|Vikings WR Percy Harvin (eight receptions, 108 yards) scores one of his two TDs in the host Vikings' 30-7 romp over the Titans on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
It hasn't been often in recent seasons that the Minnesota Vikings have been favored to win a ballgame, but they validated their status with a convincing 30-7 win Sunday over the Tennessee Titans at Mall of America Field. From the near get-go, the Vikings offense moved the ball (thanks to the talent and versatility of WR Percy Harvin), and the constantly improving defense stifled a Titans offense that was missing starting quarterback Jake Locker.
Harvin scored a touchdown early by taking a handoff out of the backfield and another one late on a short pass from QB Christian Ponder. In between, a swarming Vikings defense shut down Titans RB Chris Johnson and hassled veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck with sacks, blocked passes and an interception.
Despite the return of injured LB Colin McCarthy, one of the team's best defenders, the Titans defense had trouble tackling Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (17 carries, 88 yards) and Harvin (eight receptions, 108 yards). The Titans won several battles, forcing the Vikings to settle for field goals during the middles of the game, but ultimately the Vikings' pounding offense wore down the Titans defense, as Minnesota built a 23-0, third-quarter lead. Hasselbeck got the Titans offense moving in the fourth quarter, but the Minnesota defense was in prevent mode, and the Titans' lone score was too little, too late to mount a comeback.
“They played good defense, but we shot ourselves in the foot so many times,” Titans LG (and former Viking) Steve Hutchinson said. “We had missed assignments, myself included, dumb penalties. Defense and special teams gave us good field position in the first half, and we couldn't get anything going.”
The win put Minnesota at 4-1 and maintained its tie for the lead in the NFC North Division -- a surprising fact that is becoming more and more believable each week. The Titans, on the other hand, fell to 1-4 and need to get healthy and regroup before a chance at a winning season is out of reach.
When the game turned: The Vikings had nothing going on their first two offensive series until, on second-and-6 from their own 39, Ponder floated a touch pass over cornerback Alterraun Verner to Harvin, who hauled it in for a 45-yard gain. The play excited the crowd and ignited the Vikings offense, leading, four plays later, to a Harvin 4-yard touchdown run. From that point, it was virtually all Minnesota.
- Peterson found little room to run in the first half of the game; he picked up 35 yards on 10 carries. But in the second half, the Vikings stuck with the run game and Peterson nearly matched that first half total with a 34-yard run off right guard on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. He used power, speed and jump cuts to slice through the Titans defense.
- In the third quarter, with the Vikings marching, Ponder threw a bubble screen to Harvin, who twice stopped, let defenders go by him and then started again before finally getting knocked into the end zone by Titans defenders, who struggled tackling him all day long.
- The Vikings were in command and taking time off the clock in the fourth quarter, and coach Leslie Frazier wanted to continue doing so. But his offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, said he had a play that would score, so Frazier told him to run it. Ponder scrambled left and hit TE Kyle Rudolph racing across the back of the end zone. Rudolph caught the ball as he was falling down to give the Vikings a 30-7 lead. Frazier could only smile and turn to his coordinator and say, “OK, Bill. Way to go.”
- Vikings defense -- The Vikings defense has been improving each week and on Sunday they flirted with their first shutout since 1993. It was an effort that held the Titans to 87 first-half yards (267 overall) included numerous blocked passes, two sacks and an interception. The Vikings defense held Chris Johnson to 24 yards on 15 carries.
- Vikings WR Percy Harvin -- Harvin was once again the catalyst of the Vikings offense. He scored two touchdowns -- one on the ground and one through the air -- that helped him set a Vikings' record. Harvin has scored a rushing, receiving and return touchdown for the third consecutive season.
- Vikings RB Adrian Peterson -- Peterson started slowly, but his 88 yards came on several runs that showed the old Adrian Peterson burst in the open field. Once again close to breaking a big run, Peterson ran for 34 yards on one play and it was his longest of the season. He was on the shelf by the fourth quarter, which could have provided the opportunity to break 100 yards rushing.
What they said about S Harrison Smith's ejection for shoving a referee:
- Vikings safety
Harrison Smith-- “Right after it happened, I realized I put my hand on the ref and you just can't do it -- period. So I apologized to him. I apologized to my coaches and my teammates, the fans—it's just unacceptable. I am disappointed in myself."
What they said about the Titans 1-4 start:
- Titans cornerback Jason McCourty -- “Yeah, that wasn't the expectations and intent for us as a team to be in this predicament, but like Coach (Mike Munchak) just told us, we are who we are. We are in the situation we are in because of the way we have played, and it's up to us to go and change that.”
What they said about WR Percy Harvin's performance:
- Vikings RB Adrian Peterson-- “He's extremely talented. He's one of the best players that I have ever played with. He is so explosive. We need to continue to get the ball in his hands because he will make something happen sooner or later.”
Numbers you should know: Titans WR Kendall Wright was the lone bright spot offensively for the Titans, who struggled all afternoon against a tough Vikings defense. He kept drives alive and got open often for a scrambling Hasselbeck. His nine catches for 66 yards came on 11 targets.
Injury update: Titans RB Javon Ringer left the game late with what appeared to be a severe knee injury. He was carted off the field and will be evaluated further on Monday.
Vikings WR Jerome Simpson missed a lot of playing time with some numbness in his lower leg. Frazier wasn't sure what it was after the game, but tests will be conducted, and more should be known by Monday.
Vikings QB Christian Ponder said after the game he had a bursa sac that was bothering him, but he played until the final series.
Peterson said he tweaked his left ankle on the second play of the game, but he played through it.
Going forward: The Vikings travel to Washington to take on the Redskins next Sunday. It's a return to the FedEx Field, where Ponder suffered a concussion and Peterson tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee. ... The Titans have a quick turnaround as they head home to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night football.
For more Vikings news and notes, follow Joe Oberle on Twitter @CBSVikings and @joeoberle.