Rapid Reaction: Vikings 24, 49ers 13
September, 23, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on Sunday's events, a 24-13 win for the Vikings, at the Metrodome:
What it means: The "any given Sunday" cliché once again proved accurate. The Minnesota Vikings, ranked No. 29 last week in ESPN.com's Power Rankings, controlled this game from start to finish over the top-ranked team, the San Francisco 49ers. Most impressively, the Vikings proved more physical than one of the NFL's hardest-hitting teams. As a result, the Vikings have a share of first place in the NFC North. At 2-1 after three games, this is the latest the Vikings have been over .500 since the 2009 season.
PonderWatch: Quarterback Christian Ponder accounted for three touchdowns and did not commit a turnover in what was probably his best start as a pro. He put some touch on a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Kyle Rudolph while putting appropriate zip on a key third-down completion to receiver Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter. Finally, he displayed intelligence and speed in pulling down the ball and sprinting 23 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards and another 33 on the ground.
Official chaos: Referee Ken Roan's replacement group had a tough day. It began with an impossible illegal block call on the 49ers, the kicking team on the opening kickoff. (Roan later reversed the call.) In the fourth quarter, meanwhile, Roan allowed the 49ers to take back their final timeout moments after calling it in order to challenge a play they believed Vikings tailback Toby Gerhart had fumbled on. That is not supposed to happen. Replays showed that Gerhart fumbled, but it appeared the play had been blown dead before that point. The replay showed umpire Tim Morris with his hand up -- which usually coincides with the whistle -- before Gerhart fumbled.
Defensive props: As well as Ponder played, we can't put this victory solely on his shoulders. It's been more than two years since we've seen the Vikings' defense show this kind of aggressiveness and zeal over the full 60 minutes of a game. Linebacker Chad Greenway might have played the best game of his life, sacking quarterback Alex Smith twice and finishing with 13 tackles. Cornerback Antoine Winfield played an inspired game. Backup safety Jamarca Sanford got into the act, forcing Frank Gore's first fumble of the season to end a fourth-quarter possession. And defensive end Jared Allen's sack/forced fumble ended the 49ers' final drive.
Streak ends: Josh Robinson's fourth-quarter interception was the Vikings' third in 14 games. But it ended Smith's streak of consecutive passes without an interception unofficially at 248.
Coaching decision: You normally don't see a team go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, as the Vikings did at the end of their first possession Sunday. But Leslie Frazier's decision to do it just seem inspired to me. The Vikings weren't going to beat the 49ers with field goals, and Ponder's successful pass to Rudolph energized both the team and the crowd. The Vikings never really looked back.
What's next: The Vikings will take on the Detroit Lions next Sunday at Ford Field.