10 GAMES, 10 REVELATIONS
The Vikings had the weekend off, finishing up their Week 11 bye and readying to come back for a potential playoff push. With a 6-4 record, they're still very much alive in the playoff chase. So what have the first 10 games told us? Staff writer Dan Wiederer takes a look.
Week 1: Vikings 26, Jaguars 23 (OT)
What we learned: Rookie kicker Blair Walsh has quite the nerve. Just moments after the Vikings had seemingly blown an opening day victory, allowing a 39-yard Jaguars TD pass with 20 seconds left, Walsh absolutely crunched a 55-yard game-tying field goal as regulation ended. He then added the game-winning field goal -- his fourth of the day -- in overtime.
Week 2: Colts 23, Vikings 20
What we learned: The two-minute defense was a work in progress. First, Reggie Wayne torched linebacker Erin Henderson for a pivotal 30-yard TD catch 7 seconds before halftime. Later, Colts rookie Andrew Luck needed just 18 seconds and three passes to spark a 45-yard march into field goal range. Adam Vinatieri's game-winning 53-yard kick with 8 seconds left sealed things.
Week 3: Vikings 24, 49ers 13
What we learned: Antoine Winfield's voice matters. Agitated by the loss to the Colts and unwilling to see his 14th NFL season unravel like his 12th and 13th years did, Winfield delivered a passionate sermon to the entire team calling for greater toughness and an investment in getting better. The Vikings responded by manhandling the 49ers across the board.
Week 4: Vikings 20, Lions 13
What we learned: This season's heightened attention to detail on special teams can pay big dividends. Percy Harvin (No. 12) returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and the Vikings never looked back. Marcus Sherels' 77-yard punt return score early in the second half added to the fun.
Week 5: Vikings 30, Titans 7
What we learned: The Titans are bad -- and really bad on the road. But credit the Vikings for not giving Tennessee any hope. The defense allowed only five first-half first downs and nearly posted a shutout. And Harvin provided two TDs, most notably a 10-yard bubble screen score that included a dizzying combination of jukes, cuts and broken tackles.
Week 6: Redskins 38, Vikings 26
What we learned: Robert Griffin III is good -- and really good in the open field. Griffin's 76-yard touchdown run with 2:43 to play thwarted a Vikings rally. Just as significant, three early Vikings drives stalled in the red zone, a troubling trend that exposed some of the team's play-calling flaws.
Week 7: Vikings 21, Cardinals 14
What we learned: The Vikings defense can put the clamps on opposing superstars. After limiting Lions receiver Calvin Johnson to 54 yards three weeks prior and holding running back Titans Chris Johnson to 24 yards the next Sunday, the Vikings bottled up Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (four grabs, 29 yards). Adding to the defensive entertainment: rookie Harrison Smith returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown.
Week 8: Bucs 36, Vikings 17
What we learned: The Vikings weren't ready for prime time. With a short week of preparation, the offense seemed baffled by the Bucs' non-stop blitzing and didn't run a play in Tampa Bay territory until 11:42 remained in the first half. Worse, rookie running back Doug Martin blew through a frazzled defense for 214 total yards and two touchdowns.
Week 9: Seahawks 30, Vikings 20
What we learned: Christian Ponder's growing pains will be sharp at times. It wasn't just that Ponder took four sacks, threw an interception, didn't complete a pass longer than 14 yards and wound up with 44 net passing yards. It's that, as a whole, the passing offense seemed totally out of rhythm, even as Adrian Peterson tried to loosen things up with his 182 rushing yards. Ponder's pocket presence faltered and he missed several easy throws too.
Week 10: Vikings 34, Lions 24
What we learned: Don't leave these Vikings for dead too soon. With Ponder and the run defense getting back on track, the Vikings improved to 2-0 in NFC North games and 5-1 at home. Oh, and we also learned Peterson might just be unstoppable and superhuman. He rushed for 171 yards and a game-sealing 61-yard score, giving him 629 rushing yards in his past four games.