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Adrian Peterson Named FedEx Ground Player Of The Year Finalist

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 7, 2013 – 4:19 pm

The NFL announced on Monday that Adrian Peterson is a finalist for FedEx Ground Player of the Year honors. Peterson rushed his way into the history books, finishing the season with 2,097 yards rushing, 2nd -most in league history and just nine yards shy of breaking Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson’s NFL record (2,105).

Peterson, who was second in the NFL in carries (348), tied Earl Campbell for the most games with at least 150 rushing yards in a single season (s7) and he scored 12 rushing TDs as well. From Week 7 through Week 15, Peterson accumulated 1,313 yards in 8 games, the most over any 8-game span in a single season in NFL history.

Selected as the NFC’s starting running back for the 2013 Pro Bowl, Peterson was nominated for FedEx Ground Player of the Week 7times, winning 3times. Peterson was named FedEx Ground Player of the Year in 2008.

Joining Peterson as finalists for the award are: Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Washington’s Alfred Morris.

Also, the NFL announced that New England’s Tom Brady, Denver’s Peyton Manning and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers have been named FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week.

Fans can vote for one player in each category on NFL.com/FedEx until Friday, January 25 at 8 p.m. CT to determine the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year.

During the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, FedEx plans to announce the 2012 FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year in New Orleans, as well as make a $25,000 donation in each winning player’s name to Junior Achievement offices in the their city. The funding is used to help U.S. small business development, by educating the next generation of entrepreneurs on how to start and grow their own businesses.

This season, fans voted for more than their favorite player. As part of the Air & Ground program and its commitment to small business owners, FedEx supported education efforts at Junior Achievement by making weekly $2,000 donations in each of the winning players’ names.


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Uncharacteristic Miscues Cost Vikings In Playoff Loss

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 7, 2013 – 3:01 pm

A quick glance at the box score might lead one to conclude that the disparity in production at QB led to the outcome of Saturday night’s Wild Card game playoff between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Green Bay came out a winner by a 24-10 count behind a 274-yard, 1-TD performance from QB Aaron Rodgers, while the Vikings offense struggled with backup QB Joe Webb under center.

It’s true that a big difference in play at QB was a determining factor in the game. But mistakes in other areas of the game were contributing factors as well. Just as frustrating for the Vikings as not having their starting QB available for the biggest game of the season was the fact that many of the costly mistakes committed by the Vikings were uncharacteristic of the way the team played down the stretch, when they won four consecutive games to qualify for the postseason.

Consider the following costly miscues committed by the Vikings:

– Leading 3-0 midway through the 1st quarter, the Vikings held Green Bay to a 3-and-out on its first possession and then stopped them on 3rd and 2 on their second possession. But an offsides penalty against veteran DT Kevin Williams extended Green Bay’s drive, and RB DuJuan Harris made the Vikings pay several minutes later when he scored from 8 yards out.

– On the first drive of the 3rd quarter, Green Bay was stopped again on 3rd down and was forced to bring their FG team out onto the field to salvage a score. But the Vikings had 12 men on the huddle due to a miscommunication from the sideline, and Green Bay was awarded a 1st down. On the next play, Rodgers found FB Jon Kuhn for a 9-yard TD, giving the Packers a commanding 24-3 lead.

– With 14:12 to play in the 4th quarter, the Vikings forced a punt from Green Bay and were poised to take possession while trailing by 21 points. But Marcus Sherels, who had been solid as the team’s punt returner all season, muffed the punt and it was recovered by the Packers. Green Bay was forced to punt again just 3 plays later, but they burned 2 more valuable minutes before doing so.

The last mistake did not result in a Green Bay score, but the previous two mistakes resulted in two Green Bay TDs. Keep in mind, the winning margin for Green Bay in the game was 14 points.

“To give up fourteen points after we should’ve been off the field, it is uncharacteristic,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “We’ve done a good job with penalties this year. Marcus has been great catching punts. We never had to worry about him fielding punts.

“Those are things you don’t want to see happen – unforced errors in a game like this. It’ll kill you, that’s a good football team. For whatever reason it happened to us tonight.”

Despite the mistakes and the effort that resulted in a 14-point loss and early exit from the playoffs, Frazier reiterated during his press conference that he was proud of his team’s effort over the course of the season. No one is proud of the result, but that doesn’t preclude one from appreciating the effort and results that came from a successful 2012 season for the Vikings.

“I thought our guys played hard,” Frazier said. “We just didn’t always play the way we are capable of playing in some instances.

