MINNEAPOLIS -- All week, the matchup between Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley commanded headlines before the Minnesota Vikings' game against the St. Louis Rams. On Sunday, the established star got the better of the young talent largely because of what he could do in overtime.
Peterson ran for 21 yards on the Vikings' winning field goal drive, while Gurley lost 6 yards on his only carry of overtime, and the Vikings got to 6-2 with a 21-18 win over the Rams on Sunday.
A Vikings official had said this week that the game might have a playoff atmosphere. Sunday's physical battle between the two wild-card hopefuls certainly had that kind of intensity, if not that level of efficiency. The two teams combined for 18 penalties that totaled 154 yards. But while the Vikings held the Rams to 102 yards after halftime, Peterson put Blair Walsh in position for the game winner. The Vikings survived without Teddy Bridgewater in overtime after he left with a concussion, and Peterson helped carry them to a win.
Gurley finished with 89 yards on 24 carries, and Peterson wound up with 125 on 29 attempts.
What it means: The Vikings are 6-2 and tied for first in the NFC North after the Green Bay Packers' 37-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Vikings showed highlights from the Packers-Panthers game several times on Sunday, and fans stayed in the stands to watch the Packers' comeback bid die with Thomas Davis' interception of Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings head to Oakland next week, but their game against the Packers at TCF Bank Stadium in two weeks will be the biggest between the rivals in three years.
One reason to get excited: With Bridgewater out and a chance to win the game with an opening-drive touchdown in overtime, coach Mike Zimmer chose to take the wind and give the Rams the ball. The move was a bold gamble that a defense that stood up to Gurley in the second half could do it once more, and it paid off. The Vikings stopped Gurley for a 6-yard loss on first down, forced a punt and set up Walsh's winning field goal. It was the biggest moment of the day for a defense that showed its bravado through much of the second half and overtime, and the Vikings seem to have a group that can stand up late in tough games this season.
One reason to panic: As uneven as Bridgewater has been, the Vikings' best hope to make a playoff run is with him on the field. They'll need him back in short order to handle the toughest stretch of their schedule. They'll have to get him through the concussion protocol this week in time to face his rival from the class of 2014, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
What were they thinking? The Vikings' clock management at the end of the first half was certainly curious; they called a timeout on second down with 1:30 left, only to see Tavon Austin run for 22 yards on the next play. Then, after the Rams got themselves in field goal range at the end of the first half, the Vikings didn't bother to stop the clock, letting the Rams run it down to 3 seconds before Greg Zuerlein's field goal. Then, after Zuerlein's miss in the fourth quarter, the Vikings called for Shaun Hill to keep the ball on a bootleg with 1:48 left and the Rams holding three timeouts. Hill slid for an 11-yard loss, effectively ensuring the Vikings wouldn't be able to run out the clock.
Fantasy watch: Wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the Vikings in receptions and yards, but it was a quiet day overall for the rookie, as the Vikings hit nine different receivers. Diggs finished the day with three catches for 42 yards.
Ouch: Besides Bridgewater, veteran cornerback Terence Newman was evaluated for a concussion after getting kicked in the head on a Gurley run in the third quarter. Linebacker Audie Cole fractured his right ankle, Zimmer said in his postgame news conference.
Controversial calls: On the series before Bridgewater was hurt, he took a low hit from William Hayes but didn't draw a penalty after referee Ron Torbert ruled he was outside the pocket. Torbert's crew also reversed a pass-interference call on Trumaine Johnson's interception, going from calling it on Johnson to flagging Diggs. The Rams declined the penalty and took the ball after Johnson picked off Bridgewater in the end zone.