Reynaud Shining In Punt Return Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2009 – 1:56 pm

Percy Harvin has been the star of the Vikings return game in 2009, averaging 28.3 yards per return (3rd in the NFL) and setting a Vikings season and career record with 2 kickoff return TDs in a season.

But another returner on the Vikings roster – Darius Reynaud – is also impressing.

Reynaud has been the Vikings primary punt returner this season and through 14 games he’s 5th in the NFL with an 11.8-yard punt return average. That average currently ranks as the 4th-highest single-season average in team history and with 2 games to go, Reynaud has a chance to climb the charts even further.

Reynaud, who played collegiately at West Virginia University, made the Vikings roster originally as an undrafted rookie but has worked his way into a productive role on the team. He first displayed outstanding return abilities last season while fielding kickoffs. Reynaud posted kick returns of 40+ yards in 2 games – 49 vs. Chicago (11/30/08) and 43 at Detroit (12/7/08). Both of the returns ranked as the 2 longest kickoff returns for the Vikings in 2008.

Then this past preseason, Reynaud housed a sensational punt return from 81 yards out against Dallas, solidifying even further his hold on the punt return job.

In last week’s loss against the Panthers, Reynaud was a rare bright spot for the Vikings. He averaged 14.5 yards per punt return, including a 34-yarder in the 1st quarter, and also registered a 15-yard kickoff return when the Panthers elected to kick it short to avoid Harvin.

It will be fun to watch Reynaud continue to be a bright spot for the Vikings as they move forward towards the playoffs.

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Digesting A Disgusting Defeat

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2009 – 1:28 pm

The Vikings disappointing 26-7 loss at Carolina last Sunday was notable enough for several reasons, but now all of the Brad Childress/Brett Favre talk has given the Vikings performance an even higher profile.

The Childress/Favre situation is a legitimate distraction, but I’m still amazed at how some observers are still getting the situation wrong. I don’t have the time or space to get into specifics, but I think it’s important to note that Favre didn’t defy Childress on Sunday night by staying in the game and I also think it’s important to note that although this is a legitimate distraction, some of it is being blown out of proportion to some extent.

But in order to fully digest Sunday night’s gross loss, we need to go over some of the details and deficiencies that made everyone sick. Then we can move on to the Chicago Bears.

– Going into Sunday night’s game, the Vikings offense was 3rd best in the NFL with a 48.1% conversion rate. After Sunday night’s 1-10 performance on 3rd down, the Vikings have dropped to 5th. The Vikings loss to Carolina was completely out of character and it’s no surprise that their 3rd down conversion rate was also out of character.

“That’s not good enough,” Childress said of the 1-10 third-down conversion rate. “We’ve been strong all year long in that category, but for whatever reason we weren’t very good at it last (Sunday) night.”

Here are the results from each of the Vikings 10 third-down plays: sack, penalty-short pass, incompletion, negative rush, 7-yard Chester Taylor reception for a conversion, incompletion, sack, sack, incompletion, incompletion.

– If Favre is given time in the pocket, he’ll pick apart even the best defenses in the NFL. On Sunday night in Carolina, though, he wasn’t given time to scan the defense and thus he wasn’t able to pick apart Carolina’s 6th-ranked pass defense. Favre was sacked 4 times on the night and was pressured and hit many more.

In addition to QB sacks and pressures, Carolina was also able to drop the Vikings for negative plays too frequently. Not including penalties, the Vikings had 7 plays of negative yardage or no gain.

– All things considered, the Vikings defense didn’t perform as poorly as the numbers indicate. Ultimately, they didn’t get the job done, but consider this: Carolina totaled 397 net yards, but the Vikings held the Panthers to just 116 in the 1st half while also allowing just 6 points in the first 2 quarters.

But then the game caught up to the Vikings defense. Although CB Antoine Winfield told Paul Allen on KFAN Monday morning that fatigue was not an issue, the Vikings defense was simply on the field for too long. Carolina ran 75 offensive plays to just 45 for the Vikings. Minnesota’s offense had 9 drives of 4 plays or less, P Chris Kluwe came on to punt 8 times and the time of possession battle was won by the Panthers 37:59 to 22:01. Those are decided advantages for the Panthers offense and it wore down the Vikings defense.

– While Carolina’s defense was able to put pressure on the Vikings offense all night, the Vikings defense wasn’t able to return the favor. Jared Allen recorded the Vikings only sack of the night and Panthers QB Matt Moore went on to have a career game – 21 of 33 for 299 yards and 3 TDs. On top of that, the Vikings couldn’t make a big play when they needed it most. Allen forced a fumble on his sack but his teammates couldn’t recover it and the Panthers had 2 other fumbles that they managed to cover back up. The Vikings also dropped a potential interception and displayed poor tackling throughout the game.

– Lastly, the Vikings defense couldn’t get off the field enough on 3rd downs. Carolina converted 8 of 17 third-down tries, including a 3rd and 26 play that resulted in a 42-yard TD pass to Steve Smith that gave the Panthers a 12- lead early in the 4th quarter.

Sunday night’s loss in Carolina was certainly disappointing for the Vikings and their fans. But Childress, who discussed the loss candidly with reporters, also put some perspective to the situation during his day-after-the-game press conference.

“I think it is important for us to be mindful that we’re an 11-3 football team and we have won the NFC North here,” Childress said. “That doesn’t fall on deaf ears, hopefully. I know at the end the night that if I’m the Carolina Panthers, that was a great win, but they would like to be in our shoes right now.

“So we have two games to finish the regular season here, which obviously are important football games.”

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Hutchinsons To Host Holiday Party At Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2009 – 9:18 am

Since All- Pro G Steve Hutchinson signed with the Vikings in 2006, he’s made a significant impact on the team’s running game and overall success.

But the football field is not the only place Hutchinson can make a difference.

Hutchinson has been one of the team’s most-active members in community outreach, and he comes up especially big during the Holiday season. Over the past couple of years, Hutchinson and his wife, Landyn, have hosted an early Thanksgiving meal at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

The Thanksgiving meals were so successful and impactful that the Hutchinson’s decided to have a Holiday Party every year, too.

Later today at the Children’s Hospital, Steve and Landyn will host their Holiday Party for young patients and their families – roughly 100 people.

The visit will take place in the Bridges Cafeteria and he Hutchinsons have purchased gifts for every young patient staying in the hospital.

A few of Hutchinson’s teammates – OT Pat Brown, DE Fred Evans and C John Sullivan – will be joining the Hutchinsons this afternoon.

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