“I’m extremely proud of our football team, and the way they worked throughout this year to represent our organization, to represent our state. The effort that they have every single week throughout the course of this season, including tonight, those guys never let anyone put limitations on what they could achieve and they played as hard as they could and tried to do the very best they could to give us a chance to win. Tough loss, not the way we wanted our season to end. But because of the character of the men on this football team, there are a lot of things that we can learn from this 2012 season.”


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Early Look At 2013 Opponents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 7, 2013 – 7:58 am

Over the next week or so, our coverage of the Vikings here on the vikings.com Blog will be a mix of rehashing the 2012 season/Saturday’s playoff loss and looking ahead to the 2013 offseaon and regular season. Early this Monday morning, let’s start with a look ahead to next season.

While the 2013 regular season schedule won’t be known until late April most likely, we do already know the identity of the Vikings opponents for next season. Here’s a home/away breakdown of the opponents:

Opponents at home: Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Philadelphia, *Pittsburgh and Washington
*The game against Pittsburgh will be played in London on September 29, 2013.

Opponents on the road: Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, NY Giants, Seattle

The regular season schedule is determined by a formula devised by the NFL back in 2002 following expansion (Houston Texans) and realignment. Here is the breakdown of how the schedule is determined:

– 6 games against your division (3 on the road, 3 at home)

– 4 games against a division in the NFC (2 on the road, 2 at home)

– 4 games against a division in the AFC (2 on the road, 2 at home)

– *2 games against teams that finished in the same spot in their division as the Vikings did the previous year in the NFC outside of the division they play four games against already (1 on the road, 1 at home).

*That last point can be a bit hard to explain, but for example, if the Vikings win their division and play four games against the NFC West the following year, then those two extra games would be against the teams who won the NFC East and NFC South.  In 2013, the Vikings play all four teams in the NFC East, so they play one game each against the NFC South and NFC West.


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Vikings Season Ends With 24-10 Playoff Loss At Lambeau

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 6, 2013 – 2:33 am

The Vikings did a lot of things right while winning their final four games of the regular season to advance to the postseason. But they ran out of magic on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, falling to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 24-10 while playing without their starting QB.

Christian Ponder injured his arm in last week’s win over the Packers and was unable to play Saturday night. Joe Webb started in place of Ponder, but he and the offense were unable to muster any momentum until it was too late. Webb opened the game nicely, driving the Vikings 53 yards in 10 plays to take an early 3-0 lead. From that point on, though, the offense struggled to stay on the field.  The following four drives all ended in punts for the Vikings, and at halftime they had just 97 net yards and were 2 of 8 on 3rd downs.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, was his usual self and paced his team to the victory, the first home postseason win of his career. Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 274 yards with 1 TD on the night, seemingly always finding the open receiver at the biggest moments and always staying away from the back-breaking mistake.

It was the Vikings who made the mistakes. Green Bay’s first TD of the game came on a drive that was kept alive by a 3rd-down offsides penalty against the Vikings. Then Green Bay’s second TD of the game came one play after the Packers were awarded a 1st down via penalty on a FG attempt because the Vikings were flagged for having 12 men on the field. On top of those two TD-yielding mistakes, the Vikings also turned the ball over three times and forced zero turnovers of Green Bay.

After the Vikings took their early 3-0 lead, both teams exchanged punts. That’s when the offsides penalty against the Vikings led to Green Bay’s first score, an 8-yard TD run by RB DuJuan Harris that capped an 11-play, 82-yard drive. The teams traded possessions after that, and eventually Green Bay kicked a 20-yard FG after a stout goal line stand by the Vikings defense. Green Bay led 10-3 at that point, but they extended their lead to 17-3 thanks to a late 1st-half TD run by FB Jon Kuhn.

Green Bay opened the 2nd half with the ball and bookended their TD late in the 1st half with another TD early in the 2nd half, this one a TD reception for Kuhn from 9 yards out to make the score Green Bay 24, Minnesota 3. That’s all the scoring Green Bay would generate, but that’s all the scoring Green Bay would need. The Vikings turned the ball over on their next two possessions – a Webb fumble and then a Webb INT – and then a muffed punt by Marcus Sherels at the start of the 4th quarter only made matters worse.

The Vikings eventually got on the board with a TD when Webb found a wide open Michael Jenkins along the right sideline for a 50-yard score. A failed onsides kick gave Green Bay possession at their 20 and they were able to run all but 19 seconds off the clock from there.

Adrian Peterson finished the game with 99 yards on 22 carries, modest numbers for a runner that racked up 409 yards rushing against the Packers in 2 regular season games this season.

The loss ends what was a successful season for the Vikings. They were a 3-win team just a season ago, and their jump up to 10 wins this season marks the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history. There is a lot upon which this young Vikings team can build going into 2013, and that process will commence almost immediately at Winter Park now that their postseason run has concluded.


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A Few Final Pre-Game Thoughts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 5, 2013 – 5:55 pm

Lambeau

The anticipation and build-up is nearly over. Game time is approaching. The 3rd matchup in 5 weeks between the Vikings and Packers is upon us, and this one means everything. It’s just the 2nd postseason game ever between these two clubs. It’s win or go home.

I’ll be joining the Vikings Radio Network pre-game show about 40 minutes before kickoff to help the guys preview this game. Prior to me joining the show, all the main subplots will surely be addressed. Do the Vikings have an answer for Aaron Rodgers? Do the Packers have an answer for Adrian Peterson? How will Joe Webb play as the team’s starter? So my focus will be on some of the other subplots in this game – subplots that may not be talked about as much, but will still have an impact on this game.

Here’s a sneak peak of what we’ll talk about when I join host Mike Mussman on the Vikings Radio Network…

– We saw the Vikings defensive coaching staff draw up creative game plans to defeat St. Louis and Houston. They used zone blitzes, linebacker pressures and defensive back blitzes to generate pressure on opposing passers. What can Leslie Frazier’s staff do tonight to Green Bay that represents a new wrinkle?

– A big part of the Vikings defensive effort will be Antoine Winfield’s inclusion. He will be key to defending the pass, but I think he’s a huge part of defending the run, too. The Vikings don’t want to let Green Bay run the ball. Rodgers is good enough the way it is, if Green Bay can keep the Vikings off-balance, look out.

– Matt Kalil vs. Clay Matthews. This was a good matchup last week. Whenever these two are lined up across from one another, it’s a fun one to watch. I thought Matthews had the edge early in last week’s game, but then Kalil settled down and the Vikings were able to operate without Matthews blowing things up.

– Ball control and field position important for the Vikings. The Vikings did win a shootout over this explosive Packers team last week, but I don’t expect the Vikings to initiate a shootout tonight. I think the Vikings would benefit from a lower-possession game, a game that is a battle over field position and a game in which points are at a premium.

– The Vikings kickoff and punt coverage groups leaked yardage last week. That can’t happen tonight. The Packers are good enough offensively. To give Rodgers and Co. a short field tonight will make for a long night.

– The two X-factors tonight are Everson Griffen for the Vikings and Charles Woodson for the Packers. Griffen had 3.0 sacks in last week’s win over Green Bay and he has a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Green Bay must find a way to block him. Woodson returns to action from a broken collarbone tonight. He’s missed 9 games because of the injury, but now he’s ready to go. The guy is a future Hall of Famer, so the Vikings must be aware of him.


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Ponder Inactive, Webb To Start For Vikings

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on January 5, 2013 – 5:33 pm

webb-450

Major news here at Lambeau Field as Vikings QB Christian Ponder, who has started all 16 games so far this season, is inactive tonight due to an elbow injury sustained last Sunday in the win over the Packers.  Joe Webb will make his first start since week 17 of 2011, while McLeod Bethel-Thompson will back him up.

Here is the full list of inactive players for the Vikings and the Packers.

Vikings
QB Christian Ponder
WR Stephen Burton
CB Brandon Burton
LB Tyrone McKenzie
OL Troy Kropog
DE D’Aundre Reed
DE George Johnson

Packers
WR Jarrett Boykin
CB Davon House
RB James Starks
LB Frank Zombo
WR Donald Driver
DT Jordan Miller
DE Jerel Worthy

 


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Peterson, Walsh Named NFC Players Of The Month

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2013 – 10:55 am

There are many reasons why the Vikings were able to construct the most successful single-season turnaround in franchise history this season, going from 3 wins in 2011 to 10 wins in 2012. A 4-0 record over the final quarter of the regular season was a big reason, and that strong finish would not have been realized without the effots of Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh.

The NFL put the pieces together quite well today, naming Peterson as the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December and naming Walsh as the Special Teams Player of the Month for December.

Peterson
During the month of December, Peterson led the League with 135 carries and had an NFL record for rushing yards in a month with 861. He was also tied for 3rd with 5 rushing TDs. The 6th-year player out of Oklahoma eclipsed the 200-yard mark 2 times while setting a new career long rush of 82 yards on 2 separate occasions during the month. Remarkably, this is the first time Peterson has won a player of the month award. He is the first Viking to receive the offensive award since Brett Favre in November of 2009. Along with this honor, Peterson has been named the NFC Player of the Week 2 times in 2012, Week 7 and Week 14.

