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Sounds of the Game: Inside 2015's Vikings Victories

Posted Feb 15, 2016

Vikings Entertainment Network recapped the Vikings 11 victories that helped Minnesota secure its first NFC North title since 2009 through a series of “Sounds of the Game” videos. Our Vikings.com staff offers a quick recap of some of the most magical moments, as well as some hidden plays that helped the run to the division title in Mike Zimmer’s second season as head coach.


Vikings 26, Lions 16 | Sept. 20

@LindseyMNSports

Welcome home: In his first appearance for the home crowd since the 2013 season, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made a memorable return, totaling 192 yards in Minnesota’s 2015 home opener. The Vikings defeated the division rival Lions 26-16, thanks in large part to Peterson’s performance. Peterson recorded 134 rushing yards on 29 carries and also caught two passes, one resulting on an impromptu play in the second quarter.

With 6:04 left in the half on third-and-2, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater found himself under pressure on his own 18-yard line. As he was getting sacked, Bridgewater flipped the ball to Peterson, who escaped defenders and ran it 49 yards before being angled out of bounds at Detroit’s 23-yard line. The drive ended in a Blair Walsh field goal to give the Vikings a 17-3 lead.

Take two: After a tough loss to San Francisco in the season opener, the Vikings defense made a statement against Detroit the following week, holding the Lions to just 38 rushing yards and creating two turnovers.

Early in the third quarter, linebacker Eric Kendricks and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn caused a Lions fumble. Safety Andrew Sendejo scooped it up and ran the ball 28 yards. 

The Vikings defense came up with another big play in the fourth quarter, when defensive end Justin Trattou intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass. Trattou’s pick returned control of the game to Minnesota, and the drive ended with Walsh’s second field goal.

Unsung hero: In just his second career start, fullback Zach Line helped deflect opponents for Peterson, allowing Peterson to rack up 134 rushing yards. Line also scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run after a handoff from Bridgewater.

Vikings 31, Chargers 14 | Sept. 27

@CCorsoVikings

Double touchdowns: Adrian Peterson posted his 25th game with two or more scores. His 2-yard touchdown gave the Vikings a 10-0 lead and was his first since Nov. 24, 2013.

Peterson’s second score of the day was a 43-yard rushing touchdown that included a stiff-arm, cutback, plow through another tackle and high-stepping into the end zone. The touchdown was the 93rd total score of his career, which tied him with WR Randy Moss for the second-most touchdowns in Vikings franchise history.

Going the distance: Vikings 10-year veteran Chad Greenway intercepted QB Philip Rivers on a tipped pass and returned it all the way to the end zone for a 91-yard touchdown.

The score marked the linebacker’s first touchdown since 2007 and gave the Vikings a 31-7 lead in the fourth quarter.

Matchup of the game: The Vikings pass rush provided a defensive surge against the Chargers offensive line. The defense sacked Rivers four times and hit the quarterback 13 total times.

DE Everson Griffen and LB Anthony Barr each had six tackles. Griffen tallied 1.5 sacks, and Barr forced a fumble during a sack of Rivers in the first quarter.

Vikings 16, Chiefs 10 | Oct. 18

@Eric_L_Smith

Streak starter: If a team is going to reach the playoffs, they’ll have to go on a winning streak of sorts at some point during the season. Minnesota did just that with a five-game winning streak that started with its Week 6 victory against the Chiefs. The Vikings would go on to beat Detroit and Chicago on the road before they knocked off St. Louis at home and defeated the Raiders in Oakland. The Vikings would eventually make the playoffs and win the NFC North with an 11-5 mark.

Breakout performance: Rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs was inactive for the first three games of the regular season before making his first appearance against Denver, A week later against the Chiefs, Diggs opened more than a few eyes with seven catches for 129 yards. Diggs didn’t find the end zone against Kansas City, but his breakout game helped him establish a strong trust with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Diggs later became the first rookie in franchise history to lead the team in receptions with 52.

