Going into their third game of the season against San Francisco 49ers, the defensive line was apparently inspired by a perceived slight in the week leading up to Sunday's game.
"Basically, all week that was what everyone was talking about – that the Williams Wall has a crack in it, and the Minnesota run defense isn't the same as it used to be. But we don't worry about it," said nose tackle Pat Williams, the larger brick in that wall.
The Vikings have had the league's No. 1-ranked run defense each of the past three seasons, but after two games this year they were 15th in the league, a ranking determined by yardage surrendered. The Vikings limited the 49ers to 58 yards rushing.
"This was a statement," said Kevin Williams. "Everybody was saying that we had lost a step in the run game, and that we were 15th in the run. Today we just tried to cut that in half. We'll work on that more next week. I think we did a good job against the run today and forced them to pass."
The Vikings had the benefit of Frank Gore, one of the league's leading rushers, going out of the game after only one carry with an ankle and foot injury. As much as the Williamses were inspired by the talk, it was actually their own defensive coordinator that admitted improvement was needed last week.
"No question. We have not played good run defense in particular this past week and we've got to shore it up," Leslie Frazier said last week. "That running game of San Francisco is humming. They had a great game against Seattle, in particular, Frank Gore. So we are going to have to be right in the run game this weekend, without question. We will have to play our best run defense up to this point."
The players seemed to get the message. The team moved up three spots in the run-defense rankings and is now at 12th.
"We got back to doing what we do. Maybe it took a couple of call-outs and people trying to question our toughness, and we went out there and I thought we played Vikings ball," Jared Allen said.
"Everyone was pumping up Frank Gore all week, but we don't worry about Frank Gore," Pat Williams said. "We came in, didn't talk, just did our thing, and we were having fun out there."
THINGS TO IMPROVE
While the run defense improved, head coach Brad Childress came away from the 49ers game with a list of things his team needs to improve upon.
"There are just numbers of things that we can clean up that we thought we had clean, but obviously it's about going back and repping them and doing them over and doing them the way we expect them to be seen, whether it is a route run, or a defense played, or how we are approaching a kick coverage," Childress said.
Childress didn't get too specific, but he said the team needs to clean up some of the penalties. The Vikings struggled with penalties in the preseason, but had been avoiding them in the first two games, totaling eight for 81 yards.
On Sunday, the penalties returned. They had nine for 52 yards.
Even so, Childress was keeping things in perspective.
"The positives outweighed the negatives by far," he said. "Again, it is a good thing to be 3-0, but it is also important that we have perspective, and that is my job as a coach to keep perspective."
On special teams, while Percy Harvin returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown, the Vikings also gave up a touchdown when a Ryan Longwell field goal was blocked and returned 59 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half.
"I just saw penetration in that gap," Childress said Sunday. "Whether somebody stepped down too far and Phil (Loadholt) wasn't able to cover it, all I know is that should be a fairly routine play and it wasn't. Obviously, we need to go back to the drawing board on that."
Loadholt took some of the responsibility.
"The guard fell down and I have to crack down more," Loadholt said. "I've got to get down there faster than that. I have to make sure that I cover my guys better than that."
For the third straight week, Vikings rookie Percy Harvin was nominated for the NFL's rookie of the week. Harvin had four catches for 51 yards and returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown in the Vikings' 27-24 win.
Among the five rookie nominees is Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who won the award each of the first two weeks and became the first rookie QB to start and win his team's first three games of a season in the past 40 years. Sanchez threw for 171 yards and two TDs.
Colts running back Donald Brown (112 scrimmage yards, including a 72-yard reception), Lions QB Matthew Stafford (241 yards passing and a TD), and Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (90 rushing yards and a TD) were the other rookie nominees.
The rookie of the week can be voted on by fans at nfl.com/rookies.
Despite Brett Favre getting the first 300-yard passing game in the Childress era of the Vikings and throwing a game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining, the quarterback was not nominated for the NFL's weekly FedEx Air Player of the Week. Peyton Manning (379 yards and four TDs), Kevin Kolb (327 yards and two TDs) and Joe Flacco (342 yards and one TD) were the nominees.
The Vikings now rank 18th in total offense (seventh in rushing and 26th in passing) and fourth on defense (12th against the rush and fourth against the pass). The Packers are 22nd on offense (18th in both rushing and passing) and 19th on defense (23rd against the rush and 13th against the pass).
Peterson is still the league's leading rusher with 357 yards and four touchdowns. He has six more yards than Tennessee's Chris Johnson.
Harvin leads the league in kickoff-return average at 35.8 yards. Jordy Nelson of the Packers is right behind him at 31 yards per return.
Chester Taylor and Percy Harvin are tied for third in the NFL as third-down receivers with each of them having eight receptions on third downs.
Despite their total offense ranked in the middle of the pack, the Vikings are ranked fourth in points scored, but on defense they are 15th in points allowed.
The team has the top-rated kick return average and fifth-rated punt return average. The Vikings' average starting position of the 35.7-yard line following kickoffs is best in the league.
Despite Favre's 301-yard passing performance on Sunday, the Vikings are 27th in sacks per pass play. He is the seventh-rated passer in the league with a 94.5 rating. Just above him is Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers at 97.2. Favre is also rated seventh in third-down passing with a 99.2 rating on third down.
After holding the 49ers to no third-down conversion on 11 attempts, the Vikings are best in the league in third-down defense.