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Sunday’s Vikings-Broncos Game Brings Together Former Teammates Harvin, Tebow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 30, 2011 – 3:57 pm

It’s common for former college teammates to go up against each other in the NFL. But this Sunday when the Vikings and Broncos meet at Mall of America Field, there will be a prominent and illustrious college connection that will draw plenty of attention.

The Vikings drafted Percy Harvin out of the University of Florida with the #22 overall choice in 2009, and one year later the Broncos used the 25th overall pick to select Tim Tebow, also out of Florida. Together, Harvin and Tebow guided the Gators to BCS National Championships after both the 2006 and 2008 seasons. The Broncos also have DE Derrick Harvey on their roster, and Harvey was the defensive MVP of the title game following the 2006 season.

Harvin and Tebow accounted for 3TDs in the 2006 title game, with Harvin dashing in from 4 yards out to tally a TD run and Tebow tossing a 1-yard TD pass to WR Andre Caldwell in the 2nd quarter and then recording a TD run of his own from 1 yard out in the 4th quarter. Florida defeated Ohio State by a score of 41-14 to capture the championship.

In the title game following the 2008 season, Harvin and Tebow led the Gators to a 24-14 victory over Phil Loadholt’s Oklahoma Sooners. Harvin had a 2-yard TD run in the 2nd quarter and Tebow threw 2 TD passes in the game, one to Louis Murphy and another to David Nelson.

Tebow was on a conference call with Twin Cities reporters on Wednesday and had nothing but flattering words for his former teammate.

“I’ve definitely kept up with him and rooted for him,” Tebow said of Harvin. “He’s a great guy, great player, so I’ve been excited to see all the success that he’s had. He does definitely break the mold with how he plays, the skills that he has, so that’s been exciting to see. He can do so many things for a team, from punt return, kickoff return, running back, receiver, slot, whatever you need. Shoot, he can even line up at quarterback probably. He can be everything. I know he always has a good attitude about helping the team, so I just wish him the best and look forward to seeing him.”

You’re going to have a hard time finding a more prolific tandem in college football history. In just 3 seasons, Harvin generated 3,781 yards from scrimmage and 32 TDs, which is the most TDs by a WR in the history of the Gators football program. In 4 seasons, Tebow generated 12,233 yards from scrimmage to go along with 145 TDs – 88 passing TDs and 57 rushing TDs.

There also another notable college football reunion for Minnesotans coming up this weekend. Vikings CB Marcus Sherels attended the University of Minnesota with Broncos WR Eric Decker and practice squad quarterback Adam Weber. Decker is from Cold Spring, Minnesota and attended Rocori High School, Sherels is a Rochester, MN native and Weber was born in Shoreview and went to Mounds View.

Here are a few more college connections from the Vikings-Broncos matchup…
– Vikings LB Erin Henderson teamed with Broncos RB Lance Ball at Maryland
– Vikings DE D’Aundre Reed played with Broncos FB Spencer Larsen at Arizona
– Vikings S Jamarca Sanford and Broncos CB Cassius Vaughn teamed together at Mississippi
– At Notre Dame, Vikings C John Sullivan played with Broncos QB Brady Quinn and S David Bruton. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph also teamed with Bruton for the Fighting Irish.
– Vikings DE Brian Robison, CB Cedric Griffin, Broncos WR Quan Cosby and OT Tony Hills were college teammates at Texas and played on the Longhorns 2005 National Championship winning team
– Vikings LB Xavier Adibi and Broncos WR Eddie Royal teamed together at Virginia Tech


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Recent History Suggests There Is Still Plenty On The Line For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 30, 2011 – 10:22 am

Sitting at 2-9 and with plenty of shortcomings suppressing the team’s ability to display improvement, many are inclined to castaway the Vikings final 5-game stretch of the 2011 season as a meaningless period of time. But a quick stroll down memory lane suggests that there still is plenty on the line for the Vikings as they begin the final stretch of the season, a stretch that includes 3 of the final 5 games at home.

In the 2002 season, which was Mike Tice’s first full season as Head Coach, the Vikings limped out of the gates to a 0-4 start and eventually wound up sitting at 3-10 after 13 weeks. But, just as Leslie Frazier’s team has done this year, that Vikings team didn’t quit on the season. They finished strong by collecting wins in their final 3 contests, knocking two teams – the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins – out of playoff contention along the way.

