Tales From the North: Week One

SAN FRANCISCO — After a scandalous prosecution forced the star running back out of action in early 2014, many had qualms about whether or not Adrian Peterson could shake off the rust in his return to the gridiron.

Those fears were quickly squashed as “All Day” led the Minnesota Vikings to a 20-17 victory against San Francisco in Week One.

The first drive of the game started with a four-yard run from A.P., and ended with a two-yard run from Peterson that put six on the board for the Vikings. The dominant possession lasted just over six minutes, during which time the Vikings drove 80 yards and gave Adrian the ball on 9 out of 12 plays — including a 13-yard reception.

From that drive on, the gameplan was apparent: get the ball to Adrian Peterson. Peterson ended the day with 32 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, but taking handoffs frequently enough to balance out the low average. His hands helped him out as well, as he was targeted thrice and made all three catches for 78 total receiving yards.

Although Peterson averaged the most yards per catch, offseason acquisition Mike Wallace had the most receptions, with 6 on the day for a total of 57 yards. In all, eight different Vikings had receptions, and the lone touchdown pass of the game was caught by Jarius Wright. Overall, it was a consistent day in the pocket for young leader Teddy Bridgewater, who was 17-of-24 for 196 total yards, the aforementioned TD, and one interception (picked off by 49’ers ILB NaVorro Bowman.)

Not to be outdone by Peterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes came to play, and did his part on the defensive side of the ball. At the beginning of the second quarter, Rhodes recovered a fumble on the Minnesota 30 — then, later in the quarter, intercepted a pass at the Minnesota four-yard-line. ILB Eric Kendricks had the only sack of the evening. S Harrison Smith led the team with 9 tackles.

The Vikings ran like a well-oiled machine for the first three quarters, spotting a 17-0 lead on the road. But in the fourth quarter, the defense disappeared. Two-and-a-half minutes into the final frame, the 49’ers would get on the board with a 48-yard field goal by kicker Phil Dawson. Six minutes later, Carlos Hyde would break loose at midfield and charge in for a 42-yard touchdown. After a Vikings field goal made it 20-10, Blaine Gabbert (playing in place of an inept Rico Keith — who, in turn, started for an injured Colin Kaepernick) led a 55-yard drive inside the two-minute warning, culminating in a touchdown.

With the score 20-17, no timeouts remaining for San Francisco, and just 21 seconds left on the clock, Dawson bounced a perfect onside kick that was recovered by the 49’ers on their own 46-yard-line. With Levi’s Stadium roaring, the team tried for one last play — a pass to WR Torrey Smith that went just nine yards and left no time on the clock. Vikings win.

Next week, the Minnesota Vikings will head home and start their final season at TCF Bank Stadium before permanently moving back to a domed field in 2016. They’ll play division rival Detroit, who won a nail-biter in San Diego during Week One. They’ll face stars Matthew Stafford, who was one of four QBs to throw for 300 yards in their first game of the year, and Calvin Johnson, who leads the league in receiving yards at 146.

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