Over the course of the week, we’ll take a look back at the Top 5 bright spots of the 2010 season and what we can look forward to in 2011. I’ll post what I feel have been the most exciting features of Vikings football during their 50th season, from #5 yesterday through #1 on Friday.
Check back tomorrow for #3 on the list.
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Over the course of the week we’ll take a look back at the “Top 5” bright spots of the 2010 season and what we can look forward to in 2011. I’ll post what I feel have been the most exciting features of Vikings football during their 50th season, from #5 today to #1 on Friday.
Here is the first installment – the impact of the 2010 rookie draft class.
Check back tomorrow for #4 on the list.
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The Vikings made their first trip into the redzone early in the 4th quarter, coming away with a 27-yard FG by K Ryan Longwell – the score in now Lions 13, Vikings 10.
Vikings QB Joe Webb completed 5 of 5 passes for 27 yards and a 6-yard rush on the 12-play, 52-yard scoring drive.
Detroit is threatening to score in Vikings territory midway through the 4th quarter.
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Vikings DE Jared Allen recorded the first points of the game for the Vikings on a 36-yard INT return midway through the 3rd quarter.
On the play, LB Ben Leber came off the left end forcing Lions QB Shaun Hill to release the ball quickly with Allen coming down with the pick-6. The INT return was Allen’s 1st-career pick-6 and the Vikings 1st INT return for a TD this season.
The Lions lead 13-7 nearing the end of the 3rd quarter.
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The Lions opened up the 2nd half with an 11-play, 47-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 37-yard FG by K Dave Rayner that barely sneaked inside the right upright.
The Vikings will start their first drive of the 2nd half at their own 18 following a 20-yard return by Lorenzo Booker.
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The Lions closed out the 1st half with a 15-play, 94-yard scoring drive that ended on a 7-yard TD pass from QB Shaun Hill to WR Nate Burleson (both former Vikings). The 4:39 drive gave the Lions a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Hill has had his way with the Vikings defense throughout the 1st half, completing 20 of 25 passes for 161 yards and a TD. Burleson has been his favorite target with 5 receptions for 50 yards and a TD, including a 20-yard gain on an end-reverse setting up a 55-yard FG by K Dave Rayner midway through the 2nd quarter.
The Lions defense has bottled up Vikings RB Adrian Peterson – 7 carries for 8 yards (long of 10) – and have kept rookie QB Joe Webb in check. Webb has completed 7 of 13 passes for 60 yards and an INT, including 3 carries for 20 yards.
CB Antoine Winfield and LB Chad Greenway continue to lead the Vikings defense with 7 stops apiece. DEs Jared Allen and Ray Edwards combined for a sack and LB Ben Leber has a forced fumble credited to his name that resulted in a critical turnover deep in Vikings territory.
The Lions will receive the 2nd half kickoff.
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Lions K Dave Rayner connected on a 55-yard FG with 6:45 remaining in the 1st half to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Lions QB Shaun Hill completed 3 of 3 passes for 20 yards on the scoring drive and WR Nate Burleson highlighted the series with a 20-yard gain on a reverse off the left side.
Vikings DEs Jared Allen and Ray Edwards combined for a sack on Hill resulting in a loss of 8.
Hill and Co. tested the Vikings defense early, driving the ball 67 yards from their own 25 down to the MIN 8 on their first series of the game. But on 1st and goal, Hill’s pass completed to TE Tony Scheffler was fumbled at the 1 as Vikings LB Ben Leber jarred the ball loose. S Jamarca Sanford recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchback. The play was challenged by the Lions but upheld for the turnover.
The Vikings were unable to convert the turnover into points on the ensuing drive.
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Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb has run the gamut of media coverage since out-dueling his counterpart, Eagles QB Michael Vick, on Tuesday night – and rightfully so.
Webb is truly the “feel good” story at the end of a tumultuous season. The athletic rookie was drafted in the 6th round as a WR, returned to the QB position at rookie mini-camp, was added to the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season as the #3 QB, was not activated for a game until the Dec. 5 victory over the Buffalo Bills where he suffered a hamstring injury and this past week he made his first-career start, guiding his team to an improbable 24-14 upset victory on the road.
“Yeah, you never know how things will pan out,” Webb acknowledged on Thursday before the team’s practice. “Last year I was training to be a receiver, and at the rookie mini-camp all of a sudden I was back at quarterback. I’m more comfortable at that position because I’ve been playing it multiple years. It was just a great experience for me; a great game by the Vikings. Even though some people said I had a great performance, I still feel like there’s room for me to improve.”
Webb has been working with the 1st-team offense in practice since the week following the Dec. 13 loss to the NY Giants when Brett Favre ended his 297 consecutive games started streak and backup QB Tarvaris Jackson suffered a season-ending toe injury late in the game. The injuries to both Favre and Jackson have allotted Webb the starting role, a responsibility that demands a comprehensive knowledge of the playbook and the expectation for continued improvement.
The way Webb composed himself on Tuesday night was superb taking into account it was his first start and in the national spotlight, but Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier wants to make sure that the coaching staff can cater to his abilities in order for him to improve this Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
“We’re going to try to put a couple wrinkles in there that might be able to help him,” Frazier said. “Especially the fact that he’s gained more confidence now because of the success that he had on Tuesday night, we can open it up a little bit. Not very much more because of the time that we have to prepare, but we do want to give him some opportunities, both in the pass game and try to do some things in the run game that may open up some things for him as well. We will give him a little bit more.”
