Quick-Starting Vikings Blitz 49ers, Win 24-13 At Home

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 3:59 pm

Not many teams looked better than the San Francisco 49ers through the first two weeks of the 2012 season, but the Vikings prepared all week to change that. On Sunday at Mall of America Field, the Vikings preparation paid off in a big way. After jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, the Vikings never looked back as they blitzed the heavily-favored 49ers and came away with a thorough 24-13 victory.

“Our preparation this week was on point,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “The way we prepared this week, you knew that we were going to play good football. I didn’t say that to our team before we played Indy (last week). We did not handle the success against Jacksonville the right way. And I mentioned that to our players during the week prior to Indy. We came back this week and our guys were locked in. They were focused throughout the week and it showed in the way we played.”

The Vikings outstanding preparation definitely showed right off the bat, as Christian Ponder and the offense methodically drove down the field on the game’s opening drive. When all was said and done, Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 1-yard TD on 4th and goal to cap a 16-play, 82-yard drive that took 7:40 off the clock. The drive featured balanced playcalling, with 8 rushes and 8 passes, and it included only three 3rd-down plays.

San Francisco QB Alex Smith and his offense couldn’t match the execution on their first possession, as they were forced to punt away after just one 1st down. It was clear at that point that San Francisco was in for a day-long battle against the Vikings. The Vikings and 49ers exchanged punts after that, and then San Francisco got on the board with a 29-yard FG by David Akers.

Ponder, in the midst of perhaps his best game as a pro, responded following the 49ers FG. He drove the Vikings offense once again through the fierce 49ers defense, this time going 80 yards in 11 plays and capping the drive with a 23-yard TD sprint right through the heart of the 49ers defense. That score gave the Vikings a 14-3 lead with just 5:39 to play in the 1st half.

The 49ers offense gained some rhythm on the following drive and looked as if they’d be able to help the team carry some momentum into the locker room at halftime. They drove from their own 24-yardline to the Vikings 25 in 11 plays to set up Akers for a FG with just a minute play in the half. But the Vikings got a fantastic push up the middle and DT Letroy Guion extended his arms to block the kick, which gave Ponder and Co. possession on their own 33-yardline. Eight plays later, Blair Walsh came on to salvage a late-half score by splitting the uprights on a 52-yard kick. Walsh’s FG – the 3rd consecutive game he’s converted a FG of 50+ yards (Vikings record) – gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead at halftime.

San Francisco came out fast in the 3rd quarter, as Kyle Williams returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Minnesota 14-yardline. But the Vikings defense rose to the occasion, forcing the 49ers to settle for a 29-yard FG. The Vikings went 3-and-out on their next drive, and the 49ers filled the building with anxiety by driving 86 yards in 9 plays to score on a 1-yard TD from Alex Smith to TE Vernon Davis, making the score 17-13 in favor of the Vikings.

As they did most of the day, though, Ponder and the Vikings fought through the 49ers defense to produce points. Ponder found Rudolph for another TD – this time from 2 yards out – to cap a 12-play, 86-yard drive that took 7 minutes off the clock. At that point, the lead was 24-13, and the Vikings defense took it from there.

The 49ers following 5 drives ended in a lost fumble that was forced by S Jamarca Sanford and recovered by LB Marvin Mitchell, two punts, an INT by CB Josh Robinson and then another lost fumble that was forced by DE Jared Allen and recovered by DE Brian Robison. After the sack-forced-fumble by Allen, the Vikings offense took the field in the victory formation.

The Vikings defense was paced all day by LB Chad Greenway, who finished with 13 tackles and 2.0 sacks. CB Antoine Winfield was credited with 8 tackles, and both Sanford and fellow S Harrison Smith had 6 stops each. Sanford came in to replace starter Mistral Raymond, who went down with a leg injury early in the game.

Ponder finished the day going 21 of 35 for 198 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs (94.7 passer rating). Percy Harvin was Ponder’s favorite target, as he hauled in 9 of the 11 passes thrown his way for 89 yards. Rudolph had the 2 TDs on 5 receptions for 36 yards. It may not have been sensational, but the Vikings running game was solid against one of the best run defenses the NFL has seen in recent memory. Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Harvin and Ponder combined for 146 rushing yards on 41 carries.

The win moves the Vikings to 2-1 on the season as they prepare for a road contest against the Detroit Lions this week.

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Vikings Sharp In 1st Half, Lead 17-3 After Two Quarters

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 12:34 pm

The Vikings got off to a fast start on Sunday at Mall of America Field and they kept it going through the first half. The result was a 17-3 lead over the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers at halftime.

