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Emptying Out The Vikings vs. 49ers Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 25, 2012 – 5:08 pm

First thing tomorrow morning we’ll begin previewing the Vikings upcoming matchup with NFC North rival Detroit. The Vikings and Lions will play at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, with kickoff slated for noon CT. Before we do that, though, let’s empty out the notebook from last week’s win over the San Francisco 49ers…

Frazier credits Sanford, calls him the kind of guy “you want on your club”
Jamarca Sanford started 15 games for the Vikings defense a year ago. Through three games this season, Sanford has started none. Rookie Harrison Smith and second-year player Mistral Raymond emerged from training camp with starting jobs, leaving Sanford disappointed heading into the season.

But Frazier explained on Wednesday that Sanford didn’t let that disappointment adversely impact his attitude or preparation. And that attitude paid off for Sanford and the Vikings defense against the 49ers when Raymond went down with an injury in the 2nd quarter.

“Jamarca really had his heart set on being a starter this season,” Frazier explained. “He worked his tail off throughout the offseason. He was really looking forward to it and there’s no doubt there was disappointment when he wasn’t named one of the starters at safety.

“What he did on special teams, what he has done, in absence of being a starter, just a great example for the rest of our team. Those are the kind of guys you want on your club. Everybody wants to start but we talk to them all the time that everybody can’t start. You have to be willing to accept your role in order for our team to have a chance to be successful, and he’s an example of that.”

Sanford finished the game with 6 tackles on defense and, in what should come as no surprise, 1 tackle on special teams, too.

Vikings correct discipline, penalty issues from a week ago
In last week’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts (it hurts to even type that), the Vikings were uncharacteristically undisciplined. When all was said and done, the Vikings had 11 penalties enforced against them for a total of 105 yards, with several of them coming at inopportune times to extend Colts drives and/or negate positive plays by the Vikings offense. In his post-game press conference that day, Frazier was the first to acknowledge those mistakes, and was determined to correct them the following week.

It was mission accomplished on that front in the victory over San Francisco, as the Vikings were penalized just once for 10 yards. The next step in the discipline category is to keep the penalties down again this week against Detroit while also securing the ball much better. The Vikings had 4 fumbles (2 lost) against the 49ers and were fortunate that they didn’t come back to haunt them. Fumbling that many times on the road and giving the potent Lions offense extra chances will put a lot of pressure on the Vikings defense.

A good day’s work for rookie CB Josh Robinson
Josh Robinson did something we haven’t seen much of from the Vikings defense in the past year – he intercepted a pass. And Robinson’s INT against the 49ers came at an opportune time. Trailing 24-13 with 2:38 to play in the game, the 49ers advanced the ball across midfield to the Vikings 48. On 2nd and 10, 49ers QB Alex Smith dropped back to pass and lofted a pass toward Michael Crabtree. But Robinson was there to pick it off and return it 24 yards to the 49ers 44.

Also, San Francisco returner Kyle Williams broke loose a couple of times against the Vikings – once to open the 3rd quarter on a 94-yard kickoff return to the Vikings 14 and then again in the 4th quarter on a 50-yard kickoff return to the 49ers 43. Robinson, who possesses great speed, teamed with Sanford to chase Williams down on the 94-yard return and then it was Robinson who caught Williams in the 4th quarter before he could do even more damage.

A player is expected to pursue until the whistle, so we won’t give him credit for doing what he should be doing, but we will give him credit for having the speed to run down a very good returner and help save a TD at least once.

Red zone rushing
The Vikings put forth a clean performance offensively, so to point out any “concerns” here is nit-picking a bit. One area where the execution could’ve been a touch cleaner was red zone rushing. Keep in mind, though, that the Vikings were 2 for 2 in red zone scoring, so this concern is really not that significant.

According to my count, the Vikings ran 11 red zone plays – 6 rushes and 5 passes. Christian Ponder was 3 of 5 for 13 yards with 2 TDs through the air. On the ground, though, the Vikings weren’t as efficient. The Vikings 6 rushes were for 5, 1, 0, 9, -1 and 2 yards. Adrian Peterson ran 5 times for 7 yards and Percy Harvin had 1 carry for 9 yards. Given how the Vikings were able to stick with the running game all afternoon against a stout 49ers defense, I’m not concerned in the least with the rushing totals inside the red zone. In fact, the Vikings were balanced in the red zone and scored a pair of TDs when knocking on the door, so the positives far out-weight the negatives on this one.


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Offensive Line Paved Path To Victory For Vikings Over 49ers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 25, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Did the Vikings offensive line have their best performance of the season in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers? It sure looked like it, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier thought so, too.

