The Vikings found the cure for their red zone struggles: Score from outside of the red zone. All total, the Vikings offense rushed for 311 yards and put up 34 points. But it could have been even more had they capitalized on more of the opportunities they had created for themselves.
Tarvaris Jackson had a so-so game statistically, completing just 9 of 23 passes (39.1%) for 136 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 73.8. He protected the ball nicely and did not come close to turning the ball over, which is always the first objective. He also made one key big play with his 60-yard strike for a touchdown early in the game. He’s on the fringe of making more big plays but is still erratic at times. He was off target on at least six throws that where he had a receiver open for a possible completion. He missed his fullback, who had snuck behind Brian Urlacher on a brilliantly designed and called third-down play that would have gained 30-plus yards and maybe even a quick-strike touchdown. He also overthrew his big, athletic tight end down the middle of the field for a potential 25-yard-plus gain early in the contest. He had a few other throws in which his timing was simply off and he did not give his receiver a catchable throw. However, Jackson also had four key drops by his wide receivers – three that would have been nice drive-igniting crossing routes with a sure 10-15 yard gain on them, the other a potential 35-yard touchdown throw. If he connects on just half the missed opportunities (bad throws and/or dropped passes), his passer rating for this game would have been over 100. Jackson came back after resting from a groin injury the past three weeks. He didn’t show any noticeable ill affects from the injury, but it might have prevented him from running for a first down a couple times.
What can you say about the amazing performance by Adrian Peterson in this game? He rushed for 224 yards on 20 carries (11.2 avg.) with touchdown runs from scrimmage of 67, 73 and 35 yards. He also caught one pass for 9 yards. The kid was phenomenal with his explosiveness and pure speed, consistently outrunning defenders and their pursuit angles. He broke tackles, he made tacklers miss, he cut back, he utilized his blocking, he was the ultimate gamebreaker. He made the offensive line look like a Pro Bowl unit and he embarrassed what at least used to be a very good Chicago Bears defense. Check out the NFL.com video highlights if you’d like to see it all again.
Chester Taylor, who also started along with Peterson, picked up 83 yards on 22 carries (3.8 avg.) with a long of 14 yards. Taylor is no Adrian Peterson, but he is still a very effective running back.
Tony Richardson gained 4 yards on his lone carry, a key third-and-short conversion. He also would have had the chance at a big play in the passing game if Jackson had connected with him on the aforementioned play. A couple other plays of note involving Richardson were in his battle as a blocker with Bears’ All-Pro Lance Briggs. On one play, Briggs won the battle filling the hole and dropping Peterson for a loss. But on the 60-yard bomb for the team’s first score, Richardson flattened Briggs as he came through the line, thus solidifying a fully protected pocket for Jackson.
You have to be happy for Troy Williamson, who got the big-play monkey off his back so to speak when he burned safety Adam Archuleta for the 60-yard touchdown reception for the team’s first points of the game. The play essentially put Archuleta on the bench for the rest of the game. Williamson did drop a slant from Jackson imprinted between the “8” and the “2” on his jersey, and he had another difficult throw glance off his hands. He finished with two catches for 69 yards and the one touchdown. Williamson also provided adequate downfield blocks on two of Peterson’s long runs.
Bobby Wade led all Viking receivers with just three catches for 30 yards. He had some other tough chances but nothing you could outright call a drop. Wade is shifty, nifty, quick and elusive, but he does struggle to separate from defenders in terms of his speed, which makes a lot of his opportunities contested.
Robert Ferguson caught two for 15, but missed what could have been a 35-yard touchdown on a catchable throw into the end zone.
Sidney Rice regressed this week, dropping two on-the-money throws coming across the middle. He did redeem himself a bit, however, with an acrobatic, diving, fingertip reception on the sideline to convert a third down and pick up 13 yards.
Rookie Aundrae Allison was inactive.
Neither tight end caught a pass in the game. Visanthe Shiancoe had one opportunity in which Jackson overthrew him down the seam for a potential big play. Jim Kleinsasser was primarily a blocker. Both tight ends had strong performances in that regard. Shiancoe washed out the linebacker on Peterson’s first long run and he also had the key downfield block on Peterson’s final touchdown romp. Kleinsasser also contributed key blocks on many of the big gainers and did a solid job overall. Shiancoe had the offense’s only (accepted) penalty of the afternoon, a 5-yard offsides penalty that the offense actually overcame.
First-year man Garrett Mills was once again inactive.
Peterson deserves all the credit in the world for his spectacular performance, but the offensive line clearly had its finest overall performance of the season facing a very good Chicago Bears’ front seven. The running game averaged 7.2 yards per carry. Jackson was sacked just once (on a play in which he simply took a 3-yard sack), and he was only pressured four times in 23 pass attempts.
OLT Bryant McKinnie bounced back very strong from his past couple games and virtually neutralized Bears’ DE Mark Anderson the entire game. Anderson, who had 12 sacks and four forced fumbles as a rookie last season, and came into this game with four sacks this year, did nothing against McKinnie. He was credited with three tackles, but McKinnie owned him on pass protection and it is worth noting that all three of Peterson’s long runs keyed off McKinnie blocks at the point of attack.
OLG Steve Hutchinson was a mauler in the running game as he and center Matt Birk did a lot of nice work in the interior and blocking in space. Neither truly stood out, and Birk was beaten to the punch inside a couple times on running plays in which he had difficult blocking angles, but both he and Hutchinson were literally moving the pile at times.
Anthony Herrera started and played the entire game at right guard with impressive results. He was solid on pass protection and is noticeably more athletic and mobile than Artis Hicks as a run blocker. He might not match up as well against power, but he is definitely more mobile. The highlight play for Herrera was when he dropped Lance Briggs on Peterson’s first long touchdown run.
ORT Ryan Cook also turned one his strongest performances of the season. Going against Adewale Ogunleye, he controlled him at the point of attack and outright buried him a couple times. On the pass rush, he was not a factor. Cook did have one holding penalty that was not accepted due to the team’s inability to gain the first down.
There’s still inconsistency on offense due to inexperience, but things appear to be coming together. As these guys gain that experience, look out.
Coming Soon: Defense