A 16-play, 82-yard drive to open the game netted the Vikings a TD when QB Christian Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph in the corner of the end zone on 4th and goal from the 1. The Vikings and 49ers exchanged punts after that, and then San Francisco got on the board with a 29-yard FG by David Akers.

Ponder, who was 15 of 23 for 143 yards with 1 TD in the 1st half, responded after the 49ers FG by driving the Vikings 80 yards on the ensuing drive and capping the drive with a 23-yard TD sprint that included two broken tackles and a desperate lunge at the end of the play to get into the end zone. That made the score 14-3 late in the 1st half.

San Francisco responded by driving down the field to set up Akers for another FG try. This time, though, the Vikings got a great push up the middle and DT Letroy Guion blocked the kick. Ponder and Co. came out and drove across midfield to set up Blair Walsh for a 52-yard try, which he nailed to send the Vikings to the locker room at halftime with a 17-3 advantage.

Adrian Peterson finished the 1st half with 14 carries for 29 yards and Percy Harvin had 5 receptions for 45 yards in the opening 2 quarters. Kyle Rudolph chipped in with 4 grabs 34 yards, including the 1-yard TD. Devin Aromashodu had 2 grabs for 24 yards as well.

Chad Greenway leads the way for the Vikings defensively. Unfortunately, starting S Mistral Raymond suffered a serious leg injury early in the game and was carted off the field.

The Vikings finished the 1st half with 15 1st downs, 206 total yards and 0 turnovers. More to come, so stay tuned.

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49ers-Vikings Inactives

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on September 23, 2012 – 9:29 am

Here are the Vikings inactive players for today’s game: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Jarius Wright, CB Brandon Burton, S Robert Blanton, LB Erin Henderson, OL Mark Asper and DE D’Aundre Reed.

49ers inactives: QB Scott Tolzien, WR A.J. Jenkins, WR Ted Ginn Jr., RB LaMichael James, RB Brandon Jacobs, G Joe Looney and NT Ian Williams.

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A Pair Of 2007 Draft Class’ Best Square Off Today In Minnesota

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 8:02 am


Today’s Vikings-49ers matchup at Mall of America Field will give fans a glimpse of the two best rookies from the 2007 NFL Draft class. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and 49ers LB Patrick Willis were named AP Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, and today they will literally collide on the field for the third time in their careers.

As a rookie, Peterson burst onto the NFL scene in record-breaking fashion. He was named a starter in the Pro Bowl and earned MVP honors in the game following a season in which he ranked 1st in the NFC and second in the NFL with 1,341 rushing yards. Peterson also set the NFL single-game rushing record as a rookie, with 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers.

Since Peterson entered the League, he ranks 1st in rushing yards (6,896), rushing TDs (66), total TDs (69), points scored by non-kickers (414), rushing yards per game (91.9), rushes of 10+ yards (189) and scrimmage yards (8,228). Also, it took Peterson just 75 games to become the Vikings all-time leading rusher, as he surpassed Robert Smith in Week 1 of this season.

The 49ers found the cornerstone of their defense in the same draft, choosing Willis with the 11th overall selection. In his first regular season NFL game, Willis recorded 11 tackles and a forced fumble in helping lead the 49ers to a victory. Later in the season, Willis recorded a 20-tackle game as well. When all was said and done after his rookie season, Willis was credited by the club with over 200 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Aside from earning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Willis was also named to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro teams.

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Broadcast Coverage Information For Sunday’s Vikings-49ers Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 21, 2012 – 7:53 pm

The Vikings host a NFC team at noon this week at Mall of America Field, which means FOX will handle television broadcast duties.

Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties and former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston will provide the analysis. Former Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa will provide analysis from the sidelines.

You can also catch the game on the Vikings Radio Network – KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130 locally. Paul Allen and Pete Bercich will call the action from the booth and Greg Coleman will handle sideline reporting duties. The Vikings Radio Network pregame show, with Mike Mussman as host, begins at 10:00 a.m. CT.

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Frazier Says Henderson Out, Mitchell Starts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 21, 2012 – 12:21 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier on Friday ruled LB Erin Henderson out of Sunday’s game. Henderson sat out of practice this week with a concussion. Frazier also said that 6-year veteran Marvin Mitchell will start for Henderson against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings signed Mitchell this past offseason, and a big reason he was appealing to the Vikings was his experience not only on special teams but also on defense. Mitchell started 2 games at LB for the New Orleans Saints in 2009, the year they won the Super Bowl. Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams was asked about Mitchell on Thursday while meeting with reporters and said he feels comfortable with having Mitchell play a prominent role on defense.

