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AP Photo/Rick Osentoski
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Heading into Sunday afternoon's game against the Detroit Lions, head coach Leslie Frazier was still looking to attain his first division victory of his head coaching career. The return of wide receiver Jerome Simpson and the continual improvement of Adrian Peterson surely aided Frazier in his quest but at the end of the day, when the clock read zero, it was the Minnesota Vikings special teams units that pushed the Vikings to 3-1 and gave Frazier his first NFC North victory.
It didn't take long for Special teams to make an impact on Sunday as Percy Harvin returned Jason Hanson's opening kickoff 105 yards for a kick return touchdown putting the Vikings up 7-0 with only twelve seconds running off the clock.
"We knew they gave up big returns last week so we knew we was going to have a chance," Percy Harvin told KFAN's Greg Coleman on the field after the game. "All week we had been praying that we'd get one, that he'd kick down that line, and he did. Those guys up front did a heck of a job blocking, I was doing the easy part."
For Harvin, the return was his fifth career kickoff return for touchdown giving him the most kickoff returns for a touchdowns since he entered the league in 2009. In fact, there are only seven players in NFL history that have more career kick off returns than Percy has posted in his short four year career.
Vikings Kicker Blair Walsh tacked on two field goals in the first half to give the Vikings a 13-6 lead at halftime with the Lions receiving the kickoff to start the second half.
After four plays with minimal gain, the Vikings defense forced the Lions to punt and birthday boy, Marcus Sherels, stepped back to return the kick.
Lions punter Nick Harris put a lick on the punt, booting it 41 yards back to the Vikings 23 yard line where Sherels received the punt and had to immediately dodge a Kassim Osgood tackle. Free of Osgood's pursuit, Sherels proceeded to shake two more Lions on his way to breaking free and joining a convoy of Vikings special teamers who were thrilled to escort Sherels across the goal line for a 77-yard punt return TD.
Now leading 20-6, Blair Walsh took the ensuing kickoff and boomed it to the back of the endzone for a touchback, something he did five times on Sunday. Walsh, who missed his first field goal of the season int he game, has already kicked 12 touchbacks through only four games this season. A year ago, the Vikings had only kicked 19 touchbacks through the entirety of the season.
"Field position is such a big deal in our league and when people are starting from the minus-30, minus-35, usually that equates to points," Frazier told KFAN after the game. "The fact that Blair has done such a great job of having to start at minus-20 or inside, it's helped our defense tremendously. He's been a tremendous asset to our football team."
Rounding out a fantastic day of special teams for the Minnesota Vikings, punter Chris Kluwe was solid all day but came up big when his team needed him most. Averaging 43.2 yards per punt so far in the game, Kluwe stepped up with 1:53 to play and bombed a 47-yarder that landed at the five yard line and bounced straight up in the air allowing Robert Blanton to down the ball at the two-yard line. If Detroit were hoping for late game heroics again this week, they were facing a daunting task with 1:53 left, no timeouts and 98-yards to go.
With Kluwe and Walsh backing Detroit up, the Lions average starting position on Sunday was their own 24-yard line.
It should be noted that the Vikings defense also stepped up big yesterday holding a dangerous offense to 13 points. One week after breaching the 100 yard mark in his first career game, rookie Mikel Leshoure was limited to 26 yards and stud wide receiver Calvin Johnson was held out of the endzone with five catches for 54 yards. Everson Griffen and Jared Allen also added in two sacks a piece in the winning effort.
Christian Ponder came back to earth a little bit, failing to get the offense into the end zone but Adrian Peterson eclipsed the 100 yard threshold for the first time since October 23rd, 2011, finishing the day with 102 yards on the ground.
All-in-all, it was a big day from all aspects of special teams that pushed the Vikings to a 20-13 victory and at the very least into a shared lead of the NFC North division for another week.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN