It’s obvious the Vikings’ performance in Sunday’s 26-16 victory over Detroit was a complete turnaround from what happened in the 20-3 loss at San Francisco last Monday night, and it was the type of game coach Mike Zimmer expected of his team when the season started.
Anyone comparing the statistics of the two games can see how much better they are for the Vikings from Week 2 than Week 1, both team-wise and individual-wise, and on both offense and defense.
The biggest difference from the two games was that of running back Adrian Peterson, who carried the ball 10 times for 31 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards against the 49ers. On Sunday, he looked a little more like his 2012 NFL MVP form when he carried 29 times for 134 yards and also caught two passes for 59 yards.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the other half of the Vikings offensive machine, was not himself last week as he missed receivers and failed to do any of the things he did well at the end of last season. A week ago, the 2014 first-round draft pick completed 23 of 32 passes for 231 yards and an interception with no touchdowns, a mediocre 79.0 passer rating. Sunday, he didn’t throw nearly as often, but he was much more efficient, completing 14 of 18 passes for 153 yards with an opening-drive touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph and no interceptions, posting a fantastic 120.6 quarterback rating.
And then there was the Vikings defense, which stepped up after getting run all over by the 49ers. Last Monday, second-year running back Carlos Hyde rushed 26 times for 168 yards for the 49ers, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Sunday, the Lions’ leading rusher was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who gained 20 yards on four carries. Detroit gained only 38 yards on 16 carries (2.4 per carry), with rookie running back Ameer Abdullah gaining only 9 yards on six carries.
Stafford did complete 32 of 53 passes for 286 yards for two touchdowns and an interception, a 79.6 rating that showed he wasn’t effective in performing what was necessary to lead his team to victory.
Comparing the performance of the Vikings against the 49ers to the one against the Lions, Zimmer said Sunday: “It was very uncharacteristic last week. I don’t know I’m still wondering why we played like we did.”
Zimmer pointed to a conversation he had last week with mentor Bill Parcells, one of the NFL’s great coaches.
“[Parcells said:] ‘It’s human nature. Everybody has been talking how good you are and how bad [the 49ers] were and all that kind of stuff,’ ” Zimmer said. “We can’t take the cheese this week either, because people will be saying nice things about us. We have to make sure we continue the way we work, study the way we study do and go out and practice.
“I told the team last night that I have never been around a team that works like this team. This team works like a championship team. But we have to go out on Sundays and we have to do it. I’m awful proud of them today.”
Praise for Peterson
Peterson never played at TCF Bank Stadium last season, missing the entire home schedule because of his legal troubles in Texas from his charges of child abuse. He also missed the final two games at the Metrodome in 2013 because of injury, so this was his first home game since he ran for 211 yards against Chicago on Dec. 1, 2013.
“It’s good for Adrian, but it is good for us as well as the fans,” Zimmer said of Peterson’s performance. “They’re used to seeing this big 28 come in and barrel them down. There was one third-and-1 that he ran over somebody to convert on.”
Zimmer was asked how he attributes Peterson getting so many more carries this week than last. He said one reason was that the team blocked a lot better Sunday than it did at San Francisco.
Bridgewater’s big day
Bridgewater said one reason he performed so much better in Week 2 was that he was perhaps too excited going into the opener. The quarterback said his team was ready for Sunday’s challenge after what happened Monday.
“We spent a lot of time getting ready for this game,” he said. “We knew how important this game was, our first divisional game against a playoff team from last year and it was against a team that knows us well. We spent a lot of time preparing for those guys and today we did a great job of coming out and executing.”
Bridgewater also ran in a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal, his second career rushing touchdown. He had six carries for 21 yards in all and was asked if he was an underrated runner.
“I think so. I think I still have some running ability. I try not to be in those positions, but it’s good to have it in your bag,” he said. “I just used my legs a little today, and maybe throughout the course of the year I’ll have to run a little more. But hopefully just hand the ball to 28 [Peterson] and he makes the plays for us.”
Zimmer didn’t pull any punches last week in being critical of Bridgewater’s performance against the 49ers. Bridgewater was asked if he took the criticism to heart
“I love it that coach Zimmer is tough on me,” he said. “He is tough on all of the guys and it just shows that he cares about us. He wants us to give our all and play at our best every week. Last week we didn’t execute the way we were supposed to, but this week we did a great job of putting last week in the past.”
Big day for defense
Defensive end Everson Griffen didn’t mind talking about how well the defensive line played Sunday.
“Yeah, we played well,” he said. “There is a lot of improvement we can work on. The sky is the limit for us. We want to be great every day. [Stafford] was getting the ball out quick because he didn’t want to be hit. But there were times when we were able back there and deflect them.
“They are a good team, but today we were better. … We just have to keep it going and be us. That’s the number one thing, be the Vikings and nobody else.”
Said safety Harrison Smith, who had five solo tackles and a forced fumble: “We stopped the run. That can be attributed to our front, linebackers and coaches. Then the offense did a great job of managing the clock by running the ball. … Our D linemen were playing on their side of the ball a lot of the time. We made a lot of good plays.”
Smith said the team did a good job following Zimmer’s lead following the disappointment of Monday.
“We just follow what he is coaching us to do and all the coaches are coaching us to do,” Smith said. “It’s not magic; we just have a lot of trust in the coaches and a lot of trust in each other.”
Added Griffen: “It shows when you are locked and loaded and you’ve got everything going, it’s hard to get beat. We are going to be hard to beat.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com