LONDON – Twenty-six touches for 232 yards and four touchdowns, including a 70-yard reception and a 60-yard run.
So, Greg Jennings, is this exactly what you meant back on March 15 when you said joining forces with former rival Adrian Peterson “is going to be special.”
“Yes, most definitely,” the receiver said after his first victory as a Viking, a 34-27 win over the Steelers at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. “When I look back and see Adrian in the backfield, I know defenses can’t afford not to keep that extra guy in the box. You just can’t keep the safety out of there with a home-run hitter in the backfield.”
In this game, both guys blasted 450-footers. Jennings swung first. He caught a short pass, made two defenders miss, split the second and third levels with blocking help from Jarius Wright and then “ran for that Steeler paint in the end zone.”
The 70-yarder made it 10-0 Vikings with 8 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first quarter.
So much for the woes of playing a home game 4,000 miles from home.
“Playing against that guy for a couple years at Green Bay, I definitely knew what he had and what he could bring to the table for this offense,” Peterson said. “He’s been showing it. He was able to make a big play today that helped us win. So he’s doing exactly what I expected.”
Peterson and the offensive line had struggled since the reigning league MVP’s first carry of the season went 78 yards for a touchdown. But on the Vikings’ first offensive snap of the second quarter, Peterson blasted off the right side, getting help from the line and fullback Jerome Felton, who missed the first three games because of a league suspension.
“I was just being patient laying off for those guys up front and letting the holes open up for me,” Peterson said. “I was able to press it and cut it back and take it to the house.”
Peterson ran for a season-high 140 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (6.1 average). He now has 13 career runs of 60 or more yards. Jennings caught three passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yarder that gave the Vikings a 17-point lead. He now has seven career catches of at least 70 yards.
Poor Jerome Simpson. If ever a guy with seven catches for 124 yards could get lost, Sunday was that day for Simpson. His game-high 51-yard reception came against man coverage, so if he’s the third wheel behind Peterson and Jennings, he’s not complaining.
“I had one-on-one coverage a lot,” he said. “I just did what I’m supposed to do. It’s a blessing. That guy, Jennings, takes a lot of pressure off of me. I’m just glad he’s here.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wasn’t surprised by his team’s balanced attack. He’s seen it before, he said.
Only this time, the Vikings didn’t have a turnover for the first time all season.
The Vikings entered the game with 10 turnovers, including seven by quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder sat out Sunday because of a fractured rib, while Matt Cassel made his Vikings debut.
“[No turnovers] makes it a little bit easier for the play-caller,” Frazier said. “You can put together some drives and finish those drives.”