Emptying Out The Vikings-Lions Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 2, 2012 – 3:09 pm

The Vikings will begin on-field preparations for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday, and that means we’ll begin previewing the matchup on Wednesday as well. But it also means we have several more hours to digest last Sunday’s win.

Before we move on to Vikings-Titans, let’s empty out the Vikings-Lions notebook…

Handling Success
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier disclosed an interesting observation following his team’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago.

“The way we prepared this week, you knew we were going to play good football,” Frazier said immediately after the 49ers win. “I didn’t say that about our team before we played Indy. We did not handle the success against Jacksonville the right way, and I mentioned that to our players. We came back this week and our guys were locked in and focused throughout the week, and it showed the way we played.”

With Frazier making that observation about his team, it was interesting to see how the Vikings responded to their second victory of the season during the week of preparation for the Lions game. The team was focused all week, and it showed as they put together a solid win at Ford Field. In fact, Frazier said in his post-game comments in Detroit that he thought the team’s practice on Friday was their best Friday practice of the season.

“We’ve been hitting on it,” Frazier said, “from that Indy game on, just how important the focus and the preparation have to be every single week.”

Simpson’s Deep Impact
Jerome Simpson returned to the lineup amid much fanfare on Sunday. The Vikings offense has moved the ball efficiently for most of the season, but many are still clamoring for more downfield production from the Vikings passing attack. While Simpson didn’t haul in a long TD reception, he was still able to use his explosive athletic ability to be a factor in the passing game.

Simpson drew a pair of pass interference penalties on passes deep down the side line in the 1st half – one for 26 yards and another for 31 yards – and both penalties eventually led to points for the Vikings. Then late in the game with the Vikings trying to gain a 1st down to help run out the clock, QB Christian Ponder lofted a pass down the left sideline and Simpson out-jumped a defender to make the catch and give the offense some breathing room.

When all was said and done, Simpson finished as the Vikings leading receiver with 4 receptions for 50 yards.

Said Frazier of Simpson’s impact: “Those PI (pass interference) penalties, to give us the field position they gave us, the threat that he gives us vertically, that catch he made late in the fourth quarter, that’s a big time catch. Great throw by Christian but that was pretty good coverage by that defensive back, but to make the play on the ball the way he did, we need that. Very, very impressed with some of the things he did in the short time we’ve had him.”

No Hitch For Peterson
Adrian Peterson looked in prime form at Ford Field. He’s historically done well against Detroit, and he only added to his impressive totals vs. the division rival on Sunday. Peterson gained 102 yards on 21 carries, giving him his 28th career 100-yard rushing game and his 6th such game against the Lions.

Peterson displayed the extra gear, burst and elusiveness that he’s always had, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier spoke about it on Monday.

“He looked more like the Adrian of old than at any point in this young season,” Frazier said. “He had some runs that showed the strength, the power, the elusiveness that we’ve seen in the past and it was just great to see. There was no hitch anywhere. He looked good.”

Peterson’s 28 career 100-yard rushing games is just one shy of the Vikings franchise record of 29, which is held by Robert Smith. Also, Peterson is now just 6 TDs away from passing Chuck Foreman for 4th on the Vikings all-time TDs list.

Ponder Protecting The Ball
The biggest improvement in Ponder’s play through the first 4 games of 2012 is the command he demonstrates in directing the Vikings offense. He does not look hesitant or unsure, he doesn’t panic in the face of pressure or when he can’t find a receiver, and he doesn’t make irresponsible throws.

A season ago, that was not the case. Ponder had as many INTs (13) as TD passes (13), and he completed just 54.3% of his passes. This season is a different story. Ponder has completed 68.3% of his passes and he’s yet to throw an INT; Ponder has not thrown an INT in his last 124 pass attempts.

NFL defenses are good, so eventually they get to even the best of the best passers. Mistakes are bound to happen at this level of play, but Ponder has shown that A) he has the ability to limit mistakes, and B) he has the proper mindset to bounce back quickly when a mistake does happen.

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Frazier Lauds Defensive Depth, Credits Vikings Scouting

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 2, 2012 – 10:53 am

This season the Vikings defense has committed to more of a rotation during games with their defensive line, has a starting linebacker who has missed two complete games and a starting safety who has missed the past 7 quarters of action.

