Throughout the offseason and training camp, one position battle that was constantly analyzed was the nickel back/3rd corner position. The Vikings drafted Asher Allen in the 3rd round, signed Karl Paymah during free agency and brought veteran Benny Sapp back after he played well in 2008.
Prevailing thought was that one of those 3 players would win the job and would be the beneficiary of the vast majority of the playing time alongside starters Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, relegating the other 2 players to either inactive duty and/or primarily special teams responsibility.
Well, as is often the case with prevailing thought, it turned out to be all wrong. Sapp, by all appearances, “won” that preseason position battle, but he hasn’t been the only member of that trio to contribute to the Vikings this season.
When Winfield went down with a foot injury in Week 6, the trio of DBs stepped in immediately and the Vikings defense actually hasn’t lost a step. Since Week 6, the Vikings rushing defense has climbed from 9th to 3rd, the passing defense has gone from 24th to 21st and the overall defense has gone from 18th to 12th. Perhaps most importantly, the Vikings scoring defense has remained #2 in the NFL.
Depth in the secondary has been key for the Vikings, clearly. Since Winfield’s injury, the trio of Allen, Paymah and Sapp have done more than just weather the storm.
“I think ‘weather’ means that you are just holding on, surviving,” Childress said on Monday. “I think that they have really embraced it. I think that it’s the old ‘opportunity knocks’ and I have seen those guys grab hold of it and really get a chance to compete.”
Childress said he’s noticed good practice habits out of the Vikings reserve DBs and those habits, along with the players’ versatility, have allowed them to fill in more-than-capably for Winfield, who was a Pro Bowler last year.
Allen and Sapp can play both the outside corner position and nickel back. Paymah might be more of an outside corner player, but he, along with Allen and Paymah, can also contribute on special teams.
In addition to their skills, positive practice habits and versatility, Childress also said their attitude has been important to their ability to contribute this season.
“Boy, you see it day in and day out,” Childress commented. “I think they just embraced it. Where Asher used to be sitting in my office, he used to be one of those eight guys (that was inactive on game day). He was going to be a guy that was down and he was down about being down, but I just promised him that somewhere along the line opportunity is going to knock.
“If you feel like you are getting in the co-pilot seat, if you feel like you are kind of riding along and you don’t keep that mental edge, you are going to snooze at the wrong time and somebody is going to say ‘you’re in.’ I think those guys have done a really good job of attacking that thing.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Asher Allen, Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah
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Though he’s stopped short of labeling last Sunday’s 35-9 domination of the Seattle Seahawks as his team’s most complete game of the season, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has acknowledged that he was pleased with his team’s performance, saying on Monday that he saw “a ton” of good things from all phases of his team while watching film.
“Without going back through each one, it was pretty good,” Childress said. “I mean it was a good job in all phases and nobody let off, whether it was their offensive drive before halftime, [the] defense ramping up and getting us the ball back and us being able to elect whether we wanted to continue on. There were a couple of blips, the screen pass that got out, but it was a good overall effort.”
Asked about areas in which his team could improve going forward, Childress immediately cited negative rushing plays. The Vikings are tied for the 2nd most negative rushing plays with 38. Childress said “winning runs,” which he defined as 4 or more yards on 1st down, half the yardage to gain on 2nd down and then a conversion on 3rd down, will be a focus for his team going forward.
“A plus one run on first down, you do not like so much,” Childress explained. “Those are some things if you can go back through and look at this game and look at our first down run efforts, particularly the first ten to 15, there’s a lot of one’s, zero’s, two’s, one’s, two’s, three’s.”
The Vikings called runs on 8 of the first 13 plays from scrimmage and gained just 29 yards. So they adjusted at that point and called passes on 11 of the next 16 plays, which resulted in 14 points. But instead of relying on the pass for the rest of the game, the Vikings wisely came back to the run game and found success, thanks in large part to their efficient passing display in the 2nd quarter.
RB Adrian Peterson eventually finished the game with 82 yards on 24 carries and Chester Taylor chipped in with 73 yards on 11 carries.
The Vikings will get a chance to improve their standing in terms of total negative rushing plays this week when they host the Chicago Bears. In 4 games against the Bears, Peterson is averaging 138.5 yards per contest and his has 9 rushing TDs.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor
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The NFC North-leading Vikings will travel to Arizona in Week 13 to play the NFC West-leading Cardinals in a game that was originally scheduled for a 3:15 p.m. CT kickoff, but it was announced today that the game will be flexed into NBC’s Sunday night time slot of 7:30 p.m. CT.
The week 13 matchup represents a rematch of a game between the two clubs last year in December – a game the Vikings dominated early and won 35-14.
The Vikings host Chicago this week while the Cardinals travel to Tennessee.
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QB Brett Favre has been named a finalist for this week’s FedEx Air Player of the Week Award after his 213-yard, 4-TD performance in the Vikings 35-9 win over Seattle on Sunday.
Favre also completed 22 of 25 passes against the Seahawks, setting a franchise and personal best completion percentage (88%).
Other QBs named as finalists for this week’s award are Cleveland’s Brady Quinn and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.
Log on and vote for Favre by clicking here.
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