Not many people gave the Vikings a chance in this game but they came out and proved all the doubters wrong. They beat San Francisco by being the more physical team, by getting some timely big play action from their quarterback and by avoiding mistakes. The first half was the Christian Ponder show. Thanks to Ponder’s improvisation, both with his arm and legs, the Vikes were able to build a 17-3 lead. San Francisco’s offense was able to move the ball on the Vikings but they didn’t finish off drives.
The second half began on a sour note when Kyle Williams ran the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Vikings’ 14, but again the 49ers were unable to punch it in and had to settle for three. After a short Vikings possession the 49ers came right back and put together their best drive of the game, finishing it with a TD from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. Fans started getting nervous with score now 17-13.
But the Vikes had an answer for San Francisco. A big dose of Adrian Peterson with well-timed shots to Kyle Rudolph and Percy Harvin. Those guys are clearly the Vikings’ top 3 offensive weapons and they all came to play today. Ponder hit Rudolph in the end zone at the start of the 4th to give the Vikes a 24-13 lead.
San Fran had their chance to come back but couldn’t put drives together. Alex Smith didn’t make plays for them. Randy Moss was on the bench for most of the fourth quarter and was therefore a non-factor. With time winding down, Jim Harbaugh unleashed a little tomfoolery on the replacement refs to try and give his team a chance. After a short Toby Gerhart running play Harbaugh threw a challenge flag claiming Toby had fumbled. The play was reversed and the ball went to San Francisco. In fact, Harbaugh should not have been able to challenge the play as he had just called his final time out. But the bewildered replacement refs for some reason let Harbaugh have back the time out.
The gaffe would ultimately not benefit the 49ers. A couple plays later Alex Smith was picked off by Josh Robinson who took a knee. On the ensuing series, Harbaugh tried the same challenge trick again after a Gerhart run but the review showed Gerhart fell on his own fumble and Harbaugh’s last time out was finally taken away from him. Gerhart would fumble the ball away a couple plays later but the Vikes’ defense closed the deal thanks to a Jared Allen sack-and-strip.
The big storylines coming out of this game? The play of Christian Ponder, who looked like a poised veteran throughout the game. The Vikes’ passing attack was once again conservative but Ponder used his legs to make big plays and showed very good touch on several of his passes. Kyle Rudolph emerged as a great weapon with two TD receptions. Percy Harvin did his thing and Adrian Peterson showed up with a couple key runs. Defensively, the Vikes got a great effort from Chad Greenway, who right now is one of the best linebackers in the league. Jared Allen was frustrated for much of the game due to lack of sack action and a painful neck stinger, but he made a huge play when it was needed. Overall, the Vikings just played better than San Francisco. They were more physical, they made fewer mistakes, and yes they got more breaks. But it’s not the breaks, it’s what you do with them that matters. This day, the Vikings made the most of the bounces that went their way. And got their biggest win in several years.