Peterson, defense lead Vikings' 31-14 domination of Chargers
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson reached the end zone for the first time in nearly two years. Minnesota's feisty defense crossed the goal line, too.
Peterson tallied 126 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries over three quarters on Sunday, and the Vikings flustered Philip Rivers into two turnovers and four sacks in a 31-14 victory over the injury-depleted Chargers.
''Knocked that rust off,'' said Peterson, who last scored on Nov. 24, 2013, at Green Bay, before a foot injury hampered him down the stretch that season. Fallout from a child-abuse case against him last year kept him out of all but one game.
Chad Greenway's 91-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter helped the Vikings (2-1) take another important step past an embarrassing opening loss at San Francisco.
Rivers was pulled after that play, with the deficit at 24 points. He took a hard hit to the midsection from Anthony Barr in the third quarter. Center Chris Watt (groin), left guard Orlando Franklin (right ankle) and left tackle King Dunlap (concussion) all left the game with injuries, and a couple of the ''healthy'' linemen for the Chargers (1-2) were hobbling around, too.
''The five we had left that fought like crazy to the end,'' Rivers said, ''and their effort is appreciated.''
Barr forced a fumble with a sack in the first quarter that gave the blitz-happy Vikings the ball at the 13.
''It really brings the energy and enthusiasm to the defense and makes guys want to keep playing,'' Barr said. ''Anytime you kind of feel you have a team at your own will, it feels good.''
Here are some key angles to know about the game:
Peterson's wife, Ashley, gave birth to their son, Axyl, in the morning before the game. He had to scramble to get to the stadium in time for warmups, and in his initial conversation with coach Mike Zimmer, he couldn't immediately guarantee his presence.
''I need to know by a certain time,'' Zimmer told him.
Peterson texted back about an hour or so later, a little more than two hours before kickoff, and told his coach he'd be there.
The Vikings formed a convoy of five-to-six blockers around Greenway as he grabbed the deflected ball off intended receiver Stevie Johnson and ran untouched into the end zone for his second-career touchdown.
The timing couldn't have been better for Greenway, who filled 24 ticket requests for family and friends. The group included his 83-year-old grandfather, Tom, who had never before seen his grandson play in 10 seasons in the NFL. Greenway's father, Alan, died of cancer last December.
''You just have to think my dad tipped the ball up,'' Greenway said, adding: ''You can't write the script any better.''
The Vikings were hit by fewer injuries than the Chargers, but top cornerback Xavier Rhodes suffered a possible concussion in the scariest of the afternoon's collisions. Rhodes and safety Andrew Sendejo smacked into each other trying to tackle Allen as he slithered away for a 34-yard touchdown catch with 1:17 left before halftime. Rhodes, whose neck snapped backward, was motionless on the turf for a few moments. He didn't return while being evaluated for a head injury.
The injury to Rhodes thrust rookie Trae Waynes into the lineup for his first action on defense of the season, putting him across from his old pal, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. Waynes and Gordon, both first-round draft picks this spring, played together at Kenosha Bradford High School in Wisconsin.
Rivers went after Waynes right away, but the Michigan State product performed relatively well. He wasn't credited for any tackles of Gordon, who had a modest 51 yards on 14 rushes.
PLENTY OF TIME
The Chargers have rebounded from slow starts several times since Rivers took over at quarterback. They were 1-3 in 2007 before finishing 11-5 and advancing to the AFC championship game. They started 0-2 in 2008 and 1-2 in 2013 and won playoff games both seasons.
''I'm making no predictions,'' Rivers said, ''but there's a lot of football left.''
The Chargers get to play five of their next seven games at home, a stretch that includes their bye in mid-November. They host Cleveland and Pittsburgh the next two weeks.
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