Offensive Outburst Leads to Playoff Hopes

The Vikings might just be peaking at the right time with a newfound explosiveness on offense, special teams that are making plays and a defense still tough against the run and occasionally opportunistic against the pass.

The Vikings are eighth in the race for the NFC's six playoff spots, but the forceful return of rookie running back Adrian Peterson, the first three-game winning streak of the Brad Childress era and a soft remaining schedule has thrust them into the thick of the wild-card battle.

In a rare outburst, the offense scored touchdowns on all five first-half possessions to take a 35-10 lead at halftime of Sunday's game against the visiting Detroit Lions. Rookie Aundrae Allison added a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown — breaking a 42-year-old record for longest play in franchise history — as the Vikings cruised to a 42-10 victory and split the season series with the Lions.

The Vikings are one of three NFC teams with a 6-6 record, but tiebreakers have them positioned behind the other two 6-6 teams, Arizona and Detroit. The Cardinals currently lead the race for the second wild-card berth, followed by the Lions and then the Vikings. But the Lions have lost four consecutive games and still have Dallas, San Diego and Green Bay left on their schedule.

Meanwhile, the combined record of the Vikings' final four opponents is 18-30. They travel to San Francisco (3-9) this week, then play home games against Chicago (5-7), which they've beaten already, and Washington (5-7), which has lost four in a row. The regular season ends at Denver (5-7).

"Most of the playoff teams play pretty well on offense, defense and special teams," said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. "Today, we played well as a team. We just want to pretty much keep that going and play well as a team. Period. Then we'll see what happens at the end of the season."

On Nov. 11, no one was talking about the Vikings making the playoffs. An embarrassing 34-0 loss at Green Bay dropped them to 3-6 and also sidelined Peterson with a partially torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.

But the Vikings won their next two games without Peterson, beating Oakland at home and the Giants on the road. While the Vikings indicated that Peterson would play against the Lions using a brace to support his knee, no one expected him to rush for 116 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries (7.7). And he could have gone for a lot more, but the Vikings took him out of the game after his second touchdown at the 10:06 mark of the third quarter.

"I definitely wanted to get that first snap and carry the ball on the first play," said Peterson, who was tackled for no gain on the play. "I just wanted to get that first hit just to see how everything felt. And it felt pretty good."

Jackson completed 18 of 24 passes — his third consecutive game completing 75 percent or better — for a season-high 204 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.

The defense held Lions quarterback Jon Kitna to 260 yards on 36 attempts with one interception. The Lions basically didn't try to run the ball against the Vikings' No. 1-ranked defense. Detroit had just 23 yards on seven rushes.

NOTES

  • CB Antoine Winfield was inactive for the fourth time in five weeks because of a nagging hamstring injury. His only action since the Oct. 21 game at Dallas was the first half against the Raiders on Nov. 18.

  • WR Troy Williamson was inactive for the third time this season. He had some lingering effects from a concussion.

  • S Dwight Smith, the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week, was benched for the game's first series because of disciplinary reasons. Smith said it was because of a heated argument he had with coach Brad Childress during the week.

  • WR Aundrae Allison's 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the longest play in franchise history. He broke the previous mark of 101 yards set by Lance Rentzel on a kickoff return against the Baltimore Colts on Nov. 14, 1965. He also set the team record for highest kickoff return average in team history (47.7 yards on three returns). Allison's record-breaking return came on his ninth kickoff return as a pro. Not bad for a fifth-round draft pick who didn't even return kickoffs at East Carolina, and didn't start playing football until his junior year in high school.

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson's passer rating of 110.4 is officially the best of his career. He had a 139.2 rating last week against the Giants, but did not have the minimum number of pass attempts (20).


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