pileup ensued and in the scrum Smith pushed an official trying to clean out the pile.
“Missing a game lets you realize how much you love it,” Smith said after the game. “I hurt the team and was just happy that we were able to make up for that and play well. It was stupid for me to put myself in that situation.”
Jerome Simpson didn’t catch a pass Sunday and was frustrated that a foot injury that caused some numbness in his left leg bothered him before the game and he couldn’t be the impact player he wanted.
“It was frustrating, because, with me missing three games to start the season, I wanted to be out there making plays,” Simpson said. “It didn’t happen in practice. I woke up this morning and I couldn’t really perform when I got on the field today. I couldn’t push off or jump around like I usually do. I just couldn’t be Jerome Simpson.”
The battle between Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson was as lopsided as the score. Peterson finished the game with 17 carries for 88 yards, while Johnson had just 24 yards on 15 carries – 9 yards on one carry and 13 on the other 14 combined.
Percy Harvin posted the second 100-yard receiving game of the season and scored his first two touchdowns. He now has three TDs on the year – one rushing, one receiving and one on a kick return.
As a rookie in Kansas City, Jared Allen was instructed to study countless hours of game film of Chiefs sack specialist Derrick Thomas, who became something of a hero to Allen as a young pro. On Sunday, Allen recorded a sack that gives him 108 in his first nine NFL seasons and moved him past Thomas on that list. He only trails Reggie White, who had a whopping 137 sacks in his first nine years.
Kyle Rudolph scored his fourth TD reception of the year, putting him ahead of the three touchdowns he scored as a rookie in 15 games.
The Vikings dominated the yardage statistics despite allowing Tennessee to hold the ball much of the fourth quarter. The Vikings outgained Tennessee 433-267, despite running two fewer plays (67) than the Titans.
The Vikings held a time of possession edge of 33:06 to 26:54, but that didn’t tell the entire story. At the end of three quarters, that T.O.P. edge was 28:40 to 16:20.
The total yardage figures didn’t accurately reflect the Vikings’ dominance, either. With five minutes left in third quarter, the Vikings had outgained Tennessee 327-87.
Peterson had his longest run of the year on the first play of the third quarter with a 34-yard burst. On the next drive, Toby Gerhart had his long run of the season when he broke off a 22-yarder.
If there was a downside to the Vikings’ performance it was that their third-down conversion rate on offense was pretty dismal. They made good on just 3 of 11 third-down situations.
In the third quarter, rookie Rhett Ellison had his first career reception. He caught two passes for 35 yards.
In the first half, the Vikings outgained the Titans 226-87 and held Tennessee to converting just one of seven third downs.
Dating back to last year, Ponder had gone 145 passes without throwing an interception. On his last pass of the first half and his first pass of the second half, he had two straight passes picked off.
Sunday was the first time in five games that the Vikings didn’t start the game with the ball. They had either won the toss or had the opponent defer on the opening kick, which had Chad Greenway happy the team lost the coin toss.
“We were begging to play defense first,” Greenway said. “Every game we’ve played offense first and (the defense) had to sit and twiddle our thumbs. I’m glad we got the stop and set the tone,” he said.
The paid attendance was 57,562 – the third straight non-sellout at the Metrodome this season. From 1998-2011, the Vikings sold out every game they played in the preseason, postseason and regular season.
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.