Walsh
Walsh, a rookie out of Georgia who was named to the Pro Bowl, connected on 11 of 12 field goals (91.7%) and was a perfect 14 of 14 on PATs over the month of December. His FGs included a perfect 5 of 5 from 50+ yards, as he set an NFL single-season record in 2012 with 10 field goals from that range. Walsh kicked the Vikings into the playoffs in last week’s win over Green Bay, converting a 29-yard attempt as time expired. His 3 field goals from 50+ at St. Louis on 12/16/12 also set a new single-game NFL record. Walsh tied a team-record 56-yard field goal against the Houston Texans on 12/23/12. He also finished tied for 2nd in the NFC with 12 kickoff touchbacks in the month of December. His 47 points over the month ranks 3rd in the NFL.


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Jared Allen Provides Leadership, Perspective As Postseason Looms

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2013 – 7:36 am

The performance of young players on the roster has been a vital part of the Vikings success in 2012. Rookies Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh have been outstanding performers week-in and week-out. Everson Griffen registered a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Kyle Rudolph was 2nd among all NFL TEs with 9 TDs. Christian Ponder played his best game in the season’s biggest moment.

But now, with a postseason matchup against Green Bay just two days away, a few Vikings veterans are stepping up to the plate to provide leadership and perspective to the entire team.

Jared Allen, who had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in last week’s win and has registered 16.0 sacks in 11 games against the Packers, is one of the leaders equipped to set the postseason tone.  Since arriving in Minnesota via trade in 2008, Allen has helped the Vikings reach the playoffs 3 times in 5 seasons. In that time, he has been one of the team’s most productive players as well. His 12.0-sack season in 2012 gives him 6 straight seasons of 10+ sacks, and 5 of those seasons have come as a Viking. Only one player (DeMarcus Ware – 77.5) has more sacks than Allen’s 74.0 since 2008, and no NFL player has more sacks than Allen’s 117.0 since he entered the League in 2004.

On Wednesday while meeting with reporters, Allen was asked what his memories were of the last time he appeared in a postseason game – the NFC Championship Game following the 2009 season.

“I thought I was going to the Super Bowl, then that got ripped away from us. So, bad memories I guess, because we lost, but still it’s fun, that will always be a game that I cherish,” Allen acknowledged. “It helps you realize how important this opportunity is. I think that is what we have been trying to convey to the guys that haven’t been to the playoffs, the young guys on the team, is that this opportunity doesn’t come around often.

“This is my ninth year in the league and this is I think my fourth playoff appearance, so the odds of getting back aren’t certain and they aren’t always skewed in the positive direction. So guys take advantage of this opportunity. The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen. You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl.”

Adrian Peterson offered a similar message when asked about the loss in the NFC title game.

“Well, it definitely wasn’t good memories,” Peterson said. “One game away from the Super Bowl and you lose, so I don’t ever want to have to relive that feeling again.”

Asked if he thought it would take this long to make a return to the postseason, Peterson was candid.

“I didn’t at all,” he said. “That’s why you really can’t take things for granted because making it to the post-season is extremely hard.”

Peterson is in the prime of his career. He’s not a young buck anymore, but he hasn’t been around as long as some of his senior teammates such as Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield. So his perspective is an interesting one when it comes to assessing whether or not this team’s leadership is effective in sending the right message.

“The veteran guys have always been leaders, but this year it’s been more vocal,” Peterson explained. “Having a lot of young guys here that can play ball, and the guys that I call veterans, Antoine and Kevin and Jared, those guys are able to see that. In tough times they came up and called the team together and shared their thoughts. I’m sure they know that their time is starting to come to an end, they know how hard it is to get to the post-season so they want to take advantage of that opportunity. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of guys step up and lead in different ways this year.”


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Blair Walsh Named NFC Special Teams Player Of The Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2013 – 6:48 am

Vikings K Blair Walsh has been named the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his Week 17 performance against the Green Bay Packers. Walsh sent the Vikings into the playoffs with a 29-yard FG as time expired, and he also connected on FGs of 54 and 37 yards in the 37-34 win. This was Walsh’s second game-winning kick of the 2012 season (Week 1 vs. Jacksonville).

Walsh has won this award 3 times and becomes the first rookie to do so since Devin Hester in 2006. Until now, no Vikings rookie has ever won the Player of the Week Award 3 times in one season (A. Peterson – 2007, R. Moss – 1998). The Pro Bowl kicker was honored after his Week 1 performance against Jacksonville and his Week 15 showing in St. Louis.

