The Minnesota Vikings continued their surprising early season run on Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome, riding a stifling defensive performance to a 30-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Minnesota won this game despite quarterback Christian Ponder throwing his first two interceptions of the 2012 season. After going 145 attempts to start the season without throwing a pick, the Vikings' second-year signal caller threw interceptions on back-to-back passes. His final pass of the first half deflected off of the hands of tight end Kyle Rudolph and into the hands of Tennessee's Robert Johnson, and his first attempt of the third quarter wound up being intercepted by Jordan Babineaux.
Outside of that, however, the highlights were few and far between for the visiting team. Through the first three quarters of play, the Titans had just five first downs and 96 yards of total offense. They picked up some yardage in the fourth quarter when the Vikings were just attempting to run the clock out, but the Vikings still outgained the Titans by a margin of 433 yards to 267. The Titans were held off of the scoreboard until a 10-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Jared Cook with about ten and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter of play.
Brian Robison and Jared Allen each registered a sack on the afternoon. Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were each credited with a forced fumble, with Brinkley's being a strip of Chris Johnson that was recovered by Harrison Smith in the first quarter of play. Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson led Minnesota in tackles with six.
The Vikings held Titans' running back Chris Johnson to just 24 yards on 15 carries, and Hasselbeck had just 200 passing yards despite going to the air 43 times. That tells you what kind of performance the Minnesota defense put on this Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't all rosy for the Minnesota defense, however, as rookie safety Harrison Smith was ejected in the second quarter for contact with an official. The official was attempting to separate Smith and Titans' wide receiver Nate Washington, and Smith pushed the official out of the way. Not only did that draw a 15-yard penalty for Smith, but it was also enough to get him kicked out of the game. We will have to see what sort of fine and/or other punishment is potentially coming from the league office.
Ponder was up-and-down on the day, completing 25-of-35 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns to go with his two interceptions. The first touchdown was a little flip to Percy Harvin that saw #12 take care of all the work, making four Titans miss on his way to the end zone for a 10-yard score. The second was a fade to Kyle Rudolph in the back corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter that sealed the game for Minnesota. Harvin also added a four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to open the scoring for Minnesota.
Running back Adrian Peterson gained 88 yards on 17 carries, including a 34-yard burst that is his longest of the year. Toby Gerhart saw quite a bit of time in the fourth quarter, and finished the afternoon with six carries for 41 yards. Harvin wound up with a total of 116 yards of offense, thanks to eight catches for 108 yards and two carries for eight more yards. He did not get an opportunity to return a kickoff on the afternoon.
The Vikings, at 4-1, remain tied for first place in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears. They will travel to the nation's capital next week to take on a Washington Redskins (2-3) team that might be without star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. RGIII suffered a concussion on Sunday afternoon in the Redskins' 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Titans fall to 1-4, and will have a short week in front of them as they prepare to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) on Thursday night.