Both teams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game have released their Friday injury reports and 5 Vikings are listed as questionable while 5 more are probable.
Players listed as questionable for Sunday’s game are DE Ray Edwards (knee), WR Percy Harvin (illness), CB Benny Sapp (ankle/back) and DTs Kevin Williams (knee) and Pat Williams (foot). Players listed as probable for the Vikings are WR Bernard Berrian (ankle), G Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb), LB Ben Leber (knee) and CB Antoine Winfield (foot).
Both Harvin and Pat Williams did not participate in practice on Friday while Edwards, Sapp, Kevin Williams and Winfield were limited. Everyone was a full participant.
For the Saints, CB Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and TE Jeremy Shockey (knee) both missed practice all week and are listed as questionable. C Jonathan Goodwin (knee), DE Bobby McCray (back), WR Robert Meachem (ankle) and S Darren Sharper (knee) are all listed as probable.
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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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Anyone with a rooting interest in the Vikings came away from last weekend’s Divisional Playoff game against the Cowboys with positive feelings, and rightfully so. The Vikings registered a complete team win, playing well in all 3 phases of the game along to a 34-3 victory.
But as any perfectionist of NFL player/coach will tell you, there’s always room for improvement. And that is especially the case when you’re preparing for the a conference championship game, where even the slightest flaw might be the difference between suiting up in the Super Bowl or suiting up for an offseason on the beach.
One area that could turn out to be crucial on Sunday is turnovers and, specifically, getting points off of turnovers. Considering the Saints and Vikings had the league’s highest-scoring offenses, respectively, adding extra points by scoring them off of turnovers could be a significant factor.
And therein lies a potential area of improvement for the Vikings coming off their seemingly flawless victory over Dallas. The Vikings turned Dallas over 3 times last Sunday – 2 fumbles and 1 INT – but they were only able to tally 6 points off of those 3 turnovers.
The Vikings recovered a fumble in the 1st quarter on their own 35, but a sack on 3rd down led them to a 3-and-out, which resulted in a punt. Dallas lost another fumble in the 2nd quarter giving the Vikings possession on the Dallas 20. But a negative run and then a penalty resulted in a Ryan Longwell FG. Finally, Dallas was intercepted by LB Ben Leber in the 4th quarter but a 3-and-out series from the Cowboys 15 resulted in another FG.
So the Vikings wound up with just 6 points off of 3 turnovers, 2 of which gave them possession inside the red zone.
Those are numbers that must be improved if the Vikings are to upset the Saints this weekend at the Louisiana Superdome. And offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell indicated as much on Thursday while meeting with reporters.
“I think it’s huge,” Bevell responded when asked about scoring TDs instead of FGs inside the red zone. “It’s a game where you have the two highest scoring teams, so you know both teams are going to put points on the board…Any time we get down there and have opportunities to get points, you want to be able to make them seven.
“Obviously, if you can get three, you want to continue to get them, but seven points will be big in this game.”
By the way, the Vikings scored TDs on 62.3% of their red zone trips during the 2009 regular season, a rate that was 3rd best in the NFL. They also led the NFL with 43 red zone TDs and with 27 red zone passing TDs.
Tags: Ben Leber, Darrell Bevell, Ryan Longwell
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The best of the best will suit up on Sunday as the NFL will hold its pair of Conference Championship Games to determine the matchup for Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium on February 7. With just a quartet of teams still alive and the Super Bowl only days away, the NFL is approaching its annual pinnacle.
But as the NFL prepares to honor the team that has performed the best at the game’s highest level, it’s also recognizing those who had the earliest influence on the individual players that comprise the world’s greatest professional sports league – high school football coaches.
The NFL has announced the finalists for its annual NFL Football High School Coach of the Year Award, an honor that began in 1995 and aims to recognize coaches who profoundly impacted the athletic and personal development of NFL players.
Vikings K Ryan Longwell nominated his high school coach – Craig Walker of Bend Senior High School in Bend, Oregon – and he was among the 5 finalists named on Thursday.
Each finalist receives a $2,500 cash award and a $5,000 grant for their high school football programs. The winner, announced during the week of January 25, will attend Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida as a guest of the NFL and receive a $5,000 cash award and a $10,000 NFL Youth Football Fund grant for his high school football program.
Longwell credits Coach Walker for helping him develop his mental edge, a trait that is especially important for kickers.
