Blocked punts spark Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings used a pair of blocked punts to roll pas the Carolina Panthers 31-13 on Sunday.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings thought they saw something that would allow them to block a punt against the Carolina Panthers. Turns out they were right, twice.
The Vikings blocked a pair of punts on Sunday in a 31-13 victory over the Panthers, and both were returned for touchdowns.
"There's a couple of things with our punt rush against their punt protection we thought we could exploit, and our guys did a great job that first one," Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer said. "The second was our base defense, we wanted to go after it."
Wide receiver Adam Thielen, a native of Detroit Lakes, blocked a punt and scooped it up and ran 30 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the longest blocked punt return in team history, but the mark lasted less than a quarter.
"It was one of those things where we knew someone was going to come free, and I just kind of came free," Thielen said. "Nobody blocked me. I knew I was going to block it."
Thielen got in on punter Brad Nortman so fast that he almost overran the play.
"It was one of those things where I dove ... I had to move my hands down because it probably would have hit me right in the face," Thielen said.
Thielen came right over the long snapper to make the play, the first NFL TD for the second-year player.
"It was cool, but it's even cooler we got the 'W.' There have been a lot of special moments with team victories, and that's way more important," Thielen said.
In the second quarter linebacker Jasper Brinkley blocked a punt and defensive end Everson Griffen grabbed the ball and went 43 yards for a touchdown. It marked the first time in team history and just the fifth time in league history an NFL squad had returned two blocked punts for touchdowns in the same game.
"Just knowing that we had that look, I knew I was going to have to sit and make a run it, and it ultimately worked out for me," Brinkley said. He said it was his first punt block since high school.
"If it wasn't for Jasper Brinkley, I wouldn't have been able to do that," Griffen said. "I saw the ball, I picked it up and I scored."
Rochester's Marcus Sherels was back deep waiting to return the punt each time. But he's glad he never got the shot. Instead he raced up field to joy the celebration.
"It's awesome, it's a burst of adrenaline," Sherels said.