Analyzing Vikings-Patriots Special Teams Matchups

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 9:19 am

In setting the table for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots I mentioned that one of the best matchups will be on special teams. This area of the game is often overlooked, but it could make a huge difference in any given week.

Drilling even deeper here, the best 2 matchups happen to be when the Vikings kick off and when the Vikings punt. So, let’s take a quick look…

When the Vikings kick off: New England uses WR Brandon Tate as their primary kickoff returner and he’s been excellent so far in 2010. Tate is averaging 31.7 yards per kickoff return and he’s taken 2 returns to the house for TDs. Conversely the Vikings kickoff coverage team has been solid this season. Because he can’t boom the ball through the endzone regularly, the Vikings emphasize placement of kicks and this will be key on Sunday.

Also key on Sunday will be the 10 guys running down the field in coverage for the Vikings. Generally speaking, this area has been good this season and certainly improved from seasons past. The Vikings yield 23.7 yards per kickoff return, which is middle of the road in terms of NFL rankings, but that includes a pesky 86-yard return. Anyway, they’ll need to be at their best on Sunday to slow down Tate.

From a raw numbers standpoint, the Patriots have the edge here. But Longwell and Co. will certainly have a plan for Sunday and it’ll be a matter of executing that plan and not missing tackles.

When the Vikings punt: The edge in this department goes to the Vikings. P Chris Kluwe is having another marvelous season, as he’s ranked #2 in the NFL with a 41.8 net average and he also has 11 punts downed inside the 20. Just as important, though, is the fact that Kluwe and the punt coverage team are allowing a league-low 3.1 yards per punt return and only 11 of Kluwe’s 28 punts have been returned; opposing returns have called 9 fair catches. These stats indicate a couple of things: 1) Kluwe is doing a good job of directional kicking and hang time and 2) the coverage guys are doing a nice job of surrounding the returner and bringing him down quickly.

New England counters with a nice returner in WR Julian Edelman. Both Tate and Wes Welker have logged punt returns, but Edelman has taken the majority of them and when he does New England gets 13.4 yards per return, which would rank 4th best in the NFL if it qualified. Edelman has yet to call for a fair catch and although he doesn’t have a return TD yet, he does have a long return of 34 yards, so you know he’s got the moves to make it happen.

This is a good matchup and one to watch on Sunday; the Vikings have a slight edge here.

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Setting The Table For New England

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 7:47 am

Time to put the loss to Green Bay in a box and turn the focus to this weekend’s game against the New England Patriots, as the Vikings prepare for their 2nd consecutive road game and their 3rd game away from home in the last 4 weeks. The Vikings last traveled to New England in 2002 and the last time these teams played it was the Patriots who came away with a resounding 31-7 win.

So the Vikings have some demons to exercise as they battled the Patriots on Halloween. They’re off to a disappointing 2-4 start, have an injured starting QB, had a game taken away from them last weekend in Green Bay and face a team that dominated them last time. Sounds like a good time for a win.

It won’t be easy, though, as New England boasts a 5-1 record – tied for the best mark in the NFL – and is also in the midst of a 4-game winning streak. The Patriots have logged consecutive 23-20 wins over the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers and they’ll be looking for a 5th straight victory before they hit the road for consecutive road games at Cleveland and at Pittsburgh.

The strength of New England’s team is their head coach – Bill Belichick – and QB – Tom Brady. Belichick has won 71% of his games and 3 Super Bowls since signing on as head coach in 2000 and Brady has been the man guiding the offense nearly the whole time. Brady has a career passer rating of 93.5, but this year he’s got that number up to 96.0 thanks to a 66.2% completion rate and a pristine 11-4 TD/INT ratio.

New England’s offense is operating a bit differently than in years past, though, and that’s because of the trade that sent WR Randy Moss to Minnesota just a few weeks ago. The trade leaves Wes Welker as the only WR left from the record-setting 2007 offense, but Welker is certainly nothing to scoff at. He’s coming off seasons in which he’s had 112, 111 and 123 receptions and he’s also coming off an ACL injury from last year. So far this year, Welker has 37 receptions and 3 TDs and he’s the one to keep an eye on out of that WR corps.

