Yo Adrian!


Adrian Peterson took the first steps on what many believe is the path to a great NFL career, racking up 163 yards from scrimmage and scoring a 60-yard receiving touchdown in the Vikings’ 24-3 rout of the Vickless Atlanta Falcons.

Peterson posted 103 rushing yards on 19 carries – a heavier work-load than one might’ve anticipated, given that Peterson didn’t even start the game at RB. Chester Taylor, the Vikings 1000-yard man from a year ago, was the one lined up at tailback when the offense first took the field – but Chester suffered a hip injury on a flubbed screen pass in the first quarter (he was actually kicked by Artis Hicks as the lineman tumbled to the ground) and was out for the rest of the game. This placed the onus squarely on Peterson, who responded with 5.4 yards-per-carry, and that game-breaking 60-yard 4th quarter TD.

It was a swing-pass that provided Peterson and the Vikings their big highlight – ironically, given that Taylor was injured on a similar type of play. The Peterson play initially looked like another disaster – Adrian bobbled it, but showed good concentration in holding on, then turned on the jets and, after fellow rookie Sidney Rice cleared out D’Angelo Hall, raced past everybody for the score. It was a beautiful exclamation point on what had, up till then, been an ugly game for the Purple offense. In fact, when Peterson passed the 20 on his way to the end-zone, it marked the first (and only) time the Vikings penetrated the Falcons red-zone the entire game.

The performance of both teams was characterized by shaky offense and stout defense. Atlanta had begun moving the ball with some success early when Kevin Williams posted the first game-changing play, snatching a Joey Harrington pass out of the air like a magician and running it back 54 yards for a TD. It was a case of everything old being new again for Harrington, who coming into the game had been picked 14 times in his career by the Vikes. It didn’t get much better after that for Harrington – he was sacked by E.J. Henderson on the next series, and would end up being sacked five more times before the game was over.

Yes, the Vikings finally learned the meaning of rushing the quarterback. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier called some timely blitzes, allowing MLB E.J. Henderson to tally a pair of first-half sacks. Per habit, Joey Harrington seemed to get rattled by the pressure. Things did loosen up for the Falcons offense in the second quarter despite this – they were able to drive from their 2 all the way to the Vikings 25, largely by running away from the Williams wall with Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood. The work was all for naught though as kicker Estero Prater, who won the job from Billy Cundiff just a week ago, pushed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide-right.

The Purple defense picked up where it left off last year, stuffing the run up the middle and stringing out many edge plays. There was too much soft coverage, but again, the pass rush showed marked improvement, and the blitzes were by-and-large effective. The biggest development though concerned the Vikings’ quest for a pin-his-ears-back corner pass-rusher, which has been going on seemingly since Chris Doleman left the team. Perhaps he won’t make us forget Doleman, but rookie Brian Robison has certainly begun making his mark. He sacked Joey Harrington twice in the 4th quarter, when all true sack artists are at their best. If Robison can continue creating this much havoc off the edge, the Vikings might have themselves a pass defense to match their stifling run D.

It’s hard to feel quite so encouraged by the offense, which outside of Adrian Peterson, proved itself inconsistent at best. The first half saw the O managing only 101 yards altogether, 40 by Peterson himself. Tarvaris Jackson once again demonstrated his limitations as a passer – he looked good on a few short passes and timing routes, but missed every deep ball he threw, and got himself picked by throwing one wide to TE Visanthe Shiancoe, causing him to tip the ball to D’Angelo Hall who was playing centerfield. Jackson’s stats looked passable overall – 13/23 with 166 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Subtract Peterson’s long catch-and-run however and you see a truer measure of Jackson’s performance – 106 yards on 22 attempts. At this point, Jackson is only effective in dink-and-dunk mode – forget about stretching the field, even with speedy receivers like Sidney Rice and Troy Williamson. Had it not been for Peterson’s Herculean efforts, the offense would’ve been woeful.

Peterson and the defense were the story of this win – as was Joey Harrington’s continued inability to play well in the Metrodome. 24-3 is a rout in anyone’s book, but it was not one arrived at through dynamic offense – it was a grinding game punctuated by a few timely, huge plays. There’s a lot to be happy about though if you’re a Vikings fan – particularly the performances of our young guys, Adrian Peterson and Brian Robison mostly, but also Sidney Rice who made a couple nice catches and had that big block on Hall, and Marcus McCauley who contributed 3 tackles as the nickelback. These guys already all look good, and are only going to get better as the season goes on. If Tarvaris Jackson can improve along with them, there might be reason for real optimism.

More Game Notes:

Cedric Griffin and E.J. Henderson tied for the team lead with 7 tackles.

Kenechi Udeze finally ended his notorious sack drought – by bringing down Joey Harrington on the very last play of the game, after the Falcons had pointlessly called a time-out with 1 second left on the clock. Guess God wanted Kenechi to get that one.

Falcons coach Bobby Petrino is the latest paranoid NFL coach to hold his laminated play-sheet over his mouth as he calls plays. Chilly did the same thing before ceding play-calling to Darrell Bevell.

All 5 of Chris Kluwe‘s punts ended up inside the 20. He was aided on one effort when Falcons punt returner Adam Jennings, who they recently traded Allen Rossum for, inexplicably fielded the ball on the five rather than let it bounce into the endzone for a touchback (Jennings was immediately tackled).

Bobby Wade was our leading gainer among wide receivers with a whopping 28 yards. Speaking of receivers:

Randy Moss’s first game as a Patriot: 9 catches, 183 yards and one 51-yard touchdown. Would Bill Belichick be above fabricating a bad hammy as a way of tricking his first-week opponent into thinking they wouldn’t need to worry about Moss? They did play the Jets and their old pal Mangenius…

Judd Zulgad gives us these tidbits:

Adrian Peterson set a team record for most yards rushing in his first NFL game with 103. D.J. Dozier had held the record since Sept. 13, 1987 when he rushed for 57 yards.

Peterson becomes only the third Vikings player to gain 100 yards rushing in his first game, joining Herschel Walker (Oct. 15, 1989) and Leroy Hoard (Nov. 17, 1996).

Kevin Williams’ 54-yard interception for a touchdown was the second longest by a Vikings defensive lineman in team history and the longest returned for a score.

Kevin Williams set a team record for most touchdowns in a career by a defensive lineman with three (two fumbles, one interception).

And how’s this one for wacky: Brad Childress becomes the first Viking coach ever to win his first two season openers. Take that Bud Grant.

Most annoying commercials: The More Taste League ads. Trying too hard.

Most annoying FOX broadcast development: Kurt Menefee announcing at the end of every update that it was less than seven minutes until the next update. No one looks forward enough to hearing Kurt Menefee that they need to be kept constantly apprised of when he will next be appearing. Not even his wife.

Yes, now we have a new reason to hate Kurt Menefee.