Notebook: Contributions from unlikely sources

Jerome Simpson (Leon Halip/Getty)

It didn't seem like it, but the Vikings' passing game accounted for half of their first downs, thanks to some unlikely sources. Seldom-used receivers were a big part of the success Sunday. Plus, the Vikings applied pressure in different ways, Blair Walsh had an all-around big day and several interesting stats on Adrian Peterson and others.

The Vikings' biggest star, Adrian Peterson, was on his game once again with a 212-yard rushing performance in the Vikings' 36-22 win at St. Louis. But the Vikings also got more contributions from several background players that have been hard to spot this season.

WR Jerome Simpson was targeted six times, the second-most for him this season, and had four receptions, tying his season best. He now has 19 receptions for 203 yards on the season.

"I was excited to see Jerome Simpson get out and make some plays," QB Christian Ponder said. "First time in a while that it looked like he was having fun. He was laughing and smiling, back to how he was over the summer. We're going to keep building on top of that."

RB Toby Gerhart had five rushes for minus-5 yards (four of them in the final two drives when the Vikings were looking to milk the clock), but he had a season-high 21 yards receiving on two catches.

TE John Carlson had a season-high three targets and a season-high three receptions for a season-high 17 yards.

WR Stephen Burton also had season bests in targets (four), receptions (three) and yards (22).

Ponder had only 131 yards passing, but nine of the Vikings' 18 first downs came in the passing game, and it was often players that hadn't been regular contributors that were the receivers.

ADRIAN OR ADJUSTMENTS?

Peterson had only eight yards on eight carries to start the game, and the Rams were intently focused on stopping the Vikings' superstar. After nine carries, his yardage total ballooned to 90 after an 82-yard touchdown.

By the time he was done, Peterson had 212 yards rushing and didn't touch the ball after his 52-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.

"They kept crashing some guys down inside to make us bounce the football, trying to get us to go sideways rather than do the things we've had so much success with," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.

"Over 200 yards rushing when people are packing the line of scrimmage and trying to stop him? Just extremely impressive."

Frazier said the Vikings made some adjustments after the first two series to exploit the Rams' early run-blitzing tactics.

ALL AROUND THE ENDS

Brian Robison had the first sack of the game, but his day ended shortly thereafter when he suffered a sprained right shoulder in the first quarter.

From there, Everson Griffen got more extensive time and it didn't take him long to make an impact. Midway through the second quarter, he dropped into coverage, intercepted a Sam Bradford pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown for a 24-7 Vikings lead.

"He has really become a student of the game. He's really working at his craft. We've got a few guys that really spent a lot of time this offseason, not just on getting better as an athlete but really trying to understand the game," Frazier said. "That was the beauty of having this offseason, really trying to spend some time with our guys and just talk about what it takes to execute your assignment on every single play. As Everson has matured, he's become more of a pro at his craft and it's paying off in his play."

Griffen ended up playing 69 defensive snaps, easily the most this season, while filling in for Robison.

After the Griffen interception, the Vikings turned up the pressure on Bradford, and Erin Henderson and Christian Ballard followed with sacks on two of the Rams' next three snaps on their ensuing series.

"That was part of the game plan to mix in some pressures with our four-man rush. We were able to, early on especially, get some effective pressures," Frazier said. "The interception that Everson had came off a pressure. We were able to hurry the throw and make him see something that wasn't there. Everson did a terrific job of dropping into coverage. Good call by (defensive coordinator Alan Williams) to bring pressure when they were anticipating coverage. It worked out well for us. Great run at the end of the catch by Everson as well."

WALSH'S WORLD

Kicker Blair Walsh had a career-high 18 points and was five-for-five on field goals. Three of those were longer than 50 yards.

"What a great weapon for our offense to have," Ponder said of Walsh. "We know that once we cross that 40 and are approaching field goal range, he's been clutch. He's unbelievable."

Walsh also had six of his eight kickoffs go for touchbacks.

"He's been incredible, and not only his field goals and the fact that he set a Viking record (Sunday) with three 50-plus field goals, but the kickoffs, that's a big part of our defensive improvement," Frazier said. "Being able to have drives start inside the 20 has helped our team tremendously. He's been everything that we hoped for when we drafted him and I'm just very, very happy that he's a part of our team. He doesn't play like he's a rookie."

On the two times the Rams tried to advance Walsh's kickoffs, they were stopped on the 12- and 14-yard lines with great coverage by the Vikings.

NOTES

  • Safety Mistral Raymond tweaked his ankle but returned to action. Raymond played 25 defensive snaps while Jamarca Sanford played 56 in their rotation alongside rookie Harrison Smith, who played all 81 snaps.

  • CB Antoine Winfield played in only 72 percent of the defensive snaps, but it apparently didn't have much to do with his lingering knee injury. "No setback," Frazier said. ""It was purely me saying, ‘Hey, let's get him out. We've got a pretty good cushion here.' We wanted to be sure we had him ready for next week."

  • Receiver Percy Harvin, who is on injured reserve, had an emergency appendectomy on Saturday, not surgery to repair his left ankle, Frazier said.

  • Peterson is the fourth player in NFL history with 8,500 or more rushing yards and 75 or more rushing touchdowns in his first six seasons, joining LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson.

  • Peterson had 212 yards rushing and the Vikings had 213 total rushing yards.

  • Peterson now has four career 200-yard rushing games, tied for third-most in NFL history. He is the seventh player ever with at least four.

  • The Rams had four plays go 20 yards or more and the Vikings only had two. The difference? The Rams' plays were for 26, 23, 22 and 21 yards. Peterson had runs of 82 and 52 yards.

  • How about this well-rounded stats line for Chad Greenway: 14 tackles, one sacks for eight yards, two tackles for a loss, one quarterback hit and he was credited with one fumble recovery (that could be handed over to Kevin Williams on review).

  • Marcus Sherels' 15-yard punt return was his longest since Oct. 25.

  • Sunday was the latest calendar day in NFL history with six games between teams with winning records, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

  • The Rams and Vikings honored the 26 victims in last week's shootings in Connecticut by having the players that wear number 26 for both teams, Winfield for the Vikings and Daryl Richardson for the Rams, meet at midfield with head coaches Leslie Frazier and Jeff Fisher for a moment of silence.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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