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Vikings Vs. Lions: Minnesota ends NFC North losing streak with big win

The Minnesota Vikings held on to beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday, despite not scoring an offensive touchdown on the afternoon.

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Vikings rising in Week 5 power rankings

The Minnesota Vikings are nearing the Top 10 in most of the weekly power rankings following consecutive wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions.


Vikings vs. Lions: Five Game-Chaning Plays

The Minnesota Vikings are alone in first place in the NFC North.* I'll be honest with you--I didn't think that statement would hold true at any point of the 2012 season. But here we are, one-fourth of the way in and the Vikings sit atop of their division with a surprising 3-1 record.

* = Unless of course the Chicago Bears beat the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night; in that case, the throne would be shared heading into Week 5.

If you didn't catch the game and only glanced at the box score from Sunday's game in Detroit, you'd be surprised that the Vikings pulled off the victory. The Vikings managed a measly 227 yards of total offense against a team that allowed over 40 points in three of their previous five games dating back to last season. Matthew Stafford threw for over 200 yards more than Christian Ponder. Breakout tight end Kyle Rudolph was held to just two receptions for eight yards while his counterpart, Brandon Pettigrew, caught seven balls for 67 yards.

So how the heck did the Vikings manage to end their 11-game divisional losing streak on the road with stats like that? There's an old cliché that says a handful of plays change the outcome of most NFL games and this game was no different. Special teams and defense had a huge impact on Minnesota escaping with a win. Let's walk through the play-by-play provided by Pro Football Reference and choose the five plays that had the most impact:

  1. First quarter, 15:00 remaining: Jason Hanson kicks off 70 yards, returned by Percy Harvin for 105 yards, touchdown
    Well that didn't take long. The first play of the game was definitely a big one--Harvin's kick return sucked the life out of the Ford Field crowd while giving the Vikings a ton of confidence. When your team has lost eleven consecutive division games, getting out to a quick start is vital. That's just what Percy Harvin and the kick return unit were able to do.
  2. First quarter, 13:10 remaining: Matthew Stafford pass incomplete deep right intended for Tony Scheffler (defended by Josh Robinson)
    After the Vikings jumped out to their 7-0 lead, it appeared as though the Lions would strike back on their first drive of the game. A 56-yard defensive pass interference penalty on the Lions' first play from scrimmage moved them deep into Minnesota territory. But the Vikings defense held firm, capped off by a nice defensive play from rookie corner Josh Robinson. The play might seem a little innocuous to include on this list, but it set the tone for what was to come the rest of the day. Minnesota's secondary kept everything in front of them, holding all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson to a mere 54 yards on 5 catches (none of which were over 19 yards). Safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford were consistently defending passes and jarring the ball loose all day. In fact, running back Joique Bell was Detroit's leading receiver on Sunday. He was often Stafford's only option underneath because Minnesota did an excellent job of shutting down the long ball.
  3. Second quarter, 1:55 remaining: Matthew Stafford pass incomplete short middle intended for Brandon Pettigrew
    You'll notice that this play didn't have a "defended by" statement at the end of it like the previous one did. That's because Pettigrew was wide open in the end zone on this play and simply dropped it. The Lions tight end had a good day overall, but his drop took four points off the board as Detroit settled for a field goal on the next play. This miscue deflated the Lions' momentum heading into halftime and was indicative of the crucial mistakes that ultimately cost Detroit the game.
  4. Third quarter, 13:30 remaining: Nick Harris punts 41 yards, returned by Marcus Sherels for 77 yards, touchdown
    Another no-brainer to include when you're listing impact plays. Sherels' remarkable return highlighted how Mike Priefer has improved his team's return units--the convoy of blockers that escorted Sherels into the end zone was an impressive display of teamwork. On the other side of the ball, it showed that Detroit's special teams are a glaring weakness. Allowing four kick returns for touchdowns in two games is simply unacceptable and the Lions have paid the price for it. While Sherels must be commended for keeping his feet as he pinballed down field, the Lions had a few opportunities to make relatively easy tackles.
  5. Fourth quarter, 9:51 remaining: Matthew Stafford sacked by Everson Griffen for -10 yards
    After Blair Walsh missed the first field goal of his NFL career and a chance to make it a three-score game, Detroit quickly marched the ball down to the red zone and threatened to cut the 14-point lead in half. With nearly ten minutes left, there was plenty of time for a Detroit comeback especially with how Minnesota's offense was sputtering. But once again, the Vikings' defense didn't break in the red zone. An unblocked Everson Griffen bowled over Stafford before he had a chance to throw which forced a turnover on downs. Once again, this play was a microcosm of the Vikings defense coming up big while Detroit failed to properly adjust.