Defensively, the Patriots no longer have those familiar names such as Teddy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison or Ty Law. Instead, they have some young up-and-comers such as LB Jerod Mayo, CB Devin McCourty and S Brandon Meriweather. To this point New England has had less than ideal results with these young players. The Patriots are ranked 28th in overall defense and 22nd in scoring defense. But don’t doubt Belichick and his system. This group of players and New England’s scheme has the capability to shut down any offense.

Special teams-wise, the Patriots feature a nice kicker in Stephen Gostkowski, a solid punting game and an outstanding return game that features WR Brandon Tate (31.7-yard kickoff return average with 2 TDs) and WR Julian Edelman (13.2-yard punt return average). In reality, the Vikings special teams versus the Patriots special teams might be the best matchup of the game. I know that’s not a lot of fun for fans to read or watch, but that might be the case.

There are the basics for this week’s matchup with New England. It should be fun to break it down in more detail throughout the week. Be sure to stay tuned here for more updates and analysis. And also stay tuned here to watch Brad Childress and Brett Favre press conferences later in the morning.

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Winter Park Wednesday Returns

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 6:56 am

Last week our buddy and Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen debuted what we’re calling “Winter Park Wednesdays,” a bit where he broadcasts his weekday 9-noon show on Am 1130 KFAN right from Sports Authority Studios at Winter Park on Wednesdays.

The experiment was a hit last week so it’s happening against this week and should be a ton of fun.

Last week I joined PA at 9:20 to talk Vikings football and I’ll be doing the same today, so tune in to KFAN around that time and join the conversation. Also,’s very own Ryan Cardinal will be on right after me for extended Vikings talk and then some deep Gopher hockey analysis as well.


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Week 7 NFC North Roundup

Posted by cjsiewert on October 27, 2010 – 6:31 am

The 28-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers comes as a tough setback for the Vikings who dropped their 4th game of the season – not to mention the defeat was delivered by a divisional foe, dropping the Purple 1 game further back in the NFC North standings.

Although the loss to the Packers was a setback, the Vikings got some help from a future opponent on Sunday afternoon to keep the divisional race open for contention. The Washington Redskins defeated the NFC North leading Chicago Bears 17-14 in a game worthy of the center ring at a circus.

The matchup between the Bears and Redskins was a back-and-forth battle, but not one that sent the score back-and-forth. Rather, the turnovers continued to trade from one team to the other. The Bears committed 6 turnovers (4 INTs, 2 fumbles) while the Redskins gave up 3 (2 INTs, 1 fumble).

Bears QB Jay Cutler continued his struggles behind a mediocre offensive line completing 26 of 40 passes for 281 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs for a passer rating of 54.3.  Cutler completed 4 passes for 92 yards and a TD to DeAngelo Hall, but the only problem is that Hall is a CB for the Redskins.

The Chicago loss drops the Bears to 4-3 and now they share the NFC North lead with Green Bay. The Bears will move into their bye week and will travel to Buffalo on Nov. 7 to square off against the Bills. The Packers will travel to New York this Sunday for a matchup against the AFC East leading Jets.

The Detroit Lions stood idle at 1-5 in Week 7 with their bye and will host the Redskins at Ford Field this Sunday.

For the Vikings, the loss to the Packers gives many critics reason to believe the playoffs are slipping out of reach. But the fact of the matter is the Vikings still stand just 1 game behind the Bears and Packers in the loss column and have 4 more head-to-head matchups against NFC North opponents – 2 against the Bears and 1 with both the Lions and Packers.

In the 50-year history of the Vikings, the men in purple have started the season with a 2-4 record 7 times (prior to 2010) and have made the playoffs once during those 7 seasons. The 1999 Vikings under the direction of head coach Dennis Green reached the playoffs by winning 8 of their last 10 games after starting the season 2-4. Green’s squad made the First-Round Playoffs and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 27-10 at the Metrodome, but fell to the St. Louis Rams in the Divisional Playoffs by a score of 49-37.

An interesting side note from the 1999 Divisional Playoff loss to the Rams is Vikings WR Randy Moss hauled in an impressive 9 receptions for 188 yards and 2 TDs.