The benefit of playing hard and not surrendering at the end of the 2002 season paid dividends even in 2003 for the Vikings. With the 9th overall pick in the 2003 draft, the Vikings selected DT Kevin Williams, and then in the 2nd round they pounced on LB E.J. Henderson. Add WR Nate Burleson (3rd round) to a mix that also included Matt Birk, Cory Chavous, Daunte Culpepper, Jim Kleinsasser and Randy Moss, and the Vikings were off to a 6-0 start the following season.

Had the Vikings simply given up at the end of the 2002 season, would the same events have unfolded? Perhaps. But probably not. If the Vikings continue to play hard for the final 5 games of this season and find a way to rattle off a few wins, will the same kind of success follow in 2012? It’s not a guarantee, but it only increases the probability.

The point is not to sweep the underachieving results of 2011 under the rug. No one, from people within Winter Park to the passionate fans that allocate their time, emotion and money to the team, expected or deems acceptable the results of this season. But the key for the Vikings now is not what happened earlier. The key is to fix it and make sure the 2012 season is as exciting as the 2011 season was disappointing.


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Dissecting The Denver Broncos

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 30, 2011 – 7:21 am

The Vikings return home this weekend to finish up the AFC West portion of their schedule by welcoming the Denver Broncos to Mall of America Field. The game was originally scheduled for a 3:05 p.m. kickoff with CBS handling the television broadcast, but the game has been change to a 12:00 p.m. CT kickoff with broadcast responsibilities being handled by FOX.

The Broncos, who are under the direction of Head Coach John Fox and Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway, will enter Sunday’s matchup as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They’ve won won five of their last six games and sit just 1 game behind the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West standings. The Vikings, meanwhile, are looking to end a three-game losing streak and defend their home turf.

There are two big storylines currently surrounding the Broncos and their sudden surge over the past month or so. The first is QB Tim Tebow, a polarizing figure in the NFL and the man largely responsible for Denver’s turnaround this season. We won’t delve into the details of why Tebow is a polarizing figure, but we will get into how he’s impacted the Broncos.

Tebow took over as the team’s starter in Week 7 and he has a 5-1 record since then. More than the 5 wins, though, is how he’s led the Broncos to those wins. There have been comebacks, late-game heroics and tough road victories.

The Broncos trailed 15-0 in the 4th quarter at Miami in Tebow’s first start, and the former Florida Gator guided his team to a comeback victory that included two TD passes and a 2-point conversion (on a Tebow rush) late in the game and then a FG in overtime. Denver lost big to Detroit the next week, but then Tebow-mania was in full force again against the Raiders, as the QB led Denver to victory after trailing 24-14 late in the 3rd quarter. In Week 10 Tebow led Denver to a road victory at Kansas City, and then the following week in the prime-time spotlight, Tebow drove the Broncos 95 yards in 12 plays – capped by Tebow’s 20-yard TD run – to stun the NY Jets and collect a 17-13 win. Last week against the Chargers, Tebow did it again by rallying his team from a 10-0 2nd-quarter deficit to push the game into overtime and eventually come away with another road win.

Critics question Tebow’s passing ability (45.5% completion rate) and his passing mechanics. They also doubt that Denver’s run heavy approach (249-135 rush-pass ratio since Tebow became starter) will yield successful results for the long-term. But there’s no questioning Tebow’s ability as a rusher, as he averages 5.8 yards per carry and the Broncos are averaging 208.0 rushing yards per game since he was named the starter. And in my opinion, there’s also no questioning his leadership ability, as he’s guided a team that was dead in the water 7 weeks ago into the playoff picture.

The second big storyline surrounding the Broncos is their defense, which has actually been led by a rookie. The Broncos selected LB Von Miller with the 2nd overall pick last April, and he’s been the best defensive rookie in the NFL this season. Miller, who plays outside LB in Denver’s 4-3 scheme, already has 10.5 sacks and he’s added 3 forced fumbles as well. While Tebow led Denver on an epic march at the end of their victory over the Jets a couple weeks ago, it was really Miller the defense that kept Denver in that game; Miller had 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a pass defensed and a forced fumble in the ballgame.

