Vikings Drop 23-17 Decision To Dallas

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 10:15 pm

The Vikings dropped a 23-17 decision to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night at Mall of America Field in a game that saw the return of the Vikings to their home stadium for the first time since December 5, 2010. The contest was the third preseason game for both teams and it gave coaches and fans an extended look at starters.

The difference in the game turned out to be on special teams, where Dallas blocked a 50-yard FG attempt by Ryan Longwell and returned it for a TD. Gerald Sensabaugh got his mitts on Longwell’s kick and CB Alan Ball eventually recovered the loose ball and dashed to the endzone, giving the Cowboys a 10-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter.

From that point forward, each team found the endzone once - Dallas on a 5-yard TD run by Felix Jones and the Vikings on a 10-yard scamper from QB Joe Webb – and Dallas came away with the 6-point win. Longwell came on to convert a 44-yard FG later in the game and the Cowboys converted a pair of FGs to create the winning margin.

The Vikings actually held an advantage in most statistical categories, including total yards, first downs and third-down efficiency. But the score on special teams was enough to tip the balance.

We’ll have much more from Saturday night’s game soon, including a look at the Vikings first-team offense and injury updates on the Vikings secondary. With three preseason games now in the books, the Vikings have a 1-2 record. Their next game is the preseason finale and it takes place on Thursday night at Mall of America Field against the Houston Texans.

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Join Us For Tonight’s Live Chat

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 4:58 pm

As we have for all of the preseason (and will continue to do for the regular season), we’ll be hosting a live game-day chat for each Vikings game. The third chat of the year will be tonight, beginning around 7:00 p.m. CT as the Vikings and Cowboys square off at Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome.

Remember, the live chat won’t start until right around kickoff.

To join the chat at kickoff, click here to go to the Vikings Game Day page.

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Shiancoe, Gerhart, Kevin Williams Among Scratches Tonight

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on August 27, 2011 – 4:30 pm

Here are the inactive players for the Vikings tonight:

CB Asher Allen, RB Toby Gerhart, LB Kenny Onatolu, LB Ross Homan, LB Heath Farwell, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, and DT Kevin Williams.

In terms of starters, Anthony Herrera will start at RG in place of Ryan Cook; Jim Kleinsasser will start at TE in place of Shiancoe; Letroy Guion will start at DT in place of Williams, and Jamarca Sanford will start at SS in place of Tyrell Johnson.

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MN Native, Former Gopher Standout TE Ben Utecht To Sing Anthem Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 4:30 pm

A guy who used to star during football games in this building will take center stage before the game tonight at Mall of America Field, as Minnesota native and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher standout TE Ben Utecht will sing the National Anthem.

“This is a very special night,” Utecht said. “Just walking down the tunnel brings back so many great memories of Saturday games here as a Gopher. It’s a special night and I’m excited.”

Utecht was undrafted out of college but debuted in 2005 with the Indianapolis Colts. He was actually a member of the Super Bowl champion Colts with current Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier in 2006. Utecht said he was excited when Frazier was named Head Coach of the Vikings.

“He’s obviously good friends with Tony Dungy and I am also friends with Tony,” Utecht explained. “He has a lot of the same Tony Dungy qualities when it comes to leadership and being able to relate to players and to people in general. So when the Vikings decided to give Leslie a chance, I was fired up for him.”

Utecht says he’s performed the National Anthem for every major pro and college team in Minnesota and that doing so tonight for the Vikings is a special moment for him; he has “lots” of family members with him at the game tonight.

Utecht w ill perform as the lead male vocalist on the upcoming Jim Brickman Christmas Celebration tour. Also, his debut album, “Christmas Hope,” just went on pre-order and will be available later this year.

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5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 10:26 am

Tonight the Vikings will play their third preseason game of the 2011 season and it’ll be against the Dallas Cowboys at Mall of America Field. First-teamers will get extended looks tonight, which is why the third game of the preseason is considered so important.

With that in mind, here are five things to watch during tonight’s Vikings-Cowboys contest…

A TD from the first-team offense
The first-team offense took a big step forward last week in Seattle after a mediocre outing in Tennessee to open the preseason. Expect another step forward this week from Donovan McNabb and Co. It would ease a lot of souls – everyone from Vikings coaches to Vikings fans – if the first-team offense could find a way to move the ball and score a TD or two. To this point, McNabb has looked comfortable in the offense and he’s spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. Tonight, though, watch for the running game to improve a touch and for McNabb to find a way to attack vertically.

