National Football League News
Peterson stars in debut as Vikes throttle Falcons
Sep 9, 2007, 20:03 GMT
Minneapolis, MN - Adrian Peterson caught a 60-yard touchdown pass in his NFL debut and the Minnesota defense added two touchdowns, as the Vikings downed a Michael Vick-less Atlanta Falcons team, 24-3, in the season opener for both clubs at the Metrodome.
The game marked the dawning of the Bobby Petrino era for the Falcons as the ex-Louisville coach was on the sidelines for his first NFL game, minus his superstar quarterback.
The embattled Vick was suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for an indefinite period after he recently entered a plea agreement on federal dogfighting charges. Former first-round pick Joey Harrington, who washed out in both Detroit and Miami before signing with the Falcons during the offseason, took the place of Vick under center for Atlanta.
Peterson got more touches than expected in the game after the Vikings' starting running back, Chester Taylor, left the contest late in the first quarter with an apparent hip injury. The former Oklahoma star didn't disappoint and flashed the big play ability that was a staple of his Sooners career. Peterson finished with 103 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Tarvaris Jackson earned his first career win as an NFL starting quarterback after completing 13-of-23 passes for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Vikings (1-0), who won for the 16th time in their last 21 home openers.
Meanwhile, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield both returned interceptions for touchdowns, while rookie Brian Robison had two sacks for an impressive Minnesota defense.
'It's a blessing to have a defense like we do,' said Vikings fullback Tony Richardson. 'Obviously the offensive line did some great things too. That gives Tarvaris a little more room to make plays.'
Harrington finished 23-of-32 for 199 yards with two interceptions for the Falcons (0-1), who are coming off a disappointing 7-9 season.
'Sometimes the ball bounces the other way,' Harrington said. 'Today it happened to be in a game that was one of those claw it out type games. It's frustrating because we did a lot of things right and there were one or two bounces that went their way. You have to give them credit, they came up with the big plays.'
Warrick Dunn rushed for 55 yards on 22 carries for Atlanta.
The Vikings took the early lead when Williams dropped into coverage during a zone-blitz, picked off a Harrington pass and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown with 7:43 left in the opening quarter.
The Falcons put together their first impressive drive in the second quarter. A solid running game took Atlanta all the way from its own two-yard line to the Vikings' 26. But, Matt Prater was wide right from 44 yards out on his first career NFL field goal attempt.
Both offenses continued to struggle from there but late in the third quarter Ryan Longwell capped a 10-play, 60-yard dive, featuring a 28-yard hookup between Jackson and Bobby Wade, with a 49-yard field goal to extend Minnesota's advantage to 10-0.
Atlanta answered and finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings seemed to turn off the aggressiveness on defense and Harrington took advantage, dinking and dunking his way down the field until Robison halted things with a big third-down sack. Prater was true this time from 45 yards out, however, and Falcons were within a touchdown, 10-3, with 9:23 left in the game.
Minnesota responded on its ensuing possession when Peterson flashed his enormous potential. The running back hauled in an over-the-shoulder pass from Jackson, squared his shoulders and raced 60 yards for a TD to give the Vikings a 17-3 cushion with 7:19 remaining.
Minnesota then put things away when Winfield took back a Harrington pass that was bobbled by Michael Jenkins with 2:37 on the clock.
'It's great for our confidence,' Winfield said. 'We didn't feel like Atlanta was going to score many points and when we went up 10, we felt we had control of the game.'
Taylor was injured on a first-and-15 play from the Falcons 45, Taylor became tangled up with right guard Artis Hicks on a screen pass and tumbled to the turf. He managed to leave the field under his own power but later walked gingerly to the locker room...Safety Mike Doss (calf), running back Mewelde Moore (coaches decision), wide receiver Robert Ferguson (ankle) and defensive end Erasmus James (returning from ACL surgery) were among the Vikings inactives...Veteran defensive tackle Rod Coleman (right knee surgery) headlined the Falcons inactives...The Vikings are now 15-8 in the all-time regular season series with the Falcons and a perfect 7-0 versus them in September...Vikings coach Brad Childress became the first coach in team history to win his first two season openers...Williams set the Vikings team record for most touchdowns in a career by a defensive lineman with three (two fumbles, one interception).
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