Webb will continue to face speculation and criticism from the media on whether or not he will become a capable starting QB in the NFL in the future, but that only adds inspiration to a young player that lacks none of it.
“That’s just motivation for me,” Webb stated. “Coming into the draft, people saying I’m going to be a receiver and things like that, it was just motivation for when I got my time to play at quarterback and take advantage of the opportunity.”
Tags: Joe Webb, Leslie Frazier
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It is said that defense wins championships; the Vikings may not be playing for a title this season but their defense is setting a standard of play that other teams will want to replicate throughout the playoffs.
The notion of mimicking the Vikings defense will be especially true for the team that faces the Eagles in this year’s playoffs. The Vikings held Philadelphia to 14 points and sacked MVP candidate QB Michael Vick a total of 6 times on Tuesday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The Vikings defense also held Vick to a season-low passer rating (74.1) while forcing 3 turnovers (2 fumbles and an INT).
The defensive unit – led by CB Antoine Winfield and LB Chad Greenway with 9 stops a piece – performed at a championship-caliber level against the NFC East-champions in all phases. The defensive line combined for 11 tackles and a forced fumble (FF), the LBs recorded 17 tackles and the secondary was challenged all night long and responded with 25 stops, 3 sacks, a FF and an INT.
The stellar performance by the Vikings defense didn’t go unnoticed, specifically for the team’s veteran leader as Winfield was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. His dominating performance included 7 different statistical categories – 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, a FF and fumble recovery that was returned 45 yards for a TD at the end of the 1st half. Winfield’s sack-fumble return knotted the game at 7 and provided a huge momentum swing in the Vikings favor heading into the locker room.
As far as the Vikings men in the box (DTs, DEs and LBs) are concerned, we’ve come accustom to dominating performances. But what’s been missing for most of the season is a complementary defensive backfield. And that all changed on Tuesday night as a predominately-young secondary, which has been depleted by injuries, held Vick and Co. in check.
We’ve already mentioned the outstanding performance by Winfield, but just as we referenced yesterday on the leadership role taken by team veterans, the mental and physical approach to the game taken by such leaders rubbed off on the club’s younger players, especially in the secondary.
Setting aside Winfield’s 12-year experience in the league, the rest of the Vikings starters in the secondary on Tuesday night combine for a total of 7 years of experience (S Husain Abdullah – 3, CB Asher Allen – 2 and S Jamarca Sanford – 2). Sanford, who made his first start of the season, served as a reliable replacement for Madieu Williams who was out with a concussion.
“Jamarca played well,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “To come in, in the situation that he did with the injuries that we’ve had and the fact that he was coming off an injury also. To play as well as he did, he made some good plays for us, some nice tackles… Jamarca made a lot of plays for us, was around the football, has tremendous speed and athleticism and he made a lot of plays. So we’re pleased with the way he performed.”
After its performance against the Eagles, the Vikings defense is poised to finish the 2010 season in true form as a tenacious unit, but will need to hold firm against a Detroit Lions offense that features playmakers such as WR Calvin Johnson and rookie RB Jahvid Best.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Jamarca Sanford, Leslie Frazier
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Headed into Tuesday night’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings had lost consecutive games by a combined score of 61-17 and were forced to wait an extra 2 days to play their Week 16 game due to another weather-related delay.
Frustration and anxiety could have best suited the feelings among Vikings players while waiting to play the Eagles, but instead, team leaders took a stand to staying focused and making sure the rest of the team had the same mindset.
“After having a couple of tough losses like we had and some of the circumstances involved in those losses, guys can tend to, especially young guys, begin to think more about the offseason than the next opponent,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said during his day-after-the-game press conference. “I needed our veteran guys to step up in that locker room, on the field and at practice to lead the way and that’s exactly what Jared Allen did, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Adrian (Peterson), different guys that are in leadership roles, that’s exactly what they did.
“They stepped up and not only backed it up with talk but they did it on the field as well and our younger players really followed their example last night.”
Frazier re-established a group of team leaders after he assumed his current role as interim head coach in order to create a stronger relationship between himself and his players. He also wanted to make sure that the team leaders would gain a better understanding of what was expected of them and to communicate that message with the rest of the players in the locker room.
The days leading up to Tuesday night’s victory and the outcome of the game may well have been the best example of the Vikings cohesiveness between the head coach, team leaders and the rest of the club.
After the decision had been made to postpone the game until Tuesday night, Vikings team leaders shared their thoughts on the issue and it is clear that everyone remained focus on the task at hand.
“Coach Frazier told us to continue to stick together, to stay focused, and that’s what we’ll do,” RB Adrian Peterson mentioned on Monday.
Other leaders voiced their opinions on Monday as well. DE Jared Allen said, “We have to remain together as a team and keep a positive mind frame.”
Vikings K Ryan Longwell referenced a meeting the team leaders had with Frazier on Monday.
“We have every reason, because of the season, to say ‘this is the last straw and I’m checking out,’” Longwell said. “But this is the NFL and you can’t do that. You have to show up ready to play Tuesday night and that’s what we’re trying to get the young guys and everybody to understand.”
Frazier needed his leaders to step up on Tuesday night and that’s exactly what they did. And it rubbed off on the younger players as well en route to the 24-14 upset victory over the Eagles.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Ryan Longwell
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