Blogs

Harvin Expected To Play; Players Loosening Up

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 24, 2010 – 3:47 pm

The Vikings have arrived at the Louisiana Superdome in advance of today’s NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints. Several players are on the field loosening up and reports regarding players on this week’s injury report are beginning to emerge.

According to this report from NFL Network’s Kara Henderson, Harvin was of “so far, so good” status 6 hours before kickoff. Now, Harvin is among the players loosening up on the field. Also, this ESPN.com report cites sources as well as Vikings coaches and QB Brett Favre as saying they expect that Harvin will play.

The 2nd set of Vikings team buses just arrived at the stadium, so we’ll update you further if any more reports or information emerges. Also, you can follow the Vikings on Twitter (@VikingsFootball) to stay on top of all the latest information.


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Follow The Vikings On Twitter

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 24, 2010 – 2:12 pm

Are you following the Vikings on Twitter? If not, you should because just like the vikings.com Blog, it’s a great way to stay on top of Vikings news.

It’s an especially great way to follow the Vikings on game day. We’ll have the active/inactive players prior to the game, score and injury updates during the game and any breaking news after the game.

Remember, you don’t need a Twitter account yourself to follow the Vikings on Twitter. Just go to Twitter.com and follow @VikingsFootball.


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Bud Grant, E.J. Henderson Make Trip To New Orleans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 24, 2010 – 12:11 pm

The man largely responsible for guiding the Vikings to 4 NFC championships and 4 Super Bowl appearances, as well as an NFL title in 1969, has made the trip to New Orleans with the team as they try to capture another NFC championship and Super Bowl appearance.

Legendary head coach Bud Grant, who ruled the sidelines in Minnesota for 18 seasons (1967-1983, 1985), will be the Vikings Honorary Captain in today’s game and will be on hand to watch Brett Favre and Co. try to advance to Super Bowl XLIV.

And the man who had a large role in the Vikings suffocating defense over the past 3 seasons, LB E.J. Henderson, has also made the trip with the team. Henderson was lost for the season in Week 13 at Arizona when he suffered a leg injury. While the Vikings have since advanced through the playoffs and to the NFC Championship Game with rookie LB Jasper Brinkley in Henderson’s place, there’s no denying Henderson was a major factor for the Vikings defense during the first 12 games of the season.


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It’s Championship Sunday!

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 24, 2010 – 11:38 am

It’s been a long week, but Championship Sunday is finally here. Football fans today will be treated to a pair of exciting matchups in conference championship games that will yield 2 winners and another riveting matchup for Super Bowl XLIV.

If you’re here reading this blog, you’re probably a person with interest in the Vikings-Saints game. If that’s the case, you have just a bit longer to wait for Championship Sunday to come to full fruition. The NY Jets and Indianapolis Colts will play in today’s first game. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. CT in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts are heavy favorites in this game, but the Jets have been marching through the playoffs as underdogs every step of the way. Rex Ryan, in his 1st season as an NFL head coach, has gotten to the AFC Championship game with an aggressive defense, a dominant run game and brash confidence that has inspired his team.

QB Peyton Manning is the Colts leader and is coming off another MVP season, the 4th of his career. He’ll try to lead the Colts to a Super Bowl for the 2nd time in 4 seasons and he’ll have to do it while navigating through an athletic and play-making Jets defense.

But while those are the main headlines of this matchup, I think it might actually come down to how the Colts defense plays. We know what the Jets will try to do offensively. They are going to run the ball. No team ran more often or more effectively than the Jets during the regular season, and the Jets are not going to change now. The Colts challenge on defense is to stop the run, which allow Manning and Co. to get a lead. If the Jets fall behind by too much too early, they won’t be able to play catch-up.

Right now there are 4 teams remaining in the Super Bowl tournament, but when the Vikings and Saints kickoff today at the Louisiana Superdome around 5:40 p.m. CT, there will be only 3 teams remaining. The Vikings and Saints will battle to play the winner of the Colts-Jets game in Super Bowl XLIV.

