Toby Gerhart's three fumbles make this a fourth quarter to forget
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Toby Gerhart was pleased the Minnesota Vikings came away with an upset victory on Sunday over San Francisco, but the running back still would like to forget what happened in the fourth quarter at the Metrodome.
Gerhart, the backup to Adrian Peterson, was charged with three fumbles and lost two of them in the final 3 minutes, 33 seconds of the game. The first fumble by Gerhart came when he put the ball on the ground, literally, because he thought the play was over.
Linebacker Patrick Willis picked it up, the 49ers challenged the play and replacement referee Ken Roan overturned his initial call and ruled it a fumble.
On the next series, Gerhart fumbled again and recovered on first down - that was ruled a fumble and Gerhart recovery upon another review - but he then fumbled the ball away to 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers on third down. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks was credited with the forced fumble.
None of the Gerhart turnovers led to points for San Francisco and the Vikings came away with a surprising 24-13 victory.
"The second two I think were clean," Gerhart said when asked how many of the fumbles were questionable calls by the officials. "The first one I have no idea how that was a fumble. That's what I was trying to figure out what they were challenging in the first place. Beyond that, there's no excuses.
"They trust me with the ball in my hands at the end of the game and somehow, someway it gets on the ground when the emphasis is on ball security. I'd like to say it was a fluke, that's not me, but there's no excuse at this point. They trust me to hold onto the ball in that situation."
The interesting thing was that while Gerhart was struggling to hold onto the ball, Peterson was standing on the sideline. Peterson, in his third game back since having reconstructive surgery on his left knee last December, had 86 yards on 25 rushing attempts. Both the yards and attempts were season highs for Peterson.
So is Peterson still on a pitch count of sorts when it comes to carries?
"We looked at the number of carries (Peterson had) and we wanted to preserve him a little bit," Frazier said. "Those carries got up there for good reason. He did a great job for us. He had mentioned to me during the week, 'Coach, you don't have to limit me anymore. I'm ready. Feed me.' Bill (Musgrave, the Vikings' offensive coordinator) and I and (running backs coach) James Saxon talked about it during the week and he handled (it). He did a great job."
Peterson also had his first fumble of the season in the third quarter but Percy Harvin recovered the ball. Peterson only has three fumbles (one lost) in the past three years after losing six of seven fumbles during the 2009 regular season.
Gerhart gained 18 yards on eight carries, and despite his fumbling issues, still received plenty of support from his coaches.
"They came up to me at the end of the game and said, 'You're our guy. We'd give it to you again if we had the opportunity. We trust you, we love you, celebrate (the victory),'" Gerhart said. "They are behind me 100 percent and I just feel like crap even putting the ball on the ground in that situation."
The Vikings finished with 146 rushing yards on Sunday, including 33 from quarterback Christian Ponder. That was 19 more yards than Green Bay and Detroit combined to get on the ground against the 49ers in the first two games of the season.