Peterson, Vikings rush to 34-20 win

It took more than a half to really get going, but the Minnesota Vikings eventually showed their explosiveness in the running game and stinginess in their run defense. Adrian Peterson led the way in a 34-20 win again the Cleveland Browns, gaining more yards rushing than Brett Favre had passing.

Brett Favre a game manager? When the Vikings did most of the other things right in a 34-20 win over the Cleveland Browns, that's all they needed out of Favre.

Rushing game? Yes, Adrian Peterson handled that with 180 yards and three touchdowns.

Rushing defense? For the most part, yes. The Vikings held Cleveland to 89 yards rushing.

Despite the special teams dogging Minnesota again with a failed onside kick to start the game and a punt return allowed for a touchdown, the combination of a strong rushing attack, a solid rushing defense and a quick start to the second half had the Vikings flying out of Cleveland with a season-opening win.

Peterson was the pivotal player. He had been held in check in the first half and, despite getting fluids late in the half, he returned to be a key cog in each the Vikings' touchdown drives in the second half.

Favre, meanwhile, did what he had to. He threw the ball only 21 times, completing 14 of those passes for only 110 yards and one touchdown. But there were few risky passes and he looked comfortable being a quarterback that checked into the right calls, some of the biggest of those checks going to the running game.

But, despite the win that seemed easy in the second half, things didn't start well for the Vikings, beginning with the opening kickoff – an onside attempt that didn't fool Abram Elam, who recovered on the Cleveland 49-yard line. The Browns picked up the initial first down with Joshua Cribbs running the Wildcat and picking up 5 yards. With an 18-yard completion from Brady Quinn to TE Robert Royal on the next play, the Browns were in field goal position and Phil Dawson nailed the 37-yarder for an early 3-0 lead.

Minnesota's offense couldn't move the ball on its first series, but the defense also stiffened, allowing Favre and the running game to settle into more of a rhythm on his second series. Favre started with a 6-yard completion to Shiancoe and Peterson began to get untracked. He picked up a first down with a 7-yard run and bailed the offense out of second-and-long following a sack with a 13-yard stretch play. Percy Harvin followed suit three plays later with an 11-yard run that got the Vikings to the 3-yard line. However, the drive stalled with two consecutive runs that didn't make it into the end zone, and a case of bad timing or miscommunication between Favre and Sidney Rice on a third-down pass. Ryan Longwell tied the game with a 21-yard field goal with three seconds left in the opening quarter.

The defense continued to play solidly when Kevin Williams registered the first sack of the season with a 9-yarder of Quinn on third down, and Darius Reynaud gave the Vikings excellent field position with a 36-yard punt return to the Cleveland 23. Peterson took a second-down pass 18 yards and, one play later, capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge for a 10-3 Vikings lead with 11:09 to play in the second quarter.

The Vikings defense wasn't quite as stout on its third series. On second down, Ben Leber missed a tackle on Lawrence Vickers, who went 12 yards after a catch. They lost out on a fumble by the Browns when the officials failed to establish they had possession before a challenge, costing the Vikings a timeout and a challenge. On the next play, Madieu Williams lost contain and Lewis ran 15 yards across midfield. Three plays later, the Vikings were faced with another interesting ruling following what first appeared to be a 34-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards. Cedric Griffin was called for pass interference, but Edwards didn't establish himself back in bounds before making the catch. Brad Childress challenged it and the Browns were forced to accept a pass interference penalty that put the ball on the 6-yard line instead of getting the touchdown. It would turn out to be a difference of four points when three carries netted only 4 yards, forcing a Dawson field goal to make it 10-6 with 5:57 to play in the first half.

The teams exchanged three punts before the fourth one mattered most. Cribbs left a handful of would-be tacklers flailing and diving at air on his way to a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown, giving the Browns a 13-10 lead that held up until halftime.

While the offense went three-and-out on the last three drives of the first half, it found a rhythm quickly in the second half.

Harvin and Peterson started it off with a combined 22 yards on three carries before Favre got going. He hit Shiancoe for a 13-yard pass on third down, then got a pass interference call when going for Sidney Rice near the goal line. Three plays later, Peterson punched it in from one yard out for a 17-13 Vikings lead less than five minutes into the second half.

A Cedric Griffin interception gave the Vikings the ball back quickly, and the effective run-pass mixture continued. Peterson and Shiancoe combined for one first down, and the Vikings survived a first-down sack by Shaun Rogers when Favre rebounded to hit Harvin for 21 yards. The Vikings turned to the running game and Taylor and Peterson combined for 26 yards on four straight carries. Peterson sprinted inside the red zone before getting tripped up at the 13-yard line and Harvin did the rest, overcoming a 2-yard loss by Chester Taylor with receptions of 9 and 6 yards, the final one finishing in the end zone for a 24-13 lead with 1:06 to play in the third quarter.

As the game moved to the fourth quarter, the Vikings took advantage of an unforced error when Quinn cocked to pass and lost the ball. Kevin Williams recovered and the Vikings were set up in Browns territory. Peterson continued his second-half assault, picking up 24 yards on three carries, but a sack forced the Vikings to settle for a 37-yard field goal and a 27-13 lead with 6:55 to play.

Peterson put the dagger in Cleveland on the next drive when he went 64 yards on the first play of the series, showcasing speed, decision-making and patience to give Minnesota a 34-13 lead with 5:58 left in the game.

All the Browns could manage was a garbage-time touchdown on their final drive against the Vikings' second-team defense. Quinn operated efficiently and drove the team 80 yards, getting Cleveland's first touchdown at home since Nov. 16, 2008 on a 26-yard pass to Royal to make the final score 34-20.

After a slow struggle in the first half, it was the start of the second half that brought the Vikings' high hopes back to life. Specifically, it was Peterson's persistence and Favre's game management that took the Vikings from a nail-biter to a laugher in the course of two drives and brought the Vikings home with a win.

Viking Update Top Stories