“Marvin has been in ball games as a starter, he’s been in ball games as a backup, he’s played a lot of football so everything that happens is not new to him out there,” Williams said. “That gives me comfort and when he’s been in ball games, he’s performed well so that gives me comfort that it’s not all new to him and we’re not playing guys that have not played a lot of football. Marvin has so I feel good about that.”

With Henderson out, it’s expected that staring middle LB Jasper Brinkley will now stay on the field in nickel situations. Henderson is usual the “MIKE” LB in nickel, with Chad Greenway also on the field in those situations. Additionally, rookie LB Audie Cole stands a good chance of being active for his first NFL regular season game to provide depth on defense and perhaps play a role on special teams as well.

Frazier also ruled DE D’Aundre Reed (calf) out for the game, but said all others listed on the injury report – John Sullivan (ankle), Andrew Sendejo (ankle), CB Chris Cook (biceps), TE Rhett Ellison (ankle), Mitchell (ankle), Brian Robison (elbow) and Jarius Wright (ankle) – will likely be listed as probable.

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Vikings Look To Get Explosive In The Running Game, Too

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 21, 2012 – 6:23 am

Since they drafted Adrian Peterson in 2007, no team has run the ball more effectively than the Vikings. They rank first in total rushing yards (11,368), yards per carry (4.7) and runs of 10+ yards (334). Last Sunday, though, the Vikings running game got off track a bit.

The Indianapolis Colts held the Vikings to 3.7 yards per carry on 26 attempts. As a result, the Vikings offensive coaching staff is as much, if not more, concerned about addressing the team’s issues in the running game as they are trying to devise ways to get the ball downfield. After all, if you can’t keep a defense off-balance by running the ball, finding holes in the defense to beat them deep in the passing game will be even tougher.

“We ran the ball a bunch and we didn’t have any explosive runs,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Thursday. “We’ve addressed our lack of explosive passes this week, but we also didn’t have any explosive runs against Indianapolis. I think the longest one was for six yards. We’re ready to ramp up all of those departments.”

If the Vikings can find a way to rip off a few explosive runs against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, they might also be able to take a shot or two downfield via the passing game.

“You would like to think that that would be the case,” Musgrave said. “That was something that was definitely missing from the field on Sunday were our chunks, and we don’t want to make a habit of that at all.”

The #1 asset Musgrave has in turning things around in the explosive running game is the best RB in the NFL – Peterson. With him toting the ball, the Vikings have not ranked lower than 8th in any season in runs of 10+ yards. In 2007, Peterson’s rookie year, the Vikings ranked 1st with 87 such runs. They ranked 4th in 2008, 6th in 2009, 8th in 2010 and then last year Musgrave’s offense ranked 3rd with 75 explosive runs.

The kicker this week, though, is that as the Vikings try to get the explosive running game back on track they’ll be going against a defense that doesn’t yield very many of them. Since 2009, the 49ers defense has never ranked lower than 5th in opponent’s explosive runs. Last year, in fact, the 49ers were 1st, allowing just 27 runs of 10+ yards. This year through two games, the 49ers have allowed just 1 run of 10+ yards.

The Vikings rushing offense against the 49ers rushing defense is one of the better matchups within this weekend’s game, and the winner of this matchup will take a big step toward victory.

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Carlson To Become A Bigger Factor This Week?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 20, 2012 – 12:33 pm

Signing TE John Carlson to a free agent contract this offseason was billed as one of the Vikings more significant additions this offseason. Carlson, at 6-5, 251-pounds, has prototypical size for his position in the NFL and the theory was that he’d provide the Vikings with another athletic, pass-catching option – along with Kyle Rudolph – who could create mismatches with LBs and safeties in the middle of the field.

An injury during training camp slowed Carlson’s progression during the preseason, and he’s yet to make a difference during the regular season in terms of catching passes. But it sounds like the Vikings are committed to changing that very soon.

“We’re overdue in getting John involved,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Thursday. “We had some plays in for him being on the field with Kyle last week, and it didn’t materialize. We’re looking forward to making up for lost time.”

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned something similar in his Monday press conference.

“We do want to expand it as we go,” Frazier said of Carlson’s snap count. “He got more snaps in this ball game (last week at Indianapolis) than he did in the first ball game, and we’ll probably do the same next week (against San Francisco), just try to continue to increase.

“We do want to make him a little bit more of a focal point. We had some things they took away that we had for him but we’ll keep exploring. We think he has the potential to really be an explosive player for us in our offense.”