Through the uprights: Points were at a premium against Kansas City, a team that reel off 11 straight victories (including a Wild Card playoff game) after playing the Vikings. Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh scored 10 of Minnesota’s 16 points with three field goals and an extra point. In addition to a 24-yard field goal that put the Vikings up 3-0 early, Walsh also connected on a pair of 45-yard attempts. He knocked one through in the third quarter to put the Vikings up 13-0, and then again in the fourth quarter that doubled Minnesota’s lead from three to six with 4:46 left.

Vikings 28, Lions 19 | Oct. 25 | at Detroit

@pcraigers

Seeing is believing: Mike Zimmer seized an opportunity to use the voice of outside naysayers who said the Vikings “couldn’t win on the road” to challenge his team, and players rose to the occasion. After going 2-8 since 2014, the Vikings rallied from a 17-6 deficit with 22 straight points. Teddy Bridgewater connected with Kyle Rudolph on a 1-yard pass and Blair Walsh kicked a 51-yard field goal for 10 points inside the final 1:49 of the first half.

Slingshot engaged: Chad Greenway and Brian Robison have been stand-up guys for years as Vikings, having the backs of teammates for 10 and nine seasons, respectively. Greenway, however, shoved Robison in the back then swung around the other direction during a blitz, a la the slingshot for Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. Greenway recorded the first of the Vikings seven sacks of Matthew Stafford on the day. Eric Kendricks had 2.0, and Everson Griffen had 1.5, sharing one takedown with Anthony Barr. Tom Johnson and Harrison Smith also recorded sacks of Stafford.

Under-heralded moment: One snap before Walsh’s 51-yard field goal as the first half expired, right tackle T.J. Clemmings recovered a fumble that occurred during a sack of Bridgewater. The play helped keep momentum and led directly to points. It wasn’t as flashy as Stefon Diggs’ 36-yard flying touchdown in the third quarter that was played on loop, but it was important in the Vikings first sweep of the Lions since 2012.

Vikings 23, Bears 20 | Nov. 1 | at Chicago

@wobby

Drought ender: The Vikings hadn’t won at Soldier Field since 2007, a string of seven games that felt like 70. But Mike Zimmer and his team were on a mission in 2015 to expunge these types of losing streaks, trends and doubts. It took a special teams touchdown and some late-game heroics, but the Vikings got it done in a 23-20 thriller to notch their third consecutive win and improve to 5-2 on the season. 

Clutch performances: Was another Soldier Field fiasco unfolding? It appeared so when Chicago drove 74 yards in 14 plays to score a go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th quarter. But a series of big-time plays by Vikings turned the tide. Teddy Bridgewater scrambled for 19 yards on second-and-17, and moments later on third-and-4, he found Stefon Diggs for a 40-yard touchdown that included an incredible effort after the catch. After a Bears three-and-out, Bridgewater and Co. took the field again, with the score tied and a minute to play. Charles Johnson made an acrobatic, leaping catch in front of a Bears defender for a 35-yard gain to put the ball on the Chicago 27. Two plays later, Blair Walsh split the uprights on a 36-yard field goal to lift the Vikings to victory.

Record return: The late-game heroics made the highlight reels, but it was an early-game play that put the Vikings in position to beat the Bears. Marcus Sherels fielded a punt at his own 35 and found a way to evade the Bears coverage to and scamper down the field for a 65-yard punt return touchdown that gave the Vikings a lead and their only touchdown until the final moments of the fourth quarter. The return touchdown was the third of Sherels’ career, a franchise record.

Vikings 21, Rams 18, OT | Nov. 8

@pcraigers

Take the wind: There are so many decisions for a head coach in the NFL. Mike Zimmer opted to put the wind at the backs of the Vikings after winning the coin toss to start overtime. The Vikings forced a three-and-punt by the Rams. Marcus Sherels returned the ball 26 yards, and the Vikings gained 29 yards on seven plays to set up Blair Walsh’s second walk-off winning field goal in as many weeks, a 40-yard blast through the uprights.

