The Vikings entered Sunday's game shorthanded because of injuries to three starters and lost Brett Favre on their first series. It hardly mattered.
With Favre knocked out of the game with a sprained sternoclavicular joint (shoulder) on his first series after getting knocked to the turf by Buffalo Bills linebacker Arthur Moats, backup Tarvaris Jackson led a scoring barrage on the Vikings' way to a 38-14 win at Mall of America Field.
Jackson's second series ended in an interception by Bills cornerback Drayton Florence, the same player that intercepted Favre's only pass, and Florence returned the pick for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead. But Jackson led the Vikings on four straight touchdown drives over a nine-minute span in the first half and the Vikings never looked back.
The Vikings scored 38 unanswered points. Adrian Peterson rushed 16 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns despite a sprained ankle. Jackson recovered from his early interception and ended up completing 15 of 22 passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Both of his touchdowns went to Sidney Rice, who appeared to be back in 2009 form for the first time this season, catching five passes for 105 yards.
They did it all shorthanded. Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson was out with a thumb injury, replaced by rookie Chris DeGeare. On the other side of center John Sullivan, Ryan Cook was making his second start at right guard after Anthony Herrera was lost of the season two weeks ago with a knee injury. Receiver Percy Harvin stayed home with complications from migraine headaches and receiver Greg Lewis was held out because of a concussion last week. Rookie quarterback Joe Webb was expecting to see solid action at receiver, but a hamstring injury in the first quarter sent him to the sidelines while Greg Baskett was inactive as well.
On defense, the Vikings were without Ray Edwards because of a sprained ankle and safety Madieu Williams didn't play the first defensive series after being late for the team bus following the Redskins game.
While the end score never made it look close, Jackson's interception on his second series was returned 40 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Bills lead, but that would be short-lived.
The Vikings scored touchdowns on their next four possessions.
The first was a terrific grab on a 31-yard pass into the end zone that Rice wrestled away from Leodis McKelvin. Rice was initially ruled out of bounds, but interim head coach Leslie Frazier won his first challenge and the Vikings tied the game 7-7 with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
When McKelvin fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, Frank Walker recovered on the 14-yard line and the Vikings were in business again. After getting a pass interference call (on McKelvin) on a toss intended for Bernard Berrian, Peterson bulled in from 1 yard out for a 14-7 lead four seconds into the second quarter.
After a Bills punt, Jackson led the Vikings on the move again. He hit Visanthe Shiancoe for 15 yards and then scrambled for 13 yards, which had 15 more added to it when Donte Whitner was flagged for a blow to Jackson's helmet at the end of the run. Peterson finished that drive as well with a 3-yard run into the end zone and Minnesota had a 21-7 lead.
Antoine Winfield set up another Vikings score when he returned an interception 41 yards to the 5-yard line. After a 1-yard loss by Toby Gerhart, Rice made another great catch in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead with 8 minutes to play in the first half.
The Vikings closed out the half with a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell as time expired for a 31-7 halftime lead.
It wasn't just the score the Vikings dominated in the first half. They 17 first downs to the Bills' two. They had 246 total yards to the Bills' 41. They had 160 net yards passing to the Bills' 9, and they had no penalties to the Bills' three.
Despite all of Jackson's touchdown passes, he was also chucking interceptions, too – three of them, including two in the Vikings' first three drives of the second half. However, the Vikings defense was also forcing turnovers, one on a forced fumble by Ben Leber that Robison recovered and another forced by Jared Allen that Robison also recovered.
Peterson followed that second recovery with a 43-yard touchdown run on the Vikings' next play, giving them a 38-7 lead 14 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Another Bills fumble on an aborted play on the Minnesota 1-yard line that Leber recovered ended yet another Buffalo drive, but when the Vikings put in their second-string defense the Bills were able to score the final points of the game and their first offensive points in the loss.
Despite all of Jackson's production, interim head coach Leslie Frazier said Favre would be the starter if healthy next week against the New York Giants. While Favre is the biggest name among those that didn't play or played little Sunday, the Vikings have plenty of injury questions hanging over them this week, but at least they were able to gain more confidence in their backups in a dominating win.
Vikings survive injuries, bash Bills
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