MINNEAPOLIS – Whenever Christian Ponder struggles, he can always turn to Adrian Peterson.
Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, Ponder was, simply, not very good. He completed only eight-of-17 passes for 58 yards, one touchdown and two ugly interceptions. He was so bad that when he was flushed out of the pocket in the second quarter and threw a pass out of bounds, he was given a huge cheer by the 65,000 inside the big Teflon pillow.
However, thanks to Peterson, who ran for 153 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, the Vikings survived an ugly offensive performance to hang on and beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-14.
The win gave the Vikings a 5-2 record. The loss was the third straight for a Cardinals team that plays great defense but has as many offensive problems as the Vikes.
“That was a good win for our football team,” said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier after the game. “Our defense and special teams were very good and our offense did what it had to do. Adrian had a very good game and I was very proud of what we accomplished today.
“The Cardinals put seven, eight and nine men in the box and Adrian was still able to run against them. I was really proud of my guys today against a very good football team.”
Percy Harvin caught Ponder’s only touchdown pass, but Ponder also threw an interception that led to a second-quarter touchdown run by LaRod Stephens-Howling. Ponder has give up seven turnovers in the past three games; and three of them — two last week at Washington and one this week at home – were turned into touchdowns.
However, Peterson took away anything the Cardinals were able to accomplish with not only important runs for first downs, but also straight power running that took time off the clock.
“The offensive line did a great job today,” said Peterson afterward. “It didn’t matter if they put seven, eight, nine guys in the box, we were going to run right at them and we did.”
Arizona quarterback John Skelton went 25-for-36 for 262 yards and two turnovers. One of the turnovers was the second storyline of the day.
Rookie Harrison Smith returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first minute of the second half. From that point onward the Vikings defense owned the game and despite all the offensive problems, the home side was able to stay in second place in the NFC North.
“We had a great rush on them all day,” Smith said after the game. “Our cornerbacks were also locked right down all game. With the corners cut off and the great pass rush, he (Skelton) had no place else to go. I just followed his eyes and it put me in he right place.”
That rush was so good, the Vikings had seven sacks: Brian Robison had three and Jared Allen two.
Meanwhile, there were 10 other games in the National Football League on Sunday: The Falcons, Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles and Chargers had the byes:
New York Giants 27 Washington 23
Robert Griffin III almost did it again. Griffin scored a late touchdown to give Washington 23-20 advantage but Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz on a 77-yard TD bomb with 1:13 to play to steal the victory. Manning finished 26-for-40 for 337 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while RG3 went 20-for-28 for 258 yards and two TDs. The ‘Skins Alfred Morris rushed for 120 yards while Cruz caught seven passes for 131 yards and the game-winning TD.
Green Bay 30 St. Louis 20
Aaron Rodgers lit it up again. Rodgers completed 30-of-37 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns as Green Bay went into St. Louis and improved to 4-3 on the season. The favorite target for Rodgers was, one again, Jordy Nelson, who caught eight passes for 122 yards and one touchdown. Randall Cobb caught eight passes for 89 yards and two TDs. For St. Louis, Sam Bradford completed 21-of-34 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.
Tennessee 35 Buffalo 34
Matt Hasselbeck found Nate Washington on a 15-yard TD pass with 1:03 remaining to give Tennessee the comeback win on the road. Hasselbeck finished 22-of-33 for 205 yards and that one big TD pass. Chris Johnson finally came alive and carried 18 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee improved to 3-4. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 27-of-35 for 225 yards and three touchdowns but he also turned the ball over twice – one interception and one lost fumble. Tennessee is as bad as we thought, but Buffalo at 3-4 is really over-rated.
New Orleans 35 Tampa Bay 28
Drew Brees got the job done again. The New Orleans quarterback extended his NFL record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass to 49 as he led the Saints on four long scoring on four consecutive possessions to turn a 14-0 deficit into a 28-21 halftime lead. Josh Freeman had a good game for Tampa, completing 24-of-42 attempts for 420 yards and three touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough as Brees shredded the Tampa D.
Houston 43 Baltimore 13
No Ray Lewis, no Baltimore D as Matt Schaub threw for two touchdowns and Arian Foster ran for two more as the Texans dominated the game and improved to 6-1. Terrell Suggs finally played and had a sack and three tackles but not even the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year could replace Lewis who is out for the season. 5-2 Baltimore looked very weak defensively. Schaub finished 23-for-37 for 256 yards and two majors.
Dallas 19 Carolina 14
Tony Romo finished 24-for-34 for 227 yards and a touchdown but it was kicker Dan Bailey who put the Vikings ahead with a 28-yard field with 3:25 remaining. Bailey added his fourth field goal of the game with 53 seconds left to put away and extremely dull, pedestrian NFL game. Cam Newton carried six times for 64 yards and went 21-for-37 for 233 yards and one touchdown as the Panthers continue to misuse a quarterback with plenty of skills.
Indianapolis 17 Cleveland 13
Rookie Andrew Luck became the first Colts quarterback to run for two touchdowns since 1986 as he led Indianapolis to its third win of the season – one more than it had all of last season. Rookie Brandon Weeden finished 25-for-41 for 264 yards and two touchdowns, but the Cleveland offense was AWOL in this one.
New England 29 New York Jets 26 (OT)
Stephen Gostowski tied the game with a 43-yard field goal with no time remaining and then won it with a 48-yard field goal in overtime. The Jets had a chance to tie it in OT but Mark Sanchez was sacked and fumbled and that did it. At 4-3 the Pats moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Tom Brady finished 26-for-42 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Sanchez went 28-for-41 for 328 yards and one touchdown. Jeremy Kerley caught seven passes for 120 yards for the Jets. Rob Gronkowski caught six passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns for the Pats.
Oakland 26 Jacksonville 23
What a way to lose. Sebastien Janikowski kicked a 40-yard field goal shortly after Cecil; Shorts III fumbled on the opening possession of overtime. Carson Palmer went 26-for-46 for 298 yards and a touchdown to lead the Raiders. The Raiders are now 2-4 while the Jags are 1-5. Jacksonville lost Maurice Jones-Drew to a foot injury on the opening drive.
Pittsburgh 24 Cincinnati 17
Ben Roethlisberger went 27-for-37 for 278 yards and a touchdown while the Steelers defense held the Bengals Andy Dalton to just 105 passing yards. Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Dwyer ran 17 times for 122 yards. The Steelers improved to 3-3 while the Bengals fell to 3-4.
Chicago 13 Detroit 7
As expected, the Bears defense was sensational, but the Lions D wasn’t bad either. The difference in this one? The Lions turned over the football three times in the red zone. The Lions held Bears QB Jay Cutler to 16 completions in 31 attempts for just 150 yards and one touchdown, but Detroit just couldn’t get the ball into the end zone until the dying seconds. The Bears improved to 5-1, first in the NFC North. Detroit fell to 2-4, last in the NFC North.