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Vikings Start Strong In Houston, Lead 13-3 At Half

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2012 – 1:29 pm

A stout defensive effort and steady play from QB Christian Ponder paced the Vikings to a 13-3 halftime lead over the Houston Texans.

Texans RB Arian Foster, the AFC’s leading rusher, was held to 12 yards on 8 carries and the Vikings defense got off the field on 3rd down on 5 of 6 attempts. A turning point in the 1st half was a fumble by Foster that was forced by LB Jasper Brinkley as the Texans were driving deep in Vikings territory.

Houston QB Matt Schaub was 10 of 18 for 104 yards, and he was sacked once on a play by blitzing CB Antoine Winfield. Houston came into the game averaging 25.5 offensive points per game.

The Vikings offense, meanwhile, stayed committed to the run. Adrian Peterson had 40 yards rushing on 13 carries. It was Ponder who led the way, though, connecting on 10 of 17 passes for 119 yards, including a TD toss to Kyle Rudolph on the Vikings first drive of the game.

The Vikings will start the 2nd half with the ball and a 10-point lead as they battle for a spot in the NFC playoffs.


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Walsh Breaks NFL Record For Most Field Goals Over 50 Yards In A Season

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on December 23, 2012 – 1:10 pm

Vikings rookie K Blair Walsh kicked his ninth field goal of over 50 yards during Sunday’s game vs. the Texans, breaking the NFL record of eight which he was previously tied for with Morten Anderson and Jason Hanson.  The 56-yarder also tied Walsh with Paul Edinger for the longest field goal in Vikings history.  Walsh also holds the Vikings team record for touchbacks in a season with 47 heading into today’s game.

Hopefully a well-deserved Pro Bowl nod is coming his way soon.

walsh-blog


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Final Vikings-Texans Pre-Game Thoughts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2012 – 11:36 am

I just finished my weekly appearance on the Vikings Radio Network’s pre-game show. Here are a few of things we addressed, plus several other notes as we get closer to kickoff here at Reliant Stadium between the 12-2 Texans and 8-6 Vikings.

– Pound them with Peterson: Yes, Houston has a tough defense. But the Vikings have a tough run offense, and they have the best RB in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. The Vikings should do what they do best, and that’s run the ball. I don’t believe this Houston defense has been tested against the run the way the Vikings can test teams against the run.

– Pick your spots with Ponder: We’ve seen the Vikings lose despite 210 rushing yards by Peterson. So as good as #28 can be, the Vikings need Ponder and Co. to chip in, too. The Vikings got that last week in St. Louis (3 of 3 for 38 yards on opening drive), and they’ll look for it again today. Keep in mind, Houston has permitted 49 completions of 20+ yards this season, an average of 3.5 per game. Can the Vikings get one or two today?

Find (Arian) Foster: Houston QB Matt Schaub takes care of the ball and WR Andre Johnson is electric, but it starts with stopping Foster. He’s a TD machine and he’s a game-breaker. The Vikings have to stop him in order to stop the rest of Houston’s offense.

Need a “miscellaneous” TD: Whether the TD results directly from this kind of play or whether the offense gets an easy TD set up by this kind of play, the Vikings need a sensational special teams or defensive play to flip this game around. Blocked punt, blocked FG, INT, forced fumble, kickoff/punt return, something to switch the momentum on the road. I’m calling a Robert Blanton blocked punt.

Chris Cook returns: The Vikings will benefit from the return of CB Chris Cook. He’ll be matched up against Andre Johnson at times. This is why the Vikings invested in Cook – to guard big receivers.

Block JJ Watt: The Vikings simply can’t allow this guy to ruin the game. He’s going to get his numbers at times, but don’t allow him to take over. It may be easier said than done, but the Vikings have taken away marquee defensive players in the past, such as the way they neutralized San Francisco DE Justin Smith in Week 3. One way to do this might be to switch up the playcalling to go away from tendencies, scheme against him by using motion and formation shifts, and use his strengths to YOUR advantage by calling a few draws, screens and maybe even running right at him, something he might not be used to seeing.


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Vikings-Texans Inactives

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on December 23, 2012 – 10:29 am

Here are today’s inactives:

Vikings
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
WR Stephen Burton
CB Brandon Burton
LB Audie Cole
OL Troy Kropog
DE Brian Robison
DE D’Aundre Reed

Texans
CB Alan Ball
OL Antoine Caldwell
OL Andrew Gardner
OL Cody White
NT Terrell McClain
S Quintin Demps
CB Stanford Routt


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Sunday A Homecoming For Peterson As He Pursues History

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2012 – 3:18 pm

The Vikings don’t play again at home until next week’s season finale against the Green Bay Packers. But you’ll have to excuse Adrian Peterson for a feeling somewhat at home this weekend when he and the Vikings travel to Houston to take on the Texans.

Peterson grew up in Palestine, Texas, about a 2.5 drive from Houston, and on Sunday he’ll have plenty of family and friends present inside Reliant Stadium cheering on the Vikings and watching him pursue history.

