The Minnesota Vikings met the Rams in St. Louis with both teams’ playoff lives on the line, and the Vikings got another great performance by legitimate MVP candidate RB Adrian Peterson (212 yards rushing on 24 carries), two more takeaways from the defense and five field goals by K Blair Walsh to dominate the Rams and stay alive in the hunt for a wild card spot.
The Vikings (8-6, NFC North 3-2) put together a complete team effort for the second week in a row, and only their second road win of the year. QB Christian Ponder opened the scoring with a third-down 5-yard scramble, and managed the game until his star running back Peterson could get untracked.
Peterson saw the brunt of the Rams’ defensive ferocity in the first quarter, as they stuffed him for several lost-yardage runs and only eight yards. The fired-up Rams offense took over, with QB Sam Bradford moving them down the field in a very efficient scoring drive to tie the game. But that’s when Peterson decided to take matters into his own hands. He said he was getting hit late and hearing a lot of trash talk and decided he needed to return to being “a silent assassin,” which he did -- breaking an 82-yard run from scrimmage that put his team up.
The Rams (6-7-1, NFC West 4-0-1) turned the ball over on the next two series, thanks to a rabid Vikings defensive front that sacked Bradford four times and pressured him much of the game. Set up in a zone blitz, DL Everson Griffen dropped into coverage where Bradford didn’t see and picked off the pass and took it the distance for the Vikings second pick-6 in two weeks.
“I just read the quarterback’s eyes and he threw it right to me,” Griffen said. “When they throw the ball right to you, you’ve got to catch it -- and I did and made a big play for our team.”
The play put the Vikings up 24-7 and then they rode Walsh’s leg for four more field goals and an insurmountable lead. Bradford led his team back to get within 11 points on two the fourth-quarter touchdown passes. But on a day when Rams RB Steven Jackson put up 146 yards rushing and receiving -- surpassing the 10,000-yard rushing mark for his career -- it wasn’t enough. With a big lead, the Vikings did what they have been doing all season --handed the ball to Peterson, who ripped off a 52-yard run to set up their final field goal and ice the game.
The Vikings continue their quest for the playoffs in Texas next week, and Peterson will continue pursuing his goal of 2,000 or more rushing yards. The Rams are all but mathematically eliminated.
When the game turned: In the second quarter, the Rams put together a nine-play 73-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. Bradford carved up the Vikings secondary, and the Rams had all the momentum. On the next play from scrimmage, Vikings RB Peterson ripped off an 82-yard run off tackle for a touchdown to give Minnesota the lead again. After turnovers in the next two drives, including a pick-6 by Griffen, the Vikings had grabbed momentum, the lead and ultimately the game from the Rams.
Highlight moments: Vikings -- Griffen saw a lot of action with DE Brian Robison going out with injury, and he made a key play when he dropped into coverage and picked off Bradford for a pick-6. Griffen, who started the season as a linebacker and gets the occasional snap as the gunner on punt coverage, ran wide, carrying the ball like he had just been awarded an Oscar and raced into the end zone for a score that broke the Rams’ back. ... Peterson had only 8 yards on eight carries in the first quarter before his 82-yard TD strik. He had looked like his big goal for 2,000 yards (even the NFL record of 2,105 yards) would go down in flames, but it lives for another week. Rams -- Bradford capped off a nice long scoring drive with sweet toss to WR Brian Quick over the head of Vikings CB Josh Robinson for a tying score in the first quarter.
• Vikings RB Peterson -- 24 carries for 212 yards, 1 touchdown
• Rams RB Jackson -- 13 carries for 73 yards, eight receptions for 73 yards
• Vikings K Walsh -- 5 for 5 on fields, 3 of 3 on field goals of 50-plus yards
• Rams QB Bradford -- 35 of 55 for 377 yards, 3 touchdown passes, 1 INT
What they said:
- WR P/H Chris Kluwe on Walsh’s performance: “Every sportswriter that was talking about [Greg] Zuerlein being an amazing rookie kicker better be all over [Walsh]. Numbers don't lie.”
- Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on his team’s second road win of the season: “It’s tough in our league to get wins on the road. We played a pretty clean game, we didn’t have any turnovers, which was something we emphasized all week long.”
- Vikings RB Peterson on trying to break Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record: “It would mean a lot...that caliber of player. It's something I'm definitely shooting for.”
• Vikings RB Peterson on K Walsh’s three 50-plus yard field goals: "If he's lined up for 50, I knows it's good."
Numbers you should know: Steven Jackson rushed for 73 yards and became the 27th player in NFL history with 10,000 rushing yards.
Vikings K Walsh connected had five field goals and two extra points for a total 18 points, and he broke Randy Moss' rookie Vikings season scoring record of 106 points. Walsh now has 117 points this season.
With 1,812 yards on the season, Peterson needs a total of 188 yards in the next two games to reach the 2,000 mark. After that, he would need to get to 2,105 to tied Dickerson's mark and 2,106 to break it. He will have to average 147 yards in those final two games to own the record.
Injury update: Rams -- WR Austin Pettis left the game at the end of the third quarter with what looked like a shoulder injury. Pettis later returned to the game.
Vikings -- DE Robison left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury, and he did not return. He was seen on the sidelines with his arm in a sling. Frazier said that he has an A/C sprain and will be day-to-day.
Going forward: Rams -- The Rams travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers, who were shut out by the Saints on Sunday. The Vikings head to Houston to battle the Texans, one of the toughest teams in the AFC. They need another big road win to keep their chances at a wild card spot alive.
For more Vikings news and notes, follow Joe Oberle on Twitter @CBSVikings.