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Listen To ‘Vikings At 50′ Tonight On KFAN With Keith Millard

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 26, 2010 – 10:13 am

Make sure to tune into KFAN AM-1130 or listen online at tonight at 6:30 CST to hear “Vikings At 50″ with Mark Rosen as he interviews former Viking great Keith Millard.

Among other topics, Rosen talks with Millard about:

  • How Bud Grant made him the player he was, and how he’s trying to do the same for younger players.
  • His son is playing college football.
  • Transition from defensive end to defensive tackle.
  • His one year in Green Bay with Brett Favre.

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Sullivan Soldifies Center Of Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2010 – 8:04 am

It’s hard to get too excited about things coming off an emotional loss to a division opponent. But while others mull over QB Brett Favre’s injured ankle and the game officials’ inability to get crucial calls correct (even with instant replay at their disposal), let’s take a look at the return of C John Sullivan to the starting lineup.

Sullivan has been dealing with a nagging calf injury all throughout training camp, the preseason and into the regular season. He was able to tough it out through the first 2 games of the season but then was injured again on the first play of the Lions game in Week 3. Sullivan was unable to return in that game and he missed the following 2 games – a bye week followed by games at the NY Jets and vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

After a few weeks off and then being active but not playing against the Cowboys, Sullivan returned on Sunday night to start against the Green Bay Packers. And from what I could tell, the offense benefited from his return. Green Bay sacked Favre just once and the Vikings offense generated 196 rushing yards. In the previous 3 games, when the Vikings were without Sullivan, the Lions got to Favre twice, the Jets sacked him 4 times and the Cowboys tallied 3 sacks. And the 196 rushing yards the Vikings gained against Green Bay is 101 better than they gained against Dallas, 100 better than against the Jets and 13 more than the Lions allowed.

On top of those stats, which can be quantified thanks to a box score, Sullivan’s impact on the offense also came in blitz pickup. There were several occasions were the Packers came with a blitz but the Vikings were able to communicate and pickup each blitzing defender to allow Favre time to find the open receiver.

Lastly, I also noticed it was Sullivan who cleared the path for Adrian Peterson’s 1-yard TD plunge in the 2nd quarter, which knotted the game at 14.

Although Sullivan’s return ultimately did not aide the Vikings to victory, it did aide the Vikings offense to improvement and another step forward for both Sullivan and the offense is just what the doctor ordered for this week’s contest against the New England Patriots.

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 47 Comments »

Submit Your Question For Coach Childress On ‘Vikings GamePlan’

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 26, 2010 – 7:04 am

It’s that time of the week again for fans to submit their question for Head Coach Brad Childress to answer on this week’s episode of “Vikings GamePlan.”  To submit your question, click here.

Vikings GamePlan presented by Sports Authority is the official Minnesota Vikings pregame TV show. Co-Produced by Vikings Entertainment Network and FS North, GamePlan airs on Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM on both KARE 11 and FS North. Vikings radio Play-by-Play man Paul Allen gives viewers an inside look at what to expect in the upcoming game through exclusive Film Study with Head Coach Brad Childress. KARE 11’s Tim McNiff goes head-to-head with opponent’s media in the popular Media Matchup. GamePlan also wires Vikings players during the game bringing you closer than anyone else can!

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NFL Network To Replay Vikings-Packers Game On Tuesday

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 25, 2010 – 5:00 pm

Fans can watch a replay of Sunday’s dramatic 28-24 loss to the Packers on NFL Network on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. CST via NFL Network’s “NFL Replay” program.

“NFL Replay” offers an exclusive look at the previous week’s games in a condensed, 75-minute, high-octane format. With the use of bonus NFL Films and NFL Network footage, including never-before-seen camera angles and coaches’ commentary, combined with exclusive wired sound from the field, locker rooms and sidelines, viewers will experience the game like never before.

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Childress Says Favre Has Fractures In Ankle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 25, 2010 – 2:13 pm

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress told reporters on Monday during his weekly day-after-the-game press conference that Brett Favre has 2 fractures in his left ankle – an avulsion fracture and a stress fracture – and that the QB is in a walking boot.

At first blush this is obviously not good news for the Vikings and the offense, but the good news is Favre doesn’t need surgery and Childress wouldn’t rule Favre out for next week’s game at New England. Favre’s status this week was termed “day-to-day” by Childress and the Vikings head coach also said Favre’s current games-played streak does not give him more leeway than is typical.