Denver doesn’t boast impressive rankings in any defensive category, but if you look back at their past 6 games, it’s a different story. The defense has played better, thanks in large part to Miller, and they’ve allowed just 1 rushing TD. Also, Denver has allowed just 15.0 points per game in their last 5 victories.

There’s much, much more to talk about in this matchup, and we’ll be sure to cover it all here on vikings.com over the next several days leading up to Sunday’s showdown between the Vikings and Broncos.


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Reminder: “Vikings Country” Featuring Chad Greenway Is Live At Mall Of America Tonight

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on November 30, 2011 – 5:59 am

As is the case each Wednesday during the NFL season, fans can head to Mall of America tonight from 6:30 to 7 to check out “Vikings Country,” a weekly radio show hosted by Mike Mussman and co-hosted by either Jared Allen or Chad Greenway.  Tonight, Greenway is the co-host.

The show will be broadcast live from the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar at Mall of America – located on the fourth floor, east side – every Wednesday during the regular season and will air on KFAN (FM 100.3); the show will also be aired on Fox Sports North at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday. Allen and Greenway will alternate weeks as co-hosts of the show with Mussman, and the Vikings Street Team will be at each broadcast giving away great prizes.

Fans are encouraged to attend the live broadcast each week at the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar, where they will enjoy a state-of-the-art restaurant and entertainment facility that features high definition TV’s, quality billiards, 12 lanes of bowling and a great menu of beverages and food.

Allen will co-host the following nights: Dec. 7 and Dec. 21.  Greenway will co-host ontonight, Dec. 14, and Dec. 28.


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Vikings Make Several Changes To Roster

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 29, 2011 – 5:33 pm

There were no press conferences and players have the day off, but Tuesday was still a busy day at Winter Park as the Vikings made several changes to the active roster and the practice squad. After a rash of injuries, a few of which came in last Sunday’s game against the Falcons, the Vikings have placed 4 players on the Reserve/Injured (IR) list and signed 5 others to the active roster/practice squad.

S Husain Abdullah, WR Michael Jenkins, S Tyrell Johnson and long snapper Cullen Loeffler were all placed on IR. Jenkins, Johnson and Loeffler were all injured last Sunday, while Abdullah has missed the last two games after suffering a concussion against the the Packers in Week 10.

To fill those four roster spots, the Vikings signed WR Stephen Burton, long snapper Matt Katula, S Jarrad Page and S Andrew Sendejo. The team also signed TE Mickey Shuler to the practice squad. There was one opening on the practice squad after the Vikings promoted Allen Reisner to the active roster last Saturday and waived Burton to make room for the move.

Vikings fans will recognize the names of Burton and Shuler because both have been with the team recently. Burton was a 7th-round pick in last April’s draft and has been with the Vikings the entire season. Shuler was also a 7th-round pick of the Vikings (2010) but was claimed by the Miami Dolphins when the Vikings tried to clear him through waivers to add to the practice squad.

Page might also be a recognizable name because he’s a 6-year veteran out of UCLA who has spent time with Kansas City, New England and Philadelphia. He was a 7th-round pick of the Chiefs in 2006, was acquired via trade by the Patriots in 2010, signed with the Eagles in August of 2011 and then was released by the Eagles earlier this month.

Katula is a 6-year veteran out of Wisconsin who has spent time with the Baltimore Ravens (2005-09) and the Patriots (2010). New England signed Katula in November of 2010 and then waived him in August of this year.

Sendejo went undrafted out of Rice in 2010 and has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and NY Jets. In November of 2010 Sendejo was signed to the Cowboys practice squad and then was promoted to the active roster just days later. In September of this year, Sendejo was claimed by the Jets off waivers, was later waived and re-signed, and was finally waived again on September 27.


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Pro Bowl Voting Open; Greenway Has Earned Consideration

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 29, 2011 – 4:44 pm

We’ve been promoting DE Jared Allen and RB Adrian Peterson as worthy of the fans’ Pro Bowl vote in recent weeks. Those two stars remain deserving of the vote, but another Vikings player is beginning to emerge as a legitimate Pro Bowl candidate – LB Chad Greenway.