“I started getting tickets two months ago,” Peterson explained earlier in the week. “I got two suites. Got 30 tickets. Then I needed 40 more. So I’m going to have over 100 family members. It’ll be fun to go there and leave with a win.”

And it will be fun for Peterson’s family and friends, as well as everyone else at Reliant Stadium and Vikings fans watching from home and other places, to watch Peterson continue his assault on the record books. He is 294 yards from setting a new NFL single-season record for rushing yards, a mark currently held by Eric Dickerson, another Texas native. He can also tie Earl Campbell, yet another Texas native, for 150-yard games in a season; Peterson has 6 such efforts and Campbell had 7 in 1980. Also, Peterson’s next run of 50+ yards will set a new single-season record, as he’s currently tied with Barry Sanders, who had 7 in 1997.


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Watt’s The (Real) Deal? Texans DE Having Historic Season

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 21, 2012 – 7:37 am

No offensive player in the NFL is having a more impressive season than Adrian Peterson. He’s the NFL’s leading rusher by a 433-yard margin over Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, he’s set to challenge Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards over the season’s final two games, and he’s on a string of 8 consecutive 100-yard games and has rushed for the same number of yards (1,313) in that time that Houston’s Arian Foster has the entire season.

The Vikings are going to need the NFL’s best offensive player to be at his best on Sunday, though, because they are heading to Houston to take on the Texans. No defensive player in the NFL is having a more impressive season than Texans DE J.J. Watt. He is tied for the NFL lead with 19.5 sacks, and he’s the first player in NFL history to record 15.0 sacks and 15 passes defensed in the same season.

“His domination. He really dominates,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said when asked what stands out about Watt. “He’s hard to block one-on-one, he has outstanding quickness, he plays hard all the time and, not only is he good against the run, but he’s an excellent pass rusher with the sacks that he’s gotten and the way he bats down balls. He’s just a very, very good player who can take over a game. You don’t often see those guys and he’s one of them.”

Watt’s ability to dominate is best illustrated by pointing out the variety of statistical categories he leads for his team. Aside from sacks, Watt leads the Texans in tackles (100), tackles for loss (33), QB hits (38), passes defensed (15), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (2). According to information released by the Texans, Watt has been a part of 84 plays this season that have resulted in zero or negative yards. And it’s not just the number of impact plays he can make, it’s the situation(s) in which he makes them. Of those 84 zero or negative-yardage plays, 51  have come on passing plays, 33 on rushing plays, 25 inside FG range and 6 have come in overtime. Also, 42 of them have come on 1st down, which puts the opposing offense at a severe disadvantage on 2nd and 3rd down.

“He’s one of the best players in the NFL, especially at his position,” Vikings QB Christian Ponder said. “They’re going to put him in different spots to create plays, and whether he is inside at the tackle position or outside on the end and standing up or he’s down, he’s creating a lot of plays, obviously. He’s getting pressure but he’s also knocking balls down and he’s a guy that we definitely have to account for.”

On this week’s edition of Vikings Live From Winter Park, C John Sullivan called Watt the best defensive player the Vikings will see this season and stressed the importance for Vikings offensive linemen to stick with their blocks on Watt each play to prevent him from finding a way to impact the game.

As if defending Watt wasn’t enough, the Texans defense is filled with a bunch of other playmakers, especially along the defensive line. Shaun Cody is a run-stuffing nose tackle, Antonio Smith is an 8-year veteran at DE with 21.0 sacks in 62 games as a Texan, and both NT Earl Mitchell and DE Jared Crick provide more than adequate depth and production. Behind the talented front 7, the Texans feature a secondary that plays a lot of man coverage, and does it very well.

“We expect them to play man coverage and the defensive backs are good at it and we’re going to have to win outside,” Ponder said. “Obviously, I think their number one goal is going to be to stop Adrian (Peterson), obviously. So, we’re going to have to take advantage of that in the passing game and we’ll see what they end up doing.”

All-in-all, it’s a big challenge for the Vikings offense, and a challenge they’ll be up for on Sunday with so much on the line.

“I think everyone is focused,” Ponder said. “You can feel it in the locker room. It’s almost like a playoff atmosphere for us and it’s going to be a hostile environment, obviously, it’s a team with a great record, tough place to play. They’re playing for a lot. They’re playing for a bye and home-field advantage so they have a lot on their plate and we know they’re going to be focused and it’s going to be a fun one. It means a lot for this whole team and it means a lot for me. It’s probably the biggest game of my career and we’re excited for it.”


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Frazier Speaks To Greenway’s Leadership, Griffen’s Growth

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 20, 2012 – 7:18 am

Often times there’s nothing notable about a NFL head coach speaking in glowing terms about his players. Coaches spend countless hours mentoring, teaching and guiding their players to put them in a position to succeed both on the field and away from it, so you can’t blame them for having a positive viewpoint of their players when evaluating their performance.

