Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears added only more dejection to an already tumultuous season, but a pair of Vikings rookies are continuing to make strides in their own NFL progression.
Vikings RB Toby Gerhart and QB Joe Webb both played a significant role for the offense on Monday night in place of 2 All-Pro players – Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre. And both Gerhart and Webb are learning from the opportunities provided to them.
“It’s a long process,” Webb acknowledged to reporters after making his first significant appearance on the field this season. “Hopefully I can get in the film room, study and learn from my mistakes.”
Gerhart, who has played in 13 games this year and made his first start on Monday night against the Bears, enjoyed having his number called to carry the load for the rushing attack.
“It’s fun,” Gerhart said after the game. “You know, anytime you get a chance to play and show what you can do it’s always fun and just go out there and do what I get paid to do and that’s run the ball.”
The Vikings may not be playing for playoff contention, but when it comes to this pair of rookies both understand that they must continue to improve with what’s left of this season. The product that they place on the field during the remaining 2 games will certainly have an affect on the offseason evaluations that the organization’s executives and coaches will soon be faced with.
Although the Vikings offense was only able to muster 293 total net yards, Gerhart and Webb accounted for 244 yards of that total. Gerhart rushed 16 times for 77 yards with 3 receptions for 18 yards, while Webb completed 15 of 26 passes for 129 yards and 2 INTs with 6 rushing attempts for 38 yards and a TD.
Gerhart was instrumental in the Vikings opening scoring drive, carrying the ball 3 consecutive times to start the series for 3, 6 and 9 yards and an 8-yard run on the 5th play of the drive setting up Favre’s 23-yard pass-and-go TD to WR Percy Harvin. His biggest play of the night came late in the 1st quarter where Gerhart ran off the left end and bulldozed his way to the MIN 41 for a season- and career-long 21-yard gain. The big gain was a testament to his running style of running behind his pads.
Webb’s superior athletic abilities and raw quarterbacking skills were on full display Monday night. His inexperience was shown by 2 arrant INTs during the 4th quarter, but his shiftiness and speed, most of all, provided the Vikings offense with a characteristic it hasn’t seen all season.
Down 27-7 with 9:55 remaining in 3rd quarter, Webb exhibited his athleticism on a 1st and 10 attempt from the Bears 13. Webb rolled out to the right side on a play-action fake to Gerhart, pulled the ball down after a blitz by Bears LB Lance Briggs and beat 4 Bears defenders to the front-right pylon for the diving TD. The 13-yard score was his longest rush of the game.
Gerhart is continuing to solidify his standing as a reliable #2 RB and Webb will likely significant playing time down the stretch – with Favre’s status in doubt – to make improvements in his progression as an NFL QB. And if both rookies continue to improve, it may be a common sight to see #14 and #32 in the same backfield during the 2011 season.
Tags: Joe Webb, Toby Gerhart
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