Against a better team, the Vikings' mistakes on Sunday might have been their undoing. Instead, the Minnesota's talent advantage eventually put the Lions away in a 27-10 win at the Metrodome.
Minnesota lost two fumbles, both involving running back Adrian Peterson, and committed an uncharacteristic 13 penalties. Still, the mistakes paled in comparison to the big plays the offense turned in.
Receiver Sidney Rice dominated the market on explosive plays, catching five passes of 20 or more yards and nearly set a team record with 201 receiving yards. When he dropped a late fourth-quarter pass from Tarvaris Jackson, he knew he lost his chance at the record, but he was just fine coming away with the win.
Although Rice dominated the statistics, it wasn't just him. The Vikings racked up 492 total net yards with Adrian Peterson contributing 133 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Rice's performance helped Favre go 20-for-29 for 344 yards, one touchdown and a 120.5 rating.
On defense, the Vikings limited QB Matthew Stafford to 224 yards, despite the rookie throwing the ball 51 times. He ended with just one touchdown on 29 completions and a 74.3 rating. And the run defense held the Lions to 93 yards, including 55 from starter Kevin Smith. With Rice the offensive hero, Ray Edwards was the man on defense, sacking Stafford twice, hurrying him four times, forcing a fumble that he recovered and finishing with five tackles.
But, even with the domination in statistics, the Vikings didn't pull away until the second half.
The accumulation of yardage started early. But with the offense driving with ease in the opening series, a penalty eventually derailed it. Favre started out hot, hitting Bernard Berrian for 12 yards, Visanthe Shiancoe for 13 and Rice for 20 yards. Peterson's first carry of the game gained 8 yards and they had a first down on the 11-yard line. However, a false start on Jim Kleinsasser – the first of 13 penalties – backed them up and they ended up settling for a field goal from Ryan Longwell and a 3-0 lead with 9:18 left in the first quarter.
A penalty nearly hurt the Vikings on the Lions' first drive as well. Detroit drove across midfield before the Vikings forced a punt, but Brian Robison jumped before the snap and gave the Lions a fresh set of downs. As it turned out, the Vikings ended up with better field position when Jason Hanson missed a 48-yard field goal wide right.
The Vikings fumbled away their next drive on a reverse from Peterson to Percy Harvin, and the next three drives saw the teams trading punts. But on their fourth drive of the game, the Vikings finally got it right. On third-and-9, Favre took advantage of Larry Foote jumping offside and lofted a pass for Rice, who gained separation and made the 43-yard reception. On the next play, Peterson escaped a tackle at the line of scrimmage, broke back to his right and sprinted 22 yards into the end zone for a 10-0 Vikings lead with 10:48 to play in the first half.
The yardage wouldn't stop on the Vikings' next two drives, but the scoring would. On their possession, Rice caught a another 43-yard pass and Peterson followed with an 11-yard run, but facing fourth-and-1 from the 8-yard line, Jeff Dugan failed to get the first down on a quick dive and the Lions took over on downs.
On Minnesota's next drive, Peterson broke a run 43 yards before he was caught from behind by Philip Buchanon, who punched the ball loose and into the end zone, where Lions LB Jordon Dizon recovered, giving Detroit one last opportunity before halftime.
Stafford repeatedly targeted Calvin Johnson, hitting him for 11, 19 and 18 yards to drive to the 35-yard line. With the first half winding down, the Lions had to settle for a 38-yard field goal, giving the Vikings a 10-3 halftime lead.
While Favre had 197 yards passing in the half, with 145 of those to Rice and Peterson getting 100 yard rushing, the Vikings didn't extend the first-half lead because of two turnovers and six penalties.
They quickly erased the doldrums in the second half. Edwards got it started right away, stripping and recovering the football on Kevin Smith's first carry of the second half, and Peterson followed with runs of 27 yards and 1 yard for a touchdown and a 17-3 Vikings lead.
The Lions responded with a much longer drive. Stafford moved the chains with completions to Calvin Johnson, Will Heller, Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt inside the red zone. But the critical play of the drive was an incomplete pass by Stafford on third-and-7 that gave the Lions new life when Ray Edwards was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Stafford when he leaped over a cut block and appeared to graze the facemask of the rookie quarterback. One play later, Stafford hit Heller for an 8-yard touchdown to pull the Lions within seven points, 17-10, midway through the third quarter.
But as the game moved to late in the third quarter, the Vikings got a decisive lead, and once again Sidney Rice with his hands all over the drive. On the second play of the series, Favre lofted a pass for Rice, who made a diving catch at the 4-yard line. After a 4-yard loss on a run, Favre found Dugan for an 8-yard touchdown and a 24-10 lead with 2:03 to play in the third quarter.
After stopping the Lions again, this time it was Percy Harvin with the explosive gain. He took a short pass, bounced off Larry Foote's shoulder and raced 40 yards down the right sideline. Favre followed that with a 21-yard pass to Shiancoe and the Vikings were inside the red zone again. This time, they settled for a field goal, a 35-yarder from Longwell, and a 27-10 lead that held up until the end of the game.
The Vikings (8-1) used the win to continue to push the New Orleans Saints (9-0) for the top spot in the NFC, but the Saints were able to pull off a tight win against one-win Rams on Sunday.
Vikings survive mistakes, cruise to 27-10 win
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