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Childress Expects Bears Best Shot

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 25, 2009 – 2:12 pm

The Chicago Bears are in the midst of a 3-game losing streak and heading in the wrong direction as the NFL regular season approaches its final stretch of games.

But that doesn’t have Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress fooled as he prepares his team for its 1st game of the season against the division rivals.

“For us, [a] divisional opponent is huge,” Childress said. “It’s a great rivalry. I don’t have any illusions about getting their best shot. Divisional teams are tough to beat. We play them twice (coming up); we’ve played everybody else twice. We’ll have our hands full.”

In an unusual scheduling circumstance, the Vikings have already finished their season series with both Green Bay and Detroit, while they haven’t played the Bears once. The result is 2 games against Chicago over the next month. They’ll play at Mall of America Field this Sunday and then on December 28 the teams will battle on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at Soldier Field.

Childress told reporters at Winter Park on Monday that he has a lot of respect for the way the Bears play defense and he also said that the Chicago offense has enough pieces to cause trouble for opposing defenses.

The Vikings have been riding the hot hand of QB Brett Favre for a good part of the season, and now the Purple will face the league’s 8th-ranked passing defense. On the other side of the ball, QB Jay Cutler’s favorite target is TE Greg Olsen, and the Vikings have had their share of difficulties defending tight ends (see: Davis, Vernon and Finley, Jermichael).

Add in this week’s odd schedule because of the Thanksgiving holiday and the Vikings will need to be at their best in order to hold serve at home and take one step closer to winning the NFC North.

“We need to make sure we’re about our business,” Childress said. “With the holiday in here, we just need to take care of our business and prepare the right way this week.”


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Peterson Poised To Finish Season Strong

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 25, 2009 – 9:12 am

It’s funny how quickly we can get used to superstar production from a superstar player. Last season, RB Adrian Peterson toted the ball a franchise-record 363 times and won the NFL rushing title with 1,760 yards.

This year, we’ve seen fewer sensational single-game totals – Peterson has two 100-yard games through 11 weeks in 2009 and had 6 such performances through 11 weeks in 2008 – but I would actually argue that Peterson and the Vikings running game might be in better shape this year. Let me explain…

– #28 is still on pace for 1,600 yards. And he’s going to do that with fewer carries this year than he had last year. I like that. Perhaps it’ll keep him fresher as we get to the late stages of the season and into the playoffs.

– Peterson’s yardage totals are a bit lower in 2009, but he’s finding the end zone more, too. He had 10 rushing TDs last year and this year he already has 11 and is on pace for 18.

– The slight downturn in rushing yardage this season is a function, in my opinion, of the Vikings improved passing attack with Brett Favre under center. The Vikings are throwing it more this season and they’re having much more success in doing so. This is largely because opposing teams MUST respect the Vikings ground game first, and that allows a sharp QB such as Favre to take advantage of mismatches and opportunities.

– Speaking of the passing game, Peterson has improved. His blocking is getting better by all accounts and he’s on pace to record career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Peterson’s career high in receptions is 21 and he already has 25 this year. His career-high in receiving yards is 268 and he’s on pace for 344 this year.

– I realize the Vikings have the 2nd most negative rushes in 2009, not a good trend. And Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress addressed that fact in Monday’s press conference. But it’s also important to note that the Vikings are 2nd in rushes for 20+ yards and they do average 4.67 yards per rush on 1st down, 9th-best in the NFL.
With all of that said, there’s one more reason for optimism going forward with regard to the Vikings rushing offense – there are still 2 games to play against the Bears. No disrespect to Chicago’s 2009 defense – the Vikings obviously haven’t faced them yet – but Peterson loves playing Chicago.

#28 set a then-franchise record at Chicago on 10/14/07 when he rushed for 224 yards and tied a team mark with 3 rushing TDs. He also set a team record with 361 combined yards (224 rushing, 9 receiving, 128 kickoff returns) on the day. In total against Chicago, Peterson has 554 rushing yards and 8 TDs in 4 games.

Perhaps the only angle of concern I can find for Peterson going against the Bears has nothing to do with dominant defensive linemen or athletic LBs. It’s actually a pesky defensive back.

If you’ve watch the Bears over the past couple of seasons or even the last couple of times they’ve played on prime time TV, you’ve probably noticed CB Charles Tillman and his propensity to strip the football from ball carriers. Over the last 2+ seasons (2007-present), Tillman has 14 forced fumbles, a very high number. He has 6 this year already, with 4 coming over the past 2 weeks alone.

With all of those forced fumbles to his credit since 2007, none of them have come against the Vikings. And if Peterson and Chester Taylor can continue that trend, I see them increasing the Vikings rushing trend this weekend and through the end of the 2009 season.


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Watch Press Conferences Live Today

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 25, 2009 – 8:50 am

Both Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and QB Brett Favre will have their usual Wednesday press conferences today at Winter Park.

You can watch those press conferences live on vikings.com and no where else.

Childress’ press conference is schedule to begin 11:45 a.m. CT and Favre’s will begin shortly after Childress’ concludes.

Click here at the appropriate time to view.


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Setting The Stage For Chicago

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 25, 2009 – 8:01 am

The Vikings and Bears will play against each other for the 97th time in their series history on Sunday at Mall of America Field, a place where the Vikings have won 14 of their last 20 games against Chicago and 11 of their last 13 overall. In an odd scheduling scenario, the Vikings will be playing Chicago for the 1st time this season after having already finished their season series with Detroit and Green Bay.

