In Friday’s vikings.com Mailbag feature, a reader asked if S Jamarca Sanford would receive playing time this weekend over starting S Tyrell Johnson.
The answer I gave was that Johnson would continue to start for the Vikings but that the coaching staff would continue to use Sanford in spot duty. The rookie 7th round draft pick out of Ole Miss has played tremendously on special teams this year and he’s had some excellent moments while playing defense, too.
On Friday after practice, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress affirmed that Sanford, and other key defensive backups, would indeed see playing time on Sunday against Dallas.
“We’ve got a good plan for that,” the Vikings head coach said. “I think rolling guys in and out, getting the most out of all of those guys, waiving as many guys as we can in throughout that whole defense.”
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The Vikings and Cowboys have released their final injury reports of the week and it’s mostly good news for both teams.
For the Vikings, a pair of important defensive starters – DT Pat Williams (elbow) and CB Antoine Winfield (foot) – are listed as probable after participating fully in practice on Friday.
G Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), P Chris Kluwe (back) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (quad) are also listed as questionable and participated fully in practice. DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) and FB Fahu Tahi (back) were both limited and are both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
For the Cowboys, every player on their injury report is listed as probable after participating fully in practice. Dallas’ #1 concern from an injury standpoint was probably RB Marion Barber, who was dealing with a left knee ailment but progressed during the week and was a full participant in practice on Friday.
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NFL coaches and players are creatures of habit. There is rarely deviation from the typical schedule and even something as simple as the team snack after a Friday practice doesn’t change from the week before after a win.
There are times, however, when a team is forced to stray from its usual course of action, such as a Monday night game or a bye week during the regular season. The Vikings experienced one of those times the past 2 weeks because they earned a 1st-round bye in the NFC playoffs. As a result, the team had much of last week off before returning to Winter Park on Sunday to begin preparations for the Dallas Cowboys.
As we’ve discussed in this space previously, being a head coach in the NFL includes many more responsibilities than just winning games on Sundays. Another key responsibility is managing the team, from postgame speeches to practice routines to the environment inside the practice facility during the week.
Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has spoken in the past about shaping the environment for his team, and that’s certainly something he was charged with the past 2 weeks. Childress gave his players most of last week off and then this week they were hard at work, practicing every day except Tuesday, the normal day off for NFL players.
With the work week now concluded, Childress seemed pleased with the environment around his team heading into the NFL’s Divisional Playoff games.
“We had a very good week of practice,” Childress said. “Everybody is trying to do whatever they can to contribute to our efforts on Sunday. We’ve had a good week of work and spirits are right where they need to be; preparation is right where it needs to be.”
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Will this game ever get here?! It’s been 12 days since the Vikings last played and we still have to wait 2 more days before they play again.
It feels like we’ve analyzed every possible aspect of this game over the past 5 days, from blogging about it to the news articles we’ve posted to my conversation with PA on his 9-noon show on Thursday. Here are a few random thoughts and updates on previous thoughts…
– In our Monday morning preview video we cited health as one of the key storylines in this matchup. As it turns out, both teams appear to be fairly healthy with the game just 2 days away. Only one player for the Vikings has missed practice this week (FB Fahu Tahi) and the Cowboys expect to have both Marion Barber and Tashard Choice in their backfield.
– You’ve surely heard ad nauseam about the importance of the Vikings pass protection against Cowboys edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. I won’t dismiss that point – it’s key in this game – but a few things to follow up on that. First, don’t forget about the middle of Dallas’ defensive line, which features Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff. He’s good against the pass and the run, as we point out here. Secondly, the Vikings have a couple of good edge rushers, too, in DEs Jared Allen (14.5 sacks) and Ray Edwards (8.5 sacks). Lastly, I’m actually anticipating that both the Vikings and Cowboys offenses will find a way to scheme against those lethal pass rushes and at least avoid disaster. So, which team can find the best antidote?
– Here’s something we haven’t discussed this week: Cowboys CB Terence Newman is very good. Whichever Vikings WR he lines up against will have a challenge.
– I brought this up with PA Thursday on the radio. QB Brett Favre did not guarantee a victory during his Wednesday press conference. The fact that some media outlets took what he said and turned it into a guarantee is quite a stretch, but I get it – stretching it into a guarantee creates buzz and promotes the self-interests of said media outlets. Favre said he would be shocked if he weren’t doing another Wednesday press conference next week. What else should he say? On top of that, he said Dallas is playing as well as any other team in the NFL right now. Let’s move on.
– I haven’t really shared this opinion on the site because I myself don’t want to be the source of inflammatory remarks regarding the coming opponent. But it’s Friday and we’re close to the game, so here it goes. I think the Vikings can take advantage of the middle of the field on offense. I like guys such as Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin working the middle and taking advantage of one-on-one mismatches. Conversely, the Vikings defense must be on their “A” game when defending the middle of the field. TE Jason Witten is a player and when players such as RB Felix Jones and WR Miles Austin get the ball in their hands, the Vikings defense must tackle them. Tackling issues – something the Vikings defense has had periodically this season – will devastate the Vikings if they arise again on Sunday against Dallas.
– There is going to be at least one key special teams play in this game. Special teams play often goes under the radar, unless there’s a big breakdown. But collectively, special teams ends up playing just as much of a factor in the outcome of a game as offense or defense. Regardless, you’re going to see a combination of at least a few big plays on special teams. Whether those plays are returns, turnovers, blocked kicks, kickoffs out of bounds to give away great field position, I don’t know. But I have a feeling that someone, somehow is going to make a big impact on special teams. Right now I’m sensing a big return somewhere along the line by either Percy Harvin or Patrick Crayton, a FG at the end of the game or a blocked FG/punt in the middle of the game.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Fahu Tahi, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin
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Today’s vikings.com Mailbag feature is posted. You can read it by clicking here.
Do you have a question about the Vikings? Or maybe a comment/question about the outcome of the Vikings-Cowboys game? If you do, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t post every comment/question, but I’ll respond to them all.
The vikings.com Mailbag is posted on Fridays.
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