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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.
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.
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:
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.
Despite his intention to avoid the play, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway expects to be fined for the hit he laid upon Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's 20-13 win, according to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press.
Greenway's shoulder pad hit Johnson in the head on the play, causing the referees to call a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. The linebacker says that he tried to pull up and avoid hitting Johnson, though:
I don't want to hurt Calvin. I don't want to hurt anybody. I'm thinking he's going to catch that ball 99 percent of the time. He didn't that time. So when I go to try to break the ball up, my pad, it's clear on the tape, it hits his head. What are you going to do? They're going to throw the flag and I'm probably going to get assessed a fine. But my intent was not to hurt him.
Over the first four games of the season, Greenway has played well, recording 44 tackles, two defended passes and two sacks. The Vikings are currently 3-1 so far this season, partially thanks to a defense that's played pretty well in the first four games.
Jenkins caught only one pass for four yards Sunday. His lack of production was partly due to the rib injury he sustained, and partly due to his diminished role on the team following the reinstatement of Jerome Simpson from suspension. Simpson led the team in receiving with 50 yards. Jenkins, the ninth year player out of Ohio State, has 10 receptions for 100 yards this season.
Linebacker Erin Henderson is still out after sustaining a concussion in Week Two. He has not practiced since Sept. 19 as he has yet to pass a league mandated concussion test.
Safety Mistral Raymond also missed Sunday's game for Minnesota. Raymond, a second-year player out of South Florida, suffered an ankle injury in Week Three and will be out for up to five weeks.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson feels like he still has room to get better as he returns from a torn ACL.
The Vikings offense struggled, being unable to find the endzone all game, but the special teams and defense answered the call to carry Minnesota to victory. The special teams proved game-changing, with kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns, accounting for 14 points in all.
Christopher Gates of SB Nation's Minnesota Vikings blog, The Daily Norseman, writes that regardless of how the offense played, the Vikings have given fans a lot to be excited about through four weeks.
On Sunday afternoon at Ford Field, the Minnesota Vikings didn't put up a single offensive touchdown... Yet when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the Minnesota Vikings left Ford Field with a 3-1 record and sole possession of first place in the NFC North for the first time since the final day of the 2009 regular season. That's January 3, 2010, if you're scoring at home. And why is that the case? Because, when the offense was down, the other two phases of the game picked them up and carried them to a team victory.
The Vikings take their 3-1 record into a home game next week against the Tennessee Titans.
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.
The offensive stalemate has been broken at Ford Field, with the Detroit Lions getting the first touchdown of the game that didn't involve a kick return or a punt return.
The Lions moved the ball 75 yards down the field on 11 plays. The final play of the drive looked a bit controversial, with Matthew Stafford going over the top of the pile from the 1-yard line. On the replay, it didn't appear that Stafford got the ball across the goal line. However, the officiating crew. . .not the replacement referees, remember. . .went under the hood and looked at it, as they do with every scoring play.
After the officials reviewed the play, however, it was determined that Stafford did get the ball into the end zone, and the touchdown call stood.
So, with 2:56 remaining at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions have made things interesting again, but the Minnesota Vikings still lead the game by a score of 20-13.
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.
The Minnesota Vikings have gotten another special teams return for a touchdown. . .and it didn't come from the usual source.
After the Detroit Lions gained one first down on their initial possession of the second half, Nick Harris punted the ball away to Marcus Sherels. Sherels took the punt at his own 23-yard line, and made the first man miss. He dodged numerous tackles, and when he cut the ball back to the left-hand side of the field, he had an entire cadre of white jerseys surrounding him on his way to the end zone.
The 77-yard return is the first punt return score of Sherels' career and, more importantly, gives the Minnesota Vikings a 20-6 lead over the Detroit Lions early in the third quarter.
That gives the Vikings a punt return for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown in this one. The last time that happened for the Vikings was back on November 13, 2005 against the New York Giants. They had an interception returned for a touchdown in that game as well.
The Lions have also allowed seven plays of more than 60 yards in the last game and a half, going back to their 44-41 loss against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3.
