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Young Vikings Secondary Rises To Challenge

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 3:47 pm

We said it before Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals began: with star CB Antoine Winfield unavailable due to a neck injury, the young Vikings secondary had to step up.

And they did.

With Winfield out and Cedric Griffin benched for the first series, the Vikings ran out Asher Allen (23 years old, 3rd season) and Chris Cook (24-2)  as their starters at CB. On the game’s first snap, the Vikings had their nickel package on the field, with Marcus Sherels (23-1) being the 3rd CB. Do the math, and you’ve got a group of CBs with an average age of 23.3 years and an average experience level of 2 seasons.

But that didn’t stop the group from playing well. Arizona was forced into a 3-and-out on their first series, and then with Griffin back in the fold, the secondary continued to play well. Allen grabbed an INT in the 1st quarter, and after the first two quarters of play, Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb had completed just half of his 22 pass attempts for 104 yards and he had a passer rating of only 44.5.

Star WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check, too, as he finished the game with 6 receptions for 44 yards and, most importantly, no TDs.

“They came up big for us today,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “Great to see Asher step up, great to see Jamarca step up. Chris Cook seems like he’s getting better every week. We all know there are big-time receivers every week in our league, and I haven’t seen him bat his eyes yet. He just continues to improve.”

In total, Kolb was 21 of 42 for 232 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs; backup QB Richard Bartel was 2 of 6 for 22 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT. Coming into the game, Kolb was averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt. On Sunday against a youthful Vikings secondary, Kolb averaged just 4.1 yards per pass and he was unable to find the end zone for the second consecutive week.

The bottom line is the Vikings secondary is a group that has been much maligned recently. Some of that criticism was warranted, and I’m sure some of it wasn’t. But after Sunday’s performance, there’s nothing but positives to take away from this group. And it’s a group that will only get better and gain more confidence once Winfield can return to action.


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Peterson, Vikings Defense Run Over Cardinals In 34-10 Victory

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 3:18 pm

Leslie Frazier earned his first victory as Vikings Head Coach on Sunday at Mall of America Field, as his team ran over the Arizona Cardinals to log a 34-10 win. And the Vikings did it the old fashioned way, with a relentless rushing attack and a punishing defensive effort that yielded only 3.8 yards per play and produced 4 turnovers.

The best RB in the NFL looked the part on Sunday, as the Vikings used three Adrian Peterson rushing TDs in the 1st quarter, along with a TD scamper by QB Donovan McNabb and a suffocating performance by the Vikings defense, to build a 28-0 lead before the 1st quarter came to a close. Arizona got on the board with a 2nd-quarter FG and then tacked on a TD in the 3rd quarter, but a rock-solid defensive effort, a commitment to the running game and two FGs by Ryan Longwell in the 2nd half helped the Vikings salt away their first victory of the season.

With a sold-out Mall of America Field crowd behind them, the Vikings defense played lights out for most of the game. But they were particularly sensational in the early going, forcing the following outcomes on Arizona’s first 6 drives: punt, punt, INT, fumble, punt, punt. There was a trio of three-and-out drives, and the Vikings converted both turnovers into TDs. Peterson scored from 4 yards out after the second Arizona punt and then dashed in from 24 yards out just one play after the INT. McNabb scampered in from 4 yards out after the fumble and then Peterson tallied his third rushing score of the day late in the 1st quarter after yet another Arizona punt.

All told in the 1st quarter, the Vikings scored 28 points, outgained Arizona 108-53, forced two turnovers and had an average drive start at the Arizona 40. Meanwhile, the Cardinals average drive start was their own 18, they converted zero of four 3rd-down attempts and they had nearly as many sacks and turnovers (3) as pass completions (4).

With CB Antoine Winfield sidelined because of a neck injury, it was imperative that the young Vikings secondary step up. And they did. Asher Allen grabbed the 1st quarter-INT, while S Jamarca Sanford collected two of his own to close out the game. The rest of the Vikings secondary played well also, as star WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check with just 4 receptions for 66 yards. QB Kevin Kolb completed just 21 of 42 attempts for 232 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs; backup QB Richard Bartel threw the 3rd INT.

Aiding the young secondary in their effort was a tremendous pass rush, paced once again by perennial Pro Bowler Jared Allen, who had a pair of sacks. Fellow starting DE Brian Robison also had 2.0 sacks on the day, and now the duo has combined for 13.0 sacks this season – Allen has 8.5 and Robison has 4.5.

