Vikings 30, Titans 7

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeOctober 8, 2012


MINNEAPOLIS - There were more than a few stalled drives, ill-advised penalties and mistakes. But for the Minnesota Vikings, it didn't matter one bit.
Quarterback Christian Ponder threw interceptions on consecutive passes. So what? The Vikings, relatively penalty-free for much of the season, got whistled five times for 60 yards and had safety Harrison Smith ejected in the second quarter for making contact with an official. It will cost Smith, but it didn't cost the Vikings.
Minnesota's 30-7 victory over the Titans on Sunday moved the Vikings to 4-1, and they remained tied with the Chicago Bears atop the NFC North thanks to defense -- swarming defense, opportunistic defense, smothering defense.
Ponder, whose interception-free streak ended at 145 passes, rebounded with a 25-for-35 effort for 258 yards and two touchdowns, one coming late in the third quarter and the other coming in the fourth. Rookie kicker Blair Walsh was 3-for-3 on field goals. Percy Harvin accounted for 116 yards from scrimmage (108 on eight receptions) and scored his first two offensive touchdowns of the season - a 4-yard run in the first quarter and a 10-yard reception in the third. The Vikings gained 175 yards on the ground, led by Adrian Peterson's 88.
And yet the star of the game was the Vikings defense.
Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck - playing for the injured Jake Locker - looked all of his 37 years. He completed 26 of 43 passes for 200 yards, threw one interception and had a passer rating of 69.9, even with numbers inflated by an essentially meaningless fourth quarter. Star running back Chris Johnson was held to 24 yards on 15 carries.
The Titans (1-4), down 13-0 at the half, managed just nine offensive yards in the third quarter, when the Vikings put the game away.
Indeed, the totals - the Vikings outgained the Titans 433 yards to 267 - are misleading when you consider the Vikings had held the Titans to just 96 yards when Ponder hit Harvin for a 10-yard scoring pass with seconds left in the third quarter to give the Vikings a 23-0 lead.
The Vikings went up 7-0 in the first quarter on a 91-yard drive that was keyed by Harvin's 45-yard reception and ended with his four-yard run. From then until late in the third quarter the Vikings had to settle for field goals of 42, 36 and 26 yards by Walsh.
That was more than enough.
The Titans finally got on the scoreboard with 10:35 left in the game on Hasselbeck's 10-yard TD pass to tight end Jared Cook, but the Vikings responded with their third TD drive of the game to push the score to 30-7.
Receiver Kendall Wright led the Titans with 66 yards on nine receptions.
Notes: Rookie Robert Blanton replaced Harrison Smith at safety after Smith was ejected for contact with an official in the second quarter. ... Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt was activated for the game, despite not practicing all week due to an ankle injury. Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, who hadn't played since the season opener due to an ankle injury, was also active. McCarthy started. ... Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson, who missed two games with a concussion, returned to action Sunday. Marvin Mitchell, who had started both games in Henderson's absence, was inactive with a calf injury. ... Vikings defensive end Brian Robison picked up his first sack of the season in the first quarter. ... Rookie Josh Robinson started at corner in place of Antoine Winfield (knee). Winfield played in nickel situations. ... Titans running back Javon Ringer left the field on a cart after injuring his left leg in the fourth quarter.