With twelve and a half minutes left in the third quarter of play, the Minnesota Vikings lead the Detroit Lions by a score of 20-6.
The Lions started out at their own 20-yard line, and Matthew Stafford found Brandon Pettigrew to convert a third down, and then found Calvin Johnson to get the ball to midfield. After a pass to Titus Young got the ball into Minnesota territory, a questionable penalty on Josh Robinson for unnecessary roughness gave Detroit the ball at the 8-yard line.
Detroit appeared to have a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson on second and goal, but Harrison Smith jarred the ball loose before Johnson could complete the catch. Pettigrew dropped what should have been a touchdown catch on third down, and the Lions had to bring Jason Hanson on to the field for another field goal attempt. The 22-year veteran knocked it through from 31 yards out, and the Lions cut the Minnesota lead to 13-6.
We have 1:46 remaining until halftime at Ford Field, and the Minnesota Vikings lead the Detroit Lions by a score of 13-6.
Another long drive for the Minnesota Vikings resulted in points, but not quite as many as Minnesota probably would have hoped.
Starting again at their own 9-yard line, the Vikings started off with a nice 19-yard run from Adrian Peterson, and a nice connection from Christian Ponder to Percy Harvin to keep the drive going. Jerome Simpson drew another long pass interference penalty, this one a 26-yarder to put the ball down at the Detroit 23-yard line. A carry by Harvin got the Vikings down to the Detroit 9-yard line, but the drive stalled at that spot, and the Vikings once again had to turn to rookie Blair Walsh.
Walsh was true once again, this time from 27 yards out, extending the Minnesota lead to 13-3. Walsh has not missed this season so far, going 9-for-9 through the first three-plus games of the 2012 season for the Vikings.
We've got 8:14 left in the first half at Ford Field, and the Minnesota Vikings lead the Detroit Lions by a score of 13-3.
The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions exchanged punts after the Jason Hanson field goal to make the score 7-3. The Vikings started their second possession at their own 9-yard line, and started off with Adrian Peterson moving the ball steadily.
The Vikings tried their first deep pass attempt on the drive, with the returning Jerome Simpson drawing a big pass interference call to move the ball to the Detroit 32-yard line after the 31-yard penalty. However, the Vikings' drive stalled out from there, and rookie Blair Walsh came on for a 49-yard field goal attempt. Despite hitting the left upright, Walsh managed to get the kick home, and the Minnesota lead was once again back at seven points at 10-3.
Minnesota's offense is again taking what the defense is giving them. Christian Ponder has completed six of his seven pass attempts, but those completions have gone for just 23 yards. Adrian Peterson has five carries for 30 yards in the early going.
We're on to the second quarter of play at Ford Field in Detroit, with the Minnesota Vikings holding a 10-3 lead over the Detroit Lions.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Minnesota Vikings try to end a three-game losing streak to the Detroit Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday on Fox.
Well, after a pretty disastrous Week 2, Week 3 in the National Football League went significantly better with the ol' picks here at SB Nation Minnesota. Thanks to the Monday Night Football. . .um, "incident". . .we wound up going 9-6 with our picks straight-up, and even posting a win against the number with an 8-7 mark.
The Ravens DID win straight up, but the Browns did cover. . .should have known better than to lay that many points. . .so I'm 1-0 straight up and 0-1 against the number thus far this week. Let's see if we can't improve things going forward, huh? As always, picks against the spread (provided by our friends at OddsShark) are for entertainment purposes only. Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, ladies and gentlemen.
The Eagles played with fire in their first two games with their turnover issues, and got thoroughly scorched in a 27-6 thumping by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. The Giants went to Carolina and thrashed Cam Newton and company to the tune of 36-7. In this week's NBC
NFC East National Game of the Week, it has all the makings of a decent match-up. . .if the Eagles can stop giving the ball to the other team. Averaging four turnovers a game is generally not a recipe for long-term success. Take the Giants in this one.
