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Team Leaders Stepped Up For Vikings

Posted by cjsiewert on December 29, 2010 – 4:16 pm

Headed into Tuesday night’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings had lost consecutive games by a combined score of 61-17 and were forced to wait an extra 2 days to play their Week 16 game due to another weather-related delay.

Frustration and anxiety could have best suited the feelings among Vikings players while waiting to play the Eagles, but instead, team leaders took a stand to staying focused and making sure the rest of the team had the same mindset.

“After having a couple of tough losses like we had and some of the circumstances involved in those losses, guys can tend to, especially young guys, begin to think more about the offseason than the next opponent,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said during his day-after-the-game press conference. “I needed our veteran guys to step up in that locker room, on the field and at practice to lead the way and that’s exactly what Jared Allen did, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Adrian (Peterson), different guys that are in leadership roles, that’s exactly what they did.

“They stepped up and not only backed it up with talk but they did it on the field as well and our younger players really followed their example last night.”

Frazier re-established a group of team leaders after he assumed his current role as interim head coach in order to create a stronger relationship between himself and his players. He also wanted to make sure that the team leaders would gain a better understanding of what was expected of them and to communicate that message with the rest of the players in the locker room.

The days leading up to Tuesday night’s victory and the outcome of the game may well have been the best example of the Vikings cohesiveness between the head coach, team leaders and the rest of the club.

After the decision had been made to postpone the game until Tuesday night, Vikings team leaders shared their thoughts on the issue and it is clear that everyone remained focus on the task at hand.

“Coach Frazier told us to continue to stick together, to stay focused, and that’s what we’ll do,” RB Adrian Peterson mentioned on Monday.

Other leaders voiced their opinions on Monday as well. DE Jared Allen said, “We have to remain together as a team and keep a positive mind frame.”

Vikings K Ryan Longwell referenced a meeting the team leaders had with Frazier on Monday.

“We have every reason, because of the season, to say ‘this is the last straw and I’m checking out,’” Longwell said. “But this is the NFL and you can’t do that. You have to show up ready to play Tuesday night and that’s what we’re trying to get the young guys and everybody to understand.”

Frazier needed his leaders to step up on Tuesday night and that’s exactly what they did. And it rubbed off on the younger players as well en route to the 24-14 upset victory over the Eagles.


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Webb’s Impact, Now And Later

Posted by cjsiewert on December 29, 2010 – 1:24 pm

When faced with the task of guiding his team’s offense on the road against a team jockeying for playoff positioning, all after an extended 2-day postponement that forced the organization to call its Philadelphia hotel “home,” Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb stood up to the challenge with a cool, calm and collected performance and made a name for himself in doing so.

In his first-career NFL start, Webb completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards with 6 carries for 31 yards and a TD in a 24-14 upset victory over the NFC East-champion Philadelphia Eagles. Webb’s 9-yard rushing TD midway through the 3rd quarter exemplified his superior athletic abilities by evading 1 defender while rolling out to his right, shaking off 2 other defenders forcing them to run into each other and benefitting from a clear-out block from TE Jimmy Kleinsasser that opened up the right sideline for an untouched score.

Perhaps Webb’s most impressive stat of the night was that he committed zero turnovers. There were times where the rookie QB didn’t scan the field as well as a veteran QB would have – such as missing a wide open Adrian Peterson in the endzone early in the 3rd quarter that resulted in a 10-yard loss and a FG instead of a TD – but overall, he made sound decisions with the ball in his hands.

His composure was uncanny considering Webb was making his first-career NFL start, and that poise was at its best on a 3rd and 11 completion to WR Percy Harvin in the 4th quarter. On the play, Webb stood tall in the pocket and remained in control as it was collapsing around him by firing a 19-yard strike over the shoulder of Harvin for a 1sts down. The big gain set up Peterson’s 1-yard TD 2 plays later that delivered the final blow to the Eagles.

If Brett Favre is unable to start against the Detroit Lions next Sunday at Ford Field, Webb has proven with his Tuesday night performance that he has the abilities to guide a team as its starting QB. But in any case, Webb has recorded an impressive game that poses some important offseason decision-making for Vikings coaches and executives.

Do the Vikings want to build their franchise around Webb? Will his performance this season affect who will be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft?

As Mike pointed out in his Monday (Wednesday) Morning Mailbag, it’s tough to judge a player’s future potential when looking at a single performance, but the skill set is there for Webb and it will be interesting to see how the organization evaluates his performance and worth over the offseason.


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Peterson & Webb Need Your Votes For Weekly Awards

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on December 29, 2010 – 11:48 am

Last year, seemingly every week there would be a Viking up for one of NFL.com’s weekly awards.  Not so much this year of course, but thanks to last night’s upset win over the Eagles, two of the key components to that win are in the running to take home some hardware and need your votes.

Adrian Peterson, the lone Viking Pro Bowler for 2010-11, is up for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award.  Peterson rushed 22 times for 118 yards and a touchdown to help the Vikings upset the Eagles 24-14 on Tuesday night.  To vote for Peterson, click here.

Also up for an award this week is QB Joe Webb, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards and rushed for 31 yards and a touchdown in the win vs. Philly.  To vote for Webb as the Pepsi Rookie of the Week, click here.


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More On Winfield’s Night vs. Eagles

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2010 – 10:02 am

We’ve already written about the huge night Antoine Winfield had against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. But here’s a little historical perspective on where Winfield ranks in Vikings history coming off that sensational performance against Mike Vick and Co.

Winfield’s fumble return TD in the 2nd quarter marks the 5th career return TD for the former Ohio State Buckeye. He has 2 career INT returns, 2 career fumble returns and a blocked FG return for TD. His 5 return TDs rank behind only Ed Sharockman in team history. Sharockman had 6 – 3 on INTs, 2 on blocked punts and 1 on a fumble recovery.