Game wrecker: Linval Joseph tackled rookie Todd Gurley for a loss of 6 on the first play of overtime, and the Rams didn’t gain another yard. The clutch tackle was part of a game-wrecking day for Joseph, who had press box stats of 10 tackles, three for loss, two quarterback hits and split a sack with Andrew Sendejo. Joseph was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Keep it clean: The Vikings finished the season as the least penalized team in the NFL, with only 90 infractions (including the playoff game). The Rams were flagged a total of 122 times (tied for ninth-most in the league). St. Louis was assessed 12 penalties, compared to six against Minnesota in this game. The Vikings kept their composure even after Teddy Bridgewater left the game early in the fourth quarter because of a concussion on a play that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty against St. Louis. Shaun Hill wasn’t splashy, but he and the Vikings were steady and didn’t have a turnover in the final 13-plus minutes of regulation or overtime.

Vikings 30, Raiders 14 | Nov. 15 | at Oakland

@pcraigers

Big mo’: The Vikings scored the first 13, but the Raiders took the lead with consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter. Cordarrelle Patterson and the kickoff return team answered the sway in momentum with a 93-yard return for a touchdown to put the Vikings up 20-14 with 1:39 left in the first half. The Vikings defense didn’t allow a point the rest of the game, and the offense added 10 in the final four minutes.

Two for Terence: In a game that featured two of the senior-most and best-respected secondary players in the NFL, Terence Newman nabbed two interceptions, and the Vikings played keep away from Charles Woodson, a Raider that shifted from corner to safety before retiring at the end of 2015. Newman’s first pick set up a 20-yard field goal by Blair Walsh that followed a 22-yard completion from Teddy Bridgewater to Mike Wallace and a 17-yard run by Adrian Peterson. His second occurred in the end zone with Oakland in position to cut into a nine-point lead with 2:03 left. Newman was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Great 80: One play after Newman’s second interception, Peterson delivered an 80-yard touchdown to ice the game and give him 203 yards on the day. It placed Peterson in a tie with Barry Sanders for the most touchdown runs of 40 or more yards in NFL history (18) and in a tie with O.J. Simpson for most games with 200 or more rushing yards (six).

Vikings 20, Falcons 10 | Nov. 29 | at Atlanta

@pcraigers

Rebound game: Mike Zimmer admitted after the game that he was concerned about this game. The Vikings were coming off a 17-point loss at home to the Packers and had a tough one on the horizon against Seattle. Minnesota, however, focused on the moment by clamping down with a defense that kept the Falcons grounded and out of the end zone until 1:28 remained on the clock. It was the Vikings fourth of five road wins in 2015.

Hustle and muscle: Anthony Barr forced fumbles in the first and fourth quarters. One snap after Minnesota took its first lead, Tevin Coleman broke loose for a 46-yard gain. Safety Antone Exum, Jr. slowed the Falcons rookie, and Barr hustled down the field to knock the ball free from behind. Exum recovered the turnover, and Atlanta never really recovered from it. Barr also came up big, forcing a fumble on a sack of Matt Ryan on a fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter. The Falcons corralled the ball at their own 40, but lost it on downs.

Stronger at the finish: Adrian Peterson helped ice the game with a 35-yard touchdown run with 4:15 remaining. It was his second score of the game on a day when he totaled 158 yards on 29 carries. The 30-year-old capped a strong November in which he set a franchise record with 634 yards in the month, and moved into sole possession as the Vikings leader in multi-touchdown games (26).

Vikings 38, Bears 17 | Dec. 20

@LindseyMNSports

Bridgewater breaks out: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played a career game against the division rival Bears, recording four passing touchdowns and adding a fifth touchdown on the ground. On his third touchdown pass of the day, Bridgewater dropped back and fired, connecting with rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 33-yard scoring play and Diggs’ second touchdown of the game.