Straight-up: Giants, ATS: Giants
Another week, another running back for the Bills, as Tashard Choice steps into the top role with C.J. Spiller going down with an injury. The Bills beat the Browns last week, while the Patriots had a tough last-second loss against Baltimore. The Patriots are 1-2, and that can't last for long under Bill Belichick. This could very well be the week that the Patriots start righting the ship a little bit, and it could come at the expense of their division counterparts from upstate New York.
Straight-up: Patriots, ATS: Patriots
Bounty suspensions! Replacement referees! Ladies and gentlemen, it's Pity Bowl 2012! As a Viking fan, if I was schadenfreuding any harder, I'd be in Dusseldorf sipping a Löwenbräu and eating sommerwurst with a fraulein while wearing lederhosen during Oktoberfest. The only thing that would make this even better is if both teams could lose somehow. But, since they can't, let's pick them to both end the day at 1-3. Frankly, I don't even care if I get this pick wrong.
Straight-up: Saints, ATS: Saints
The Rest of the Week
I don't think the Seahawks will need any controversy to come out on top in this one.
Straight-up: Seahawks, ATS: Seahawks
The curators of Revis Island have paved paradise and put up a parking lot. The Niners are probably going to be angry after last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and didn't fly back to the West Coast this week, negating the usual travel issues.
Straight-up: 49ers, ATS: 49ers
An AFC West showdown at Arrowhead. If the Chiefs have Jamaal Charles back on track, then the home team has the advantage in this one, in my opinion.
Straight-up: Chiefs, ATS: Chiefs
The Texans are markedly better than the Titans, who got pretty lucky last weekend against the Detroit Lions. (Seriously, five touchdowns of at least 60 yards in length? How does that even happen?) That said, I'm not getting sucked into the same spread trap that I did in the Thursday night game. Now, watch Houston blow the Titans out.
Straight-up: Texans, ATS: Titans
Cam Newton has hit a bit of a sophomore slump, and the Panthers looked like they would rather have been anywhere else last Thursday against the Giants. Having to match up against Matt Ryan (the NFL's highest-rated QB through three weeks of the season), Roddy White, and Julio Jones could easily have them feeling that way again this Sunday.
Straight-up: Falcons, ATS: Falcons
The Raiders are probably flying high off of their upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, while the Broncos are also at 1-2 after their loss last week against Houston. AFC West match-ups are never easy to pick, and while I think the Broncos will win this one, it will probably be close.
Straight-up: Broncos, ATS: Raiders
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
The Cardinals are 3-0, and are playing incredible defense through the first three weeks of the season. Want to know what's more shocking? They'll probably be 4-0 after this one.
Straight-up: Cardinals, ATS: Cardinals
I just have one question about this one. . .why in the heck is this one of the late games?
Straight-up: Bengals, ATS: Bengals
And another late game from the East Coast. Man, the NFL must have decided to just vacate the West Coast in Week 4 or something.
Straight-up: Buccaneers, ATS: Buccaneers
Still waiting for Jay Cutler to completely lose his mind on one of his offensive linemen. With DeMarcus Ware lining up across from J'Marcus Webb, there's a good chance we'll see it on Monday Night at Jerryworld.
Straight-up: Cowboys, ATS: Cowboys
Record Straight-Up Last Week: 9-6
Record Straight-Up For The Season: 27-18
Record ATS Last Week: 8-7
Record ATS For The Season: 20-24-1
Lock Of The Week For The Season: 2-1 straight-up, 0-3 against the spread
Upset Of The Week For The Season: 2-1 straight-up, 2-1 against the spread
The Minnesota Vikings released the injury report for their upcoming game against the Detroit Lions. Quarterback Christian Ponder and tight end Kyle Rudolph are listed as probable.
The Minnesota Vikings have an 11-game losing streak against NFC North opponents, so Adrian Peterson knows it's time to end that dubious string of failure.
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.
Adrian Peterson feels like he's healthy enough to see an increased load in Week 4 of the NFL season.
The Minnesota Vikings made room for Jerome Simpson to return after serving his three-game suspension by waiving Allen Reisner on Thursday.
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