The Georgia product was 10-10 on FGs of 50+ yards this season, a NFL record. He led the NFL in FGs with 35 and was 4th in scoring with 141 points. His 92.1 FG percentage is the best in NFL history by a rookie kicker. Walsh was 35-38 on the season and was 3rd in the NFL with 53 touchbacks.

Other Vikings kickers to win the award are: Fuad Reveiz (2x), Gary Anderson (4x), Eddie Murray and Ryan Longwell (2x).


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6 Vikings-Packers Storylines To Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 2, 2013 – 7:15 am

Another great chapter in the Vikings-Packers border battle will unfold this weekend at Lambeau Field, as the two franchises meet in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. This is a matchup that sells itself, but while we count down the hours until these teams square-off once again, let’s go over 6 of the Vikings-Packers storylines we’ll be watching this week…

1. Border Battle Moves To The Postseason
The third meeting in five weeks between border rivals Minnesota and Green Bay will take place in the postseason. Remarkably, this is only the second time these two clubs have met in the postseason, with the Vikings winning the first matchup 31-17 as underdogs at Lambeau Field. Saturday night’s game marks the third time in five weeks the Vikings and Packers will square off, and it also marks the 27th playoff season and 46th playoff game in Vikings history.

2. Does Green Bay Have An Answer For Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson had a historic season in 2012, and his performances against the Packers were a significant reason why. Peterson rushed for 409 yards and 2 TDs in 2 games against Green Bay, averaging 7.4 yards per carry on 55 attempts and putting up huge totals of 210 yards at Lambeau Field in Week 13 and 199 yards on a career-high 34 carries in Week 17. Green Bay has proven they can yield a huge number of rushing yards to Peterson and still win – they defeated the Vikings in Week 13 – but you can be sure Green Bay would rather not sweat it out like that. Can the Packers come up with an answer for Peterson? It’s a fun subplot to watch.

3. Can Vikings Contain Aaron Rodgers, Packers Passing Game?
In similar fashion to how Peterson gives the Packers trouble, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Vikings. In 2012, Rodgers completed 73.3% of his passes against the Vikings for an average of 325.5 yards per game and a TD-INT ratio of 5-1. The Vikings defense did a great job against Rodgers and Co. in the 1st quarter of last week’s game, forcing them to punt three times in three possessions. But after that, Rodgers caught fire and led the Packers to 4 TDs and 2 FGs in the Packers final 8 series. It’s hard to expect the Vikings defense to play for the whole game this Saturday the way they played in the 1st quarter on Sunday, but there has to be some kind of balance the Vikings can strike between the two for the duration of Saturday night’s game that can hold the Packers offense at bay.

4. Winfield’s Status Remains Uncertain
A big part of the Vikings effort to slow down the Packers passing game is the presence of CB Antoine Winfield. Unfortunately, whether or not Winfield will be able to play this weekend is a big question mark. Winfield injured his hand in the Vikings Week 16 win at Houston. He was able to start last week’s game against Green Bay, but was unable to finish the game because of the hand injury. Winfield was held out of practice on Tuesday, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said his top CB’s status would be a day-to-day situation all week.

5. Plenty Of Names To Watch On This Week’s Injury Report
Outside of Winfield, there are plenty of names to watch on this week’s injury report – for both teams. The Vikings will monitor shoulder injuries for a pair of starters – DE Brian Robison and S Harrison Smith. Special teams standout Tyrone McKenzie also has a shoulder injury. Peterson has been dealing with an abdomen injury, both WR Jerome Simpson and C John Sullivan were shaken up for a moment during last week’s game, and RT Phil Loadholt has been listed with a knee injury in recent weeks.

For the Packers, there’s plenty of good news on the injury front. WR Randall Cobb is expected to return, which could give Rodgers his full complement of receivers because Greg Jennings is healthy and Jordy Nelson is expected to play. Future Hall of Fame DB Charles Woodson has been cleared for a return to practice from a broken collarbone, LB Clay Matthews left but returned to the last week’s game and will play on Saturday and run-stopper CJ Wilson appears to have come out of last week’s game okay.

6. Freezing Forecast Set For Saturday Night
The weather.com forecast for Green Bay on Saturday shows a high of 26 degrees and a low of 15 degrees for the day, with snow possible and winds predicted to come from the west at 15 mph. It’s not the coldest we’ve seen Lambeau Field, but it’s the coldest game of the season for the Vikings and the elements will definitely be a factor in the game.


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