The Vikings found their ground game again at Lambeau, with Toby Gerhart complementing Adrian Peterson's fourth 100-yard game of the season. Plus, more than 20 notes help tell the tale of the game.
Nobody likes a tie in the NFL. The claim is that a tie is like kissing your sister. For NFL players, a tie is more like kissing your shop teacher. But in their 26-26 tie with the Green Bay Packers
, the Vikings established their running game like they haven't done all season.
The Vikings ground game was as dominant as it has been since late last season, when it propelled the team into the playoffs. Of their 79 offensive plays, the Vikings ran the ball 43 times, gaining 232 yards – an average of 5.4 yards per attempt.
What was expected was that Adrian Peterson
would be a big focal point of the offense and he was. Peterson ran 32 times for 146 yards – both season highs – and scored a touchdown. But what wasn't expected was the production from backup Toby Gerhart
Gerhart didn't have a rushing attempt until the third quarter but finished the game with eight carries for 91 yards – just four yards shy of his season total coming into the game. His rushing attempts went for 15, 6, 26, 11, 9, 12, 11 and 1 yards.
"It worked out today. Adrian got banged up on a play and I was able to come in and get into a little groove," Gerhart said. "We started going back and forth a little bit and it felt good. It starts with the guys up front and moving them off the ball and getting them up the field. When you are a running back, you like having open space to get going and they provided that. The rest was on our shoulders to break a long one."
Gerhart routinely gashed the Packers and was a critical piece of the drives that gave the Vikings a 23-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and in the overtime drive that resulted in the game-tying points that led to the 26-26 final score.
The offensive line that had been much-maligned for much of the season for not creating the running lanes for the Vikings backfield came up big Sunday with a dominant performance that helped lead the Vikings to as strong a game as the offense has put together in some time.
"I thought that the guys up front did an outstanding job of creating space for the runners to run," receiver Greg Jennings said. "Toby and Adrian did a great job of hitting the holes, evading some tackles and getting extra yards."
It didn't translate into a win, but it was definitely a positive sign that helped further cripple Green Bay's playoff hopes.
GAME DAY NOTES
The tie was the first of the 2013 NFL season and will likely impact both teams – taking away any potential tie-breakers the Packers might have as they battle for a playoff spot and, for the Vikings, it will likely mean that no other team will have the same record when it comes to determining draft slotting for 2014.
With his 146 yards, Peterson is now second in the NFL in rushing with 997 yards, trailing only LeSean McCoy (1,009). He is 89 yards ahead of Alfred Morris, who plays Monday night against San Francisco.
Sunday was the 100th game of Peterson's career. The only running backs with more yards in their first 100 games were Eric Dickerson (10,818) and Jim Brown (10,403).
Peterson's 32 carries were the most he had in a game since the regular season finale against Green Bay last year (34).
Gerhart's 91 rushing yards tied the second-highest total of his career and his most since Dec. 24, 2011, when he replaced Peterson at Washington when A.P. suffered a career-threatening knee injury.
The Vikings came into Sunday's game allowing conversions on slightly less than half of opponents' third-down attempts (49.0 percent). On Sunday, the Vikings held Green Bay to just three of 16 third-down conversions.
In the first quarter, Green Bay converted 2 of 3 third downs and just one of 13 the rest of the game.
The two teams combined for 941 yards of offense – 494 on 89 plays by the Packers and 447 on 79 plays by the Vikings.
Christian Ponder had one of his best games of the season, completing 21 of 30 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown, no turnovers and a passer rating of 103.9.
Matt Flynn made a case that if Aaron Rodgers isn't ready for their Thanksgiving Day matchup with Detroit he deserves the starting nod. Flynn completed 21 of 36 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown – all after halftime. Starter Scott Tolzien was benched after the first drive of the second half, completing just 7 of 17 passes for 98 yards.
Ponder got sacked six times and scrambled away from a couple more as the Packers dialed up blitzes much of the day.
Eddie Lacy rushed 25 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. It was his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and the fifth for the Packers this season. That is shocking considering Green Bay went almost three years without a 100-yard rusher.
Cordarrelle Patterson led the Vikings with eight receptions for 54 yards. He was one of nine Vikings to catch at least one pass Sunday.
In his return to Lambeau Field, Greg Jennings caught just two passes for 29 yards. He was booed loudly on both of his catches. He also dropped a crucial third-down pass in overtime.
Audie Cole, making his first career start, led all players with 13 tackles and added three quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss and a sack.
Patterson had another strong game returning kicks, returning four kickoffs for 126 yards (a 31.5-yard average), including a 57-yard return.
In the first half, the two teams combined for 347 yards. After halftime, the teams combined for 594 yards.
In the second and third quarters the Vikings outgained the Packers 197-98, but in the fourth quarter Green Bay held a 173-20 yardage advantage.
Entering Sunday's game, the Vikings were just one of six teams in NFL history to have allowed 23 or more points in each of its first 10 games. That streak continued Sunday.
Xavier Rhodes had one of the best games of his young career. The Packers targeted him, but Rhodes stood tall, breaking up four passes.
The game-time temperature was 19 degrees, the coldest game the Vikings have played since their playoff loss at Green Bay last season.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.