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Vikings Discuss Facing Cowboys In Playoffs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2010 – 4:23 pm

With their Wild Card round bye week over and with the Cowboys having defeated the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, the Viking now know the identity of their opponent for next Sunday’s Divisional Round game at Mall of America Field.

The Vikings will host the Cowboys, one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

“Everybody’s back, we’ve got good energy here,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said. ” It’s nice to have an opponent to be able to focus in on.  I mentioned to you that a lion’s share of our work last week was on the Cowboys, so it turned out to be appropriate work.”

The opponent the Vikings will be focusing on is one that has racked up 900 yards and 58 points over the past 2 weeks. Defensively, they’ve held the Eagles to just 14 total points in that same time span.

“A good, explosive football team on both sides of the football,” Childress said of the Cowboys. “They did a good job of taking the ball away, they did a good job of grinding it, being able to run it, and then they had their share of explosives as well.”

Childress wasn’t the only member of the Vikings who spoke to reporters about the upcoming playoff game against Dallas. Rookie WR Percy Harvin said the Vikings have some work to do now that the playoffs have begun and C John Sullivan spoke about  facing a productive and talented Dallas defensive front.

Also, Tom West of the Vikings public relations staff has chimed in with some historical stats regarding the Vikings and Cowboys and he also spoke with both RB Adrian Peterson and CB Antoine Winfield about next Sunday’s game.


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Sullivan Talks About Facing Dallas’ Defensive Front

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2010 – 3:05 pm

The Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in convincing fashion for the 2nd consecutive week. Last week they shutout Philly’s offense, winning 24-0 to secure the NFC East title, and then on Saturday night they logged a dominant 34-14 victory to advance to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

Dallas’ offense played well in both games, racking up 900 total yards of offense and 58 total points. But the output actually became overkill because of how great the Cowboys defense played. Holding an offense such as the Eagles to just 14 points in 2 games is an impressive accomplishment.

Paramount in the Cowboys defensive success against the Eagles was the effort of their defensive linemen, who registered 6.0 of the team’s 7.0 sacks in the 2 games. The unit is led by DE DeMarcus Ware, who had 11.0 sacks in the regular season and has 64.5 during his 5-year career.

Asked about the Cowboys defense on Sunday in the locker room following practice, Vikings C John Sullivan acknowledged the challenge ahead but also was confident in his team’s chances.

“We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us,” Sullivan said. “They’re a good defense; very physical, athletic front. But our coaches will put together a game plan that we’ll go out and execute and hopefully it’ll be successful.”

Part of Sullivan’s confidence is the experience the Vikings have gained this season in playing 3-4 defensive schemes, which is the unit Dallas features. The Vikings played a 3-4 front 3 times in the preseason and then 6 times in their first 8 games.

“They’re a 3-4 front by personnel and we’re preparing for all the looks they put on tape,” Sullivan explained. “We’re experienced against any front we could possibly see; I think we’ve seen them all this year. We’ll just go out there, run our normal 3-4 rules and if we can execute we should do well.”

Sullivan is drawing upon his experience in the regular season against the scheme Dallas runs. But this is the postseason, and Sullivan will be making his first career start at center in the postseason against the Cowboys on Sunday.

“Everybody says the tempo picks up a little bit in the postseason,” Sullivan said. “But I expect it’ll be like the first sixteen games of the season. I think guys play hard all the time; maybe I’m naïve to think that (laughter).

“I’m out there playing my hardest every week, so I assume the defensive guys are.”


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Harvin: We Have Work To Do

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2010 – 2:08 pm

Since the last time he suited up to play in a football game, Vikings rookie WR Percy Harvin has been honored with accolades and awards. He was named the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and was also named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster as a returner.

With the bye week behind him and a playoff showdown with the Dallas Cowboys on the horizon, Harvin’s focus is in the right place.

“This whole year has been a great honor to me; I’m very privileged,” Harvin said. “But we’ve got some work to do, so the awards were good but we have to finish up strong.

The Cowboys are coming consecutive convincing wins over the Philadelphia Eagles, which came on the heels of an upset of the New Orleans Saints to end their bid for a perfect season.

“They’re hot right now,” Harvin said. “Their last couple of games, they’re probably the hottest team playing right now. With all of that said, we’ll control what we can control and we’ll go game plan, and as long as we do what we’ve been doing, it should be a good game.”

Although Harvin just finished up his first regular season as a pro and he’s preparing for his first playoff game in the NFL, the play-making rookie sounds like a veteran who has been through the drill. Perhaps it’s because of his big-game experience from playing at the University of Florida in college and winning 2 national titles.

“I’m not going to prepare for this game any differently than I did from any other game,” Harvin explained. “I think when you get caught up trying to do something you haven’t been doing, that’s when you can get off track. So we’re going to prepare for this game just like it’s a regular game.

“We all know it’s win or go home. We have a sense of urgency.”


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Jets vs. Bengals Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2010 – 11:29 am

As I watched the NY Jets and Cincinnati Bengals kickoff the playoffs on Saturday, I jotted down a few notes and observations…

– The setup for this game was an experienced University of Southern Cal. QB (Carson Palmer) going up against a rookie University of Southern Cal. QB (Mark Sanchez) in his first career postseason game. As it turned out, though, Sanchez was the QB who looked like the polished veteran as Palmer struggled to be on time and on target.

