Lost in the excitement of Adrian Peterson's rushing record Sunday was the fact the Vikings' defense played very well despite being without cornerback Antoine Winfield.
A hamstring injury forced Winfield to miss only his third game in three-plus seasons with the team. Rookie Marcus McCauley, who a week earlier had been taken out of the nickel package, played the entire game at left corner. Charles Gordon was used in the slot in nickel situations for the second game in a row.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier used a variety of different looks, and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was lost for much of the afternoon. He completed only 19 of 42 passes for 197 yards and had no touchdowns and one interception (by Gordon) in the Vikings' 35-17 victory.
"Some of the things we are doing may look like blitzes, but it's really not," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We just wanted to make Rivers a little uncomfortable, and sometimes when you get the best of people, we have the guys at the back end that care of business."
The Vikings caught Rivers off guard.
"They played us a lot differently than we've seen on tape," Rivers said. "Just about every snap, they were bringing somebody. ... They were in control."
The Vikings had given up fewer than 200 passing yards only once this season -- Atlanta had 169 yards through the air in the season opener -- and surrendered more than 300 yards in three of the past four games before Sunday.
"Everybody showed confidence in me," McCauley said. "Knowing the guys in the secondary and the guys on the defense have your back, and Coach Frazier having a rookie go out there and play every snap of the game was big to me."
The Vikings held Chargers All-Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson to 40 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown.
"We knew they weren't going to pass as much," defensive end Kenechi Udeze said. "They are a run-oriented team. We just knew if we got in there and forced them into passing situations, you would have to [throw]. [Rivers] likes to get rid of the ball fast so we just hunkered down at every opportunity they gave us."
Defensive end Ray Edwards had the only Vikings sack of the day. However, Rivers was forced to get rid of the ball on several occasions. The Vikings also ended up with six passes defensed, including two by right cornerback Cedric Griffin.
Winfield, meanwhile, admitted it was "tough" watching the game from the sideline. He said he realized he wouldn't be able to play Sunday morning. "I came in, was on the bike trying to stretch it out, and it wasn't ready," he said.
On the receiving end
With Troy Williamson still in South Carolina following the death of his grandmother last week, Aundrae Allison was among the Vikings' four active receivers. Bobby Wade also saw extensive playing time despite nursing a hyperextended left knee.
"I think we did fine," said Robert Ferguson, who suffered a concussion in the victory. "A lot of people were concerned about two rookies going out there, but all week long we've been preparing and the coaches have been preparing. They had confidence in them, and I had confidence in them. We finally got that big play from the receiver position that we've been needing."
That play was a 40-yard third-quarter touchdown pass from Brooks Bollinger to Sidney Rice, the other rookie receiver. Rice finished with a team-leading four receptions for 66 yards. Ferguson, who said he isn't going to shave until he catches his first touchdown as a Viking, had three catches for 24 yards and Wade had one catch for 12 yards.
What about Holcomb?