Greenway will be the first to acknowledge that he expects a better performance from himself. He opened the season with an impressive 13-tackle outing in San Diego, but then slumped a bit over the next 3 games by tallying single-digit tackles in each of those games. Beginning with a 10-tackle performance against Arizona in Week 5, however, Greenway has been on a tear. He’s had just one single-digit tackle game since October 9, and over the past two games he’s collected 22 and 17 tackles against the Oakland Raiders and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.

Greenway’s 22-tackle effort against the Raiders two weeks ago is behind only Scott Studwell’s 24-tackle gem in 1985 in Vikings history. Greenway followed that up by tallying 17 more stops against Michael Turner and the Falcons in a game where he was clearly the team’s top defensive player. For the season, Greenway has 124 tackles and is on pace for a career-high 181 stops for the season. He leads the team in tackles and if he continues this pace it’ll be the 4th consecutive season that Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles.

As for making the Pro Bowl, Greenway has some work to do. He ranks 3rd in the NFL and 2nd in the NFC in tackles, according to Stats, Inc., and his adjusted total of 124 would rank him 1st. But making the Pro Bowl as a LB requires more than collecting a bunch tackles. Making impact plays, such as forced and recovered fumbles, INTs and sacks is as important as making tackles. Greenway has 1.0 sack on the season and no INTs, that’s the bad news. The good news is that the lone NFC LB with more tackles than Greenway - Washington’s London Fletcher – has just 1.5 sacks and 2 INTs. Those are numbers Greenway could overcome if his current trend of outstanding play continues. Atlanta’s Curtis Lofton, who has 100 tackles, has no sacks and just 1 INT, while San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman has 97 tackles but no INTs or sacks.

The bottom line is Greenway still has work to do in order to secure a Pro Bowl bid and there are a lot of good LBs in the NFC who appear deserving of a Pro Bowl nod. But there are still 5 games to play on the schedule, which gives Greenway and all of the other top-performing LBs ample amount of time to increase their performance and impress those with the power of the vote.

Speaking of those with the power of the vote, Pro Bowl balloting for fans is going on right now, both online and on web-enabled mobile phones. Balloting will continue through Monday, December 19, so vote now and often for your favorite Vikings. Go to NFL.com/probowl to vote.


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Harvin Climbing The Single-Season WR Rushing Chart

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 29, 2011 – 10:35 am

Percy Harvin continues to be the Vikings most dynamic weapon on a week-to-week basis. His ability to produce as a pass-catcher and a kick returner is well-chronicled, but we should also not forget that Harvin can contribute as a runner as well.

On Sunday against the Falcons, Harvin continued to climb the WR rushing charts. For the season, Harvin has 33 attempts for 235 yards, which places him in 4th place all-time among WRs for rushing yards in a single season. Harvin is just 64 yards behind Brad Smith for 3rd place all-time and he’s 146 yards away from matching Joshua Cribbs’ 2009 effort for 2nd place all-time. San Diego’s Lionel James holds the NFL single-season record for rushing yards by a WR with 516 in 1985.

Harvin’s touches and production have increased each week since the Vikings hosted the Green Bay Packers on October 23 (Christian Ponder’s first career start). Last Sunday against the Falcons was no exception. Harvin had 210 yards and 2 TDs on 14 touches, which raises his season totals to 1,187 combined yards on 95 touches (averages out to 12.5 yards per touch).

Taking kickoffs out of the equation, here are Harvin’s touches-yards-TD totals over the past 5 games: 4-23-0; 8-77-1; 9-70-0; 11-94-1; 13-106-1.

Being productive in a variety of ways is the strongpoint of Harvin’s skill set. In 2009 as a rookie, Harvin established the Vikings record for the most combined yards with 2,081 (1,156 kickoff returns, 790 receiving, 135 rushing). Then in 2010, Harvin finished 2nd in the NFC and 5th in the NFL with 1,908 combined net yards.

Whether on ground or in the air, Harvin is a dynamic playmaker and it’s a treat to watch him every Sunday.


