The Vikings doubled down on last week's victory over the Detroit Lions, taking it to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday and coming away with a 31-14 victory. The high point total and wide margin of victory looks flashy, but the Vikings win on Sunday was more substance than it was style.
Here are five reasons why the Vikings came out on top to move to 2-1 on the season…
1. The defense dominated
The Vikings defense overwhelmed the Chargers offensive line and swarmed QB Philip Rivers all afternoon. An already beat-up Chargers offensive line had a tough time handling the Vikings front four as well as the Vikings defense's pressure concepts. It was a relentless effort from the Vikings defense, resulting in San Diego averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and in Philip Rivers being sacked four times. One of those sacks resulted in a forced fumble, and then LB Chad Greenway put an exclamation point on the victory with a 91-yard INT return for a TD early in the 4th quarter. The Chargers first five drives ended like this: punt; punt; fumble; punt; punt. In much the same way the Vikings handled Matthew Stafford last week, Rivers never looked comfortable in the pocket and the Chargers offense had trouble generating a rhythm.
2. Poise overcame adversityThe margin of victory was wide, but it was tough sledding for the Vikings at several points of the game and it required poise from players and coaches to maintain the advantage and eventually win the game. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that San Diego blitzed early and often to try to slow down the Vikings running game. The Vikings offense had a dropped TD and a turnover in the first half and the defense gave up a 3rd and 18 followed by a TD late in the first half.
A key sequence occurred early in the 3rd quarter, though, and the Vikings poise paid off. The Chargers opened the 3rd quarter with a 7-yard completion to Keenan Allen on CB Trae Waynes, who was thrust into action because of an injury to CB Xavier Rhodes. On the next play, S Harrison Smith wrangled RB Danny Woodhead on an end-around and then DT Tom Johnson came untouched to sack Rivers on 3rd and 7 to force a punt. That punt was returned 20 yards to the SD 43 by Marcus Sherels, and then Adrian Peterson did his thing on the first play of the ensuing Vikings drive. Peterson scored on a magnificent 43-yard dash around and through the Chargers defense to give the Vikings a 17-7 lead.
3. Adrian did what Adrian doesIt was another workman-like performance from Adrian Peterson. He got back on track last week with a 29-carry, 134-yard effort against the Lions and put the same kind of hurting on the Chargers defense Sunday. Peterson carried the ball 20 times for 126 yards and 2 TDs, including that 43-yarder that will make all the highlight reels. On that play, Peterson took a handoff from Bridgewater and made his way toward the right edge. He gained the edge, used a stiff arm to get to the second level, and then cutback toward the middle of the field to outsprint the rest of the Chargers defense before briefly high-stepping his way into the end zone. It was the second TD run of the game for Peterson and it gave the Vikings back that 10-point advantage they built during the first half.
4. Special teams dominated, tooThrough three games, the Vikings have still allowed only 2 punt return yards. That stat highlights what's been a very good beginning to the season for the Vikings special teams group as a whole. P Jeff Locke had two more punts downed inside the 20, giving him 7 for the season, and he was spot on in his duty as Blair Walsh's holder. Walsh connected on a 24-yarder and was 4 of 4 on PATs. Walsh also blasted 5 touchbacks on kickoffs and the kickoff coverage team allowed just 19 yards on the lone Chargers return. Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 26.5 yards per kickoff return and the Vikings had an average drive start of the 23 after kickoffs, while Marcus Sherels did a nice job in the return game with a 12.7-yard average on three returns. Locke inside the 20 (has 7 this season), no return yards allowed, Patterson return numbers, Walsh kicking touchbacks, average field position
5. Opportunities resulted in pointsThe first turnover the Vikings forced on Sunday came when LB Anthony Barr sacked Rivers and forced him to fumble. A few moments later, Walsh hit the 24-yarder to get the Vikings on the board. In the 3rd quarter, a Vikings drive stalled and Walsh came on to try another FG. He converted the 40-yarder, but a holding penalty on San Diego gave the Vikings a fresh set of downs. The Vikings took the points off the board and brought their offense back onto the field. Three plays later, FB Zach Line scored on a 1-yard plunge. Lastly, Greenway made his INT count. Using a 10-man entourage, Greenway morphed into offensive player and sprinted down the Vikings sideline to ensure the turnover would result in a TD.