In the backwards race to obtain the top pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings could have made some headway with a loss provided that the St. Louis Rams shocked the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Instead, they beat the Carolina Panthers after enough things happened to go their way, some of which they deserve credit for and some of which they don’t. A missed field goal by Olindo Mare at the end of regulation ensured the Vikings’ victory.
The game started out with Marcus Sherels showing some skills with a 78 yards kick return. A three and out, combined with a missed Ryan Longwell field goal, meant the Vikings were unable to capitalize on a great situation.
Once The Panthers had the ball, however, E.J. Henderson was able to blitz rookie sensation Cam Newton and knock the ball from his hands. The fumble was recovered by Jared Allen and Bill Musgrave opened up the “Percy” chapter in his playbook, which resulted in a 10 yard touchdown run by Harvin.
In the second quarter the Panthers, like so many of the Vikings opponents, took advantage of the defense’s inability to cover tight ends. Newton threw a one yard touchdown to Jeremy Shockey and a 39 yard touchdown to Greg Olsen.
After Percy Harvin caught a third down pass inside the Panthers’ five yard line he had the ball stripped from his hands and the Panthers started driving, threatening to go up by two scores before halftime. That is when the league’s most dominant defensive player thus far, Jared Allen, went to work. Jared Allen beat pro bowl caliber left tackle Jordan Gross and was able to knock the ball out of Newton’s hand which was recovered by Chad Greenway.
Just before the half, Christian Ponder tossed a 19 yard screen to Adrian Peterson for the game tying touchdown.
In the third quarter each team managed a touchdown. Steve Smith, who abused Asher Allen all day long, nabbed a 22 yard touchdown. Adrian Peterson responded with a nine yard power run that will instantly become a mainstay in his highlight reel. Ryan Longwell’s fourth quarter field goal was the final score of the game and the Vikings were able to get the first win ever in Carolina.
There was plenty of disgusting football for fans of both teams to digest on Sunday, and the Vikings clearly need help in the secondary and along the offensive line, but it is hard not to come away from this one talking about some positives.
Christian Ponder made no big mistakes. He was 18 of 28 for 236 yards and a touchdown, and absolutely incredible on third downs. Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin continued to be contributors, while new additions like Kyle Rudolph and Michael Jenkins keep showing up at key times.
On defense, Jared Allen has been a beast which continued on Sunday. Erin Henderson was another defender that stood out. They lacked consistency as a whole unit, particularly when the offense gave them short breaks, but came up big at key moments on a number of occasions.
Leslie Frazier did not have his best performance of the season, but some great performances combined with a little luck, means Frazier should get to go into the bye week focused on how to beat Green Bay instead of answering questions about his questionable management of the challenge flag.