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Jerome Felton, Blair Walsh Deserve Pro Bowl Nod

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2012 – 3:54 pm

There are many Vikings players whose performances this season are worthy of praise. It’s not hard to make a Pro Bowl case for Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Matt Kalil, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield or Harrison Smith. In fact, I’d love to make a case for each of those guys and others (Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan and Kevin Williams for starters) right now, but at some point it would become white noise (what I say probably already is, I guess).

But with Pro Bowl voting set to end tonight, there are two more names I’m going to throw into the mix – FB Jerome Felton and K Blair Walsh. Both have played well on an individual level and their great individual performances have made a significant impact on the Vikings as a team this season.

Felton
Peterson deserves tons of credit for the season he’s having. You know the numbers by now. But Peterson will be the first to tell you it’s a team effort. He’ll credit his offensive line for opening up seams and creases. He’ll credit his wide receivers and tight ends for blocking downfield. And, he’ll most definitely credit his fullback for leading the way.

“He’s playing outstanding,” Peterson said. “He’s doing a great job blocking, opening things up for me. We communicate, we’re on the same page with different schemes we use to attack in the running game. He’s shown that he’s reliable to get the job done.

“Definitely should be a Pro Bowler. You just sit back and watch the film on him, you’ll see him blowing up guys. He’s got good hands, making big receptions, leading me to the end zone. He’s made a lot of plays.”

Walsh
This one doesn’t need much explanation. He set a single-season record for touchbacks several weeks ago and last week in St. Louis he set a new Vikings rookie scoring mark, surpassing the record previously set by Randy Moss. Walsh leads the NFL and has tied a single-season NFL record  for FGs of 50+ yards with 8 (he’s 8 of 8 from that distance), he’s 2nd in the NFC with 47 touchbacks, 3rd in the NFC in FGs made (29) and FG% (90.6%), and he has a game-tying kick and a game-winning kick (Week 1 vs. Jacksonville).

There’s not much more you can ask for from an NFL kicker.

You can cast your votes for Felton, Walsh and other Vikings by clicking here. Remember, voting ends Monday night, so head there now and make your voice heard.


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Early Aggressiveness, Conversions Help Offense Set Tone

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2012 – 10:07 am

Earlier Monday morning, we discussed a cleverly-crafted defensive game plan featuring an aggressive wrinkle as a key to the Vikings win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. We’d be remiss to not mention the aggressive strategy employed by the Vikings offense early in the game as an important factor in the victory as well.

In last week’s win over the Chicago Bears, it was almost as if the Vikings game-planned for the offense to perform around QB Christian Ponder. In Sunday’s win, though, Ponder was instrumental in the offense’s operation. That was especially the case on the Vikings first drive of the game, a series that required poise from Ponder and featured a few clutch conversions along the way.

It started with a “gotcha” moment on the first play, as the Vikings anticipated St. Louis ganging up to stop Adrian Peterson. Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave called for a play-action pass on 1st down, opening the door for Ponder to rollout and find a wide open Kyle Rudolph in the right flat for a 14-yard gain. That was a nice start. After a 4-yard gain by Peterson on the ground, Ponder rolled right once again and fit a precise pass through a tight window to Jerome Simpson on a crossing route – 11 more yards.

At that point, the Vikings were off to a great start. They forced a St. Louis punt after just 4 plays and were now driving deep into Rams territory. But consecutive rushing plays of -2 yards set the Vikings back to a 3rd and 14 from the St. Louis 20. Out of the gun formation, Ponder zipped a quick slant to Stephen Burton for 13 yards, setting up a 4th and short. Rather than take the conservative approach and send the ever-reliant Blair Walsh onto the field for a quick 3-0 lead, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier elected to be aggressive and go for it on 4th down.

“I knew if we got in that situation early, that was exactly what we wanted to be able to do,” Frazier explained after the game. “We wanted to be aggressive. We talked to our players about it all week long, that we were going to be aggressive in every situation. That was a chance to backup what I had said during the week.”

And it worked. Ponder scrambled for 3 yards to pickup the 1st down, plus a defensive holding penalty gave the Vikings an automatic 1st down anyway. Two more rushes for losses came after the 4th-down conversion, setting the Vikings up with a 3rd and goal from the 5. Ponder dropped back, was in the arms of Rams DE Robert Quinn, escaped, found a crease down the left seam, and dove into the end zone for the TD. He capped the play with an emphatic spike in the end zone, and the Vikings offense was rolling.

On the drive, Ponder was 3 of 3 for 38 yards and added 2 rushes for 8 yards and the TD.

More than just staking the Vikings to an early 7-0 lead, that first offensive series and all it entailed – 5 carries for Peterson, play-action bootlegs, clutch completions and conversions, etc. – helped the Vikings offense gain a rhythm, gain a confidence and set a tone.

“It was big,” Frazier said. “That was a part of what we wanted to be able to design to help us against the eight- and nine-man fronts we knew we were going to get. And sure enough, they came in stacking the box, and we wanted to get Christian on the perimeter and hit some plays on crossing routes. We were effective doing that early. It helped us to open up some of the runs a little bit later.”


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Cleverly-Crafted Defensive Game Plan Key In Vikings Win

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2012 – 7:46 am

In football there’s a fine line between staying true to your identity and taking calculated risks. On Sunday in St. Louis, the Vikings struck that balance beautifully.

Since Leslie Frazier was hired as defensive coordinator of the Vikings in 2007, the Vikings defense has been predicated on a 4-man rush from the defensive line and 7 defenders dropping in coverage to keep everything in front of them. On Sunday, though, Frazier and his defensive staff mixed in a few wrinkles to their game plan, and it wound up making a huge impact on the game.

At various times, guys such as Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Marcus Sherels and Antoine Winfield could be spotted rushing Rams QB Sam Bradford. The cleverly-crafted defensive game plan paid big dividends midway through the 2nd quarter, when DL Everson Griffen broke the game wide open.

With the Rams facing a 3rd and 9 from their own 21, Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams decided to switch it up. What resulted was Griffen dropping in coverage in the middle of the field, where he found himself in perfect position to grab an INT on a pass intended for TE Lance Kendricks. Griffen hauled in the pass, broke to his left toward the sideline, and out-sprinted the rest of the Rams offense for a 29-yard TD that put the Vikings ahead 24-7.

It’s perhaps the best illustration of the Vikings design to be aggressive versus St. Louis because it represents a time when the Vikings executed a strategy the opposing team didn’t see coming.

“That was part of the game plan, to mix in some pressures with our four-man rush,” Frazier explained after the game. “We were able to, early on especially, get some effective pressures. The interception that Everson had came off of a pressure. We were able to hurry a throw and make him see something that wasn’t there. Everson did a terrific job of dropping in coverage. Good call by Alan to bring pressure when they were anticipating coverage, and it worked out well for us. And great run at the end of the catch by Everson as well.”

The Vikings defensive game plan resulted in more than flashy, game-breaking plays. A glance at the final stat sheet also shows that role players made a difference. Christian Ballard recorded a sack in the 2nd half and Letroy Guion registered a pass defensed.

“That’s what you need on the road,” Frazier said. “It’s hard to win if you just say ‘We’re going to be Adrian Peterson.’ We need contribution from a lot of people, and we got it today (Sunday).”


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