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Longwell’s Steady Swing Not Taken For Granted

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 19, 2010 – 10:11 am

NFL kickers often fall into the “don’t notice them unless they mess up” category, along with long snappers, offensive linemen and team website writers.

But that’s not the case in Minnesota, where everyone from the website writer to the head coach has taken notice of the consistency and reliability with which Vikings K Ryan Longwell performs. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress, when appropriate, includes Longwell and the entire special teams effort in his praise while assessing his team’s performance after a game. And we’re on record here of acknowledging Longwell’s solid performance during the course of the 2009 season.

Longwell had perhaps his best season as a Viking in 2009, converting 26 of 28 FG tries and 58 of 59 PATs to finish 3rd in the NFL in scoring. While not perfect, Longwell’s record this season has been outstanding nonetheless, especially in light of the NFL standard both in the regular season and the postseason.

In going 26 of 28 on FG tries during the 2009 regular season, Longwell made FGs at a 92.8% clip. The NFL average during the regular season was 81.3% (756 of 930). In the playoffs, Longwell is 2 for 2 this year but the league average in the postseason is 57.7% (15 of 26).

“To have a guy like Ryan Longwell be able to bang a couple of those through, it’s a huge factor,” Childress said when asked about his comfort with Longwell. “To go down to the end of a drive and come away with no points is disheartening. To be able to get yourself three points, you would like sevens. It is nice to have a guy that has only missed a couple.”

Of the 2 FGs Longwell has missed this season, 1 was blocked (at home against San Francisco). The only true miss was on the road at Carolina, when Longwell nailed the right upright on a 39-yard attempt. With the only miss of the season coming on the road and with the Vikings history of FG kicking in NFC Championship Games (at the 4:15 mark), the Vikings and Longwell will be mindful of preparation and consistency as they prepare to hit the road again this week and play at New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game.


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Winfield Named To Pro Bowl Squad

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 19, 2010 – 9:24 am

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield was named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, giving the team 10 all-stars this season.

Although he missed 6 games with a foot injury, Winfield still tied for the team lead with 9 passes defensed and he registered 58 tackles. This year’s Pro Bowl nod for #26 is his 2nd consecutive and it makes him the 1st Vikings CB to earn back-to-back Pro Bowl honors since Carl Lee did it in 1989 and 1990.

The Vikings 10 Pro Bowl players this season is the most a Vikings team has had since the 1998 squad also sent 10 after going 15-1 and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was originally on the Pro Bowl roster but I’m guessing the knee injury he incurred in last weekend’s Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints will preclude him from playing in the Pro Bowl and thus opened up a spot for Winfield.


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Submit Your vikings.com Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 19, 2010 – 9:15 am

Do you have a question or comment about the Vikings NFC Championship Game matchup with the New Orleans Saints? 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 will be published on Fridays during the postseason.


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No Official Word On Edwards Yet

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 19, 2010 – 8:31 am

In what was his 1st career playoff start and the biggest game of his NFL career, DE Ray Edwards had a career day. He registered 6 QB hits, 5 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 3.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble. His sacks and tackles for a loss totaled 34 yards of lost yardage.

It was an impressive effort from Edwards, a 4th round choice in 2006 out of Purdue, and it was even more impressive considering Edwards was knocked out of the game because of a knee injury late in the 3rd quarter.

While the performance from Edwards was great, the injury to Edwards’ knee is a concern. The injury was announced during the game as a bruised knee, and then NFL.com’s Steve Wyche reported the injury was “a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament.”

As of this posting, nothing official has been announced regarding Edwards’ injury or his status, and nothing should be considered official until the Vikings release their injury report on Wednesday.

Immediately after the game on Sunday, both Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and Edwards downplayed the injury. Childress, while meeting with reporters, said he thought Edwards would be “okay” and that there was “no reason for him to come back in at that point” in the game. Edwards told reporters standing near his locker after the game that he will be back next week “one hundred percent.”

Childress was again asked about Edwards on Monday during his usual day-after-the-game press conference, but wisely declined to get into specifics regarding injuries to any players.

“Yeah, we’ve got a few different guys in here (getting) treatment,” Childress said. “We’ll just see how they turn out on Wednesday. We were able to get some other people in the game at the end.

“Ray’s a tough guy. If he can possibly go, he’s going to go.”


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Childress: Sunday’s Atmosphere “Electric”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 19, 2010 – 6:57 am

We mentioned early on Monday in the blog that the Vikings enjoyed a tremendous home-field advantage on Sunday against the Cowboys thanks to 63,000+ towel-waving, frenzied fans who kept their noise and energy level high for the entire game.

While meeting with reporters at Winter Park on Monday for his usual day-after-the-game press conference, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress was quick to mention the crowd, too.

“You can’t say enough, starting and finishing 9-0 at home in front of those fans,” Childress said. “Tremendous, electric atmosphere right out of the box, and they stood continuously and made communications tough.  So, my hat is off to those great Minnesota Vikings fans.  They made that (Mall of America Field) the environment that it is, and that’s why you talk about home field advantage.  (I’m) excited about that.”

As we mentioned in Friday’s blog entry, the Cowboys were able to avoid procedural penalties caused by the noise but it was clear that offensive communication was a chore for QB Tony Romo and it was even more evident that the Vikings defense was feeding off of the noise and energy generated by the raucous crowd.

But Childress also acknowledged that his team will get a taste of its own medicine this weekend when they travel to the Superdome for the NFC Championship Game to take on the Saints, a team who also realizes a loud home-field advantage thanks to thousands of screaming fans inside of a dome.

“We know, with the fans that I talked about here, we go right into that same environment down in New Orleans,” Childress said. “We’ve already talked about having a plan for that.”

Without getting into specific play calls, the best plan for neutralizing a noisy home crowd is to score, and score early. That’s something Dallas came close to accomplishing early in last Sunday’s game, but big plays by the Vikings defense eventually prevented the Cowboys from tallying points on the scoreboard.

For the Vikings to accomplish the tall task of silencing the crowd, they’ll have to execute well down the field and avoid mistakes that can be caused by an uncomfortable environment.

“Obviously the best plan is to make them sit on their hands down there, and you only do that by playing well down there,” Childress said. “It should be a great matchup, and we’re excited to represent in the NFC Championship Game.”


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