We’ve already set the table for this matchup and analyzed matchup upon matchup. It’s almost time to quit the speculation and machination and finally play this game. The Vikings and Saints were the 2 best teams in the NFC all season long and they represent the top 2 seeds in the conference, with the Saints boasting the NFL’s #1 seed and the Vikings being the #2 seed.

Both teams have injury concerns heading into the game, both teams have experienced and productive QBs and both teams have offensive-minded head coaches. The Saints were the #1 scoring offense in the NFL and the Vikings were the #2 scoring offense.

But the key to this game might be the Vikings defense, and whether or not they can stop the Saints high-powered offense and allow the Vikings offense to get a lead and tame what is typically a frenzied Superdome crowd. For the Vikings defense, it’ll be about their 4 defensive linemen and their ability to 1) shut down the run and 2) disrupt the Saints passing game.

Regardless of who wins and how they win, football fans are in store for 2 great games today, on Championship Sunday.


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By Sack Or By Bat-Down, Vikings D-Line Will Be Key

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 23, 2010 – 11:22 am

The Vikings last week faced a Dallas Cowboys team that finished the regular season ranked as the NFL’s 6th best passing offense, a unit that included the NFC’s leading receiver in Miles Austin and a versatile TE in Jason Witten who registered 94 receptions on the season.

Thanks to a fierce pass rush from the Vikings 4 down linemen – including 3.0 sacks from DE Ray Edwards – the Vikings were able to drop 7 defenders in coverage for much of the game. This tactic allowed the Vikings LBs and secondary to cover up QB Tony Romo’s options for much of the game and it ultimately resulted in just 156 net yards of passing for the Cowboys, their lowest output since Week 11 at Washington and their 3rd lowest output of the entire season.

Along with the Vikings defensive line, other players had key roles in the Vikings ability to shutdown the Dallas passing attack. LB Ben Leber had an INT, CB Benny Sapp played well on the outside while Antoine Winfield handled nickel duties superbly and 2nd-year S Tyrell Johnson logged a solid performance.

“Yeah, I didn’t see any pauses,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of Johnson. “I thought he was pretty fluid. He knew what he was seeing and did a great job of reacting on time. He played a pretty good football game.”

The Vikings face a similar challenge this weekend, although the New Orleans Saints represent a taller task. QB Drew Brees has guided the NFL’s 4th-rated pass offense beautifully, leading the NFL in TD passes during the regular season with 34 and also registering a league-high passer rating of 109.6.

“He knows that offense like the back of his hand,” Childress said of the New Orleans QB. “It is hard to catch him in the pocket and he usually hits his back foot and lets the ball go. He is passionate about what he does. He understands that offense’s movements. He is an anticipatory thrower.”

Adding to the challenge for Minnesota is that they’ll be playing on the road instead of at Mall of America Field, where a raucous home crowd provides an adverse environment for opposing offenses.

It will be key for the Vikings to apply pressure to Brees with their 4 down linemen because this will allow them to drop 7 in coverage, just as they did against the Dallas. And even if the Vikings defensive line can’t get to Brees  for sacks – Brees was sacked just 20 times during the regular season, 14 fewer times than Brett Favre – it’s will be vital for them to get their hands in passing lanes. The Vikings did lead the league in sacks during the regular season with 48, but the defensive line also batted down 17 passes.

One way or another, whether by sacking Brees or batting down his passes, the Vikings defensive line must once again be a factor if the Vikings are going to slow down another productive passing attack.


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Vikings Release Friday Injury Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2010 – 3:02 pm

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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vikings.com Mailbag Is Posted

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2010 – 11:36 am

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 wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. 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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Scoring 7s, Not 3s

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2010 – 10:20 am

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.


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Finalists Named For NFL HS Coach Of The Year Award

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2010 – 8:47 am

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.”


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Vikings To Host Fan Rally At MOA Today

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2010 – 8:02 am

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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