A.D. got the best of L.T. and in the process set the NFL rushing record.
In a much-ballyhooed battle of running backs, the Vikings defense held the San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson to 40 yards on 16 carries while rookie Adrian Peterson set the all-time NFL record for rushing yards in a single game with 296 yards in a 35-17 upset of the San Diego Chargers.
As befitting of his "All Day" nickname, Peterson ran 13 times for 43 yards in the first half before turning it on with a record-setting second half. He ended the game with 296 yards rushing, the most ever in NFL history and took the Vikings from a 14-7 halftime deficit to a 35-17 win.
"He's better as he goes and the more he gets warm," head coach Brad Childress said. "That was a pretty salty run defense coming into it."
Along the way, Peterson's accomplishments were many, as he became the only rookie running back to gain 200 yards rushing two times in a season, as he broke his previous franchise record of 224 yards from his Oct. 14 performance against the Chicago Bears.
Peterson's runs also helped set up the passing game, as Sidney Rice came away with a 60-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from the arm of Brooks Bollinger. Bollinger entered the game late in the second quarter when starter Tarvaris Jackson suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the game. Jackson finished the game completing 6 of 12 passes for 63 yards while Bollinger was 7-for-10 for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings defense had a dominating performance as well, keeping Tomlinson to 40 yards rushing and 37 yards receiving. It also appeared to confuse and frustrate quarterback Philip Rivers, who completed 19 of 42 passes for 197 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and three fumbles while missing a number of open receivers. Star tight end Antonio Gates had only one reception for 10 yards. As a team, the Chargers were held to 229 yards of total offense. The defense also limited the Chargers to 4 of 16 third-down conversions.
The defensive effort started early, as it stopped San Diego in three plays – two to Tomlinson – on the first drive when Cedric Griffin and Chad Greenway stopped him 1 yard short of the first down on third-and-3. The Vikings responded with one first-down pass to Robert Ferguson and then stalled a yard short of their marker as well.
After a 25-yard punt off the side of Chris Kluwe's foot, the Chargers started on their way to the first touchdown of the game, and the most unlikely of players was a big part of the action. On second down, Rivers hit swingman Legedu Naanee for 22 yards. After a series of penalties left the Chargers with third-and-12, Rivers found Naanee in the middle of the field for 17 yards to the 13-yard line. From there, it was all Tomlinson, who ran the ball four times and eventually got in the end zone from 1 yard out for a 7-0 San Diego lead with 5:44 to play in the first quarter.
Minnesota's special teams provided them with a needed spark on the ensuing kickoff return, as Aundrae Allison took the kickoff and faked a lateral pass to the left and headed straight upfield for 62 yards before being caught from behind. This time, the Vikings featured Peterson on the drive and it paid off. After gaining 5 yards from Peterson and picking up a first down with an offsides penalty, Jackson took a shot and found Sidney Rice for 7 yards before Peterson broke off a 17-yard run around the right end to the 5-yard line. Tony Richardson gained 4 yards on a dive over Anthony Herrera and Peterson capped the drive with a 1-yard dive over Steve Hutchinson to tie the game, 7-7, with 2:49 left in the first quarter.
But the rest of the first-half action turned into a punting contest between Kluwe and Mike Scifres before the Vikings came up inept in a couple of categories on their final drive of the half – a strange one indeed.
Taking possession of the ball with a little more than 2 minutes remaining, Peterson started with a 7-yard run and gained the first down with a 6-yard run one play later. However, the Vikings wasted about 24 seconds after the play trying to find a play and get out of the huddle. They eventually called a timeout with 46 seconds left. On the next play, Jackson was hurt on a 10-yard scramble and taken off the field on a cart. Facing second-and-13, Bollinger came on and hit Bobby Wade for 12 yards and the team called a timeout with 7 seconds remaining. They got another 6 yards of field position with completion to Rice before Ryan Longwell came on for a 57-yard field goal attempt.
Not only didn't the Vikings get the field goal, but Antonio Cromartie jumped up to catch the short field goal attempt and was within inches of touching the end line before he took off and returned it 109 yards for an NFL record-long touchdown for a 14-7 Chargers lead with no time remaining in the half.
While most of the second quarter consisted of almost no offense and eight punts, the final two minutes seemed to have a big play at every turn, and that continued at the start of the second half.
After picking up one first down on the initial drive of the second half, Peterson broke free on the sixth play of the drive for a 64-yard touchdown around left end to tie the game at 14 with 12:44 to play in the third quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage, Chad Greenway recovered Rivers' fumbled snap and gave the Vikings another chance to score with the ball 20 yards from paydirt. After picking up a first down with a Peterson run and a completion to Shiancoe, Chester Taylor fumbled and safety Marlon McCree recovered to thwart a red zone opportunity for the Vikings.
However, the defense allowed only one first down on the ensuing drive, and the offense continued to keep its groove, with Peterson setting it all up. He started the drive with runs of 6, 11 and 13 yards. But once a across midfield, Bollinger found Sidney Rice with a step on the defender and hit him in stride for a 40-yard touchdown and a 21-14 Vikings lead with 3:07 to play in the third quarter.
The Chargers responded with Rivers' best drive of the game, as he connected with Vincent Jackson for 16 yards, Gates for 10 yards, Chris Chambers for 19 yards and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for 9 yards. Tomlinson brought the Chargers inside the red zone with a 5-yard run, but two consecutive incompletions led to a 36-yard field goal from Nate Kaeding to cut the Vikings' lead to 21-17 with 14:09 to play.
Peterson continued to churn out the yards for the Vikings on their next drive, taking runs of 16 yards to the left and 19 yards to the right to start the drive. Two more rushes got the Vikings to midfield, and Chester Taylor spelled Peterson for a 16-yard rush before Peterson fumbled at the end of a 12-yard run.
Despite going over 200 yards rushing with that carry, he gave the ball back to San Diego and gave the Chargers an opportunity to get the lead back. That wouldn't happen, however, as an illegal formation penalty negated a 40-yard pass play to Chris Chambers, which led to a punt.
The next time Peterson touched the ball, it was on a 46-yard touchdown run that put the Vikings ahead 28-17 with 7:41 to play.
When Charles Gordon intercepted a pass to Antonio Gates, the rout was on.
Peterson started with a 7-yard run, and Chester Taylor took it from there, rushing for 34 yards, 5 yards and eventually a 2-yard touchdown with 4:28 to play to end the scoring at 35-17.
The only drama left was if the Vikings would continue to go to Peterson to give him an opportunity at the NFL record. They did, and he got it.
On the first play of the final drive, he ripped off a 35-yard run that left him 2 yards short of the record. Taylor re-entered the game for a 6-yard run, but Childress was informed of the impending record and re-inserted Peterson for the final 3-yard run for the necessary 296-yard record before a game-ending kneeldown.
"Somebody ended up saying something on the sideline, so I had an offensive line coach screaming, ‘Get him out,' and other people screaming, ‘Get him in.'" Childress said. "He wanted to go; it was a pretty benign play."
That pretty benign 3-yard run will end getting the Vikings and Peterson beamed across the world with an NFL record in tow.
A.D. Runs Into NFL History
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