Cedric Griffin and Anthony Herrera coming back from injury
A pair of starters are coming back from serious knee injuries this season – CB Cedric Griffin and RG Anthony Herrera. Griffin has had a nice training camp and he’s looked good in the little time he’s seen on the field. Tonight, though, he’ll likely get his first extended action since the injury and the Vikings will be focused not only on how he performs during the game but how his knee feels after the game. With Herrera, he’s slowly been brought along during training camp and tonight is the first time he’ll play in a game at all since the injury. Just as is the case with Griffin, it will be as important how Herrera feels after the game as how he plays during the game. Head Coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this week that the one thing the coaches will be looking for is Herrera’s explosion coming off the ball. If he can show signs of regaining that explosion and he can come away from the game with minimal soreness, then the feisty veteran will be one (major) step closer to returning to the starting lineup.

Pressure on Cowboys QB Tony Romo
One of the positives I took away from the Vikings performance last week in Seattle was the pass rush from the first-team defense. Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson was rarely allowed time to sit in the pocket and find an open receiver, which was a large part of why the Vikings were able to shutout Seattle in the first half. Tonight the Vikings will see an offensive line that is a touch better and a QB that is much better. If the Vikings can still find a way to pressure the passer tonight, we know they might have something going this year in terms of pass rush after a less-than-stellar pass rush last year. I think the secondary is going to be better than most people think this year, but an effective pass rush will make the secondary look even better.

Another strong performance from Chris Cook
One of the bright spots in last week’s victory over Seattle was the performance of CB Chris Cook. He was lined up against former teammate Sidney Rice for much of the first half and he held his own by frequently jamming Rice at the line of scrimmage and even being involved in a pass breakup in the endzone. If Cook can step up and perform well as the team’s 3rd CB, the Vikings defense will be stronger. With Cook in the lineup, the Vikings nickel package features two big, physical CBs (Cook and Griffin) on the outside and then Antoine Winfield sliding inside to play the slot receiver. That’s the lineup Frazier prefers to see out there and if Cook plays well tonight, that vision comes one step closer to being realized.

Competition at WR
One of the position battles still raging is at WR, where the top 3 are set (Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins) but the next two or three are still open. I’m not sure if the Vikings will keep five or six WRs, but either way there are jobs still available. We won’t count anyone out, but the guys I’ll be watching tonight are Devin Aromashodu, Greg Camarillo, Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson. The next tier of guys are Manny Arceneaux, Stephen Burton and Andre Holmes. Aside from performance in the offense, another factor in determining which players will earn roster spots is special teams. Johnson can increase his value by proving effective in the punt return game, while Aromashodu has increased his value by making a pair of special teams tackles.

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Visit The Vikings At The State Fair

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2011 – 1:00 pm

The Great Minnesota Get Together is officially underway at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul and will run until Labor Day, September 5.

The Vikings are encouraging fans to stop by the Vikings area in the Fan Central Building during the 2011 Minnesota State Fair. The Fan Central Building is located near the corner of Underwood and Dan Patch. Here’s just a sample of what the Vikings have going on near their location…

– Wide variety of Vikings apparel and novelty items available from the Vikings Locker Room Store
– An oversized Vikings Plinko game for a chance to win game tickets and other special prizes
– Get your picture taken in front of the life sized Vikings player board
– Information on a variety of Vikings ticket and hospitality options

The Vikings booth will also include the latest information on the team’s new stadium efforts and opportunities for fans to help. Fairgoers can play ‘Stadium Bingo,’ a fun and easy game that includes stopping at various legislative booths, posting pictures on Facebook and Twitter and signing up more supporters. Participants will have a chance to win some great Vikings prizes, including an authentic Jared Allen autographed jersey, a Leslie Frazier signed football, and two press box seats and pre-game sideline passes for a Vikings 2011 home game.

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Vikings Announce Front Office Promotions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2011 – 12:51 pm

The Minnesota Vikings have announced the promotions of three staff members to the level of Director. Each of these Vikings employees have distinguished themselves in their respective departments and have been acknowledged with promotions, as follows:

Jeff Anderson – Director of Corporate Communications
Jeff is entering his 9th NFL season in the Vikings Public Relations Department. He has served the Vikings well as a team member in the PR Department and has played an integral role in the organization’s stadium development project. Anderson’s role in this newly-created position will be to lead the Vikings communications programs in public affairs, community relations, sales and marketing, legal/business affairs and crisis communications.

Lisa Larson – Director of Human Resources
Lisa joined the Vikings in 2006 and is responsible for the organization’s benefit programs, training, performance management, recruitment and compensation programs. As she enters her 6th season, Larson has raised the bar in her department with significant achievement in the team’s workers compensation process, benefits administration and employee relations.    

Cheryl Nygaard – Director of Information Technology
Cheryl has been with the Vikings since 1999, and has been integral in managing the team’s technology, electronic security and compliance required by the NFL. Nygaard directs all aspects of the Vikings technology and telecommunications resources, and is an outstanding behind the scenes leader in the organization during her 13 years with the club.