While meeting with reporters on Wednesday, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier spent several moments talking about a pair of his defensive players – LB Chad Greenway and DE Everson Griffen. Both are timely topics because Greenway is having perhaps his best season as a pro and Griffen is coming off a game in which he replaced an injured Brian Robison at left DE and made a huge play while doing so – a 29-yard INT returned for a TD in the 2nd quarter to break the game wide open.

That Frazier flattered both Greenway and Griffen while speaking about them on Wednesday is not surprising. But in complimenting those two individuals, Frazier did provide an interesting glimpse into how he and, presumably many within the organization’s leadership structure, had previously viewed each individual.

Let’s take a look at what Frazier was asked about each player, what may have led to that question being asked, and then what Frazier said in response…

Greenway
The question: “What stood out to you as you watched Chad Greenway on Sunday?”

The context: Greenway leads the NFL in tackles with 140, and has led the Vikings in tackles in 8 of the team’s 14 games. He did so once again last week in St. Louis with a game-high 14 stops, and he also registered a sack of QB Sam Bradford and a fumble recovery as well. In addition to performing well on the field, Greenway has taken a step forward in the leadership department during his 7th season.

Frazier: “I still go back to how much he’s grown as a leader. I felt like he would get better as a player over time, but what he’s brought to our defense and to our team from a leadership standpoint has really helped us to grow up over the course of the season. That has been big for me and the rest of the staff and our players. The football part, we thought he was going to be a good football player, that’s one of the reasons we franchised him a few years ago. But what he’s provided in the locker room as well as on the sidelines has really helped our team.”

Griffen
The question: “How have you seen Everson Griffen develop from a maturity standpoint since he’s come here?”

The context: The Vikings selected Griffen out of USC with a 4th-round pick (#100 overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft. I remember in the build-up to that draft, Griffen was considered by many to be a potential late 1st-round prospect, but definitely a 2nd-round prospect. But some also had concerns about him from a maturity standpoint, and that’s why his stock dropped a touch. I also remember Vikings Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell being interviewed after the Vikings selected Griffen, and he explained that Griffen had too much talent for the Vikings to pass on him in the 4th round, even despite the concerns some had about him. The Vikings deserve credit for including within their organizational structure a process that helps players mature once they enter the NFL. Having this in place allows the Vikings to consider selecting or signing “at-risk” players who some teams may shy away from because of those maturity concerns despite their immense talent. Griffen is a great example of this.

Frazier: “He’s come so far. I’ve talked to him about it often. Just seeing the maturation, even through this last offseason, being able to manage his free time, understanding what it means to be a pro and act like a pro, both at practice and in games as well, and off the field. He’s one of those guys, as we speak, that has really bought in to the right way of doing things. There are other guys you can talk to about, ‘Hey, this is how it has to be.’ And they’re going to do it their way, but he’s one of those guys who’s paid attention, he’s listened and, we always knew he was a good athlete, but just being able to manage some of the other things that were happening in his life. He’s a great example for a lot of young players that come into our League. He’s really grown up. The tragedy he faced this season, losing his mother, that was hard. But the way he responded, even in the midst of that tragedy, you have to take your hat off to him at how courageous he is. I told him I know his mother would be extremely proud of him and the way he’s handled himself. He’s come a long ways.”


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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”…

Smart
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

Tough
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.

Disciplined
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 vikings.com…

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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Teammates Select Adrian Peterson As 2012 Ed Block Courage Award Recipient

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 18, 2012 – 4:26 pm

Adrian Peterson has been selected as the 2012 Ed Block Courage Award recipient by his teammates

During Week 16 of the 2011 season, Peterson tore his ACL and MCL against the Washington Redskins. Eight months removed from the major knee injury, Peterson was true to his word and was in the starting lineup for Week 1 of the 2012 season. Peterson scored 2 TDs and rushed for 84 yards in the overtime victory versus Jacksonville. The 4-time Pro Bowler has appeared and started in all 14 games this season.

Peterson is in the midst of his greatest season as a member of the Vikings. The 2-time All-Pro RB currently leads the NFL with 1,812 rushing yards and is tied for 2nd with 11 rushing TDs. Over the past 8 games, Peterson has rushed for over 100 yards 8 times and eclipsed the 200-yard mark twice. His 1,313 rushing yards since Week 7 ranks as the best 8-game stretch in NFL history. With 2 games to play, the 6-year veteran is 294 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. He has tied Barry Sanders’ (’97) record of 7 50+ yard rushes in a single season. Peterson has 2 TD runs of 82 yards this season, a career long.

Since 1984 the Ed Block Courage Awards annually honors one player from every NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Recipients are selected by a vote of their teammates to recognize both on and off the field extra efforts and their ability to overcome great adversity, whether it be personal or professional. The Ed Block Courage Award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts. Winners travel to Baltimore every March to receive their trophy at a gala in their honor and spend time at the local Courage House at St. Vincent’s Center, a facility specializing in working with abused children. This visit, and the time spent with the children, allows each recipient to fully comprehend the true meaning of the award.

For more information on the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, visit www.edblock.org.


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