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Emptying Out The Vikings-Bears Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 11, 2012 – 4:51 pm

On Wednesday morning the NFL calendar is going to flip from Week 14 to Week 15, which means now is the time to empty out the notebook from last weekend’s victory over the Chicago Bears. Here are a few of my final thoughts…

Jared Allen’s Effort
In the NFL, it’s not often that we feel compelled to credit a player for giving maximum effort. But that’s what I’m going to do here. The Bears had a 1st and 10 from their 15, and they handed the ball of to RB Matt Forte. Going wide right, Forte turned the corner and began sprinting down the right (Vikings) sideline. Jared Allen, having lined up on the opposite side of where the play was heading, saw Forte break contain and began sprinting. He took an aggressive angle, and after several moments of all-out sprinting, Allen finally angled Forte off and pushed him out of bounds. Unfortunately, Forte had stepped out of bounds an instant before Allen shoved him, so the officials flagged him for unnecessary roughness and enforced a 15-yard penalty. But you can hardly blame Allen, after sprinting about 60 yards across the field, to not have the wherewithal to stop on a dime and refrain from pushing Forte out of bounds after catching him.

It was a great play by Allen because he could easily have never taken off to try and catch Forte and instead relied on a teammate closer to Forte to take a less aggressive angle and still catch him before he broke away. Instead, Allen took it upon himself to be the one to catch Forte. The end result was nowhere near ideal because the 15-yard penalty tacked on to the 36-yard run set the Bears up with a 1st and 10 from the Vikings 34, but Allen and Co. were able to force a punt just 3 plays later. Plus, the effort Allen gave is a good indication that this team is playing hard and giving everything it has to make a late-season push.

Final Word (For Now) On Ponder
I basically explained this in the Monday Morning Mailbag, but it’s my belief that the hyper-analysis on Ponder and the angst over whether he can be the QB of the future in Minnesota should subside momentarily to the more team-centric and relevant issue of the Vikings push to the playoffs. There’s no question Ponder needs to improve his play – he will be the first to acknowledge that. The sub 100-yard passing outings are hard for fans to stomach given the fact that Ponder was the 12th overall pick and is being groomed to be a franchise quarterback. But if you can refrain from analyzing Ponder through that lens and instead focus on what Ponder and the Vikings need to do to win games this season, you’ll be a happier Vikings fan and you’ll be better able to A) appreciate the season Adrian Peterson is having and B) appreciate the fact that the Vikings are playing meaningful games in December for the first time since 2009.

AP For 2K?
Can he get to 2,000? Adrian Peterson has 1,600 yards rushing through 13 games and needs to average 133.3 yards per game over the final 3 to reach the 2,000-yard mark. Only 6 other RBs in NFL history have done it. I think Adrian will get there, and if he does it will be an impressive accomplishment on a number of levels. Obviously he’s coming back from the knee injury. But also, he’s doing it while the Vikings have struggled to move the ball through the air and while Percy Harvin has been unavailable due to injury. And, if Peterson reaches 2,000, he’ll have done it after facing 3 consecutive Top 15 rushing defenses over the final few weeks of the season.

Jerome Felton Having a Pro Bowl-Caliber Season
A couple of big-name free agent acquisitions haven’t worked out according to plan for the Vikings. But there’s another free agent the team acquired this past offseason who has worked out better than most imagined.

It’s FB Jerome Felton. The guy is playing out of his mind and is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. He’s worthy of your Pro Bowl vote.

I was glad to see Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mention Felton in his press conference on Monday.

“Jerome at the fullback position is an unsung hero,” Frazier said. “We’re playing a lot more two-back than we played a season ago and it’s really helped us. We went into this offseason saying that we wanted to be able to find a fullback to really be a lead blocker for Adrian because we felt like some of his best runs have come when he had a lead blocker. Now he might differ from that, but you put the tape on and you see that’s true. Jerome has done a terrific job of doing everything we’ve asked him to do as a lead blocker and he’s had a lot to do with the success we’ve had running the football.”

Sherels, Burton To Step Up If Jefferson Can’t Go
CB A.J. Jefferson suffered a concussion near the end of Sunday’s win over the Bears, leaving the Vikings even more short-handed at the position. Starter Chris Cook is already out, of course, so that means Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels will have to step up if Jefferson isn’t able to play on Sunday in St. Louis. As for Cook, he can start practicing with the team on a more regular basis and could return as soon as next week against the Houston Texans.


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The Forgotten Phase: Vikings Special Teams Group Key In Sunday’s Win

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 11, 2012 – 7:17 am

Special teams is often the forgotten about phase of football. But it’s been hard to miss the Vikings special teams performance this season, especially with the Vikings being just one of eight teams with both a punt return and kickoff return TD and with rookie K Blair Walsh ready to set the team rookie scoring mark and already having set a team single-season touchback record.

In Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, a team known for having spectacular special teams play annually, it was the Vikings special teams group that continued to make a difference.

Walsh continued to execute well on kickoffs. He’s already proven to have a powerful leg with 41 touchbacks through 13 games. But now the Vikings are displaying some variety in their kickoff game plan by asking Walsh to put some hang time on his kickoffs so the coverage team can run down and tackle returners inside the 20. The Vikings executed that plan to perfection on Sunday, keeping Bears kickoff returner Eric Weems from crossing the 20-yardline on all 4 of his attempts.

Speaking of keeping teams inside the 20, Vikings P Chris Kluwe did just that twice on Sunday. In fact, his 2 punts inside the 20 were downed at the 5 and the 3. The Bears were forced to punt after 6 plays on one of those drives and then turned the ball over on downs on the other series. Kluwe had 7 punts on the afternoon, and 5 of them were returned by the ever-dangerous Devin Hester. But Hester was not dangerous on Sunday. He did surpass his season average for punt returns, but he wasn’t able to break off a long enough return to flip the field position, which he’s done so many times against the Vikings over the years.

When all was said and done, Chicago’s average drive start was their own 21, and their average drive start after a kickoff was their own 14. When Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer’s group puts up numbers like that, it puts Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams’ and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave’s group in better position to succeed.


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