Blair Walsh gets his kicks, makes Adrian Peterson's return a success
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MINNEAPOLIS - Rookie Blair Walsh kicked a 38-yard field goal on the opening possession of overtime Sunday, and the Minnesota Vikings defense then held the Jacksonville Jaguars off the scoreboard as they opened the regular season with a wild 26-23 victory at the Metrodome.
The story of the game was the return of running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns in his return after having reconstructive surgery on his left knee last December.
In one of the wildest openers in the NFL on Sunday, the Jaguars appeared as if they were going to pull out a victory when wide receiver Cecil Shorts III beat cornerback Chris Cook to catch a 39-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
That gave Jacksonville a 23-20 lead. But Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder showed some veteran-like poise.
Devin Aromashodu caught a 26-yard pass at the Jacksonville 43 with the clock ticking. Kyle Rudolph then caught Ponder's next pass at the Jaguars 37 to set up a 55-yard field goal by Walsh, the rookie with the big leg.
Walsh, taken by the Vikings in the sixth round of last April's NFL draft, made field goals of 20, 42, 55 and 38 yards in the second half and overtime.
The Vikings, who went 3-13 in 2011, won the toss to open overtime. Peterson had two rushes that resulted in 30 yards to set up Walsh's field goal. That field goal did not win the game, however, as under new NFL regular-season rules the Jaguars got a possession to try to tie it or win it. But Gabbert's pass on fourth down fell incomplete and the Vikings had the victory.
Peterson, who passed Robert Smith to become the Vikings' all-time leading rusher in the game, did not play in the preseason as the Vikings were very cautious with his recovery process and the team did not acknowledge Peterson would play Sunday until an hour-and-a-half before game time when the Pro Bowl running back did not show up on the inactive list.
The Vikings took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter after miscommunication between Gabbert and center Brad Meester resulted in a fumbled snap that was recovered by defensive tackle Kevin Williams at the Jacksonville 44.
Peterson ran for 19 yards on the first play of the ensuing possession to the Jaguars 25-yard line. Ponder then completed a 19-yard pass to Percy Harvin and Peterson had back-to-back runs of 4 and 2 yards with the second going for a touchdown.
The Vikings followed with their own miscue on their next possession when Ponder lost the ball as he was sacked and former Viking C.J. Mosley recovered at the Vikings 16. The Jaguars couldn't get into the end zone, however, and settled for a 26-yard field goal from Josh Scobee to pull within two points.
The Vikings had a golden opportunity to strike back with another touchdown but could not get into the end zone despite having a first-and-goal from the Jacksonville 3 on a series that went into the fourth quarter. That was setup by a nice 29-yard pass from Ponder to Kyle Rudolph on third-and-8 from the Jaguars 32.
Harvin lost a yard on a first-down rushing attempt, Matt Asiata caught a 2-yard pass from Ponder, but on third down Ponder's pass fell incomplete.
Walsh hit on a 20-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter.
The game of field goals continued as Scobee came back with a 47-yarder with 9:35 left in the fourth to pull his team within 17-15. Walsh responded with a 42-yarder with 5:33 left in the fourth as the Vikings took a five-point lead.
The Jaguars held a 9-7 lead at halftime, having gotten a field goal on their opening possession and a second-quarter touchdown.
On the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, Rudolph caught a 15-yard pass from Ponder at the Minnesota 39. The Vikings did not get another first down on the drive and Jacksonville, starting at its own 22-yard line, moved 77-yard on 12 plays to the Vikings 1.
Running back Rashad Jennings failed to get in from the 1 and Scobee kicked a 19-yard field goal late in the quarter to make it 3-0.
Jacksonville made it 9-0 in the second quarter when Gabbert connected with tight end Mercedes Lewis on a 1-yard touchdown pass to complete a 78-yard, 11-play drive that was highlighted by 26-yard completion by Gabbert to Laurent Robinson and an 11-yard run up the middle by Maurice Jones-Drew that put the ball at the Vikings 1.
The Vikings pulled within two points on Peterson's first touchdown run, a 3-yard dash up the middle. That drive started at the Vikings 41 and featured the first extensive use of Harvin on the afternoon.
Ponder completed a short pass that Harvin took 16 yards and on the next play found him again for 5 yards. Michael Jenkins' 14-yard catch put the ball at the Jacksonville 5 and two plays later Peterson had his touchdown.
6,836: Rushing yards for Adrian Peterson, a figure that breaks Robert Smith's franchise record of 6,818 rushing yards. Chuck Foreman is third on the list with 5,879.
66: Rushing touchdowns for Adrian Peterson in the opening six years of his career. That passes Walter Payton for seventh in NFL history for most rushing TDs in that time span.
Jacksonville - Josh Scobee 19-yard field goal, 2:52. Drive: 17 plays, 77 yards, 9:22. Jaguars 3, Vikings 0
Jacksonville - Mercedes Lewis 1-yard pass from Blaine Gabbert, Scobee kick blocked, 5:21. Drive: 11-78-7:09. Jaguars 9, Vikings 0
Vikings - Peterson 2-yard run, Walsh kick, 9:42. Drive: 4-44-1:54. Vikings 14, Jaguars 9
Jacksonville - Scobee 26-yard field goal, 4:40. Drive: 4-8-1:25. Vikings 14, Jaguars 12
Vikings - Walsh 20-yard field goal, 14:09. Drive: 11-75-5:31. Vikings 17, Jaguars 12
Jacksonville - Scobee 47-yard field goal, 9:35. Drive: 10-51-4:34. Vikings 17, Jaguars 15
Vikings - Walsh 42-yard field goal, 5:33. Drive: 9-57-4:02. Vikings 20, Jaguars 15
Jacksonville - Cecil Shorts III 39-yard pass from Gabbert, Gabbert to Justin Blackmon for 2-point conversion, 0:20. Drive: 6-76-0:58. Jaguars 23, Vikings 20
Vikings - Walsh 55-yard field goal, 0:00. Drive: 3-32-0:20. Vikings 23, Jaguars 23
Vikings - Walsh 38-yard field goal, 11:06. Drive: 8-55-3:54. Vikings 26, Jaguars 23
Chris Cook left the game briefly in the second quarter because of an injury to his left arm. Cook returned and had an ice pack on the arm after the game.
The Vikings will head to Indianapolis next Sunday for a noon kickoff against the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck, the first-overall pick in last April's draft and the guy who enabled the Colts to move on from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts and Rams, both 2-14 in 2011, were the only two teams that had records that were worse than the Vikings (3-13) last season.