Bridgewater finished the evening 17-for-20, throwing for 231 yards and achieving a 154.4 passer rating, the second-highest passer rating in Vikings history. Bridgewater also became the first Vikings quarterback to throw for four touchdowns since Brett Favre did it on Jan. 3, 2010, and first to throw for four and rush for one since Fran Tarkenton in the Vikings first game.

A game of firsts: For the first time in his debut season, Diggs recorded his first multi-score game with two touchdowns. Diggs finished the game with 55 yards on three catches.

Second-year running back Jerick McKinnon also hauled in a touchdown for the Vikings, making his first career scoring play on a 17-yard Bridgewater pass.

Fullback Zach Line caught his first career receiving touchdown for Minnesota’s last score of the game off a 4-yard pass from Bridgewater late in the fourth quarter.

All hands on deck: Minnesota’s 38-17 win swept the series with Chicago and came with the help of great teamwork. Five different players scored points for the Vikings: Bridgewater, Diggs, Line, McKinnon and kicker Blair Walsh, who nailed a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter.

Bridgewater connected with seven different receivers throughout the game, including McKinnon who led the team in receiving yards with 76 on four receptions. 

The Vikings defense showed its depth as well, as five different players were credited with quarterback sacks, including rookie Danielle Hunter, who recorded 1.5 sacks to bring his season total to 5.0.

Vikings 49, Giants 17 | Dec. 27

@Eric_L_Smith

Playoff bound: The equation was simple for the Vikings as they prepped for a prime time game on Sunday Night Football. All Minnesota had to do was beat the Giants to ensure the Vikings first postseason appearance since 2012. The Vikings did just that, putting together a complete game in all three phases in a 49-17 victory.

Notable stat: The Vikings harassed Giants quarterback Eli Manning into three interceptions on a brutally cold late December night. It was the first time the Vikings had three interceptions in a game since 2013. Safety Andrew Sendejo started the party in the first quarter before fellow safety Harrison Smith got in on the action late in the second quarter. Smith intercepted Manning and scampered 35 yards for a touchdown to set a franchise record for most pick sixes with four. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn added the third and final interception midway through the third quarter on a night the defense dominated.

Unsung hero: Of all of the stars on Minnesota’s defense, Tom Johnson isn’t the flashiest of players. But the Vikings defensive tackle made his presence known in a big way against the Giants as he recorded 2.0 sacks of Manning. Johnson, who racked up four total tackles in the game, also helped limit New York to just 91 yards on the ground. Johnson finished the season with 5.5 sacks and 47 tackles.

Vikings 20, Packers 13 | Jan. 3 | at Green Bay

@wobby

The backdrop: The 10 previous wins chronicled in this piece set up an epic Week 17 showdown between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers, with the NFC North title on the line. Green Bay had won four consecutive division championships and needed to defeat a red-hot and determined Vikings team to make it five in a row. Green Bay had won the previous meeting that season, but the Vikings were on a two-game winning streak and had their eye on the prize.

Key play: A Vikings turnover gave Green Bay possession at the Minnesota 43. A holding penalty put Green Bay in a third-and-12 situation, and Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass. Everson Griffen raced around the edge and sacked Rodgers just before he attempted a pass, forcing the quarterback to lose control of the football. The ball bounced toward the sideline, where Captain Munnerlyn scooped it up and raced 55 yards down the field for a touchdown that increased the Vikings lead to 20-3. It ultimately provided the winning margin as the Vikings claimed their 11th win of the season and the 2015 NFC North title. Griffen was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Getting tricky: The Vikings showed they were pulling no punches early in the game when, on his team’s first drive of the game, Mike Zimmer authorized a fake punt on his own 38. The direct snap to Adam Thielen was executed perfectly, as Thielen gained the left edge and sprinted down the sideline for a 41-yard gain to setup the Vikings first score of the game – a 39-yard Blair Walsh field goal.