Sunday’s game represents an opportunity for the Vikings to move one step closer to securing a playoff bid and it also serves as an elimination game for the Bears. Minnesota comes in with a 9-1 record and an eye on improving playoff position, while the Bears enter with a disappointing 4-6 record and hopes of just staying alive.

The predominant storyline in this matchup all week will be the QB position, where Brett Favre is having an MVP-caliber season with the Vikings and Jay Cutler, acquired by the Bears from the Broncos via a blockbuster trade, is having a disappointing season under center in the Windy City.

When Cutler’s relationship with the Broncos soured, he was rumored to be traded to several destinations, Minnesota included. Ultimately, it was the Bears who were willing to trade away what Denver was requiring for Cutler’s services. The Vikings, meanwhile, continued on through their offseason and eventually landed Favre during the preseason. Cutler is struggling in Chicago and has thrown 18 INTs already; Favre has a 21-3 TD-INT ratio and has the Vikings on pace for their 2nd consecutive NFC North title.

But there are also other angles on this game; here are a few to consider:

– Vikings CB Antoine Winfield is poised to return from a foot injury he suffered in Week 6. His return will strengthen a Vikings defense that continues to improve against both the run and the pass. After holding the Seahawks to just 4 yards rushing last week, the Vikings defense now ranks 3rd against the run.

– Vikings WR Bernard Berrian enjoyed playing his former team last season and with Favre under center he has a chance to improve his already impressive numbers against Chicago. Drafted by the Bears in 2004, Berrian bolted Chicago during the 2008 offseason and signed a free agent contract in Minnesota. In 2 games against his former team last season, Berrian quickly reminded the Bears of why he commanded so much attention as a free agent. His line in those 2 games last year: 10 receptions for 203 yards and 2 TDs.

– A crucial matchup in this game will be the Vikings defensive line against the Bears offensive line. Chicago has had trouble protecting Cutler this season, which has led to offensive inefficiency and plenty of INTs. The Vikings, meanwhile, lead the league in sacks with 36 and are benefiting from not only a talented 4-some of starting linemen but also a deep rotation of reserves.

– Injuries have added up for the Bears. Middle LB Brian Urlacher was lost for the season in Week 1 to a wrist injury and fellow starting LB Pisa Tinoisamoa is also out with an injury. That leaves the talented Lance Briggs to man the LB corps.

– Along with the line of scrimmage, another area of big advantage for the Vikings in this week’s matchup is in the red zone. Offensively, Chicago is 27th in red zone TD efficiency (42.5%) while the Vikings score TDs 59.5% of the time they reach the red zone (7th in the NFL). Defensively, the Bears are 30th in red zone scoring while the Vikings rank 2nd. In the last 2 games the Bears have played in prime time, the broadcast team has hammered on the struggles Cutler has had with red zone passing/INTs. Chicago is tied for the 2nd-most red zone giveaways with 6, and 5 of those giveaways have been INTs.

– A QBs best friend is a good running game because it keeps the defense off-balance and it usually results in manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations. A great example of this relationship is the Vikings, where RB Adrian Peterson is 3rd in the NFL in rushing and that has allowed Favre to take advantage of mismatches in the passing game. The Bears have not enjoyed that advantage. Chicago ranks 28th in the NFL in rushing offense, in spite of the presence of the talented Matt Forte, and they are last in the NFL in 1st down rushing, averaging just 2.83 yards per carry. That has put Cutler in compromising situations, likely a factor in his high INT total.


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Opportunity Knocked For Vikings DBs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2009 – 4:55 pm

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.”


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Vikings Look To Decrease Negative Rushing Plays

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2009 – 12:02 pm

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.


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Vikings-Cardinals Game Flexed To Sunday Night

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2009 – 10:02 am

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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Favre A Finalst For FedEx Award

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2009 – 9:05 am

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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Submit Your vikings.com Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2009 – 7:19 am

Do you have a question or comment about the Vikings-Bears game coming up on Sunday? Or a question about the Vikings in general? Send them to the vikings.com Mailbag.

You can submit your questions/comments to me by sending an email to wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. I can’t post every question/comment, but I’ll answer them all.

The vikings.com Mailbag is published ever Friday during the regular season.


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Clearing Up The Sidney Rice Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2009 – 4:40 pm

I’ve received a lot of email concerning Sidney Rice and the problems he was having with his legs after his 1st TD reception, a 7-yarder in the back corner of the endzone that required him to out-leap a trio of defenders.

Rice rose to catch the ball and came down with both feet in bounds, but he was slow to get up and was quickly meeting with trainers once he got to the sideline.

But Rice said it was nothing serious; only cramps.

“That was just cramping,” Rice said after the game. “I did a lot of running around. I guess I didn’t have enough fluids in my body. When I came down, my calves started cramping. It’s nothing serious. It didn’t bother me much.”

You can believe that. Rice was back in the game on the next series and scored another TD when Tarvaris Jackson hit him along the Seahawks sideline and Rice broke a tackle and outsprinted the rest of Seattle’s defense to the endzone for a 34-yard score to make the score 35-3 (following the PAT).

So it sounds and appears as if whatever was bothering Rice after his 1st TD really was nothing serious. We won’t know for sure until Wednesday’s injury report is released.


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