People were starting to whisper that Adrian Peterson‘s 224 yard, 3 TD performance against the Bears was nothing but a fluke – more the result of luck and poor Bear tackling than Peterson greatness. Those whispers were all silenced today though, as Peterson ran roughshod over a previously stout San Diego Chargers‘ defense, compiling an NFL record 296 yards and scoring 3 TDs in leading the Vikings to a 35-17 rout.
Peterson’s performance was made all the more remarkable by the fact that, at halftime, he was having only a so-so game – 43 yards and 1 touchdown. He must’ve taken some Superman pills in the locker room though, because on the Vikings’ first possession in the 3rd he busted one for 64 yards and a touchdown, and would end up posting a staggering 253 second-half yards and scoring a third TD for the game. And as if this weren’t good enough, Peterson put up these insane numbers right in front of the supposed best back in the league, Ladanian Tomlinson, who was himself in the midst of being thoroughly stuffed by the Vikings’ D.
And speaking of that Purple defense…there was a lot of talk going into today’s game about the team’s inability to defend the pass, and many dire predictions about the huge numbers TE extraordinaire Antonio Gates would rack up. Well, I guess it’s time for me and the other naysayers to eat some crow, because the Viking D came up huge, even without their best corner Antoine Winfield who sat out the game with an injury. Gates, who was supposed to make us miserable all day, ended the game with one late catch for 10 yards. Philip Rivers, who was supposed to gash the Viking D the same way McNabb did last week, posted only 197 yards on 42 attempts with no TDs and one pick. Rivers, it turned out, spent more time trying to escape the Vikings’ pass-rush than making plays. The Vikes only sacked Rivers once, but the pressure was nonetheless on him all day, especially up the middle. The key figure in this relentless attack was E.J. Henderson, whom Leslie Frazier unleashed like a mad dog.
The uncharacteristically ferocious Viking pass rush helped the depleted secondary handle the Chargers’ receivers. Nonetheless the Chargers had opportunities, but found themselves consistently getting in their own way. Chris Chambers, whom the Chargers recently acquired from Miami, saw two chances for big plays go for naught, once when he turned the wrong way and missed the ball despite being wide-open, and once when an illegal formation call wiped out what would’ve been a 40-yard gain. It was that sort of day for San Diego, who committed 10 penalties for 67 yards – 25 more yards than their vaunted running attack was able to gain all day.
There was one historic highlight for the Chargers however: At the end of the first half, the Vikings, with Brooks Bollinger in the game for an injured Tarvaris Jackson, were able to put themselves in position for a 58-yard Ryan Longwell field goal attempt. Longwell’s kick was on line but short. San Diego special teams whiz Antonio Cromartie caught the ball with his foot almost on the back-line of the end-zone and ran it out. The Vikings, obviously not prepared, saw Cromartie sweep past them down the sideline, and score an improbable 109-yard TD, breaking – by one yard – the record for longest-ever NFL play (previously held by Devin Hester).
You might’ve forgiven Viking coach Brad Childress if, at that moment, his head had exploded with anger and frustration – especially given how poorly the offense was once again performing to that point. That frustration would all disappear like magic in the second half however, thanks to a superlative defensive effort, a dominant showing by the offensive line, competent quarterbacking from no. 2 man Brooks Bollinger (including a huge 40-yard TD pass to Sydney Rice)…and, oh yeah, some nifty runs by that fellow who wears 28, and is sometimes referred to as Purple Jesus.