MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have leaned on their ferocious, fiery defense all season long to hang around the playoff field in the NFC.
When they needed them most, they were nowhere to be found.
Andrew Luck threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, shredding the league's second-ranked defense in the Indianapolis Colts' 34-6 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
The Vikings (7-7) believed they needed to win the final three games of the season to make the playoffs. But they gave up 411 yards, 101 yards rushing to Frank Gore and allowed the Colts to convert 54 percent of their third downs in a backbreaking loss.
"There was a lot at stake — make the playoffs, make this push to get to our ultimate goal," Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "To lay an egg like this, I'm at a loss for words. I don't know."
The Vikings ranked second in the NFL in yards and points allowed and had made star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford look ordinary with their relentless, attacking scheme.
But Luck completed 21 of 28 passes and the Colts led 27-0 at halftime. Twice they drove at least 88 yards for touchdowns, one that ended with a 50-yard strike from Luck to Phillip Dorsett to start the fourth quarter.
"It's a really, really good defense and we managed to come out on the positive end more often than not," Luck said. "We've done a decent job in backed-up situations all year so we were glad to get those drives again."
The most glaring moment came in the second quarter when Robert Turbin broke four tackles — two from standout defensive end Everson Griffen — on a 6-yard touchdown run that was his second of the game. The boos came raining down, and Munnerlyn couldn't blame them.
"I felt like we came out lackadaisical like we were just going to get this win," Munnerlyn said. "Like they're going to read the names and look at the stats and they're going to lay down for us. It didn't work like that."
Here are some other important notes from the game:
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned after missing the previous 11 games while recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee. His comeback came one week sooner than he expected after a good week of practice, but he only managed 22 yards on six carries.
The former MVP rushed for just 50 yards in the first two games of the season before getting injured and was no more effective against the Colts.
His fumble in Colts territory in the second quarter came after his only decent run of the day, a 13-yard burst. He played sparingly in the second half.
"Definitely not what I envisioned coming into this game," Peterson said. "It's unfortunate that it ended the way it did."
COLTS' O-LINE ROLLS
With two regular starters along the offensive line out of the game, Indianapolis didn't allow a sack for the first time all season and rushed for 161 yards.
Jonotthan Harrison started at left guard. Joe Haeg moved to right guard and La'Raven Clark entered the starting lineup at right tackle.
Indianapolis had allowed 31 sacks in the first eight games. The line has given up just nine in the past six games.
"I think I told someone last night during our production meeting that 'you will be pleasantly surprised with how these guys play,'" Luck said. "They work their butts off. They do everything right and it was really, really good to see it all come together today."
MORE FOR MATHIS
Robert Mathis continues to prove he's one of the league's top pass rushers. In his 14th season, Mathis got his 122nd sack and 51st forced fumble.
Mathis surpassed Clyde Simmons and tied Simeon Rice for the 18th on the league's career sack list. Mathis blew pastMinnesota left tackle T.J. Clemmings and stripped quarterback Sam Bradford on the opening drive of the third quarter.
"Us pass rushers, frontline guys, you have to affect the quarterback," Mathis said.
Vikings center Joe Berger missed the two previous games with a concussion, but returned to play on Sunday. With right guard Joe Berger out with a concussion, Berger moved over to fill his place and Nick Easton started his third straight game at center.
The Vikings had stopped the Colts near the goal line in the first quarter after Munnerlyn broke up a pass intended for T.Y. Hilton. Adam Vinatieri was lining up for his second field goal try of the day, a chip shot that would have made it 6-0.
But Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph tried to jump over long snapper Matt Overton to block it. That is illegal in the NFL, and the penalty gave the Colts a fresh set of downs.
Turbin plowed in two plays later for a 10-0 lead.
The Vikings committed six penalties and three turnovers in the game.
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