To say the Minnesota Vikings were reeling after being blown-out by the Packers 34-0 would be an understatement. They were, in fact, a team suspected by some of being well on their way to surrendering altogether. And added to the humiliation of that loss was the fact that their top offensive weapon, Adrian Peterson, had to be shelved after tearing a ligament in his knee.
So fans were right to wonder what sort of team they would see take the field today against the Oakland Raiders – a squad full of guys ready to re-dedicate themselves to winning without their big star, or a collection of disgruntled veterans and unproven rookies on the verge of packing it in. It quickly became apparent, however, that this Viking squad is far from finished. They came out clearly looking to make a statement – and did so on their first offensive play, running a reverse that ended with Sidney Rice lofting a pass to a wide-open Visanthe Shiancoe who carried it down to the Raider 5 (the ball was moved back to the 10 after a delay-of-game penalty for spiking). A shell-shocked Raider defense was then immediately gashed by Chester Taylor for a 10 yard TD, setting a tone that would last through most of the Vikings’ convincing 29-22 home victory.
Of course, today was also the day Daunte Culpepper came back to the Dome. The former Viking, whose split with the franchise was ugly to say the least, had a lot to prove to his former fans and teammates, and this motivation could be seen in his performance which would prove the strongest of his Raider career so far. Culpepper came out firing the kind of bombs he was known for from his days in Purple, when he had guys like Randy Moss and Cris Carter as targets. Today it was Ronald Curry at the other end of the Culpepper deep balls. Those long throws, coupled with a series of Viking turnovers, helped the Raiders to a 19-19 halftime tie.
The second half would mostly belong to the Vikings though, and especially to Chester Taylor, who proved to everyone that Adrian Peterson isn’t the only Minnesota back who can tote the rock. Chester, the beneficiary of the same kind of dominant blocking AD has had in his epic performances, posted an AD-like performance, cutting and slashing his way to 164 yards and 3 TDs, and adding 38 more yards on 3 receptions. Meanwhile, the oft-criticized Tarvaris Jackson posted one of his more efficient games of the season, passing for 171 yards and getting picked once, while generally looking more in control of the offense than he has at any other time in 2007.
It might be sacrilege to suggest that the Vikings looked better without AD than with him, but not having Adrian to lean on seemed to force Brad Childress to open up the offense, leading to more trick plays (Sidney Rice would complete a second pass in the game), and more frequent use of play-action, roll-outs and screens in situations where Chilly might’ve otherwise just handed it to Adrian. Hopefully, when Adrian does come back (and he could be back as early as next week, if things progress as they have been), the Vikings won’t forget the lessons they learned from today – that there is offensive life outside of Adrian left, Adrian right, and Adrian up the middle.