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Updated: September 23rd, 2012 3:14pm
Christian Ponder, defense help Vikings pull off upset against 49ers

Christian Ponder, defense help Vikings pull off upset against 49ers

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS - Christian Ponder completed 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and the Minnesota Vikings put together a solid defensive effort in a 24-13 upset victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at the Metrodome.

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith was held to 204 yards passing, and Frank Gore had only 63 yards rushing. The 49ers came into the game as touchdown favorites in many betting lines.

The skinny

San Francisco won the opening coin toss and elected to defer, enabling the Vikings to take an early lead on a 16-play, 82-yard drive that consumed 7 minutes, 40 seconds off the clock.

Ponder completed passes of 16 and 11 yards to tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Percy Harvin also had a 12-yard reception. The Vikings moved to the Niners' 30-yard line after Harvin's 2-yard reception turned into a 17-yard gain thanks to a face mask penalty on cornerback Chris Culliver.

The Vikings had a first-and-goal at the San Francisco 7 that turned into a fourth-and-1 when Adrian Peterson followed a 5-yard gain with two rushes of 1-yard apiece. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier did not hesitate to go for it and Ponder, on the run and under pressure, lobbed the ball into the end zone to a wide open Rudolph for the score.

San Francisco got on the board early in the second quarter as David Akers capped a 13-play, 54-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal.

The Vikings, however, answered on their next possession with an 80-yard drive.

Ponder had back-to-back completions of 12 and 13 yards to Peterson and Devin Aromashodu and Aromashodu later caught an 11-yard pass on third-and-11 from the 49ers' 34. On first down, Ponder saw no one open and took off for the end zone, diving in for a 23-yard score.

San Francisco attempted to grab some momentum, moving from their own 24 to the Vikings 25 before the drive stalled. Akers attempted a 43-yard field goal, but it was blocked by Letroy Guion and gave the ball back to the Vikings at their own 33-yard line with 52 seconds left in the half.

Ponder calmly hit Michael Jenkins with an 8-yard pass on the first play of the drive and later connected on a 14-yard pass to Toby Gerhart. Harvin caught a 5-yard pass with four seconds left in the second quarter at the San Francisco 34 and Walsh hit a 52-yard field goal as time expired to put the Vikings up 17-3.

The Niners' Kyle Williams returned the opening kickoff of the second half 94 yards to the Vikings 14-yard line before being brought down. The Vikings defense, however, held firm and the Niners ended up settling for a 29-yard field goal from Akers after quarterback Alex Smith failed to draw the Vikings offsides on fourth down and the 49ers took a delay of game penalty.

After a three-and-out by the Vikings, San Francisco started at its own 14-yard line and finally got into the end zone.

Smith had completions of 12 yards to former Viking Randy Moss and 17 yards to Mario Manningham that got the ball to the Vikings 31. With a first-down from the Vikings 21, Smith completed a 20-yard pass to Vernon Davis at the 1-yard line.

Smith and Davis took advantage of the fact the tight end was matched up against backup safety Jamarca Sanford, who replaced the injured Mistral Raymond in the first half.

On the next play, Smith hit Davis again and the 49ers were within four points.

The Vikings again proved to be resilient and their offense moved the ball down field with efficiency during a 14-play, 86-yard drive.

Minnesota ended up with a first down at the Niners' 14-yard line when safety Dashon Goldson was called for a personal foul penalty after he hit Rudolph on what had been an incomplete pass for the tight end. A defensive holding penalty gave the Vikings the ball at the San Francisco 3.

Ponder capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Rudolph on which the tight end made a fantastic catch with his right end while safety Donte Whitner was all over him.

The Vikings caught a big break on the drive, too.

Running back Adrian Peterson fumbled at the end of a 5-yard run but Harvin was able to recover. A skirmish broke out after that and the 49ers ended up getting a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty that moved the ball near midfield.

Frank Gore fumbled on the 49ers next series and the ball was recovered by linebacker Marvin Mitchell. The officials initially ruled it was not a fumble but the Vikings challenged and it was overturned.

Ponder also had luck on his side at times.

With about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, he threw a third-down pass for Jenkins that should have been picked off by Whitner near the Vikings 35-yard line. Whitner, however, could not hold onto the ball and it fell to the ground.

The Vikings did give the 49ers an opportunity with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter when Toby Gerhart was charged with a fumble on a play that was challenged and overturned by the replacement officials. After what appeared to be mass confusion among the temporary refs, they overturned a call that appeared to be dead when the whistle blew.

The 49ers drive, however, ended when rookie cornerback Josh Robinson picked off Smith's pass. It was the Vikings' first interception of the season.

Gerhart would fumble twice more before the game was over, including another recovered by the 49ers, but the Vikings held on. Smith was stripped of the ball on a sack by Jared Allen with 1:33 left and Brian Robison recovered.

Numbers

1: Sacks for defensive end Jared Allen, his first of the season.

2: Sacks for linebacker Chad Greenway.

2: Touchdown catches by Kyle Rudolph, tying a Vikings record for receiving touchdowns in a game by a tight end. It was last done by Visanthe Shiancoe in 2009.

3: Consecutive games in which Blair Walsh has a field goal of 50 yards, a franchise record.

23: Yards Christian Ponder rushed for en route to scoring a second-quarter touchdown, making it the fifth longest TD run by a Vikings quarterback in team history.

Health report

Safety Mistral Raymond suffered what appeared to be a serious injury to his right ankle on the last play of the first quarter on an 11-yard run by Frank Gore. Raymond, who had been trying to tackle Gore when he was injured, was removed from the field on a cart and replaced by Jamarca Sanford.

Defensive tackle Christian Ballard appeared to get poked in the left eye late in the second quarter. He had to leave the game and was examined by doctors on the bench.

Linebacker Erin Henderson (concussion) and defensive end D'Aundre Reed (calf) were inactive for Sunday's game. Marvin Mitchell started in place of Henderson at weak-side linebacker.

Rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright (ankle) was among the Vikings' inactives for the third game in a row. Wright had been listed as probable on the injury report Friday, meaning it was a "virtual certainty" he would be all right to play.

The scoring

First quarter

Vikings - Kyle Rudolph 1-yard pass from Christian Ponder (Blair Walsh kick), 7:20. Drive: 16 plays, 82 yards, 7:40. Vikings 7, 49ers 0

Second quarter

San Francisco - David Akers 29-yard field goal, 12:13. Drive: 13-54-5:45. Vikings 7, 49ers 3

Vikings - Ponder 23-yard run (Walsh kick), 5:29. Drive: 11-80-6:44. Vikings 14, 49ers 3

Vikings - Walsh 52-yard field goal, 0:00. Drive: 9-33-0:52. Vikings 17, 49ers 3

Third quarter

San Francisco - Akers 29-yard field goal, 12:46. Drive: 3-4-2:14. Vikings 17, 49ers 6

San Francisco - Vernon Davis 1-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith (Akers kicks), 6:17. Drive: 9-86-5:00. Vikings 17, 49ers 13

Fourth quarter

Vikings - Rudolph 2-yard pass from Ponder (Walsh kick), 14:17. Drive: 12-86-7:00. Vikings 24, 49ers 13

Up next

The Vikings will play their first game against an NFC North rival next Sunday, facing the Detroit Lions at noon at Ford Field. The Lions swept the season series last year from the Vikings and have won the past three. Detroit hadn't won both games in a season against the Vikings since 1997.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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