MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — His left knee fully healed, Adrian Peterson ran hard -- and often.
The Minnesota Vikings finally turned their star running back loose after months of caution, and he rewarded their trust with a typical two-touchdown game. Seemed as if he'd never been hurt.
Rookie Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder as regulation ended and another in overtime, and Peterson returned a little more than eight months after reconstructive surgery to lift the Vikings to a 26-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
"My legs are loose. Seriously, I'm feeling really good. I'm ready to carry the load," Peterson said.
Peterson ran 17 times for 84 yards for the Vikings, who led for most of the second half until Blaine Gabbert's 39-yard touchdown pass and 2-point conversion with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Jaguars a 23-20 lead.
"We just wanted to give y'all a show," said Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, who rebounded from an erratic start. "We could have ended the game a little sooner ... but everyone knew the rule and was well aware of what was going on."
For the first time since the NFL's new overtime scoring rule was installed last season, the first team to score didn't immediately run off the field a winner. The replacement officials were right on top of that and most of the rest of the action, avoiding any game-changing contested calls or blatant mistakes.
After Walsh's 38-yard kick, the Vikings had to play defense again so the Jaguars had their turn to match. But Gabbert was hurried into a fourth-down overthrow, spoiling the debut for new Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey, who played for the Vikings in the 1980s.
"Nobody likes to lose, especially myself," Gabbert said. "Maybe I'm just doing a good job of hiding it. It makes my blood boil when you lose games like that."
For two teams that combined for eight wins last season, this game had everything, including the wild lead change in the waning seconds. After forcing a punt by the Jaguars at the two-minute warning, the Vikings went three-and-out and punted the ball right back clinging to a 20-15 lead.
With no timeouts, 91 seconds left and starting at his 24-yard line, Gabbert put together perhaps the best drive of his brief career. He completed a fourth-down pass to rookie Justin Blackmon and then found Cecil Shorts III open for a 23-20 lead after the 2-point conversion, putting a stunned silence over the stadium.
But the Vikings still had two timeouts, and with two quick passes by Ponder they hustled in position for Walsh to kick the tying field goal with room to spare.
They won the coin toss and, with 27 yards on three carries by Peterson to become the franchise's career leading rusher, set up the sixth-round draft pick from Georgia for his go-ahead kick.
"I've been bragging on this guy," Peterson said.
Ponder finished 20 for 27 for 270 yards, though he lost a fumble in the third quarter that led to one of Josh Scobee's three field goals. Peterson, who tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments last Christmas Eve, had 17 of Minnesota's 29 runs.