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Attend This Week’s Taping of “Vikings GamePlan” at the Sports Authority in Minnetonka with E.J. and Erin Henderson

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on November 28, 2011 – 2:50 pm

Most weeks, “Vikings GamePlan” is filmed at Sports Authority Studios in the basement of Winter Park.  However, this week’s show will be taped on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Sports Authority store in Minnetonka (click here for directions), with E.J. and Erin Henderson as the special guests.

The taping will get underway at 6:30 p.m., and then from 7 to 7:30 p.m., fans will have a chance to get autographs from both E.J. and Erin.  In addition, Sports Authority and the Vikings will be giving away lower-level tickets to the Sunday, Dec. 18 game at Mall of America Field vs. the New Orleans Saints.

And if you can’t make the taping, make sure to watch “Vikings GamePlan” each Sunday at 10 a.m. on KARE 11 in the Twin Cities, and on Fox Sports North at 10:30 a.m.  Fans can also watch episodes online by clicking here.


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Harvin Adds To Impressive Season With Dynamic Performance In Atlanta

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 28, 2011 – 8:10 am

This just in: Percy Harvin is really good at football. There’s no question this offense begins and ends with Adrian Peterson, who is the best RB in the NFL. And it looks as if the Vikings have the answer at QB with Christian Ponder. But there’s also no disputing that Harvin is the Vikings most dynamic weapon, and he proved that again on Sunday against the Falcons.

It’s important for the Vikings to get Harvin involved in the offense every week, but his inclusion in the game plan this week became even more important when Peterson was ruled out because of an ankle injury. Atlanta knew Harvin would be a focal point in the offensive game plan, yet Harvin was still able to produce.

Harvin had 8 receptions for 95 yards, including a 4th-quarter highlight-caliber 39-yard grab in the back of the end zone that pulled the Vikings to within 3 points of the Falcons and made the game interesting. He also had 5 rushes for 11 yards to help Toby Gerhart shoulder the load with Peterson on the mend. Later in the 4th quarter after the Falcons had seemingly sealed their victory with a TD, Harvin took the ensuing kickoff from 7 yards deep in his own end zone and dashed 104 yards to the Atlanta 3. The return is the longest non-scoring play in NFL history. Unfortunately the Vikings were unable to punch the ball in, and ultimately the Falcons prevailed with a 24-14 win.

Add it all up, and Harvin had 210 total yards on 14 touches against the Falcons, which adds up to 15.0 yards per touch. For the season, Harvin has 1,187 combined yards this season on 95 touches, which averages out to 12.5 yards per touch. Here are a few more notes on Harvin’s performance against Atlanta…

– Harvin is the Vikings record-holder for career games of 200+ net yards, and he added to his total on Sunday. Harvin now has 6 such games, which is two more than Chuck Foreman, Tommy Mason and Adrian Peterson.

– With his 8 receptions, Harvin moved into 4th place all-time in Vikings history for most catches in a player’s first 3 seasons (182). Harvin is now 4 receptions behind Jermaine Wiggins for 3rd place on the list. Ricky Young (224) is in 2nd place, and Randy Moss (226) is in 1st place.

– With 5 rushes for 11 yards on Sunday, Harvin added to his career record and single-season record for rushing yards and attempts by a WR. Harvin has 477 career rushing yards on 66 career attempts, and 235 rushing yards on 33 attempts for the season.


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Reminder: Sunday’s Vikings-Broncos Game Moved to Noon Start on FOX

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 28, 2011 – 7:39 am

Remember fans, the December 4 game at Mall of America Field between the Denver Broncos and the Vikings has been moved to a Noon CT kickoff (previously was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. CT) and will now air on FOX (KMSP Channel 9 in the Twin Cities) instead of CBS.

The NFL utilizes “flexible scheduling” on Sundays in Weeks 10-15, 17. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all NFL Sunday time slots in those weeks and give teams a chance to play their way onto primetime and into the late-afternoon 3 p.m. CT time slot on CBS and FOX.

For each of the flexible scheduling weeks with the exception of Week 17, the NFL will announce the start times of games on Sundays no later than 12 days prior to that weekend. To ensure a Sunday night game and doubleheader games with playoff implications in Week 17, the flexible scheduling decision for that Sunday may be made on six days notice.


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