Also, Tuesday night’s fumble return TD for Winfield gives him 4 defensive TDs, which ties him for a team record in that category.


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Pagac, Winfield Go Back To School To Stymie Eagles Explosive Offense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2010 – 7:32 am

When the Vikings named Leslie Frazier interim head coach, the entire defensive staff had to step up with added responsibility. Frazier, of course, has been the Vikings defensive coordinator since 2007 but his new role as interim head coach doesn’t allow him to focus exclusively on the defense.

The Vikings defensive staff has responded well, particularly LBs coach Fred Pagac. He’s assumed much of the play-calling duties for Frazier’s defense and he might have done his best work on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. And it was more than just playcalling – it was the formulation of the game plan all week as well.

In coming away with an impressive and decisive 24-14 win over the NFC East-champion Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, the Vikings stymied one of the league’s most explosive offenses. The Eagles came in averaging 29.4 points per game, thanks in large part to one of the most dynamic weapons in the game of football – QB Mike Vick. He’s taken the NFL by storm in 2010 and is a legitimate MVP candidate because of his ability as a passer – a 20/5 TD-to-INT ratio – but also his rushing ability – more than 6.0 yards per carry with 9 TDs.

But he didn’t take the Vikings by storm. And it was an “old-school” approach by Pagac that led to the Vikings ability to contain Vick. Not old-school as in old-fashioned, but old-school as in how Pagac slowed down opposing offenses when he was coaching at Ohio State when CB Antoine Winfield was a standout there.

On Tuesday night, Pagac called a barrage of blitzes and pressures, frequently using DBs and LBs to rush Vick and make him uncomfortable. Pagac’s ace in the hold was CB Antoine Winfield, perhaps the surest-tackling CB in the entire NFL and arguably the Vikings best playmaker. Winfield came up huge on Tuesday night, tallying a sack on the game’s 2nd play and then registering a game-changing play late in the 2nd quarter.

On the play, Winfield blitzed off the corner and sacked Vick, causing him to fumble. Winfield then spotted the ball, got up off the ground scooped the ball and sprinted 45 yards for a TD to tie the game at 7 just before halftime. The Vikings went into the locker room with momentum and were able to expand the lead early in the 3rd quarter.

“That was the game plan,” Winfield said. “Coach told me, ‘We’re going to send you off the edge. Just contain [Vick]. Come up high because we know he likes to spin out.’ He did a great job of calling them. I tried to execute.”
The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins noted that Winfield joked that Pagac “took me back to Ohio State” with his playcalling because Pagac was Winfield’s defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
“That’s what I used to do when he was the coordinator for the Buckeyes,” Winfield said. “Whenever my number is called, I’m going to go out there and give maximum effort and I made some plays.”

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Webb, Winfield and Peterson Lead Vikings To Victory

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2010 – 5:18 am

To cap an unusual road trip, the Vikings pulled off an improbable 24-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Tuesday night. The Vikings were led by the tandem of rookie QB Joe Webb and superstar RB Adrian Peterson on offense, while CB Antoine Winfield anchored a defensive effort that stymied the Eagles explosive offensive attack.

The Vikings were originally slated to play the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, but the worst snow storm of the year in the Northeast prompted the Eagles and the NFL to postpone the game and move it to Tuesday night. The Vikings had arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday and the decision to postpone the contest came on Sunday morning, so the Vikings were stranded in the City of Brotherly Love from Saturday evening through the game on Tuesday night.

All of the distractions and time away from home didn’t have an adverse affect on the Vikings, though. They put forth perhaps their best overall effort of the season, especially considering the quality of opponent, and this game will be the talk of the NFL for the next few days and maybe longer. The Eagles were installed as 14.5-point favorites, were playing at home, are battling for playoff positioning and were hosting a team in the midst of a tumultuous season.

The trio of Webb, Winfield and Peterson was enough to pull off the upset, though. The Eagles took an early 7-0 lead but the Vikings weren’t discouraged. Trailing 7-0 just before halftime, Winfield blitzed and sacked Michael Vick and also caused him to fumble. Winfield then found the ball, scooped it up and sprinted 45 yards for a TD.

To begin the 3rd quarter, Webb connected with Percy Harvin for 46 yards and that ultimately resulted in a Ryan Longwell FG and a 10-7 Vikings lead. From there, Webb would remain composed and make critical plays, Winfield and the defense continued to stifle Vick and Co., and Peterson grinded away on the Eagles defense to seal the victory.

Peterson finished with 118 yards on 22 carries, including a 1-yard TD run in the 4th quarter that was the dagger to the heart for Philadelphia. Defensively, Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff put together a creative game plan to counter the explosiveness of Philadelphia’s offense. The lynch pin to the effort was constant pressure on Vick via blitzes and pressures from the secondary and LBs, specifically Winfield. Also, the Vikings front 4 defensive linemen got in on the mix and forced Vick to move frequently.

Webb finished 17 of 26 for 195 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs, with his favorite target being Harvin (7 receptions for 100 yards). He also registered a dazzling 9-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter to give the Vikings a 17-7 lead. On defense, Winfield registered 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, a fumble return TD and 9 tackles. He should earn NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors for that effort. LB Chad Greenway tied Winfield for a team-high 9 tackles, S Husain Abdullah grabbed an INT, Kevin Williams forced a fumble and the following players also tallied sacks: Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Letroy Guion and Jamarca Sanford.

The win moves the Vikings to 6-9 with 1 game remaining on the schedule – a road game against the Detroit Lions next Sunday.


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