While the Vikings' victory wasn't as impressive or comprehensive as their win over the 49ers the previous week, it still counts just the same. Minnesota has already equaled their 2011 win total because they're making the big plays when they need to be made in all three phases of the game.

For more on the Minnesota Vikings, go to Daily Norseman. You can also get all of your professional football news over at SB Nation’s NFL hub.


Adrian Peterson thinks he can still get better

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson feels like he still has room to get better as he returns from a torn ACL.


Vikings at Lions: Minnesota Beats Detroit, 20-13

Things got a little hairy for the Minnesota Vikings at the end of the game, but they held on to defeat the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday afternoon by a score of 20-13.

Minnesota won this game despite not scoring an offensive touchdown and, quite frankly, not looking that good on offense at all. The Vikings got the first score of the game when Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff and returned it 105 yards for a touchdown. The score for Harvin was the first time he's found the end zone this season, and the fifth time in his career that Harvin has taken a kickoff back for a touchdown. He is the Vikings' team record holder in that category.

The Vikings' other touchdown came as a result of another return, this one a 77-yard return of a Nick Harris punt by Marcus Sherels. Other than that, the Vikings' offense consisted of two Blair Walsh field goals, though Walsh missed his first kick as a member of the Vikings when he pushed one left from 46 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Minnesota defense held the explosive Detroit offense in check for much of the afternoon, though the Lions helped out quite a bit by dropping numerous passes. One of those was a huge drop by Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone near the end of the second quarter that forced Detroit to settle for a Jason Hanson field goal.

On the game's final drive, after Chris Kluwe had pinned the Lions at the 2-yard line with a beautiful punt, the Lions got down to their own 38-yard line. Stafford appeared to fumble the ball away with one of the Vikings recovering, but the officials reviewed the play and determined that he was down by contact, giving the Lions an opportunity for one more play. Rather than throw the ball downfield, however, Stafford took a sack courtesy of Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen as the clock hit zero.

Minnesota's offense only gained 227 yards on the afternoon, compared to 341 for Detroit. Christian Ponder had just 111 yards through the air on 16-of-26 passing, but he was more than supplemented by the running of Adrian Peterson, who had his first 100-yard performance of the season. Peterson had 102 yards on 21 carries, his first time going over the 100-yard mark since his knee surgery late in 2011.

Detroit did almost all of their damage through the air, as Matthew Stafford threw the ball 51 times, completing 30 for 319 yards. The Lions had only 40 yards rushing, and only one carry that gained double-digit yardage by Mikel Leshoure. On that carry, however, came the game's only turnover, as Jamarca Sanford caused Leshoure to fumble the ball and recovered the fumble to stop the Detroit drive. The Vikings did manage to hold Detroit's all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson to 54 yards on five catches, and rookie safety Harrison Smith forced Johnson to drop what would have been a touchdown reception prior to the aforementioned drop by Pettigrew.

The victory for the Vikings puts them in sole possession of first place in the NFC North for the first time since January 3, 2010. It has also given them the same number of victories that they had all of last season.

Minnesota (3-1) will host the Tennessee Titans (1-3) next week at the Metrodome, while the Lions (1-3) have their bye in Week 5 before taking to the road to battle the Philadelphia Eagles.


Video of Marcus Sherels punt return touchdown

The Minnesota Vikings got another big play on special teams against the Detroit Lions, as Marcus Sherels. . .not exactly known for his explosiveness. . .took a punt back 77 yards for a touchdown at Ford Field. Check it out in all its animated glory below.

The announcers from Fox insist on giving folks the wrong information, so we'll correct it here.

The Minnesota Vikings have, in fact, had a punt return and kick return for a touchdown in the same game before. The last time it occurred was on November 13, 2005, at the Meadowlands against the New York Giants. Koren Robinson had a kickoff return for a score to start the second half of that game, and Mewelde Moore also had a punt return for a touchdown. Darren Sharper threw in a 92-yard return of an Eli Manning interception for a score as well, and the Vikings defeated the Giants that day 24-21.

So now you have the facts.

The Vikings have just punted to the Lions, and a nice return by Stefan Logan has given them the ball at their own 48-yard line. With 7:53 left in the third quarter, the Vikings continue to hold a 20-6 lead on the Lions.


