A Closer Look: What Is “Vikings” Football?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 19, 2012 – 1:15 pm

It may be wise to take with a grain of salt what NFL head coaches say during press conferences at this late stage of the season. And you can hardly blame a NFL coach for falling into patterns of hyperbole and coach speak given how frequently they’re required to meet with reporters and speak about their team.

With that being said, it’s not uncommon for a head coach to carry to press conferences the same theme(s) he promotes to his team. As an example, we’ve heard Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier emphasize repeatedly that he wants his team to play “smart, tough, disciplined” football. Whether speaking to his team in a meeting room or after the game in the locker room, or speaking with reporters at a press conference, Frazier calls this brand of play “Vikings football.”

Here’s a closer look at what defines Frazier’s brand of “Vikings Football”…

The Vikings game plans against St. Louis were clever. Bill Musgrave and the offensive staff mixed in play-action bootlegs early in the game to find holes in a Rams defense that was selling out to stop the run. St. Louis had some success neutralizing the run early – Adrian Peterson had just 8 yards on his first 8 carries – but eventually they had to account for the crossing routes and rollouts. Once they did that, the running game took over.

Defensively, Alan Williams and the Vikings defensive staff mixed blitzes, pressures and even zone blitzes into the game plan. Everson Griffen came away with a pick-6, Marcus Sherels and Antoine Winfield pressured the QB, and Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson registered sacks. When all was said and done, the Vikings had 5 pass breakups, 4.0 sacks and a fumble recovery. Greenway led the team in tackles (again) and role players such as Christian Ballard (1.0 sack), Griffen and Sherels all made an impact

The essence of blocking and, consequently, of running the football is moving the opponent in a direction against their will. The Vikings offensive line has been able to do that with regularity this season. It’s no secret the Vikings come into each game prioritizing the run game, and it’s also no secret that opponents come into each game with the top priority being stopping the run. The Vikings have seen defenses put as many as 9 players in the box, and yet Peterson and the Vikings offense still find a way to run the ball with effectiveness.

And how about the Vikings special teams? The combination of kick and coverage on kickoffs has been sensational for the Vikings this season. Blair Walsh has set a single-season record for touchbacks, but many times he’s asked to put hang time under his kicks so the coverage team can run down and, well, cover. The Vikings rank 6th in opponent’s average starting field position after a kickoff and they also rank 7th in opponent’s average punt returns.

It’s not often discussed or written about, but one of the Vikings most significant areas of improvement this season has been in the penalty department. Last season, the Vikings ranked 23rd in penalties accepted against (109). This year, the Vikings rank 4th with just 75 accepted penalties against them. The Vikings and Atlanta Falcons are the only two teams who’ve avoided double-digits in holding + offsides/false start penalties. Frazier credited two sources for this drastic improvement – his players and ownership.

“For us to be in the top five this season, credit to our players,” Frazier said. “We really emphasized in the offseason, but that’s not unlike any other year that we’ve emphasized it. Once again, our ownership really buying into some things that I talked with them about this offseason. I was talking with some other coaches around the League, trying to get some ideas. One of the coaches I talked with mentioned that they had tried to use officials in practice. And he saw a dramatic decrease in their penalties. I talked to our ownership about it because those guys (officials) aren’t going to volunteer their time, and they (ownership) were willing to support it. I think having those officials there has helped us, along with our players being more conscious. But they’re probably more conscious because those officials are there and they will call penalties in practice.”

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6 Vikings-Texans Storylines To Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 19, 2012 – 7:24 am

The Vikings will travel south this weekend for a matchup against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on Sunday. The matchup features plenty of sizzle, with several players chasing individual records and with major playoff implications on the line for both teams.

Let’s take a look at 6 of the storylines we’ll be chasing this week on…

1. Playoff Implications Both the Vikings and Texans will enter Sunday’s game looking for a win to improve their playoff standing. The Texans have already qualified for the postseason by virtue of their AFC-best record of 12-2 and subsequent AFC South division title. But they’re looking for a win this week because with a victory over the Vikings they will secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Vikings, meanwhile, are among a bushel of teams competing for a wild card in the NFC playoffs. Entering Week 16, they are the NFC’s #6 seed, but that’s a bit deceiving. The Vikings do not control their own destiny, and there are so many possible scenarios that the Vikings could in theory win-out and not make it, or lose-out and wind up making it. The bottom line is the Vikings are looking to win their remaining games and then hope for help by way of as many losses as possible from the likes of Chicago, Dallas, New York, Seattle and Washington.

2. Adrian Peterson Pursues History With two games to plan, Adrian Peterson is 188 yards from becoming just the 7th player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and he’s 294 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record for 2,105 yards. To top either mark would be an impressive accomplishment with just two games to play. But with Peterson having 8 straight 100-yard games and averaging 164.1 yards per game over that span, you can see why everyone’s eyes will be on Peterson over the next two weeks.

3. The Texans Have a Good RB, Too While everyone else watches Peterson pursue immortality, the Vikings defense is charged with making sure Texans RB Arian Foster doesn’t steal the show. Foster is the Texans all-time leading rusher, he leads the AFC with 1,313 yards rushing this season and he leads the NFL with 16 total TDs this season. He is coming off a 100-yard outing last week against the Indianapolis Colts, he has 3 straight 1,000-yard seasons and with 1 TD will become just the 6th player in NFL history to score 50 TDs in 50 games or less; Sunday will be Foster’s 50th career game.

4. Vikings Look To Become Road Warriors Playing on the road has been a challenge for Vikings teams the past few seasons, but right now Leslie Frazier’s team is trying to turn around their road woes to become road warriors. The Vikings collected a big win earlier this season on the road, defeating the Detroit Lions in Week 4 to move to 3-1. Then last week in St. Louis the Vikings throttled the Rams along the way to their 8th win of the season. If the Vikings can find a way to win at Reliant Stadium on Sunday, they’ll pick up their 3rd road win of the season and will take a big step toward making a postseason appearance just one season removed from going 3-13 (2-6 on the road).

5. Texans DE J.J. Watt Chases the NFL’s Sack Record Last season Vikings fans watched as Jared Allen came excruciatingly shy of breaking the NFL’s single-season sack record of 22.5 sacks (Michael Strahan). Allen had 22.0 sacks last season, dominating opposing offensive linemen on a weekly basis. This season, a pair of defenders are closing in on the mark as well, and one of them will go against the Vikings on Sunday. Texans DE J.J. Watt is in the midst of one of the most impressive seasons by a defender in League history. He’s currently tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 19.5, and he is the only player in NFL history with 15.0 sacks and 15 passes defensed in the same season. To win on Sunday, the Vikings would be wise to make sure Watt doesn’t challenge the NFL’s single-season sack record until next week.

6. Something’s Gotta Give: Vikings Rushing Offense vs. Texans Run Defense The Vikings rank 4th in rushing and they’re featuring the NFL’s best RB in his best season. The Texans boast the NFL’s 5th-ranked rushing defense and they’ve allowed the fewest rushing TDs in the NFL this season. It’s a classic example of strength vs. strength, and on Sunday something will have to give. There’s one angle that favors the Vikings, though. Houston ranks just 12th in yards per attempt allowed (4.1), teams run the ball just 22.5 times per game against them, and they’ve seen an opposing team run the ball 30+ times against them just twice. Meanwhile, the Vikings rank 1st in yards per attempt (5.5), they’ve averaged 29.1 rushes per game and they’ve run the ball 30+ times on 5 occasions this season.

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