Frank Gore took three consecutive handoffs to start the game against the Vikings. He kept rolling downhill from there.
Gore, the NFL’s all-time active rushing leader, padded his lead on Adrian Peterson with 101 rushing yards on 26 carries — most of it picked up by halftime of the Vikings’ 34-6 loss to the Colts on Sunday. With Gore rolling, the Vikings’ pass rush was neutralized; they did not sack quarterback Andrew Luck against an offensive line starting three rookies.
“We didn’t stop the run,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “So we never stopped the run, so we never really had the opportunity to rush the quarterback.”
The Vikings allowed 4 yards per carry on a season-worst 161 rushing yards to the Colts, the most against a Zimmer-coached defense in more than a year. And it was death by a thousand cuts.
The Colts’ longest run went just 12 yards, but they pounded through 40 handoffs while holding a wire-to-wire lead. Colts running back Robert Turbin dodged four Vikings defenders, including defensive end Everson Griffen twice, on a 6-yard touchdown run that put the Vikings in a 24-0 hole just before halftime.
No Vikings defender had a tackle for loss.
“They get paid, too, and they had a good game plan,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. “They got the ball out fast.”
Luck peppered in downfield shots, dodging pass rushers to find T.Y. Hilton for a 31-yard gain and later Phillip Dorsett for a 50-yard touchdown. They got ahead and then controlled the game with Gore, who became just the third running back to eclipse 100 yards on the Vikings defense this season.
The 33-year-old Gore admitted to feeling a little extra juice with Peterson’s return for the Vikings.
“When you have a guy like AP, or even when I was in a division with Marshawn [Lynch],you get up for it,” Gore said.
Sam Bradford produced the Vikings’ biggest play when he faked the handoff to Peterson, rolled to his right and found tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 28-yard gain.
Peterson fumbled away the possession on the next play. Bradford started the following drive with his third interception of the season on a forced pass to Stefon Diggs.
“You know, I was probably just being greedy,” Bradford said. “I forced it, and I just can’t do that, especially late in the half. The last thing you want to do is give them the ability to score again. I just can’t make that throw.”
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri then kicked a 50-yard field goal that put the Vikings in a 27-0 hole at halftime. Bradford completed 32 of 42 passes for 291 yards but had another interception negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
Vikings lose three to injury
Receiver Adam Thielen left the game with a neck injury after Colts cornerback Darius Butler jarred a pass loose with a blow to Thielen’s head. The Vikings receiver was initially evaluated for a concussion, but the final diagnosis was an injured neck.
Butler was penalized 15 yards for hitting a defenseless receiver; Thielen did not catch a pass for the first time this season.
Fullback Zach Line (concussion) and defensive tackle Tom Johnson (hamstring) were also injured and did not return on Sunday. The Vikings defense was already playing without safety Harrison Smith (ankle) and cornerback Trae Waynes (concussion).
Berger moves back to guard
Joe Berger returned to the lineup but moved back to guard for the first time since 2014 with Brandon Fusco out because of a concussion. Berger started at right guard, which gave Nick Easton his third consecutive start at center.
The Vikings started a seventh different offensive line combination. Playing from behind, Bradford was under fire and took five sacks.
“You kind of get into a situation where you have to throw the ball,” guard Alex Boone said. “They can pin their ears back.”
• Defensive end Brian Robison started his 100th game for the Vikings. He was one of just two defenders to hit Luck on Sunday.
• Diggs had only two catches for 13 yards, his lowest yardage in a game played this season.