Through it all, the Vikings defense has performed well and has demonstrated a significant improvement from a season ago. Over the past two weeks, in fact, the Vikings have allowed just 26 total points and they’re yielding only 3.3 yards per rush (5th in the NFL) and 6.5 yards per pass attempt (6th) for the season.

Frazier explained to reporters on Monday that he’s not surprised his defense has been able to perform well despite a few adverse circumstances.

“Not completely because that was one of the goals,” Frazier said. “I know when Rick (Spielman) and the personnel department talked about what we were trying to get accomplished from a roster standpoint, that was one of the major conversations, improving our depth.”

Perhaps the best example of the Vikings defensive depth paying dividends is S Jamarca Sanford. He replaced an injured Mistral Raymond in Week 3 against San Francisco and then started the Vikings Week 4 game at Detroit. In those two games, Sanford collected 10 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He was also involved in a play with fellow safety Harrison Smith where the Vikings defenders caused Lions WR Calvin Johnson to drop a TD pass.

Other examples of the Vikings depth coming through include DE Everson Griffen, who has 8 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble, and LB Marvin Mitchell, who has filled in capably for an injured Erin Henderson.

“We know we’re going to have some injuries,” Frazier said. “We’ve experienced injuries here in the past couple of years, in the secondary in particular, so that was a point of emphasis, to improve our depth, to upgrade it to the point where if there was an injury, there wouldn’t be such a big drop-off that we’ve witnessed here in the past.

“And I credit our scouting department for doing a good job in that area so now when we rotate defensive linemen, you don’t feel as handcuffed as you would in the past. You lose a guy at linebacker, you don’t feel as strained as you do in the past and the same is true in our secondary.”

The Vikings have had success on defense thanks to standout performances from starters such as DE Jared Allen, (10 QB hits, 2.0 sacks), LB Chad Greenway (team-high 55 tackles) and CB Antoine Winfield (DBs-leading 34 tackles). But depth has played an important role, too. And, as Frazier pointed out, the nature of the game of football is such that injuries will happen and teams have to be able to adapt.

“You hope that you don’t have injuries,” Frazier said. “But they do occur, and depending on where that injury occurs, it could really have a major impact on your team if you don’t have quality depth. Fortunately for us, I think we have pretty good depth.”

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Sanford, Smith Step Up For Vikings Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 2, 2012 – 6:37 am

The Vikings entered their contest versus Detroit last week with a rookie (Harrison Smith) and a backup (Jamarca Sanford) starting at safety.  The Lions entered the game with the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense, a 5,000-yard passer from a season ago (Matthew Stafford) and the most dominant receiver in the game (Calvin Johnson).

On paper, the advantage was clearly in favor of Detroit. On the field throughout the game, though, the advantage shifted quickly to Smith and Sanford. The Vikings safety duo was active all game, combining for 4 passes defensed. And even when they couldn’t make a play on the ball, they made Lions receivers pay for making the catch. Smith and Sanford combined for 9 tackles on the day, and on at least two occasions they combined to make hits that forced a Lions offensive player to drop the ball.

The first instance came on 2nd and goal from the Minnesota 13 late in the 2nd quarter. Stafford dropped back to pass and had a clean pocket. He delivered a strike to Johnson in the back of the end zone. Johnson had the ball in his hands, but then was hit by both Smith and Sanford simultaneously, causing him to drop the ball and remain on the ground for a few moments after the play. The Lions were forced to kick a FG two plays later.

The second instance came in the 3rd quarter, with the Lions driving into Vikings territory. RB Mikel Leshoure caught a pass from Stafford and turned upfield. He was met by Smith, who stopped his progress, and then Sanford came in with a hit that caused Leshoure to fumble. Sanford emerged from the pile with the ball, tallying a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the same play.

Those are the types of plays that Vikings fans have long desired to see from the team’s safeties. And those are the types of plays that can make opponents think twice about attacking the middle of the field.

“I think it definitely sends a message,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday. “I mean, the hits that Jamarca (Sanford) delivered yesterday along with what Harrison did, both of those safeties did a real good job of putting some stuff on tape that opposing offenses will look at and hopefully, think twice about going in those areas. I think it does send a message.”

To develop the kind of reputation that will truly make opposing offenses adjust their plans when facing the Vikings, Smith and Sanford will need to string together impressive performances. They’re off to a good start right now. Over the last two games, they’ve combined for 24 tackles, 5 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

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