The Jets running game leads the way for their offense, don’t get me wrong, but Sanchez played well enough to win the game and Palmer did not. Sanchez completed 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards and 1 TD while Palmer was a disappointing 18 of 36 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

But there were times when you could tell the Jets were conservative with Sanchez, specifically in the 3rd quarter on a 3rd and 6 when they ran the ball and settled for a FG try. The FG was good, but then there was a holding penalty and it negated the FG, causing K Jay Feely to try another FG. The 2nd try was good, but then there was a false start penalty against the Jets. That forced them to punt instead. Consecutive unlucky breaks doomed that particular drive, but it all started with not trusting your QB enough to throw on a 3rd and 6.

In the end, though, the Jets strategy prevailed as they walked out of Paul Brown Stadium with a 24-14 win. Congrats to the Jets.

– Wow, what a performance by rookie RB Shonn Greene. He had 21 carries for 135 yards and 1 TD, pacing the offensive effort behind a dominant offensive line. Anyone who’s got Greene on their fantasy football roster ought to seriously consider him as a keeper option heading into next season.

– Hats off to Bengals RB Cedric Benson, who had a nice season – 1,251 yards and 6 TDs in 13 games – and capped it off with a terrific effort against the Jets. On Saturday against a great Jets defense, Benson ran wild, tallying 169 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries. You wonder why Cincy didn’t go to Benson more in the 2nd half. At halftime, the former Texas Longhorn had 13 carries for 73 yards (5.6 yards per att.). In the 2nd half, Benson had just 8 carries but averaged 8.0 yards per attempt. I know the Bengals got into a bit of a throw game when they were behind in the 4th quarter, but it seemed Benson was live and in good rhythm. It’s always easy to sit here and play Monday morning QB, but I think the Bengals will look back and wish they had given Benson the ball more often in the 2nd half.

– I was constantly noticing the Jets offensive line and how they were consistently getting to the 2nd level of the Bengals defense to make blocks. I loved how the Jets attacked the edges of Cincy’s defense in the running game, which allowed Greene to utilize his speed. Then, the Jets did a nice job of power running, too, by mixing in some inside runs for both Greene and workhorse Thomas Jones.

– It was notable how poorly the Bengals used their challenges and how well the Jets used theirs in the 1st half. I know that sitting in my lazy boy and watching the game in slow motion and on high definition make it easy to see. I’ve obviously been in many stadiums at those times and I’ll admit it is much more difficult to make those judgments in the heat of the moment because you’re struggling to see a good replay and the time seems to go faster than when you’re sitting at home. With that said, though, the point remains. And the Jets did a much better job with their challenges.

– I expressed this opinion to Vikings offensive Darrell Bevell the other morning at breakfast, but I was reminded of it again while watching this game – Jets WR Brad Smith is one of my favorite players in the NFL. He can return kicks and punts, he can take snaps out of the gun or under center, he can run routes, run the option and even pass the ball. What a great weapon to have in your offense.

– Speaking of a great weapon for an offense, I think Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco is good for the game. Some might find his attention-grabbing tactics upsetting, but I find him entertaining. He doesn’t get in trouble with the law off the field, his gimmicks are in good taste, he seems to have good relationships with opposing players even though he chides them constantly and he can actually back up his talk. He didn’t have great games the last 2 weeks against the Jets, but he was going against Darrelle Revis and his QB wasn’t exactly sharp in delivering the ball.

– I love what Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan does with his defense on 3rd down. The Jets bring pressure and blitzes from the edges and it puts tons of pressure on the opposing QB. The downside was presented in yesterday’s game when Palmer alerted to a run against the blitz and Benson hit a home run with a 47-yard TD dash, but for the most part, the pressure the Jets bring is effective.

– Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer deserves tons of credit for what he’s done with Cincy’s defense over the past 2 seasons. The Bengals defense was ranked 30th and 27th in 2006 and 2007, respectively. But since Zimmer took over before the 2008 season, the Bengals have ranked 12th and 4th in total defense in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Zimmer’s wife, Vikki, passed away tragically and unexpectedly in October of this year, right in the middle of the season and with the Holidays little more than a month away. What Mike and his family have endured is unimaginable, so congrats to him on what he’s accomplished professionally.


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Pat Williams Feeling Good Heading Into Playoffs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2010 – 10:43 am

While meeting with reporters early last week, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said his players would have much of the week off to get away from the daily grind and freshen up their minds and bodies. Some players, though, would stick around Winter Park to rehab injuries in an attempt to be as close to 100% as possible at this point in the season.

One of the players who did stick around was DT Pat Williams, who has been dealing with an elbow ailment that forced him out of action in Week 16. Williams returned to the lineup in Week 17 but was listed on the injury report each day prior to that game.

With the Dallas Cowboys and their 3-pronged rushing attack coming to town next weekend for a Divisional Round matchup, Williams’ presence in the lineup and his ability to be a disruptive force will be key to the Vikings defensive effort.

On Friday, Williams stopped by to participate in a live chat on vikings.com. He chatted for 30 minutes with fans and answered a bevy of questions, one of which was about his health. Asked if he was 100% health-wise going into the playoffs, Williams said: “Yes, because this week off helped me out a lot. I came in here to rehab all week and the bye helped out. I’m feeling 100%.”

At this point in the season – after training camp and a 16-game regular season – no one is 100%. But it’s good to know that Williams benefited from the week off and is confident in his ability and health heading into the playoffs.

We’ll know more about Williams’ health – and the health of everyone else – on Wednesday when the Vikings are required to issue their first injury report of the week.

Also, the team will have a short practice today and Childress will meet with the media, so the head coach may delve into injury questions/answers.

Remember that vikings.com will be streaming Childress press conference live today, so be sure to tune in to that. And be sure to keep coming back to vikings.com all week because we’ll have continuing coverage of the Vikings and Cowboys as they gear up for their showdown on Sunday at Mall of America Field.


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