Rookie Blair Walsh's field goals give Vikings overtime victory
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- September 9, 2012 - 3:15 PM
Rookie kicker Blair Walsh has quite the nerve. The Vikings’ wild win was made possible by the 55-yard game-tying field goal that Walsh made as the final gun sounded. Ryan Longwell, whom Walsh supplanted this season, wouldn’t have had the range to make that kick. Walsh then won the game with a 38-yarder in overtime. Walsh's end-of-regulation kick was made possible by the moxie shown by second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, who with only 20 seconds left on the clock, completed passes to Devin Aromashodu for 26 yards and to Kyle Rudolph for four yards to push the ball to the Jacksonville 37. Ponder, after a rocky start, finished 20-for-27 for 270 yards,
Bad news: There were shades of 2011 in the building. Not only did the Vikings play miserably for the first 27 minutes of game action with offensive ineptitude, costly penalties and a defense’s inability to get off the field on third down, then came a near-galling finish with Blaine Gabbert hitting Cecil Shorts III on a 39-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 20 seconds left. Shorts’ TD grab came one play after the Jaguars converted a fourth-and-3 with a 10-yard pass to rookie receiver Justin Blackmon. It was a defensive unraveling that could have been miserable had the offense and Walsh not produced a miracle comeback.
Extra point: Adrian Peterson not only got the green light to play Sunday. He carried the ball 16 times, rushed for 88 yards and scored both Vikings’ touchdowns on runs of 3 and 2 yards. Peterson’s first score, with 1:47 left before halftime, provided a huge boost of energy to the Vikings offense, which had punted on its first four possessions. Peterson also rushed for 27 yards on the Vikings’ game-winning drive in overtime and broke Robert Smith’s franchise record for career rushing yards.
Next up: The Vikings will head to Indianapolis to play the Colts in Andrew Luck’s regular season home debut at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts are getting walloped in Chicago this afternoon (34-21 at last check).
Here's the game report from the Associated Press:
MINNEAPOLIS - His left knee fully healed, Adrian Peterson ran hard for Minnesota. Rookie Blair Walsh's leg handled the rest.
Walsh kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder as regulation expired and another in overtime, and Peterson returned from his left knee injury to lift the Vikings to a 26-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Peterson ran 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, who led for most of the second half until Blaine Gabbert's 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Jaguars a 23-20 lead.
For the first time since the NFL's new overtime scoring rule was installed last season, the first team to score didn't immediately run off the field a winner.
After Walsh's 38-yard kick, the Vikings had to play defense again while the Jaguars had their chance to match. But Gabbert was hurried into a fourth-down overthrow, spoiling the debut for new Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey, who played for the Vikings in the 1980s and was Atlanta's offensive coordinator the past four seasons.
For two teams that combined for eight wins last season, this game had a little bit of everything.
Cornerback Chris Cook's sack helped force a punt by the Jaguars in the closing minutes, but the Vikings went three-and-out and punted the ball right back clinging to a 20-15 lead.
With no timeouts, 91 seconds left and starting at his 24-yard line, Gabbert put together perhaps the best drive of his brief career. He completed a fourth-down pass to rookie Justin Blackmon and then found Cecil Shorts III open in man-to-man coverage against Cook near the sideline.
Shorts, who played at Division III Mount Union College in Ohio and had only two receptions last season, pivoted to make a twisting catch just inside the pylon with 20 seconds left, sending a stunned silence over the stadium.
But the Vikings still had two timeouts, and with two quick passes by Christian Ponder they hustled in position for Walsh to kick the tying field goal with room to spare as the fourth quarter ended.
They won the coin toss and, with 27 yards on three carries by Peterson to become the franchise's career leading rusher, set up Walsh for his go-ahead kick. Drafted in the sixth round out of Georgia, Walsh replaced veteran Ryan Longwell this year.
Ponder finished 20 for 27 for 270 yards, though he lost a fumble while taking a sack in the third quarter that led to one of Josh Scobee's three field goals.
Peterson, who was supposed to be on limited use a little more than eight months out from reconstructive surgery to fix torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, had 17 of Minnesota's 29 runs.
Gabbert went 23 for 39 for 260 yards and two scores, but he dropped a snap in the third quarter that was recovered at the Jacksonville 44 by Kevin Williams to set up Peterson's second touchdown run. His Superman-like leap over the line from 2 yards gave the Vikings a 14-9 lead. He then somersaulted up from his back to celebrate with his teammates, yet another sign of his recovery from such a devastating injury last Christmas Eve.
Peterson's first carry was unremarkable in style, a simple 4-yard gain after a stutter step at the line of scrimmage, but the crowd realized the significance and applauded Peterson almost as loudly as they did when he sprinted out of the tunnel during the pregame introduction.
That's all the Vikings gave their fans to cheer until the end of the first half, going almost an hour between first downs, but with one 3-yard touchdown run by Peterson they wiped out most of a bad half by moving within 9-7.
Gabbert, whose 65.4 passer rating was the worst among all qualifying quarterbacks in the league last season, looked more comfortable in the pocket to start his sophomore season and didn't force any throws.
But despite some tough inside running by Maurice Jones-Drew, who skipped training camp in protest over his contract, the Jaguars didn't finish off their drives with touchdowns.
Vikings rookie offensive tackle Matt Kalil blocked Scobee's extra point in the second quarter, too. The Jaguars produced fewer total yards than any other NFL team last season.
Jones-Drew, who like Peterson was purported to be in a limited role, gained 77 yards on 19 carries for the Jaguars.
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