Walker a Big Hit in Debut With Vikings

From Associated Press

Herschel Walker was supposed to have only limited duty in his first game as a Minnesota Viking.

After the Green Bay Packers “limited” Walker to 98 yards the first two times he touched the ball, however, Viking Coach Jerry Burns knew the game plan had to change.

“When I saw him run, I changed my mind,” Burns said.

Walker, working on only two days’ practice since arriving from Dallas in one of the biggest trades in National Football League history, gained 148 yards in 18 carries Sunday to help the Vikings forget a decade of frustration against the Green Bay Packers with a 26-14 victory.


“We didn’t anticipate him to play to that extent,” Burns said. “I’m not the smartest guy, but I’m not a complete idiot, either. When I saw what he was doing out there, I said, ‘Hey, keep feeding him the ball.’ ”

After Herman Fontenot’s one-yard touchdown run gave the Packers a 7-0 lead 8:33 into the game, Walker came on.

As a Metrodome-record 62,075 fans stood and cheered, he took the kickoff four yards deep in the end zone, hesitated for a moment and dashed 51 yards down the right sideline. The return was called back, though, by Darryl Ingram’s holding penalty.

On Walker’s first play from scrimmage, 12:38 into the game, he went off right guard, shot through a hole and shed four tackles en route to a 47-yard run. He ran the final 15 yards without his right shoe, which he kicked in the air when safety Mark Murphy attempted to tackle him.

It was the third-longest run in Walker’s 3 1/2 NFL seasons and the Vikings’ longest since Darrin Nelson’ 52-yarder on Nov. 26, 1987, the same day Nelson was the last Viking to break 100 yards.

Walker, who averaged 8.2 yards, became the first player to gain 100 yards in his Minnesota debut and is already the team’s second-leading rusher this season, only 34 yards behind fullback Rick Fenney.

“I’ve learned systems overnight before,” said Walker, who was acquired Thursday from the Cowboys for five players and as many as seven draft choices. “I kept telling the coaches that I stayed up nights with the playbook.”

Walker played against the Packers last week as a Cowboy, gaining just 44 yards.

“The offensive line made a big difference,” he said. “Minnesota has one of the best in the league.”

The Vikings were averaging only 117 rushing yards per game prior to Sunday, when they had 238.

“We hadn’t been running the ball as well as we have to,” Burns said. “Obviously, he’s the best we’ve had run the ball for some time. Whatever is it, we needed a spark and he gave it to us.

“I have to say I’m glad he’s here.”

While Walker dominated offensively, Keith Millard and Reggie Rutland dominated defensively.

Millard had four of the Vikings’ eight sacks and Rutland had two interceptions as the NFL’s top defense held the league’s leading offense to 219 yards, 222 less than the Packers had averaged.

The Vikings (4-2) had lost four straight games and 14 of 18 to Green Bay (3-3).

“We hadn’t lost sight of that fact,” Burns said. “It was a very important game for us, no question about it. It stuck in our craw that those guys nailed us four times in a row.”

Minnesota’s third straight victory, coupled with Chicago’s loss to Houston, put the Vikings in a first-place tie with the Bears.