Defensive Highlights: Goal Line Stand, Sherels INT Return For TD

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 21, 2011 – 10:45 am

The Vikings carried a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime on Saturday night in Seattle. And although they had outscored the Seahawks by 13 points through 2 quarters, there was no question the defense was primarily responsible for the advantage.

It was Seattle who made the game’s first big play, about midway through the opening quarter. The Vikings defense had forced a second Seattle punt and CB Marcus Sherels was back to return the kick. He hauled in Jon Ryan’s punt and started making his way upfield. Sherels was eventually tackled after a 16-yard return, but then the ball squirted loose and Seattle picked it up. The call on the field was that Sherels was down by contact and did not fumble, but a challenge by Seattle resulted in the ruling being overturned, which gave the Seahawks possession.

Just four plays later on a 3rd and 7 from Minnesota’s 43, Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson rifled a pass to WR Golden Tate. But Tate was unable to haul in the pass and it deflected off his fingers and up into the air. Sherels was there in coverage and grabbed the deflection. In an instant he had secured the ball and sprinting the other way, leaving no Seahawks offensive player with a chance to catch him. Sherels was too fast and he dashed 64 yards for the TD, more than making up for his fumbled punt return just moments earlier.

The second defensive highlight of the first half was just as dramatic, but it was a bit more drawn out. After Sherels INT return for a TD, Seattle began their next possession on the 27. Jackson led the Seahawks on a march downfield and had his offense with a 1st-and-goal situation from the 2.

On first down, Jackson handed off to RB Justin Forsett on a dive play up the middle, but DE David Akinniyi and DT Letroy Guion were there to stop him from going in. On second down, LB Larry Dean and DL Christian Ballard teamed up to stop Forsett for no gain and then on third down it was DE Adrian Awasom who halted Forsett short of paydirt. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll decided to go for it on 4th and inches from inside the 1, but great efforts by CB Chris Cook and LB Erin Henderson helped Guion make another stop and the Vikings defense had held Seattle from a TD on 4 straight plays from inside the 2.

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McNabb, Vikings Offense Take Step Forward

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 21, 2011 – 6:05 am

While winning games is always nice, teams strive for improvement during the preseason. On Saturday night in Seattle, the Vikings accomplished both objectives. Coming off a 14-3 loss to Tennessee in their preseason opener last week, the Vikings took a step forward this weekend and notched a 20-7 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

Another outstanding effort from the entire special teams group and a solid performance from the defense anchored the Vikings effort against Seattle. But the improvement made by the Vikings first-team offense should not go unnoticed, especially considering both WR Percy Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe were missing from action.

The Vikings first-team offense didn’t see much of the field in the 1st quarter – they had just two minutes of possession and ran just 3 plays. But a goal line stand by the second-team defense set the stage for Donovan McNabb and Co. to hit their stride for about half the quarter.

Following the goal line stand, the Vikings first-team offense took over 1st and 10 from their own 1-yardline. Despite the fact it’s a preseason game, beginning a drive on your own 1-yardline on the road with the crowd screaming for a safety is not exactly the most comfortable position. But McNabb, a 13-year NFL veteran, handled the situation with poise and guided the offense downfield.

The first play from scrimmage was a 2-yard completion to Adrian Peterson, which gave the offense a little bit more breathing room. The second play from scrimmage was another pass, and McNabb stood tall in the pocket and delivered a 17-yard completion to rookie TE Kyle Rudolph. That got the Vikings out to the 20 and it set up TE Jim Kleinsasser for a 23-yard reception on the next snap. In a matter of moments, McNabb guided the Vikings from the shadow of their own goal post to midfield.

A few Peterson carries left the Vikings with a 2nd and 10 from the Seattle 45, which is when McNabb stood in the pocket again and found WR Michael Jenkins down the left side. Jenkins positioned himself beautifully on the play, as he cut in front of the CB and made a back shoulder grab while falling to the ground. A penalty two plays later eventually stalled the drive and the Vikings settled for a FG.

Yes, the Vikings offense needs to convert those drives with TDs and it was disappointing to see a false start penalty ultimately stall the drive. But given the current circumstances – new QB, new offense, no Harvin or Shiancoe – it was good just to see the Vikings march 81 yards in 13 plays and chew up more than 7 minutes of the game clock. Additionally, we saw a great illustration of a veteran QB guiding the offense through a tough situation – backed up against your own goal line on the road.

As we said after last week’s game against Tennessee, the effort by the offense tonight was acceptable and encouraging. Now, the key is to see improvement this week during practice and a step forward in next weekend’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Mall of America Field.

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Submit Your Monday Morning Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 21, 2011 – 5:05 am

Preseason game #2 is in the books and we’re now one step closer to the regular season. As it usually does, the preseason has generated mixed results and plenty of reason to be excited for the regular season.