ANIMATION: Harvin's 105-Yard Kick Return TD

Percy Harvin holds the Vikings' franchise record for kick returns for touchdowns, and he added to that total on the opening kickoff of today's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. Our friends at the SB Nation mothership have given us a look at the play in GIF form. Enjoy!

Percy Harvin is just ridiculously fast, isn't he? All it takes for #12 is just that one move in order to get himself going, and there are few special teams units in the National Football League that are going to be able to catch up with him when he gets that much open space.

Surprisingly, this is the first time that Percy Harvin has found the end zone for the Vikings this season.

Minnesota's second drive has just stalled, and Chris Kluwe has put the Lions inside the 20-yard line for the Lions' second drive of the afternoon.

A little more than nine minutes remaining in the first quarter of play, and the Minnesota Vikings lead the Detroit Lions by a score of 7-3.


Hanson's Field Goal Makes It 7-3

The Minnesota Vikings got off to a fast start against the Detroit Lions with Percy Harvin's big kickoff return for a touchdown, but the Lions answered back.

On the Lions' first play, one of Minnesota's defensive linemen jumped offside, essentially giving the Lions a free play. Matthew Stafford loaded up and fired one deep towards wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and Jamarca Sanford committed pretty blatant pass interference on the play. The 56-yard penalty gave Detroit the ball on the Minnesota 24-yard line.

The Lions couldn't get much done from there, though, and wound up having to settle for a 40-yard field goal from the venerable Jason Hanson to cut the Vikings' lead to 7-3.

Fast and furious start today at Ford Field, as we're less than two minutes into the game and there are already ten points on the board. We'll see what the rest of the game brings.

13:06 remaining in the first quarter at Ford Field, and the Minnesota Vikings lead the Detroit Lions 7-3.


Percy Harvin Gives Vikings Early Lead

Through the first three weeks of the 2012 season, Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Percy Harvin had yet to find the end zone.

On Sunday, it took him all of 12 seconds to change that.

The Vikings won the coin toss of their Week 4 match-up against the Detroit Lions, and elected to receive. Jason Hanson kicked it deep, and Percy Harvin took the ball in the left-hand side of the end zone. Harvin started moving to his right, found a seam, made one cut up the field, and that was all it took. Harvin outran the Detroit special teams for what they're calling a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the afternoon off.

The return was Harvin's fifth return for a touchdown as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, which is a Minnesota Vikings record.

With 14:40 remaining in the first quarter of play, the Minnesota Vikings lead the Detroit Lions by a score of 7-0, but a big pass interference penalty on Jamarca Sanford has given the Lions the ball deep in Minnesota territory on their first possession.


Vikings vs. Lions inactives

The Minnesota Vikings have declared seven players inactive for Sunday's contest with the Detroit Lions: linebacker Erin Henderson, quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, wide receivers Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright, safeties Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond and lineman Mark Asper.

For the Detroit Lions, defensive tackle Corey Williams, safeties Amari Spievey and Louis Delmas, linebacker Travis Lewis, tackle Jason Fox and quarterback Kellen Moore are inactive Sunday. Delmas has missed all of the 2012 thus far after undergoing knee surgery in August. Corey Williams underwent knee surgery this past Tuesday and is considered week-to-week.

Henderson, the Vikings linebacker, has been ruled out with concussion symptoms. He has not practiced or played since Sept. 19 when he first reported the injury. Henderson's absence is a huge blow to the Vikings defense, as he was the team's leading tackler through two games.

Rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright is still out with an ankle injury he suffered in the preseason. Wright was a fourth-round selection by the Minnesota Vikings out of Arkansas.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's status was in question following a leg injury he sustained last week, but he will be active Sunday.

Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder is active despite a neck injury he has dealt with all week. Ponder has played exceptionally for the 2-1 Minnesota Vikings and looks to keep his team at the top of the NFC North standings with a win Sunday against Detroit.

This story originally appeared on SBNation.com



Vikings LB Erin Henderson still on the mend

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson suffered a concussion during the team's Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts and did not play in Week 3, but he hopes to get back on the field against the Detroit Lions.

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier told the media on Thursday that Henderson has yet to pass all required concussion tests, but noted that the linebacker could still play if he is able to practice on Friday. Henderson sat out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

The 26-year-old defender has been credited with 22 tackles so far this season to go along with two sacks, so it would be a boost to the defense if he could return on Sunday. Henderson played in 15 games for the Vikings last season, recording 70 tackles and 1.5 sacks during that time. Marvin Mitchell -- who has been filling in for Henderson but is nursing an ankle injury -- had full participation in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Vikings and Lions are set to clash at 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, Sept. 30.

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