What looked to be an incredibly tough opening get-away on the Vikings' schedule has taken a turn for the good with an impressive road win, thanks to a huge gamble that backfired on the visiting Carolina Panthers on the second weekend of the NFL schedule and an ensuing gamble that paid off for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings (2-0) battled through another hard-hitting game, but ended up getting a huge break on a blundered trick play on a Carolina (0-2) punt return that helped them stay in the game in the fourth quarter. They followed that with a fake field goal that allowed them to tie the game with 7:48 to play, sending it to overtime. Once there, they endured a questionable and potentially tide-turning call that overruled a Panthers fumble, but the Vikings eventually won 16-13 on a 19-yard field goal midway into the overtime period.
Special teams defined the game, with only one touchdown scored by an offense, six field goals, one blocked field goal, an attempted cross-field pass on a punt return and a fake field goal that went for the game-tying touchdown. The Vikings survived it all despite converting only 2 of 13 third downs, enduring five sacks and numerous other quarterback knockdowns.
They did by once against sticking with the run in a close ballgame. Chester Taylor rushed 24 times for 113 yards, and Troy Williamson gave them some explosiveness in the passing game with six catches for 102 yards. Through it all, Brad Johnson finished with 243 yards on 19 of 31 passing with one interception and no touchdowns.
The Panthers' decision to attempt a cross-field lateral on a fourth-quarter punt return backfired when Minnesota's Jason Glenn recovered, putting the Vikings in good enough field position to get the first touchdown pass thrown by a kicker in team history on a 16-yard toss to Richard Owens on a fake field goal. That allowed the Vikings to send it to overtime, where Longwell won the game with his leg.
There were certainly no signs of the trickery to come in the first half.
The Vikings had what looked to be a Taylor-made touchdown drive to start the game, but an untimely penalty took out the "touchdown" part of that equation. After picking up an offside penalty on Kris Jenkins on the first snap of the game, Chester Taylor ran six consecutive plays for 23 yards before Johnson connected with a wide-open Travis Taylor for 36 yards to the 7-yard line. But that's when a first-down holding penalty on Artis Hicks on a Chester Taylor would-be touchdown run backed the team up 10 yards. They couldn't make up for the lost yardage and settled for a 26-yard Ryan Longwell field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 8:28 left in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged punts into the second quarter until Carolina got rookie running back DeAngelo Williams involved in the offense. He started the Panthers' third drive of the game with a 19-yard run that could have been stopped at the line of scrimmage, then took a 16-yard screen while lined up as a receiver, slipped a tackle and turned that into a 16-yard gain. When Keyshawn Johnson took the third play of the drive for 21 yards, the Panthers were set up with first down on the 13-yard line. Continuing their theme from their first game of the season, the Vikings' red zone defense rose up and forced a 25-yard John Kasay field goal with 12:12 left in the first half.
The Vikings responded with their own field goal drive. The Taylors continued to figure largely into their plans, starting with two runs from Chester Taylor that netted 20 yards. Travis Taylor followed with an acrobatic grab in the middle of the field to put Minnesota 10 yards from paydirt. However, that task got considerably harder when Johnson was flagged for intentional grounding, a desperation move in the grasp of a defender. From the 22-yard line, the Vikings couldn't get it across the goal line, bringing Longwell onto the field for a 22-yard field goal and a 6-3 Vikings lead with 5:25 to play in the second quarter.
Carolina responded with the first touchdown drive of the game to close the first-half scoring. They worked it with missed tackles and missed opportunities on defense. Keyshawn Johnson started it with a 10-yard reception before Drew Carter beat Fred Smoot in coverage for a 16-yard completion on third down. The next Carolina first down came on an easy pass interference penalty on E.J. Henderson that turned third-and-8 into a first down. One play later, Johnson made a catch in traffic that he turned into a 40-yard pass play to the 8-yard line. Three plays later, Williams was diving into the end zone from 3 yards out to give Carolina a 10-6 lead going into halftime.
Minnesota continued to put itself in bad positions with penalties. Williamson gave the Vikings a first down with a 23-yard reception, but they were put in a precarious position at fourth-and-1 from Carolina's 35-yard line three plays later and converted with a 3-yard plunge by fullback Tony Richardson. But, after experiencing that success, Marcus Johnson was burned by Julius Peppers for a 13-yard sack, setting up a 51-yard field goal attempt three plays later, one that Peppers blocked and recovered to give the Panthers possession on their own 40-yard line.
With Antoine Winfield out for one series with a shoulder injury, Keyshawn Johnson continued to deliver. He got the first gain of the drive on a 17-yard catch before Williams looked like a star in the making again. After a 7-yard run, the rookie back broke a run around the right end for 23 yards that was moved to the 8-yard line with a facemask on Napoleon Harris. But after Foster brought the Panthers to the 1-yard line, Harris blew through the line right at the snap to bring down Delhomme for a 10-yard sack. That forced the game's fourth field goal, a 26-yarder by Kasay, for a 13-6 Panthers lead with 2:51 to play in the third quarter.
Four punts and one Brad Johnson interception later, the special teams trickery started with two plays that helped define the fourth quarter. The Panthers got a negative result when Chris Gamble fielded a Chris Kluwe punt, turned and tossed the ball backward across the field, a duck that linebacker Jason Glenn recovered at the Carolina 21-yard line.
What the offense wasn't able to do for the Vikings, the special teams did on the Vikings' ensuring drive. Lining up for a field goal, holder Chris Kluwe took the snap, flipped the ball to Longwell, who rolled right and found Richard Owens open for a 16-yard touchdown to knot the game 13-13 with 7:48 left in regulation.
The teams exchanged punts into overtime as the Vikings survived two controversial calls that overturned would-be sacks and kept the Minnesota offense from receiving the ball in Carolina territory on each of those occasions.
Instead, the offense had to do it the hard way on their first possession in overtime.
Taking over on their own 21-yard line following Carolina's initial punt, Williamson opened with a 9-yard reception that Chester Taylor turned into a first down. Facing third-and-11, Johnson found Williamson again, this time for 30 yards. One play later, Taylor found the left corner of the defense and sprinted 33 yards down the left sideline, a play that made it to the 2-yard line after a facemask penalty. Following two short runs, Longwell ended the game with a 19-yard field goal to give Minnesota a 16-13 win and a 2-0 record against 2005 playoff teams.
That level of competition will continue Sunday when the Vikings host another playoff team from last year, the Chicago Bears, and another formidable defense.
Vikings Get ‘Special' Overtime Win
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