Adrian Peterson's run into the league record books deserves the blanket coverage that the Chargers' previously seventh-ranked run defense couldn't provide. Meanwhile, the Vikings were working well on the other side of the ball as well.
Minnesota's statistical dominance during its 35-17 win showed through in many areas. The Vikings had a 26-14 edge over the Chargers in first downs, including a 14-4 advantage in rushing first downs.
The Vikings also seemed to figure out their previous problems with third downs on both sides of the ball. They held the Chargers to 4 of 16 conversions on third downs while the Minnesota offense was 6-for-13 on third downs.
"We needed improvement on third down and I think we did that," defensive end Ray Edwards said.
That advantage held up on fourth downs as well, as the Chargers failed on their only attempt and the Vikings converted on their only try.
Minnesota's defense also held San Diego to a paltry 3.6 yards per offensive play while getting 8.0 yards per play on the Vikings' side of the ball. That included an 8.8-yard average on rushing attempts. The Vikings even gained more yards per average pass play – 4.3 for the Chargers to 6.5 for the Vikings.
"We knew they had a great run on defense, one of the top run defenses in the NFL," said Chargers running back LaDianian Tomlinson, who was held to 40 yards on 16 carries. "We wanted to try and go at them a little bit. Obviously when Lorenzo (Neal) came in sometimes on first down for them that (tipped) we were probably going to run the ball. We have a high percentage of running the ball out of those formations. It probably tipped them off a little bit. Again, that's what we do well, so it's kind of our strength against their strength. They were just more physical than us. They just whooped us."
In the red zone, the Vikings converted two of their three attempts while holding San Diego to 1 of 3 attempts.
The dominant act by the Purple left Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman a little disgusted with his team's effort.
"They have guys diving when they are running the ball, diving to get every inch. They are blocking that much longer …" he said. "We have to go out there, and go out there and want it more than everyone else to be the team that we need to be."
THE OTHER RECORD
Not all went well for the Vikings. There was that pesky little return of a missed field by Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who jumped and snatched Ryan's Longwell 57-yard attempt only inches from the end line and returned it 109 yards for an NFL record that will never be broken.
"We need to go out there and make a big play, and that was definitely a big play going into half," Merriman said. "You hope that you can thrive off of coming back out of halftime, but it did not happen for us that way. No matter what kind of game we are in, we have to finally finish a game. You do not become one of the best teams in the National Football League by not finishing a game."
The Chargers did finish off the half, however. Despite the Vikings looking like the better team for most of the first half, the Chargers were the one that took a 14-7 lead to the locker room at intermission.
"If we wanted to come in here after the NFL's longest return of 109 yards at halftime and not have our minds right and thinking, "Woe is me," we don't stand a chance," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I think all your actions are rooted in the subconscious. We talked about that – 83 percent of how you talk to yourself is what affects those actions. These guys are some of the only 1,350 players that play this game on these Sundays, so for them to come in here and go 28-nothing in the second half, I think is huge."
Actually, it was 28-3, but those three points may have slipped to the subconscious.
Cromartie, on the other hands, will always remember his record.
"Yeah, man, it is a thrill, but also it is a bittersweet thrill," he said. "Going out and playing the way that we did, I think that we could have played better. The record books do not really mean anything to me. I would rather have a victory than be in the record books. It was hard, but I had fun also."
The special teams for the Vikings weren't all bad.
After the Chargers' first touchdown of the game, Aundrae Allison had a 62-yard kick return that was set up by faking a lateral to Adrian Peterson to the left. That drew some defenders out of the middle of the field and Allison hit the hole running hard.
In the fourth quarter, Mewelde Moore took his turn. After being bottled up much of the game, Moore unleashed a 42-yard punt return down the left sideline that he nearly broke all the way.
One of the reasons Moore was contained most of the game was San Diego's incredible punter, Mike Scifres. While Minnesota's Chris Kluwe had a respectable 44.6-yard average on five punts, Scifres averaged an amazing 54.9 yards on eight punts.
SHUTTING THE GATES
One of the keys defensively was shutting down tight end Antoine Gates, who was limited to an uncharacteristic one catch for 10 yards.
"We just wanted to mix it up and give them different looks, put me on him and put the safety on him," said nickel back Charles Gordon. "We gave him different looks and it made it easy because the line had great pressure on (Phillip) Rivers."
In fact, Gordon's first career interception came on a play in which Gates was the intended target. Gordon saw the pass coming and dove in front of Gates for the fourth-quarter pick.
"It was great. It came at a great time. We were not up by a lot, so it was a huge pick," Gordon said.
Another key to the game was pressuring Rivers, who looked lost at times, as the Vikings employed numerous defensive schemes to pressure him.
One such pressure came from middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who avoided a cut block attempt by Tomlinson by diving over the running back and into Rivers.
"He has been like that all year long, just flying around, aggressive to the quarterback and knocking the mess out of people," Sharper said. "This is how we should be playing each and every Sunday. Hopefully we can continue with this and get our confidence right and let this be a momentum builder for us."
Henderson's flying pressure earned him the Superman label from Chad Greenway.
"He truly was," fellow linebacker Ben Leber said. "Not only did he have that play where he jumped over the running back. He was all over the field, running around. He just had a motor today and made a lot of big plays for us."
Henderson led the team with seven tackles and earned high praise from Tomlinson.
"He is going to be a Pro Bowl player this year. If he is not in the Pro Bowl, then I would be shocked," Tomlinson said.
The Vikings' upset win moved them to 3-5 on the season and gave them a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.
"Twenty guys in that locker room here were part of a 2-5 start back in 2005 and were able to will themselves to 8-5, so some of those guys understand what it takes," said Childress, who was not a part of that run that still left the team short of the playoffs with a 9-7 record. "I think the big thing is standing strong and thinking the right way."
Notebook: Dominance in Many Forms
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