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Continued: Sid Hartman: Vikings look to become latest to get hot at right time

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 24, 2012 - 10:43 AM

I have been following the Vikings from the day they were awarded the franchise, and this team never before has made a jump like it has this year, a leap from a 3-13 record in 2011 to a possible 10-6 record and a playoff berth with a victory over Green Bay next week.

It's amazing how well the Vikings played Sunday, when you look back at how poorly they performed in some of their losses.

Now if they are able to get into the playoffs and perform like they did in beating Super Bowl contender Houston Texans 23-6 for their third victory in a row, they might surprise even more.

Last year's Giants are a good example of what can happen to a team that gets hot late in the season. If you want an example of how important momentum can be going into the playoffs, look no further than last season's Super Bowl champion. The Giants defeated the Cowboys 31-14 in the season finale, their second victory in a row, securing them the NFC East championship and a trip to the playoffs even though they were only 9-7.

The Giants then played host to the Falcons the first week of the playoffs, winning 24-2, before going on to win two road games, against the Packers 37-20 and the 49ers 20-17, before beating the Patriots 21-17 in the Super Bowl.

The Packers followed a similar pattern on their way to the championship two years ago. They won their last two games of the season to reach the playoffs at 10-6, beating the Bears 10-3 the final game of the season to secure a wild-card position. Then the Packers proceeded to win three consecutive road playoff games -- at Philadelphia 21-16, at Atlanta 48-21 and at Chicago 21-14 -- to reach the Super Bowl, where they beat the Steelers 31-25.

So in each of the past two seasons the eventual Super Bowl winner only secured their playoff position in the last week of the season, and the Giants and the Packers played a combined five of six playoff games on the road to win the title -- a fate that could be quite similar to the Vikings situation if they are to get in next week.

Packers game important

So this Packers game Sunday becomes one of the more important Vikings-Packers contests in history. If they can contain quarterback Aaron Rodgers half as well as they did Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on third down, holding him to 4-for-8 for 22 yards Sunday, they certainly will break their five-game losing streak to Green Bay.

Unlike the victories over the Rams and the Bears, where the Vikings won those games because of unbelievable days by running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings used different weapons this time.

Peterson failed to break 100 yards Sunday for the first time in nine games, but he did rush 25 times for 86 yards despite a groin problem and certainly contributed to the upset simply by keeping the Texans defense so focused on the run.

The Texans did hold Peterson to his lowest rushing total since he had 79 yards in an Oct. 14 loss to the Redskins.

So while Peterson had carried the team in victories over the Rams and the Bears, this time it was quarterback Christian Ponder, the offensive line, kicker Blair Walsh -- and the Vikings defense, which had a huge day holding the high-powered Houston offense to 187 yards, its lowest total of the year. The Vikings ran 73 plays to 53 by the losers and dominated the possession time 34:46 to 25:14.

Best day for Ponder

Ponder began his big day by completing three passes for 52 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown toss to tight end Kyle Rudolph on play-action that completed a eight-play, 78-yard drive in which he sparkled.

For the game, Ponder completed 16 of 30 passes -- many of them coming in crucial situations -- for 174 yards and a touchdown. The 2011 first-round draft choice also rushed seven times for 48 yards -- 14 more than the Texans ran for as a team.

Houston entered the game leading the NFL in defending third-down situations, allowing only a 26 percent success rate, but Ponder went 8-for-12 for 95 yards passing on third down and had runs of 21 and 29 yards. The team as a whole completed 50 percent of its third downs, going 9-for-18.

No doubt what also helped Ponder's best performance of the year was a good day by the offensive line, which limited star defensive end J.J. Watt to one sack and three tackles. And the Vikings receivers -- led by rookie Jarius Wright, who caught five of the nine passes thrown at him for 53 yards -- didn't drop as many balls as they usually do.

Ponder's rushing was highlighted by a big 29-yard run in the fourth quarter. With the score at 16-6 and 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in the game, Ponder scrambled to the right side on third-and-2 for a gigantic gain. The play took the Vikings from their own 44 to the Texans 27 -- but more importantly, it prolonged the drive at a time they were trying to eat up clock. Following Ponder's run the Vikings took an additional 4 minutes off the clock before Toby Gerhart scored the clinching touchdown with 4:49 to go.

Houston has lost only three times this season -- to quarterbacks Tom Brady of New England, Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and now Ponder, who is getting better all the time.

And it was a good thing that Ponder had a good day. Had he duplicated some of his poor performances early in the season and the Vikings lost, you can bet he would have been crucified by the media for getting married last week during the season.

Defense superb

The Vikings defense against the run Sunday was amazing. Houston failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2006. The Texans, who ranked first in the AFC in rushing at 141.9 yards per game, wound up with 34 yards rushing, with Arian Foster, one of the top running backs in the league, gaining 12 yards on eight carries in the first half.

He wound up with 10 rushes for 15 yards after leaving the game in the third quarter because of an irregular heartbeat.

No doubt the Vikings made their best goal-line stand of the year when the Texans had first-and-goal at the 1 in the third quarter after a 12-yard reception by Kevin Walter. On third down, Schaub was sacked for a 14-yard loss by tackle Fred Evans. So instead of scoring a touchdown and making the score 16-10, the Texans had to settle for a 33-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 16-6.

