Minneapolis, MN – Christian Ponder threw a pair of touchdown passes to Kyle Rudolph and also ran for a score on Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings outplayed the San Francisco 49ers en route to a 24-13 victory.
Ponder went 21-of-35 for 198 yards while Rudolph finished with 36 yards on five catches for the Vikings (2-1), who were coming off a last-second loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.
"We know with him back there, he's accurate, we're going to pick up first downs, we're never going to be out of a football game," Vikings center John Sullivan said of Ponder. "It (quarterback position) had kind of been in flux the last couple years."
Percy Harvin had nine receptions for 89 yards in Sunday's win while Adrian Peterson rushed for 86 yards on 25 carries.
Alex Smith completed 24-of-35 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the 49ers (2-1), who were aiming for their first 3-0 start since 1998.
"The Vikings did a better job than we did all the way around," 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Vernon Davis had five catches for 53 yards and a score in the setback and Frank Gore rushed for 63 yards with a fumble on 12 carries.
The Vikings set the tone on their opening drive with an 82-yard scoring march. Rudolph had four catches on the trek, including a grab in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Ponder scrambled to his left after a play action and lofted the scoring strike over a pursuing defender.
San Francisco's second drive of the game, which spanned 13 plays and 54 yards, resulted in David Akers' 29-yard field early in the second quarter, but the Vikings struck again on their next series.
Ponder kept the 80-yard trek alive when he found Devin Aromashodu for a first down on 3rd-and-11. The completion brought the Vikings to San Francisco's 23 and on the next play the second-year signal caller broke through the line of scrimmage and exploded past the 49ers' secondary before extending the ball into the end zone while being tackled to make it 14-3.
Late in the quarter, Letroy Guion blocked Akers' field goal attempt and the Vikings took over at their own 33 with 52 seconds remaining. They moved into field goal range, due in part to Ponder's 14-yard connection with Toby Gerhart on third down, and rookie Blair Walsh drilled a 52-yarder as time expired for a 17-3 lead at the half.
Kyle Williams caught the opening kick of the third quarter deep in his own end zone and raced up the sideline 94 yards to the Minnesota 14. The 49ers had to settle for a field goal, but after a Vikings three-and-out, they executed a lengthy scoring drive to make it 17-14.
Davis capped the 86-yard trek with a pair of catches. The first grab came on an over-the-shoulder fade to the 1-yard line and on the ensuing play Smith found his tight end wide open in the back of the end zone.
The 49ers had the momentum, but the Vikings had an answer in the form of a methodical possession which spanned seven minutes and stretched into the fourth quarter.
Already in San Francisco territory, the Vikings moved to the 14-yard line when Dashon Goldson was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting a defenseless Rudolph on an incomplete pass.
Harvin followed with a 9-yard run and four plays later Rudolph made a one- handed snag as he fell to the ground with a defender draped on his back.
Gore fumbled near midfield on the 49ers' next possession and although the Vikings followed with a three-and-out, the defense stood strong and forced Smith's incomplete pass on 3rd-and-8 near midfield, leading to a San Francisco punt with 9:15 left
After the teams traded punts, the Vikings moved into San Francisco territory when Gerhart appeared to fumble. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called a timeout after the play -- his last of the game -- then threw the challenge flag.
Although teams are not allowed to challenge plays when they are out of timeouts, the referees proceeded to review the call. The replay showed that the whistle had blown before Gerhart lost possession, but officials ruled the play a fumble anyway.
Four plays into San Francisco's next drive, Josh Robinson negated the referees' gaffe by intercepting Smith.
Gerhart, though, legitimately fumbled away the football seconds later and San Francisco took over with 1:47 remaining.
Keeping with the pattern, Jarred Allen sacked and stripped Smith two plays into the 49ers' next touch and Brian Robison recovered the ball to wrap up a sloppy conclusion to an otherwise impressive Minnesota victory.
Smith threw his first interception since Week 12 of last season ... Gore fumbled for the first time since Week 5 of last year ... Former Vikings standout receiver Randy Moss had three catches for 27 yards for the 49ers ... San Francisco has lost five straight games at the Metrodome since ousting the Vikings by a 20-17 count on Dec. 13, 1992.