The Vikings special teams group deserves a nod, too, as they generated an average starting field position for the offense of the MN 42, while creating an average starting field position for Arizona of their own 24. Marcus Sherels had 45 punt return yards on just 2 tries, while P Chris Kluwe allowed zero returns in 4 punts and had two of his punts downed inside the 20, one of which was downed at the Arizona 3. K Ryan Longwell was 4 of 4 on PATs, 2 of 3 on FG tries (including a 53-yarder in the 4th quarter) and had two touchbacks.

The win improves the Vikings to 1-4 on the season and it gets them moving in the right direction as they embark on a road trip to Chicago next weekend and then return home for a date with the Green Bay Packers.


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Submit Your Monday Morning Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 2:42 pm

The Monday Morning Mailbag will be in its usual spot this week, just in time to talk about the Vikings first win of the season.

To submit a comment or question, send an email to me at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. 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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WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx Honored During Pregame

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 10:51 am

The Minnesota Lynx won the WNBA title earlier this week, and they were honored during today’s pregame with an announcement and a rousing applause from Vikings fans inside Mall of America Field.

F/C Taj McWilliams-Franklin addressed the crowd, thanking fans for their support and announcing plans for the team’s victory parade on Nicollet Mall on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. There will also be a rally at Target Center on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m.

Congrats to the entire Lynx organization on a great season that ended appropriately with a championship. They are a credit to the state of Minnesota!


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With Winfield Down, Asher Allen & Chris Cook Must Step Up

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 9:37 am

One of the Vikings best defensive players – CB Antoine Winfield – will not play today against the Arizona Cardinals because of a neck injury suffered in last week’s game against Kansas City. As the Vikings get ready to kick it off against a Cardinals team that features arguably the NFL’s best WR in Larry Fitzgerald, a pair of young CBs must step up in Winfield’s absence.

Those young CBs are Asher Allen and Chris Cook. Expect Cook to play almost exclusively on the outside, while Allen will likely play a lot of the nickel CB snaps over the slot receiver that Winfield usually handles. Also, this could mean added playing time for Marcus Sherels.

Earlier this week, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked about the possibility of Winfield not playing and what that would mean for Allen.

“He’s had a good two days of practice here,” Frazier said on Thursday. “He’s practicing as if he’s going to have to play, which is the right attitude to take because it may very well turn out to be that way.”

As for replacing Winfield, Frazier knows you can’t really replace a player of his ability with just a few days’ notice. With that said, Frazier does expect the guys who are on the field to step up and held the defense contribute to a victory.

“Antoine is a hard guy to replace,” Frazier acknowledged. “He does so many things for us. Even the play that he got injured on, he’s making a tackle that a lot of guys in the secondary might not be able to make in our league. The first play of the game they (Kansas City) ran to his side and I was surprised they did. And he tackled the back in the backfield, blows up a tackle for a loss or a zero gain.

“So it’s hard to replace that at the corner position, but you’ll have someone in there who will do a good job, but it’s not Antoine Winfield.”


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Berrian, Winfield Among Vikings Inactives For Today’s Game

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 9, 2011 – 9:30 am

Here are the Vikings inactive players for today’s game vs. the Cardinals at Mall of America Field:

CB Antoine Winfield, S Mistral Raymond, LB Xavier Adibi, C Brandon Fusco, OL DeMarcus Love, WR Bernard Berrian, and DE D’Aundre Reed.

WR Michael Jenkins will start in place of Berrian, while CB Chris Cook will be in for Winfield.

Cardinals inactives: TE Heap, P Zastudil, WR Stuckey, WR S. Williams, QB Skelton, TE Dray, and DE Talley.


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Vikings Will Recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month At Today’s Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 8:17 am

Breast cancer affects millions of Americans annually, including many members of the NFL family. Building on the success of last year’s campaign, the NFL will recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month in a prominent way.

During October, NFL coaches, officials and players will wear pink equipment, from hats to shoes to sweatbands. This apparel will be autographed by coaches and players and then auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting Breast Cancer Awareness efforts. There will be many other game-day elements designed to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including on-field pink ribbon stencils, pink goal post pads and pink ribbon decals on game balls.

The NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign is called “A Crucial Catch: Annual Screening Saves Lives.” This campaign is designed to encourage annual mammograms for women over the age of 40. To learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign, visit NFL.com/pink.


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Join Us For Today’s Live Game Day Chat

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 6:53 am

As we do for every Vikings game, Ryan and I will be chatting live with fans during the game.

To join the chat, go to the Vikings Game Day page by clicking here.

Remember, the chat begins right at kickoff, so expect things to get going at 12:00 p.m. CT.


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