Winfield Working To Get Back For Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2009 – 3:54 pm

Just prior to Sunday’s Vikings-Steelers game, a report surfaced that Vikings CB Antoine Winfield may be out for up to 4-6 weeks because of the foot injury he suffered against Baltimore in Week 6. But Winfield, appearing in his weekly radio spot on radio voice of the Vikings and KFAN host Paul Allen’s show, sounded much more optimistic about his chances for a quicker recovery.

“A month? No, no,” Winfield said on KFAN, per the Star Tribune. “That’s too long. I’m day-to-day. If there’s a chance for me to get out there Sunday, I will be out there.”

As the Star Tribune pointed out, Winfield was at Winter Park early this morning continuing to treat his foot.

“I’m working as hard as I can [and doing] whatever I have to do to get back on the field,” Winfield said.

Winfield also said that they would be smart about him making a return, noting that he wanted to “be right” and not do anything that would jeopardize his status for future games this season.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress was asked about Winfield during his normal day-after-the-game press conference on Monday and he said the decision on Winfield’s return was a collaborative effort.

“It’s kind of a collaborate deal,” Childress said. “It’s the player, it’s the doctors, it’s the training staff. And then can you do the things that are specific to your position. Then you put all those things together. I don’t have x-ray vision and I’m not a trainer. But I do know what I see when somebody moves around out here [in practice].”

Childress has said on a couple of occasions that he’ll never rule Winfield completely out because he’s seen the CB make it to Sunday and play in spite of injuries that would’ve kept other players out.

Winfield’s status for Sunday’s game will remain in question for the week leading up to Sunday’s game against the Packers. For obvious competitive reasons, the Vikings and Winfield will be pretty mum on his progress. If Winfield is unable to play on Sunday against Green Bay, he’ll get another week of recovery time next week because the Vikings have a bye. If that scenario unfolds, it’ll be just short of a month between the time Winfield injured his foot and the Vikings Week 10 game against the Lions at Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome.

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Credit The Steelers, Don’t Blame Playcalling

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2009 – 2:35 pm

The Vikings under Brad Childress have been one of the league’s most proficient rushing teams, averaging 139.7 yards per game on the ground and 4.6 yards per carry since 2006, numbers that are both ranked 2nd in the NFL over that span. The Vikings also rank 2nd over that time period in rushes of 10+ yards with 208 and 4th in rushing 1st downs with 376.

But the going on the ground wasn’t as smooth on Sunday against Pittsburgh, where the Vikings averaged just 3.9 yards per carry on 23 tries and had just 5 rushing 1st downs. As a result, the Vikings had to take it to the air, with QB Brett Favre throwing a season-high 51 pass attempts.

“You’d always like to be able to exert your will and run it all the time,” Childress said on Monday. “Sometimes logic dictates that you don’t and you spread people out a little bit more and you do some other things. In a perfect world you don’t want 51 throws for us, the way we play football.”

With the Steelers so stout against the run on Sunday, I think the Vikings had to adjust their game plan a bit on the fly. So credit goes to the offensive coaching staff for identifying the issue and making the corrections. While the Vikings didn’t abandon the run – Adrian Peterson had 18 carries for 69 yards – they definitely leaned on the air attack more than usual. And the players responded, with Favre passing for a season-high 334 yards and WR Sidney Rice hauling in a career-high 11 receptions.

But credit also goes to the Steelers, who forced the Vikings to at times deviate away from their preferred offensive mode of operation. One such time occurred near the goal line in the 3rd quarter, where the Vikings called 2 consecutive pass plays from the 1-yardline on 2nd and 3rd down. Previously on a pair of 1st down plays (an offsides penalty against Pittsburgh afforded the Vikings an extra 1st down play), Peterson lost 1 yard, which along with a struggle to run the ball near the goal line earlier in the game caused the Vikings to go to the air on 2nd and 3rd down.

The decision to throw passes on 2nd and 3rd down was met with some criticism following the game, and Childress was asked about those playcalls during his press conference on Monday.

“You do what you see fit right there,” Childress explained. “We took our stabs at it (running the ball)…the best avenue we thought to go. We ran it down at the other end. It took us a while to get it in and we didn’t want to repeat a couple of those plays because they’re (the Steelers) coached on that side, too. We had a los yardage play there (on 1st down)…and just thought the better avenue to go was to move it a little bit.”

It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback right now and criticize the Vikings for not running the ball near the goal line, but the offensive staff doesn’t have the luxury of time that we as second-guessers have.

In the past, Childress has been criticized for being too predictable, and running the ball 4 times in a row in spite of continually being stonewalled by a tough Steelers defense likely would’ve resulted in more criticism anyway.

So rather than piling on and placing the blame on the decision to call pass plays instead of run plays, I give credit to the Steelers for playing great defense and coming up with a goal line stand.

After all, we’re quick to credit our defense for excellent play when they make a goal line stand against someone else’s offense.

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A Couple Of Streaks End, But One Continues

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2009 – 11:57 am

The Vikings loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday ended their streak of 7 consecutive regular season games won, dating back to the 2008 season finale against the Giants. The Vikings now sit at 6-1 as they head for another highly-anticipated matchup with border and division rival Green Bay.

