JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Minnesota Vikings had a 14-point lead before many fans at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium even settled into their seats.
Those late arrivers could have saved a few hours by turning around and heading home.
With the league’s leading rusher, one of the league’s best defenses and facing the mistake-prone Jaguars, the Vikings had this one wrapped up shortly after it began.
Less than two minutes to be precise.
Adrian Peterson, benched to start the game because he was late for a team meeting Saturday, ran for 80 yards and a touchdown, and the Vikings scored twice in the first 1:41 to jump-start a 30-12 victory against the fading Jaguars on Sunday.
“In your wildest dreams you don’t think it’s going to be like that, but you don’t turn anything back,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said.
Minnesota (6-5) made the early lead stand, thanks to a stifling defense that harassed quarterback David Garrard, blanketed receivers and caused the Jaguars to abandon the running game. Jacksonville (4-7) provided plenty of help, too.
The Jaguars had five turnovers — three fumbles and two interceptions — were sacked four times, missed two field goals and flagged for eight penalties.
“We kept stubbing our own toe, the whole foot, both feet actually,” running back Fred Taylor said. “It got ugly. It wasn’t pretty at all.”
Right tackle Tony Pashos was called for holding four times — a sign of how badly manhandled the Jaguars were up front. Another was that Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew ran a combined eight times for 24 yards, including a 13-yard scamper on Taylor’s first run of the day.
Garrard gave the Jaguars a chance, throwing for a career-high 317 yards and a touchdown, but his two interceptions and Josh Scobee’s two missed field goals allowed Minnesota to pull away.
The outcome, though, really was decided in the opening minutes.
It started on the first play. Garrard lined up in shotgun formation, but Brad Meester apparently thought he was under center.
Meester’s snap fell to the ground, Napolean Harris picked it up and ran 28 yards for a touchdown. The Jaguars were behind 7-0 and stunned after just 7 seconds.
“That was just a mental error on my part,” Meester said. “I lost focus. This is probably the toughest one ever for me. I just apologize to everyone and it’ll never happen again. I’m a lot better than that. I’ve got to know better. That put us in a hole early.”
It got worse, too.
Rookie Brian Witherspoon fumbled the ensuing kickoff — the first of six mistakes on special teams — and Minnesota recovered another loose ball. Chester Taylor found the end zone three plays later, scoring on a cutback run from 3 yards and making it 14-0.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio tried to help settle his players down, gathering them at 40-yard line after Witherspoon’s fumble and reminding them that there was plenty of time left.
The Jags got a huge ovation when they managed to hold onto the ball on the next kickoff. They got even more cheers when Witherspoon returned a punt 42 yards that helped set up Garrard’s short TD pass to Reggie Williams that cut the deficit in half. The Jaguars tried to surprise the Vikings with an onside kick, but an offside penalty nullified the play.
Scobee’s kickoff then went out of bounds, giving Minnesota the ball at the 40. Peterson’s first run of the game — it came on the team’s third drive — went for 21 yards and set up Ryan Longwell’s 54-yard field goal.
Trailing 17-7, the Jaguars went to the air and moved the ball with ease. But Jacksonville couldn’t capitalize because of all the mistakes.
“It was one of those games where it seemed like every play we ran something went wrong,” Scobee said. “We’ve got to figure out what that is. To perform like that is not something we’re going to do every week.”
The Vikings, who kept pace with Chicago in the NFC North, used the turnovers to help seal the victory. Peterson’s 16-yard TD run with 6:55 remaining made it 30-10 and sent most of the crowd scurrying toward the exits.
“I could have run backward and scored,” said Peterson, who took responsibility for his benching.
Minnesota had 122 yards rushing, enough to offset a poor day from Gus Frerotte. He was knocked out of the game twice and finished 12-of-20 passing for 120 yards with an interception. He was sacked three times.
“I think a lot of that was self-inflicted,” Childress said. “If you get out of the pocket, you’ve got to throw the football away. I told him so. Just no reason. Those are sacks. Get out of the pocket and throw the football away and live to fight another day. … You have to be able to do that.”
Note: Jags WR Matt Jones said his appeal of a three-game
suspension will be heard Dec. 4 in New York.