Shiny pair of boots send Vikings to season-opening OT victory

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 10, 2012 - 9:15 AM

The official attendance for the Vikings' opener Sunday: 56,607. Which means at least 50,000 people wandered into downtown Minneapolis in the late afternoon still in a daze and struggling to comprehend what all had happened.

Some left prematurely, shortly after Jacksonville receiver Cecil Shorts hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert with 20 seconds left. After the two-point conversion, the Jaguars led 23-20 and the most impatient and cynical Vikings fans stomped out of Mall of America Field wondering why that bitter 2011 aftertaste was still lingering.

Another blown lead late?

Another home loss?

Was this yet another example of a bad team finding a new agonizing way to lose?

But then something crazy happened. Many things actually. And after Sunday's final play -- a wobbly Gabbert incompletion in overtime -- the Vikings had somehow stolen a 26-23 victory.

Just like that, a wave of euphoria washed away most of the displeasure.

It was that kind of unbelievable afternoon. So unbelievable, in fact, that the Vikings' final 12 points came off the foot of their rookie kicker, Blair Walsh, a calm and confident 22-year-old whose selection in the sixth round of April's draft raised a few eyebrows at the time.

But Walsh absolutely crunched a 55-yard tying field goal on the final play of regulation, then completed his perfect afternoon with a 38-yard field goal on the Vikings' first possession of overtime.

"His intestinal fortitude is incredible," coach Leslie Frazier said.

Added defensive end Brian Robison: "First NFL game. Rookie kicker. Game-winner. Game-tying kick. In my mind, he should definitely get a game ball."

And probably more than that.

Sunday's victory was so unbelievable that 48 hours after the Vikings finished their final practice of Week 1 insisting Adrian Peterson's availability would be a game-time decision, the eager running back wound up taking 17 carries, rushing for 84 yards and scoring both Vikings touchdowns.

Peterson was asked whether that sizable workload was more than he expected.

"It was less," he said, not kidding even a little. "I was ready to carry the load."

Later, Peterson was asked if he could handle even more work next week.

"Yeah. I'm feeling good right now," he responded. "My legs are loose. Seriously."

Really? The franchise running back is already feeling back to normal and producing like his old self barely eight months removed from major knee surgery? Yep, unbelievable.

Things were so unbelievable Sunday that Christian Ponder shook off an inexplicably lethargic start by the offense to deliver the biggest drive of his young pro career with little time and no margin for error.

It was a two-play march that required only 10 seconds. Ponder completed passes of 26 and 6 yards to Devin Aromashodu and Kyle Rudolph, respectively. And that put Walsh in position for the tying bomb as regulation ended.

"Even before we had to go out there," Ponder said, "I was telling guys that we're going to need our two-minute offense. I don't know that guys believed me. But I told them we had to stay in it. Fortunately they did and we were focused."

The Vikings made good on a handful of offseason promises during the opener. They promised Ponder would be better in Year 2. And after the Vikings dry-heaved their way to four punts on their first four possessions, Ponder responded by going 17-for-20 for 238 yards the rest of the way.

Six completions went to Percy Harvin for 84 yards, five to Kyle Rudolph for 67 more yards.

Peterson had promised since January that he had play in the opener. And he delivered, sending a jolt of energy through the Metrodome first with his introduction in the starting lineup and later by showing that brilliant burst-and-blast running style of his.

His longest run was a 20-yarder in overtime, allowing him to break Robert Smith's franchise career rushing record.

Said Frazier: "Some of those runs, I told Adrian afterward, 'I'm not sure you weren't just faking that ACL [injury].'"

That's not to say Sunday's victory was a masterpiece. Not by any stretch. There were the early defensive struggles, with Jacksonville delivering scoring drives of 17 plays and 77 yards and 11 plays and 78 yards early on.

There were silly penalties throughout.

And there was Shorts' TD grab in the closing seconds of regulation, with cornerback Chris Cook in coverage and unable to spin and locate the ball.

In a league defined by dramatic mood swings, a galling loss Sunday could have sent this mostly young, mostly unproven bunch staggering for quite a while.

Instead, a gutty rally and an improbable victory provided what the Vikings promised to deliver throughout 2012: resolve, toughness, rays of hope.

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

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New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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