And to think, the Vikings defense did this with outstanding defensive end Brian Robison on the sidelines because of a shoulder injury.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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Golden State
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Seton Hall 90
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Tennessee 71
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Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
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Stetson 75
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Indiana State 64
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Binghamton 76
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Cleveland State 76
Georgetown 67 FINAL
Creighton 40
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Delaware 71
Villanova 68 FINAL
DePaul 55
Vermont 65 FINAL
Hartford 46
TCU 66 FINAL
Iowa State 83
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Jacksonville 50
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Kansas 68
Boston Univ 86 FINAL
Lehigh 89
Illinois State 48 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
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Marquette 68
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Miss State 73
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Sacred Heart 71
Richmond 64 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 55
Virginia Tech 70 FINAL
Wake Forest 73
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 43 FINAL
Georgia State 74
Loyola-Maryland 77 FINAL
Army 71
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Belmont 71
Bethune-Cookman 61 FINAL
Florida A&M 44
Valparaiso 70 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 65
UAB 65 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 57
Idaho State 69 FINAL
North Dakota 80
Evansville 65 FINAL
Drake 70
Rutgers 64 FINAL
Indiana 72
Ball State 73 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 79
Southern U 24 2nd Half 15:01
Alcorn State 35
UNC-Wilmington 52 2nd Half 7:24
Drexel 66
Coastal Carolina 54 2nd Half 7:34
Gardner-Webb 52
Morgan State 21 2nd Half 17:40
Howard 33
William & Mary 75 2nd Half 7:06
James Madison 52
North Carolina 47 2nd Half 14:54
Louisville 35
Coppin State 48 2nd Half
MD-Eastern Shore 45
Ole Miss 55 2nd Half 6:19
Missouri 39
Wichita State 40 2nd Half 8:22
Northern Iowa 57
Loyola Marymount 52 2nd Half 3:54
Pacific 54
Winthrop 54 2nd Half 8:00
Radford 59
George Washington 33 2nd Half 12:30
Rhode Island 38
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Robert Morris 52
Long Island 49 2nd Half 9:39
St Francis-NY 62
Fair-Dickinson 52 2nd Half 7:06
St Francis-PA 54
Massachusetts 48 2nd Half 8:52
Saint Louis 45
Georgia 36 2nd Half 9:53
South Carolina 46
Central Conn St 53 2nd Half 0:55
Wagner 86
SIU Edwardsville 40 2nd Half 9:41
Eastern Ill 38
Ohio 41 2nd Half 16:31
Central Mich 47
Eastern Ky 27 2nd Half
Morehead State 34
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UNC-Asheville 24
Vanderbilt 33 2nd Half 15:08
Texas A&M 45
Western Carolina 28 1st Half 4:21
UNC Greensboro 24
Detroit 8 1st Half 9:18
Milwaukee 18
Idaho 36 1st Half 3:27
Eastern Wash 34
Marshall 0 1st Half 18:26
Louisiana Tech 3
Jackson State 0 1st Half 20:00
Miss Valley St 0
Houston Baptist 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Louisiana 4:30 PM
Texas State
Denver 6 1st Half 16:37
South Dakota St 5
Oral Roberts 0 1st Half 20:00
South Dakota 0
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South Dakota 93
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UAB 73
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Tulane 63
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Memphis 53
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TX-Pan American 71
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Jackson State 71 FINAL
Miss Valley St 74
Louisiana 83 FINAL
Texas State 81
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ULM 55
Saint Louis 72 FINAL
Dayton 87
Cleveland State 72 FINAL
Oakland 64
Grand Canyon 76 FINAL
Chicago State 51
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oregon 67
Washington St 56 FINAL
(12) Stanford 75
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Texas Tech 35
UNLV 67 2nd Half 7:11
Air Force 68
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UNC Greensboro 56 2nd Half 4:52
Wofford 62
Delaware State 62 2nd Half 0:55
SC State 64
San Diego State 59 2nd Half 4:01
Utah State 50
Sacramento St 71 2nd Half 7:01
Montana 82
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NC A&T 46 2nd Half 4:26
Savannah State 41
Alabama A&M 33 2nd Half
Prairie View 40
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Bowling Green 35
Ark-Pine Bluff 32 2nd Half 14:11
Grambling 38
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Alcorn State 33
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Iona 50
Bucknell 41 2nd Half 2:02
Colgate 50
North Dakota 56 2nd Half 4:14
Idaho State 61
Ark-Little Rock 28 2nd Half 17:53
Georgia Southern 23
BYU 13 1st Half 6:40
Santa Clara 17
Gonzaga 30 1st Half 3:41
Portland 26
Pacific 25 1st Half 5:59
Loyola Marymount 23
Colorado State 25 1st Half 2:56
Fresno State 15
New Mexico 20 1st Half 7:02
San Jose St 16
UC Davis 11 1st Half 7:24
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San Francisco 30
New Orleans 15 1st Half 6:58
McNeese State 33
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Belmont 18
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Idaho 21
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Washington 4:30 PM
California
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Lamar
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(7) Oregon State 4
Portland State 5:00 PM
Montana State
Columbia 5:00 PM
Brown
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Weber State
Charlotte 5:00 PM
FIU
(19) Princeton 5:00 PM
Dartmouth
Penn 5:00 PM
Harvard
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Murray State
Troy 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Jacksonville St 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Nevada
Oklahoma St 6:00 PM
Iowa State
CS-Bakersfield 6:00 PM
Seattle
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Hawaii
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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 NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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