Minnesota football fans are familiar with Carlson because of his accomplishments at the local high school level. He was a 3-sport standout as a prep at Litchfield High School, starring in football, basketball and baseball. Along with his brother, Alex, Carlson helped Litchfield win 3 state basketball titles. Carlson was also an all-state tennis player.

“I’m really excited to be here and be around family and friends,” Carlson said after he signed with the Vikings. “It’s a great place to live. I know that, and I’ve been gone for nine years. So that’s fantastic. But that’s not the reason I came back. It was a football decision. It was a business decision, and I’m just really excited and feel very fortunate to be back here where I grew up.”

Now, Carlson is looking to grow within the Vikings offense. A big step in that process could take place this week against the 49ers.

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Defense Doesn’t Want To Turn 49ers Deep Passing Game, Moss Loose

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 20, 2012 – 11:17 am

The Vikings are not the only team who may be looking to increase the number of downfield completions this week. For as great as the San Francisco 49ers offense has looked in putting up 57 points over the first two games of the season, one element of their offense they’ve yet to put on consistent display is the downfield passing game.

San Francisco is tied for 24th with the Vikings and Houston Texans with 5 completions of 20+ yards this season. And they are not out of form in that ranking – the 49ers ranked tied for 23rd with the Vikings and NY Jets with 41 completions in that same metric in 2011.

A closer look, however, will tell you that San Francisco can move the ball with an explosive passing game when they put their mind to it. The number of completions of 20+ yards will not blow you away, but the 49ers efficiency in doing so does. In 2011, the 49ers were tied for the second fewest passing attempts of 21+ yards, yet they were tied for 9th in completion percentage and averaged 11.72 yards per attempt – more than Atlanta, New England and Philadelphia – on those passes. This year, San Francisco is once again tied for fewest pass attempts of 21+ yards, yet their tied for 3rd in completion percentage (50%) and QB Alex Smith has a 127.1 passer rating on those passing attempts.

“When they do take shots, they are pretty efficient in how they take their shots,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said on Thursday. “So you want to make sure you’re aware of where guys are and make sure that you’re playing top-to-bottom in the back end and eliminate those shots because we’ll have enough guys to focus on the run. We just have to make sure that the shots the do take, that we shut those shots down.”

This offseason the 49ers made additions to their receiving corps that should provide Smith with even more confidence to throw deep passes. Mario Manningham, the NY Giants hero from last year’s Super Bowl, signed with the team in free agency. The 49ers drafted a receiver – A.J. Jenkins – in the 1st round of this year’s draft, and former 1st-round pick Michael Crabtree has come on strong and leads the team in receiving with 13 receptions for 143 yards. There is also Vernon Davis, one of the best TEs in the NFL and a guy who leads the League in TD receptions this year with 3.

And let’s not forget about another guy who can do a thing or two to improve the down-field passing game. Randy Moss. The 49ers also signed Moss this past offseason to add a spark to the offense. While Moss is in his 14th season already and didn’t play at all last year, you can be sure that he will not be lost by the Vikings defense in this game.

“You never want to turn Moss loose,” Williams said. “That would be a mistake, not to pay attention to Randy Moss. Until he’s turned in his retirement papers, I think every defensive coordinator, every secondary, every defense is going to pay attention to him. We have to.”

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Flip The Script: Can Vikings Win Turnover Battle vs. 49ers?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 19, 2012 – 1:54 pm

To come out a winner on Sundays in the NFL, a team must do a lot of little things right. To come out a winner on Sundays against a team the caliber of the San Francisco 49ers, a team must do some of the big things right, too.

The turnover battle is one of those big things. While winning the turnover battle could be identified as a key to the game each week, it will be especially important for the Vikings on Sunday because they play a team that is solid in this area of the game. They are one of just six teams with one or zero turnovers this season, and last season they gave the ball away only 10 times (5 fumbles, 5 INTs).

“This is a team that does not turn the ball over,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “We need some turnovers, whether it’s a caused fumble or an interception. Hopefully this will be a week where we are ball hawks against a team that doesn’t turn it over very much. They set a record a year ago with the least amount of turnovers in our League.

“It’ll be a challenge in that area. But if there was ever a week where we get some turnovers, this would be it.”

The 49ers were good a season ago on the flip side of the turnover battle, too. They ranked tied for first with Green Bay is creating turnovers with 38, swiping 23 INTs and recovering 15 forced fumbles.

The Vikings, who won their home opener two weeks ago in dramatic fashion after a great team effort, are looking to get back on the winning track after dropping a close game against the Colts last week. Winning the turnover battle against a team that traditionally doesn’t lose the turnover battle, will put the Vikings on the fast track to victory.

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