With all that’s happened from training camp through half of the preseason, you must have questions and I know you have opinions.

So let’s hash it all out in the Monday Morning Mailbag.

To submit a comment or question, send an email to me at You can also submit your comment or question in the comments section below this entry.

Remember to include your name and town on the comment/email. We can’t post every comment/question, but we’ll try to answer each question.

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Vikings Offense, Defense Look Good Early In Win

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2011 – 10:26 pm

The defense took care of the 1st quarter and the offense handled much of the 2nd quarter as the Vikings built up a 13-0 lead through the first half of Saturday night’s preseason game against the Seahawks in Seattle and went on to win by a 20-7 score.

Seattle’s offense, featuring former Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson and WR Sidney Rice, was on the field for 13 minutes in the 1st quarter, yet they were unable to muster any points. It was the Vikings defense that scored a TD, in fact, as CB Marcus Sherels picked off a deflected pass from Jackson and returned it 64 yards for the score.

The 2nd quarter was a much different story and it was the Vikings offense that hogged the ball early. QB Donovan McNabb led the Vikings on an 81-yard drive in 13 plays that consumed over 7 minutes and began on their own goal line after an impressive stand by the second-team defense. McNabb hit new WR Michael Jenkins for 21 yards on the drive, but eventually the offense stalled and Ryan Longwell came on to kick a 36-yard FG.

McNabb was 6 of 8 for 81 yards with no TDs or INTs on the night (106.8 passer rating) and RB Adrian Peterson finished with 16 yards on 6 carries and 2 catches for 11 yards. Ponder, who came in after McNabb, was 6 of 12 for 63 yards with no TDs and no INTs.

Late in the fourth quarter and leading 13-7, rookie RB Tristan Davis made the most of his one carry on the night as he scampered 35 yards to ice the game for the Vikings, who moved to 1-1 on the preseason with the victory.

Next up for the Vikings are the Dallas Cowboys, who make their way to Mall of America Field on Saturday.

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Vikings, VEN Up For Five Regional Emmys

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on August 20, 2011 – 8:36 pm

The Vikings and the Vikings Entertainment Network have been nominated for five regional Emmy awards.

Sports Program: Vikings GamePlan (VEN/Fox Sports North)
TV Host: Paul Allen – Vikings GamePlan (VEN/Fox Sports North)
TV Host: Ann Carroll – Vikings Weekly (VEN/Fox Sports North)
LIVE Sporting Event: Vikings Preseason Football: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings 2010 (VEN/PKO Productions)
TV Show Open: Vikings GamePlan (Elite Edge Productions)

The winners will be announced on Saturday, Sept. 24.

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Mr. Hippe’s Weather Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2011 – 7:37 pm

We’re in the Great Northwest for tonight’s preseason contest between the Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. And throughout our trip the weather has indeed been great.

Mr. Hippe checks in tonight with more great weather for the game. He’s calling it mostly sunny with a temperature of 81 degrees and winds out of the south gusting up to 14 miles per hour.

Sounds like a great night for football.

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Join Us For Tonight’s Live Chat

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2011 – 6:29 pm

As we have for the last few seasons, we’ll be hosting a live game-day chat for each Vikings game. The second chat of the year will be tonight, beginning around 9:00 p.m. CT as the Vikings and Seahawks square off at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

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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Harvin, Shiancoe Among Those Out Tonight

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on August 20, 2011 – 6:09 pm

Here are the Vikings inactive players for tonight’s game in Seattle:

WR P. Harvin, CB A. Allen, CB S. Castille, FB M. Asiata, LB K. Onatolu, LB H. Farwell, G A. Herrera, TE V. Shiancoe, WR G. Camarillo, and DE D. Reed.

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5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2011 – 10:44 am

The Vikings will play their second game of the 2011 preseason tonight against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle. Here are five things to watch during tonight’s game…

Improvement from Donovan McNabb, first-team offense
While it might not have satisfied the appetite of Vikings fans, the performance from the first-team offense last week was acceptable for a preseason debut. But a similar performance tonight against Seattle in preseason game #2 will not be acceptable. McNabb and Co. need to take a step forward and they appear ready to do that after a solid week of practice. McNabb is cautiously optimistic about the offense’s progress and we’ll find out tonight if that optimism is warranted. No, we shouldn’t look for perfection, but we should expect to see extended drives, minimal penalties, no turnovers, no sacks and maybe even a TD.