Part of the problem in Sunday’s regular season win streak-ending loss to Pittsburgh was a bunch of penalties – 11 to be exact. Way too many for a team as disciplined and solid as the Vikings. Going into Sunday’s game, the Vikings were the 2nd-least penalized team in the league. One of Sunday’s 11 penalties was called on an unlikely target – G Steve Hutchinson. The 6-time Pro Bowler was flagged for a false start on a goofy-looking play, and that penalty ended a 26-game penalty-less streak that dated back to September of 2007.

But while the regular season win streak and Hutch’s penalty streak were ended on Sunday, the Vikings defense continued their impressive streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. The Vikings defense has now gone 30 consecutive games with allowing an opposing RB to hit the century mark, the league’s longest active streak and a streak that will be put to the test again next week in Green Bay. Packers RB Ryan Grant is the last RB to rush for 100 yards against the Vikings, and he did it in Lambeau in 2007.

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Pro Bowl Voting Has Begun

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2009 – 11:01 am

The NFL has opened fan voting for the 2010 Pro Bowl, which will be held in Miami on January 31, one week before the Super Bowl.

Several Vikings are on the ballot and many of them are deserving of Pro Bowl votes, so log on and cast your Pro Bowl votes.

Fans can vote however many times they want, and the ballots will probably be adjusted as the weeks go on. One adjustment I know the league will have to make regards rookie WR Percy Harvin, whom I couldn’t find on the ballot.

Here is a link that will take you to Pro Bowl voting. Click on it. And vote for Vikings!

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Harvin Is Good, And Tough, Too

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2009 – 10:11 am

With his production on the field over the first 7 games of this season, WR Percy Harvin will undoubtedly gain serious consideration for rookie of the year honors at season’s end. The numbers are quite staggering and are actually already good enough to gain him consideration.

Harvin’s performance on Sunday in Heinz Field only added to those numbers. He returned a 4th quarter kickoff 88 yards for a TD, giving him his 2nd kickoff return TD on the season already and making him the only player in Vikings history with 2 or more kickoff return scores. He also leads the NFL with a 29.8-yard kickoff return average

But as anyone who has watched the Vikings this season realizes, Harvin’s contributions don’t begin or end on special teams. Against the Steelers on Sunday, the playmaking WR had 3 receptions for 42 yards and 1 rush for 7 yards. For the season, including returns, Harvin has 53 touches for 1,007 yards and 4 TDs. That averages out to 19 yards per touch.

Among rookie WRs, Harvin ranks 2nd in receptions with 23 and he leads all rookies and is 2nd in the NFL with 13 receptions on 3rd down.

But aside from his substantial production as a rookie, what strikes me about Harvin from being around him during the early part of his career is his toughness. He’s playing with and through a shoulder injury that is clearly causing him pain. He is fearless going across the middle and I can’t remember a Vikings kick returner who attacked creases with such aggression. Too often we see returners across the league who hesitate and dance too much as they approach a kick return. Harvin doesn’t do that, and he’s doing all of this with an injured shoulder.

Pro Bowl voting begins today and I know one thing – he has my vote. And he’ll also have a lot of votes for rookie of the year honors at season’s end.

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Rice Stands Out Once Again

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2009 – 8:29 am

It seems like we’ve had a blog entry on this topic several times over the past few weeks, but each time it’s worth noting. WR Sidney Rice continues to standout and emerge for the Vikings, with his latest effort against the Steelers resulting in 11 receptions for 136 yards.

Rice is the team leader in receptions with 34 and receiving yards with 545. He is the 7th leading receiver in the NFL in terms of receiving yards and he’s averaging 16 yards per catch. Yesterday’s 136-yard effort marks back-to-back 100-yard weeks for the 3rd-year receiver.

Asked after the game about his continued emergence, Rice cited 2 main factors.

“Maturing first of all,” Rice said, “and bringing (QB Brett) Favre in has helped out a whole lot. Bringing a guy in who is comfortable in all of us receivers helps a lot.”

Rice is a great guy and is a tremendous teammate in the locker room. He is always quick to mention others, such as the offensive line and Favre, when asked about his recent success. I would also submit that Rice’s position coach, George Stewart, has been vital in Rice’s development from a young, raw 2nd round pick in 2007 to the emerging talent that he’s become.

On top of the sheer impressive numbers that Rice is putting up, it’s important to note the magnitude of the plays that Rice is making. He’s not accumulating a bunch of catches and yards in garbage time or unimportant situations.

The 6-4 WR caught a 34-yarder on 4th and 1, a 17-yarder on 3rd and 4 and a 25-yarder on 3rd and 18. Those 3 plays came at crucial points in the game and were a main reason the Vikings were able to position themselves for a win at Heinz Field. Also consider that Rice had a TD nullified by a tripping penalty and another 35-yard reception taken away because of a holding penalty.

When the Vikings selected Rice back in the 2007 draft, they took on criticism for selecting the former South Carolina Gamecock over Dwayne Jarrett, the record-setting WR from Southern Cal. Rice was just 20 years old and didn’t have the production Jarrett had at a better program.

Right now, the Vikings aren’t fielding criticism for having Rice, while Jarrett continues to sit on the bench for a struggling 2-4 squad in Carolina.

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