“I think, collectively, yeah. And when you consider the front they were going up against, that’s a very good front,” Frazier said.

Frazier credited LG Charlie Johnson for a solid performance against 49ers All-Pro Justin Smith, and he also noted that Matt Kalil fared well against standout pass rusher Aldon Smith. Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt anchored down on the right  side of the offense, and the lynchpin of it all is C John Sullivan. Credit should also be given to the Vikings coaching staff, who used a creative blocking scheme at times to create opportunities for the offense. Loadholt shifted to the left side of the formation on at least one snap to give San Francisco a different look, and the club also found a way to get rookie Rhett Ellison in on the action.

“It was a good performance across the board,” Frazier said. “As a group, to rush for 146 yards on that defensive line or that defense, it’s pretty impressive.”

Having any success against the 49ers on the ground is impressive. Gaining 146 yards? Over the past two seasons, that’s nearly unheard of. San Francisco hadn’t allowed that many rushing yards since November of 2010, and the 344 total yards the Vikings amassed on Sunday is 5th best against the 49ers over their last 19 games. Also, the Vikings collected 25 1st downs – #1 against San Francisco over the last19 games – and they logged 33:28 in time of possession – #2 against the 49ers over that same span.

A few other notes on the offensive line’s performance against the very good 49ers defense:
— The 49ers have only been held without a sack one other time since the start of 2011 (19 games) – against Baltimore in 2011.
— The 49ers did not have an INT, and they’ve been held without an INT just four times in that same span.
— The 49ers have only been held without a SACK and INT one other time in that span – the Baltimore game in 2011.


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Walsh Again Up For Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week on NFL.com

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on September 25, 2012 – 10:11 am

For the second time in three weeks, Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh is one the candidates for this week’s Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week on NFL.com.

To vote for Walsh, click here.

Walsh had another impressive day going three for three on extra points which included making a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter to help the Vikings edge the San Francisco 49ers 24-13.  Walsh’s 52 yarder made him the first kicker in franchise history to have three straight games with a field goal of at least 50 yards.

On the young season Walsh is 7-7 on field goal attempts.


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Frazier Credits Mall Of America Field Crowd Following Sunday’s Win

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 25, 2012 – 6:40 am

Leslie Frazier is an old-school football guy. He played on one of the best defenses in NFL history – the Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears in 1985 – and that experience has influenced the way he wants to build and coach the Vikings. Frazier wants the Vikings to be a physical team that runs the ball well and defends the run with abandon.

And, as most quality football teams do, he wants his team to play well at home.

The Vikings did that this past weekend, holding serve at home and upending the San Francisco 49ers by a convincing 24-13 margin.

“We talk all the time with our players about defending Mall of America Field,” Frazier said after Sunday’s game. “This has to be a place where it’s tough for anybody to come in here and think that they can get a win. Our fans helped up tremendously [Sunday]. There were moments where they affected the 49ers offense, and I’ve witnessed that plenty of times in my years here, where our fans really make it difficult for opposing teams to come here and be successful.”

The Vikings do have had a significant home-field advantage since moving into Mall of America Field in 1982.The team now has a combined record of 159-88-0 (.643) all-time at Mall of America Field, which includes a 6-4 mark in postseason games. The Vikings have gone undefeated 3 times at Mall of America Field (1989, 1998, 2009), with Frazier on the Vikings staff as defensive coordinator during the undefeated (at home) 2009 season.

Key to the Vikings defending their home turn Sunday was a quick start that energized the crowd and kept them going through the final minutes of the game. The Vikings drove 82 yards in 16 plays and took 7 minutes off the clock on the opening drive to take an early 7-0 lead. That set the stage for Vikings fans to make the operation difficult for San Francisco the rest of the game.

“We wanted to get off to a good start to keep our fans engaged and our guys did that,” Frazier said. “I think we had a 16 play drive early in the game to get it going, our defense got off the field I think in six plays. From that point on, our fans were engaged and that was huge for us. Just a big win for us in a lot of ways.”

Now, the Vikings turn their attention to another big game – the one they have this upcoming Sunday against the Detroit Lions. This time, they’ll be the visitors facing a hostile environment. The design, Frazier says, is for his team to use last Sunday’s win to springboard them into next Sunday’s NFC North showdown with the Lions.

“To come home and defend our home turf the way we did at Mall of America Field, that’s a big deal,” Frazier said. “We have to somehow capitalize on this as a team and use it throughout this next week as we prepare for our next opponent. It’s a big win. It’s hard to win in the NFL, and it’s hard to win against a team who is as talented as they are.”


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