Tyrell Johnson’s performance at safety
There’s been great competition at the safety position during training camp, primarily between Johnson and Jamarca Sanford. But we also can’t count out rookie Mistral Raymond, who has put together a great training camp and is opening eyes. Tonight, Johnson will get the start and it’s important that he plays well. Johnson has all the physical tools to be a talented safety in the NFL. He’s also a smart player who understands the Vikings scheme. Now he needs to put it all together at once while he’s on the field, something he hasn’t been able to do consistently. If he can do that, I believe he’ll be the coaching staff’s choice as the starter. If he can’t do that tonight, then I think it’s a wide open race for the starting position among Johnson, Raymond and Sanford.

Who will step up at WR
Both Greg Camarillo and Percy Harvin have been declared out of this game, which means the Vikings coaching staff will get a longer look at a few players who normally wouldn’t see as much action. Both Camarillo and Harvin play primarily in the slot position, so I expect Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson will be the guys who get the extra reps tonight. Both are roster bubble guys and both have recently been playing well. Iglesias has looked great in practice while filling in for Camarillo and Harvin. Johnson has worked his tail off to remain on this roster and then last week he ripped off a 40-yard punt return. Other guys who could get a few extra looks tonight in the slot are Manny Arceneaux and Devin Aromashodu – I view Aromashodu as more of an outside receiver but I also think he’s a polished enough receiver that he could play all three of the WR positions in this offense.

Christian Ballard at DT
Ballard’s best trait, in my eyes, is his versatility. He played and started in a lot of games at the University of Iowa at both DE and DT. So far with the Vikings, he’s played primarily at DT behind Kevin Williams at the 3-technique and his best moment of training camp came last week in Tennessee when he notched a sack from the DT position. If Ballard can continue to be a disruptive force tonight – even if it doesn’t result in a sack – it will go a long way toward convincing coaches that he can be a member of the DL rotation this season. It’s uncertain how well Brian Robison will play as the new starter at left DE and it’s uncertain if Williams will be available for the first four games of the regular season, so Ballard’s presence as a disruptive force in the rotation will ease a lot of the uncertainty.

Ryan D’Imperio creating separation at FB
One of my favorite position battles to watch so far during training camp and the preseason is at FB, where D’Imperio entered as the starter and Matt Asiata came in as an undrafted rookie free agent. D’Imperio was a draft pick in 2010 and the Vikings converted him from a college LB to an NFL FB. He spent last season on the practice squad and there’s no questioning the improvement he’s made in one year’s time. Asiata has also impressed, primarily because of his athleticism both in carrying the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. Tonight, though Asiata won’t play because of injury, which means D’Imperio can create more separation with a solid performance.

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Ponder Poised To Show Improvement Saturday Night

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 18, 2011 – 3:22 pm

First-round pick Christian Ponder was the third QB to enter the game for the Vikings last week in the team’s preseason opener. But on Saturday night in Seattle, Ponder will be #2 in the rotation.

Against the Titans last Saturday, Ponder entered the contest midway through the 3rd quarter and finished the game. He was 8 of 13 for 84 yards with no TDs and no INTs. A pretty good showing for your first NFL action. One area to clean up, though, is avoiding pressure. Ponder was sacked three times in Tennessee.

“There were some times when I could get the ball out faster or try to get out of the pocket a little faster,” Ponder said. “Ultimately it’s on me to get it done. I’ve got to react to what’s going on and be a quarterback and make decisions.”

That response came to a question that intimated his pass protection was such that there wasn’t much he could do to avoid being sacked. But, as a leader and QB should do, Ponder didn’t deflect blame anywhere else. He shouldered responsibility for the mistakes and vowed to improve.

“I’m letting pressure get to me. Just got to get the ball out and make decisions faster. But overall I thought it was okay,” Ponder said of his debut performance.

There’s no doubt Ponder has displayed improvement since last weekend’s preseason opener. He’s been crisp during four practices this week and has also performed well during blitz drills and situations where he’s asked to make audibles and/or checks at the line of scrimmage.

There’s also no doubt that at least a part of Ponder’s improvement during this past week can be attributed to the presence of veteran Donovan McNabb. The benefit of having McNabb around is two-fold; it gives the Vikings a chance to compete right now and it provides Ponder and second-year passer Joe Webb with an experienced veteran from which to learn. To date, the second part of that plan is unfolding.

“I think right now I’m getting better,” Ponder explained. “The good thing is I’m learning from him (McNabb), which is big for me…We’ve talked a lot about reads. We’ve watched film together. If I make a mistake, he’s right there in my ear helping me out.”

Ponder also explained that the learning curve is about what he expected for his rookie season and that things are beginning to slow down a touch for him. There’s a long way to go in Ponder’s development and he knows that. At this point, though, the Vikings should be pleased with how Ponder is working in practice.

“My number one goal is to do better than I did last week,” Ponder said. “I’m comfortable after going through last week and getting that experience under my belt and I think it’s going to be fun. I’m going to enjoy it. But I’ve got to learn from my mistakes last week and get better and make some more plays.”

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