“Our players come from different backgrounds, regions and life experiences,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The one thing they all have in common is that they received guidance and learned important life lessons from their high school coaches. These five finalists have dedicated their lives to teaching young players how to become leaders both on and off the field, and we congratulate them and all high school coaches for the roles they play in helping develop the leaders of our game.”
Tags: Ryan Longwell
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Vikings fans packed Mall of America Field last Sunday in an effort to cheer the Vikings on to victory over the Dallas Cowboys. And their efforts paid off, as the Vikings registered a convincing 34-3 win to move onto the NFC Championship Game.
This Sunday, though, Mall of America Field will be empty because the Vikings will travel to New Orleans and the Louisiana Superdome to take on the Saints for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But while fans won’t be needed at Mall of America Field on Sunday, they’re being asked to be at the Mall of America on Friday to exhibit the same passion and support.
The Vikings will host an NFC Championship Fan Rally from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on Friday at the Best Buy Rotunda in Mall of America. The fan rally, which will be hosted by Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen and analyst Pete Bercich, is open to the public and will also include Vikings ownership, alumni, cheerleaders Viktor the Viking and the Vikings Skol Line.
So come on out to the Mall of America to be a part of the festivities and help cheer on the Purple as they prepare for the championship game and the NFC’s top-seeded Saints. Fans who cannot be present can watch the event live on vikings.com.
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The last time the Vikings won an NFC Championship Game to advance on and play in a Super Bowl, legendary head coach Bud Grant was on the sidelines.
On Sunday in New Orleans, the Vikings will try to win another NFC Championship Game and advance on to Super Bowl XLIV. And Grant will be there, serving as the Vikings Honorary Captain.
A Vikings legend who coached the team from 1967-1983 and in 1985, Grant remains to this day one of the most respected and endeared figures in franchise history. He had an NFL regular season coaching record of 158-96-5, including a 10-12 mark in postseason play that led to 4 Super Bowl appearances and an NFL title in 1969.
The Vikings won 11 NFC/NFL divisional championships under Grant.
Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Vikings Ring of Honor in 1998.
Tags: Bud Grant
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The fact of the matter is that Sunday’s game between the Vikings and New Orleans Saints is not just another game. It’s the NFC Championship game and it pits the conference’s 2 best teams against one another for the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.
At this level of the game – just 1 step away from the NFL pinnacle – it’s typical to find elite teams with elite talent. In an environment such as that, the competition is intense and the desire to make a difference or standout or perform at an even higher level is natural.
But sometimes one must take the approach of mind over matter in order to properly prepare for crucial moments such as championship games. While the urge to dial it up a notch is there, the result of such a strategy might actually be counter-productive.
It’s a mind over matter situation at this point for teams, players and coaches still alive in the chase for the Super Bowl. While Sunday’s game is not just another game, that’s exactly how the Vikings are looking at it.
“That’s one of the things I pointed out to them this morning in our defensive meetings,” Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Thursday. “You really just want to be able to perform at the same level you’ve performed throughout the year. It’s been good enough. And just be on the details of the work, and things will work out just fine. Just don’t feel like you’ve got to do anything out of body, just do what you’ve been doing.”
One of Frazier’s defensive stars – CB Antoine Winfield – is a playoff veteran who understands the gravity of playoff and conference championship games. But while he has a grasp on the gravity of the game, he’s also embracing Frazier’s message of preparation.
“You can’t get too uptight in this game,” Winfield said. “You have to take it like another game. Although we know it’s the Championship, if you lose you go home. But, we’re all excited. Everyone’s studying, we’re ready to go out there and compete.”
Another Vikings player – WR Sidney Rice – has performed at an elite level this year. He finished the regular season 2nd in receiving yards and he was also named to his 1st career Pro Bowl. Rice set a new franchise playoff record with 3 receiving TDs last week against Dallas. But he’s not letting that record-setting performance go to his head or cause him to place added pressure on himself to perform at an even higher level this Sunday.
“We’re going to treat it as a regular game,” Rice said of Sunday’s upcoming clash with the Saints. “We know what’s at stake here. We know that if you lose, you go home and I feel like there’s no one in our locker room that wants to go home, so I feel like everybody is going to come out and compete and do what they’re coached to do.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Leslie Frazier, Sidney Rice
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