So all eyes will be on Vikings practice this week as many will try to speculate on Favre’s playing status based on how much he does or doesn’t practice. Asked if Favre would need to practice in order to play, Childress was a little vague in saying “My experience is most players need to practice.”

But being vague at this point is the way to go because a lot will happen between now and next Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Hopefully a lot of healing will happen, too.

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Sunny Side Up – What Looked Good In Green Bay

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 25, 2010 – 11:02 am

It’s natural to be negative coming off a tough loss like that in Green Bay where we had opportunities slip through our grasp numerous times. And there are some things for the negatives out there to harp on, but let’s take a look at a few positives from Sunday night’s game…

– Fans. The Vikings faithful were well-represented at Lambeau Field on Sunday night and I appreciated seeing that. Those Vikings fans in attendance nearly saw an improbable upset and come-from-behind victory that would’ve been the highlight of their season. Going into Lambeau Field and winning is a great feeling and the Vikings almost did it again this year. There were tons of Vikings fans there that would’ve enjoyed it.

– Adrian Peterson. Another reason the loss is so tough to take is that Peterson had such a good game, both running the football catching it. Green Bay couldn’t stop him and when all was said and done Peterson had 131 yards and 1 TD on 28 carries along with 41 receiving yards on 2 receptions, including a huge 15-yard reception with under a minute to go in the game. Peterson was breaking tackles, running away from defenders and slicing up Green Bay’s defense. Also the offensive line was run blocking well to open up holes for Peterson. The Vikings ground game is in good shape as we head to New England next week.

– Percy Harvin. What a monster for the Vikings, both on offense and special teams. Harvin lines up in the slot, in the backfield, out wide, he motions, he shifts, he’s a dangerous kickoff returner. On Sunday night Harvin had 41 rushing yards (and a 17-yard TD) on 3 carries, he had 65 receiving yards on 5 receptions and he had 81 kickoff return yards on 3 tries. And he nearly had a dramatic game-winning grab in the back of the endzone that would’ve haunted Green Bay for years. As good as it is to see Harvin carve up defenses, it’s just as good to see the Vikings coaching staff’s ability to properly utilize him.

– Antoine Winfield. He’ll go a bit unnoticed because he didn’t have any splash plays, but he was terrific against Green Bay. Winfield played a lot in the slot and that means he played a lot against WR Donald Driver, and Driver was held without a catch. He’s one of Green Bay’s most reliable offensive weapons and he’s had a catch in over 100 straight games, but Winfield took him out of the equation.

– Offensive line. I thought Vikings QB Brett Favre had good protection for most of the night. In combination with RBs and TEs, the Vikings offensive line did a good job of picking up Green Bay’s blitzes and they did an excellent job of run blocking for Peterson and Toby Gerhart. This part of the Vikings has taken on some criticism as of late and against Green Bay they were solid. I can’t help but think that part of it is because of C John Sullivan’s return to the lineup.

– Toby Gerhart. It’s been a bit of a slow start for Gerhart since he arrived here last spring, but that’s the best I’ve seen Gerhart look. He did a great job with blitz pickup and pass protection and he had a nice burst with the ball in his hands. Gerhart had 24 yards on 5 carries and he also had a 6-yard reception. More important than those numbers, though, is that Gerhart looked quick and comfortable with the ball. I like what I saw from him and I look forward to watching him continue to develop.

– Creating turnovers. The Vikings defense has been very good in 2010, but the one criticism they’ve taken on has to do with creating turnovers. But against Green Bay they forced 1 fumble and also intercepted QB Aaron Rodgers twice. The Vikings play great “bend-but-don’t-break” defense, which is great, but a key to that style of defense is ultimately coming up with turnovers after stretching out the opponent’s drive. That’s what they were able to do against Green Bay and it’s something they’ll need to continue to do going forward.

– Chad Greenway. He led all defenders in the game with 12 tackles and he also forced a fumble. Three of Greenway’s 12 tackles came for a loss, too. He’s been all over the field this year and last night was no exception. Going a step further, Greenway has come off of 2 serious knee injuries, which is exactly what CB Cedric Griffin is doing right now. Griffin needs to look no further than his very own teammate for inspiration in his rehab.

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