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Frazier: “Big Ballgame” On Saturday For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2011 – 6:40 am

For almost a month now, 80 players on the Vikings roster have worked on the field in practice and off the field in meeting rooms, the training room and the weight room to try and make the team. That effort will continue on Saturday night and then next Thursday night in the final two preseason games of 2011.

Then, Vikings coaches and scouts will have to make the call as to which 53 players – plus up to 8 practice squad guys – will make the cut and comprise the 2011 Minnesota Vikings. Suffice it to say, Saturday night’s preseason game against Dallas is a big ballgame for a lot of Vikings.

“We’re approaching a cut day now, so we’re going to have to make some decisions over this weekend,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Thursday. “So it’s a big ballgame for a lot of our players and also for our coaches. We’re trying to shape our roster, so we’ve got some big decisions to make.”

Some of those big decisions are at backup QB, the #4-6 WRs, reserve defensive and offensive linemen and several spots in the secondary. There are two cutdown dates approaching, with teams required to trim down from 80 75 by August 30 and then from 75 to 53 by September 3.

“It’s a big deal for the guys that are on the bubble,” Frazier said. “Maybe not so much right now, but that final cut, that’s the one that’s sometimes is not as clear cut because the competitions is so close.  This is a tough time for a lot of guys, and maybe in this ballgame someone will rise up that you didn’t expect to.”

Several Vikings will be held out of Saturday’s game because they’re dealing with injuries. Some of those players include: CB Asher Allen, RB Toby Gerhart, LBs Heath Farwell and Mark Washington, TE Visanthe Shiancoe and DT Kevin Williams. A couple of guys coming back from injuries to keep an eye on are CB Cedric Griffin and RG Anthony Herrera. Both guys are penciled in as starters, but that’s presuming their healthy and ready to go by Week 1.

With all of that in mind, what players or positions will you keep an eye on Saturday night? Let us know by leaving a comment in the comments section below this entry.

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Herrera Ready To Prove It

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 25, 2011 – 1:33 pm

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world these days and life in the NFL is no exception. What we’ve come to know and understand in one moment can change in a big way and in a small amount of time.

Vikings G Anthony Herrera knows that lesson well.

Herrera came to the Vikings and the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and was on the 53-man roster for the final 8 games of that season. In 2005 he fought his way into the starting lineup for the final 6 games, but then he was inactive for 13 games in 2006. Finally in 2007 Herrera cracked the starting lineup and stayed there. He was the starter at RG for the final 12 games of that season and remained there ever since.

Then Herrera suffered a knee injury 10 games into the 2010 season, which landed him on the Reserve/Injured list. Seemingly from that moment on, many questioned whether Herrera would make it back to the starting lineup. Being a competitive and fiery individual, the sentiment that he might not make it back to the lineup probably bothered Herrera.

But it also seems to have motivated him to prove everyone wrong. Again.

When you make an NFL roster and eventually become a productive starter after joining the League as an undrafted free agent, you demonstrate an ability and willingness to prove yourself. According to Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, that’s exactly the mindset Herrera has right now.

“Oh yeah, he has something to prove,” Frazier said on Thursday when asked if he thought Herrera was playing with a chip on his shoulder. “And he wants to prove something to everybody, including us as coaches [as to] whether or not he can do it. We’re all excited to see him come back and play and we’re all pulling for him. He’s a tremendous competitor, a leader for our offensive line and our team and we’re all pulling for him and hoping for the best.”

The best would be if Herrera could play and start in Saturday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, and also come out of that game feeling healthy. Whether or not Herrera will be ready to go for Week 1 in San Diego on September 11, no one knows for sure. Right now, Frazier said, the plan is for Herrera to start the game and get an extended look with the first-team offense.

“We’ll have a better determination after this game,” Frazier said. “He’s going to play for the first time in a long time, so we’ll have to get some stuff on tape, talk to him after the ballgame and just see where he is. And just try to make a decision going forward.”

I wouldn’t bet against him.

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Frazier Says Webb Will Be #2 QB Saturday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 25, 2011 – 12:51 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters after practice today and he said that Joe Webb will be the team’s #2 QB in Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Webb and rookie Christian Ponder are in a closely-contested battle for the backup job behind veteran Donovan McNabb.

Frazier was also clear in explaining that neither guy has emerged as a favorite to be the team’s backup for the regular season. Both Ponder and Webb have performed well in camp and displayed improvement from preseason game #1 in Tennessee to the preseason game #2 in Seattle. Webb was the #2 in Tennessee and Ponder took those duties last week against Seattle.

The third preseason game is typically when starters get the most playing time and Frazier said he and the coaching staff are anticipating the roster beginning to shape after Saturday night. He even hinted that McNabb may not play much, if at all, in the Vikings preseason finale next Thursday against Houston.

“We’ve got some key decisions that we have to make at certain positions,” Frazier said. “This game, and I told our team this morning, will play a major rule in determining where some people are going to fit on our squad.”

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