The dominance of the Minnesota Vikings defense is becoming clearer each week as the team continues to pile up wins and keep opponents from doing much damage on the scoreboard.
There was reason to believe that Oakland could break that streak of dominance. In their first eight games, the Vikings hadn’t allowed anyone to score more than two touchdowns against them. When Derek Carr and his Oakland teammates scorched safety Andrew Sendejo for a pair of long gains and two touchdowns that gave the Raiders a 14-13 lead, it appeared as though the streak may be over and the Vikings had squandered a double-digit lead that might come back to bite them.
Instead, after Cordarrelle Patterson brought back a 93-yard kickoff return following the second Oakland touchdown, the defense had its lead back and never allowed Oakland to put any more points up on the board.
After scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives, in their final six drives the Raiders weren’t able to string anything together. Four straight drives ended with punts, the final two ended with an interception by Terence Newman and the game clock running out on Oakland’s last possession.
Needing a comeback in the second half, the Raiders had the ball just three times from the start of the half until they got the ball with 3:50 to play down by nine points, 23-14. In those three drives, they managed to gain just 56 yards, as the Vikings clamped down on the running game, blanketed receivers and forced Carr to try to make plays on the run as the pocket routinely collapsed around him. The main result from that was a pair of interceptions by Newman, one that killed a drive and another that put the game away.
While Adrian Peterson will probably dominate the headlines after going over 200 yards rushing, it was a defense that refused to allow the second quarter outburst by the Raiders to define how the game was going to be played.
For a ninth straight week, the Vikings haven’t allowed more than two touchdowns and, when teams hold opponents to 20 points, they’re going to win a lot of games. Just look at the 2015 Vikings for evidence of that.
GAME DAY NOTES
- The Vikings’ win, combined with the third straight loss by the Packers, not only has the Vikings in sole possession of first place, but gives them a big advantage in divisional tie-breakers. The Vikings are 3-0 against the NFC North, having beaten Detroit twice and Chicago on the road. The Packers are now 1-1 in the division with their home loss to the Lions.
- With Sunday’s win, the Vikings have matched their win total of Mike Zimmer’s first season as head coach.
- Of the seven head coaches who were hired prior to the start of the 2014 season, Zimmer is the only one with a winning record, having posted a 14-11 career mark in his first head coaching stint.
- Sunday’s win was just the second road win by the Vikings against a team from the AFC since 2009. The Vikings won the regular-season opener in 2009 at Cleveland and, prior to Sunday’s win, the Vikings had lost 11 of 12 AFC road games, getting their only win at Houston in 2012.
- Speaking of 2009, that was the last season the Vikings won five straight games.
- Peterson ran 26 times for 203 yards and a touchdown, tying the all-time NFL record for most games with 200 or more yards rushing. He came into Sunday’s game tied with Tiki Barber at five, but with his 203 yards, he is now tied with O.J. Simpson for the all-time record.
- The Vikings running game had a different look, as three wide receivers – Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Patterson – each had a rushing play in the first half.
- No player other than Peterson had more than two rushing attempts for the Vikings.
- Latavius Murray came into the game as the leading rusher in the AFC, but was held under wraps, rushing just 12 times for 48 yards.
- Terence Newman recorded the first interception by a Vikings defensive back in the first half and added a second in the fourth quarter that effectively put the game away. He almost had three picks. He came close to getting another interception on Oakland’s first drive of the second half.
- Newman’s two interceptions led to 10 Vikings points.
- The tale of two quarterbacks was markedly different. As has been the habit, Derek Carr puts up bigger numbers, but Teddy Bridgewater gets more wins. Carr completed 29 of 43 passes for 302 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 83.7. Bridgewater completed 14 of 22 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 96.8.
- Coming into Sunday’s game, Carr had thrown three or more touchdowns in four straight games and, after getting two TD passes in the second quarter, it looked as if he had a good shot of making it five straight, but the Vikings shut him out after that.
- The Vikings should have known something was going to happen in the second quarter. Of Carr’s 21 TD passes this year, 12 of them have come in the second quarter of games.
- Oakland rookie Amari Cooper had five catches for 79 yards, the most yards receiving for anyone in the game. The Vikings had nine different players catch passes, but nobody caught more than two.
- Mike Wallace caught one pass for 22 yards. In the last three Vikings wins, Wallace has just two receptions.
- Patterson scored his third career kickoff return for a touchdown after the Vikings had fallen behind 14-13 late in the first half. Oakland’s lead would last just 14 seconds and it gave the Vikings a lead they would never surrender, keeping Oakland off the board after getting the lead.
- As a team, the Vikings averaged 8 yards per rushing attempt, gaining 263 yards on 33 carries.
- Blair Walsh saw his streak of 17 field goals made in a row come to an end when he pushed a 53-yard field goal wide right as time expired in the first half. He would later have a field goal attempt blocked.
- Walsh had been hitting kickoffs for touchbacks at a 66 percent rate. On Sunday, he had seven kickoffs and six of them were returned.
- The Vikings and Raiders lived up to their reputations when it came to penalties. The Vikings had only three penalties for 15 yards, while Oakland had eight penalties for 82 yards.
- Both teams got in the red zone three times, but each came away with just one touchdown to show for it.
- The Vikings had two 10-play drives in the game and both of them came in the fourth quarter.
- Of their 11 drives, Oakland had four or fewer plays on six of them.
- The time of possession was won by the Vikings (33:01 to 26:59), but it was a game of T.O.P. domination from one quarter to the next. In the first quarter, the Vikings held the ball for 10:24 of the first 15 minutes. In the third quarter, Oakland held the ball for 10:18, and in the fourth the quarter the Vikings held the ball for 10:01.
- A week after winning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Linval Joseph was at it again Sunday. He tied for the team lead (with Captain Munnerlyn and Chad Greenway) with eight tackles, as well as posting a sack and a forced fumble.
- Perhaps the tackle of the day was made by special teamer Antone Exum. A fan ran out on the field as the Vikings were preparing to kick off, easily outdistancing the chunky security personnel in not-so-hot pursuit. Exum broke from the Vikings huddle, tackled the fan and held him until security arrived.
- Everson Griffen recorded a sack, giving him a team-high 5.5 sacks for the season.
- The Vikings lost a challenge in the second half. The Raiders punted to the Vikings and, as the ball was heading into the end zone, linebacker Korey Toomer dove on the ball. The ball itself never went into the end zone, but Toomer touched it with half his body across the goal line, which typically brings the ball out to the 20-yard line. The officials ruled the ball downed at the 3-yard line but inexplicably upheld the ruling after the Vikings challenged, costing Minnesota a second-half timeout.
- Carr owned the second quarter, completing 9 of 11 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. For the rest of the game, he completed 20 of 32 passes for 179 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
- Kyle Rudolph could have worn the goat horns had the Vikings lost. With a 7-0 lead in the red zone, Bridgewater had Rudolph wide open in the end zone, but the tight end dropped what should have been an easy catch and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal to give them a 10-0 lead.
- In the first half, Murray rushed six times for 29 yards. In the second half, the Vikings defense held him to just 19 yards on six carries.
- Prior to the game, as it did in all NFL stadiums on Sunday, the NFL asked fans to observe a moment of silence and reflection for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris Friday.