Jaguars vs. Vikings: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for Minnesota
After giving up what looked to be a back-breaking, heart-wrenching, 39-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left, the Vikings somehow managed to pull out an exciting 26-23 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Under the new overtime rules, the Vikings became the first team to win a game on defense, stopping the Jaguars on 4th down after kicking a go-ahead field goal on the first possession of the overtime period.
It wasn't a work of art, but a win is a win.
Here's how the Vikings fared at each position.
Christian Ponder: B
Ponder played well in the second half after a pretty dismal first half.
He hung in there and made all the plays he had to make down the stretch to set up the Vikings for the victory. He finished 20-of-27 for 270 yards and no interceptions, a quarterback rating of 105.5.
Ponder spread the ball around, using Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph as his main targets, but didn't hesitate when he had to go to Michael Jenkins or Devin Aromoshodu in key situations.
He couldn't seem to find any rhythm in the first half and bottomed out after fumbling at his own 20-yard line midway through the third quarter, a turnover that led to a Jacksonville field goal that cut the Vikings' lead to 14-12.
From that point on, however, Ponder was 12-of-15 and completed every crucial throw.
Pulling a game out of the fire like that could do wonders for his confidence going forward.
Running Backs: A
Adrian Peterson: A+
The legend of Adrian Peterson only grows.
Just eight months removed from major reconstructive knee surgery and after not taking a snap in the preseason, Peterson made good on his word that he would start the opener.
And he did a lot more than just start, making several huge plays in key situations and scoring two touchdowns in leading the Vikings to their improbable win.
Peterson finished with 84 yards on 17 carries, including 30 yards on two carries in overtime that helped put the Vikings in position to kick the game-winning field goal.
Toby Gerhart: C-
Granted, Gerhart wasn't given much of an opportunity, finishing with just 18 yards on six carries. Gerhart showed in the preseason that he needs a few carries to get going, but that will have to change. If Peterson is back, and it looks like he is, Gerhart is not going to get a ton of carries.
He showed that he can get the job done, but he's going to have to figure out how to make an impact with limited carries.
Wide Receivers: B+
Percy Harvin: A
Percy Harvin was quite simply the best player on the field Sunday. He earned every one of his 192 all- purpose yards, taking on tacklers at every turn and sparking the Vikings offense.
Harvin was the most emotional player on the field and the most ferocious. He contributed as a receiver, a kick returner and with five carries out of the backfield.
Harvin continues to be one of the most valuable and versatile players in the sport.
Devin Aromoshodu: B
Aromoshodu had his best game as a Viking, contributing three catches for 61 yards. Not huge numbers to be sure, but he certainly stepped up when the Vikings needed him most.
His 26-yard catch on the last series in regulation helped set up the game-tying field goal, and his 17-yard grab in overtime put Minnesota in field-goal range.
The Vikings needed Aromoshodu to step up in Jerome Simpson's absence and he came through big time.
Michael Jenkins: B-
Jenkins was also there when the Vikings needed him, pulling in three catches for 45 yards. Jenkins made two nice grabs in traffic that kept Vikings drives alive.
Tight End: B+
Kyle Rudolph: B+
The Vikings need a big year from Kyle Rudolph and he certainly came through in Week 1. The big man had five catches for 67 yards, including a pretty 29-yarder down the sideline deep in Jacksonville territory that set up a Blair Walsh field goal.
Rudolph was steady all day, catching five of the seven balls he was thrown, but he did short-arm one attempt that should have been an easy catch.
Rudolph continues to progress and looks like he is developing a nice rapport with Ponder.
Defensive Line: C
The Vikings defensive front was good, but not great. They only got to Blaine Gabbert twice, as the Jaguars tended to go with a quick-strike passing attack that didn't give the MInnesota front line time to hurry him.
Kevin Williams: B
Williams was active in the middle for the Vikings. He only ended up with two tackles, but clogged up the middle for Minnesota.
Maurice Jones-Drew is always tough for interior lineman to bring down, but the Vikings did a pretty good job of containing him.
Brian Robison: A-
Robison was easily the Vikings' best defensive lineman Sunday. He had four solo tackles and batted down one pass while usually being the first Viking in the backfield to hurry Gabbert.
Jared Allen: C
Allen was not his usual disruptive self, although he set the tone early by blowing up Gabbert in the first series. But he was flagged for being offsides on the play.
Credit the Jaguars for game-planning well against Allen. They ran at him a lot, knowing he would be pinning his ears back and gunning for the inexperienced Gabbert.
The Vikings linebackers were called on to do a lot Sunday and for the most part they answered the bell.The Jaguars are a tough matchup for linebackers because they throw a lot of intermediate routes and a back like Maurice Jones-Drew always keeps a linebacking corps honest.
Chad Greenway: A
Greenway was all over the field, leading the way with 14 tackles, including nine solos. Greenway also came up with a couple of huge pass breakups that were crucial in slowing down Jaguar drives.
Erin Henderson: B+
As well as Greenway played, Henderson wasn't far behind, recording 10 tackles and a sack.
Defensive Backs: C+
A C+ for the Vikings secondary is a gigantic improvement over any game last season.
Yes, Chris Cook got burned deep for what could have been a game-losing touchdown, but someone should have to answer for why Cook had one-on-one coverage in that situation.
Chris Cook: C
Again, I don't know why Cook was alone on the go-ahead score for Jacksonville, but he was, so there's no excuse for letting the receiver get behind him on that play.
Cook was active for most of the day, however, and came up with a huge sack that stunted a Jaguar drive. Remember, we'll take a C from our secondary at this point.
Harrison Smith: B
Smith made a huge play in overtime, knocking down a pass on 3rd-and-3 that led to the Jaguars trying to complete a deep ball on fourth down. Smith was exactly as advertised, tough against the run with seven tackles and not noticed on pass defense.
Being called unnoticeable on pass defense is higher praise than anyone in the Vikings secondary got all of last season.
Special Teams: A+
How about a 55-yard field goal with no time on the clock and then a bulls-eye from 38 yards in overtime to win your first game in the NFL?
Blair Walsh is already worth the sixth-round pick the Vikings used on him.
Punter Chris Kluwe was solid as usual, the coverage teams were all good and Matt Kalil blocked an extra-point attempt.
Blair Walsh: A+
A fairy-tale start for the rookie out of Georgia. A 55-yard field goal to send the game to overtime was perfect and would have been good from 65 yards. His 37-yard kick in overtime was dead center. He pinned the Jaguars at the 20 or inside it on every kickoff.
Chris Kluwe: A
Kluwe finished up a huge week on Twitter and Deadspin with a great first game, averaging 48.5 yards on five punts. Sure, one of them got some absurd love from the turf, turning a duffed punt into a huge territorial gain, but that's all part of life as a punter.
A win is a win, right?
I don't know where else to point the finger when a team comes out flat at home in the first game of the season.
No emotion, no life, no spark for the first quarter and a half.
A timeout burned in the first half immediately after an injury timeout?
Three runs up the gut late in the fourth quarter when one first down would have iced the victory?
Chris Cook on an island when the Jaguars have to score a touchdown late in the game?
A win is a win. The Vikings coaches should be thanking their players for this one.