Webb’s Impact, Now And Later

Posted by cjsiewert on December 29, 2010 – 1:24 pm

When faced with the task of guiding his team’s offense on the road against a team jockeying for playoff positioning, all after an extended 2-day postponement that forced the organization to call its Philadelphia hotel “home,” Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb stood up to the challenge with a cool, calm and collected performance and made a name for himself in doing so.

In his first-career NFL start, Webb completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards with 6 carries for 31 yards and a TD in a 24-14 upset victory over the NFC East-champion Philadelphia Eagles. Webb’s 9-yard rushing TD midway through the 3rd quarter exemplified his superior athletic abilities by evading 1 defender while rolling out to his right, shaking off 2 other defenders forcing them to run into each other and benefitting from a clear-out block from TE Jimmy Kleinsasser that opened up the right sideline for an untouched score.

Perhaps Webb’s most impressive stat of the night was that he committed zero turnovers. There were times where the rookie QB didn’t scan the field as well as a veteran QB would have – such as missing a wide open Adrian Peterson in the endzone early in the 3rd quarter that resulted in a 10-yard loss and a FG instead of a TD – but overall, he made sound decisions with the ball in his hands.

His composure was uncanny considering Webb was making his first-career NFL start, and that poise was at its best on a 3rd and 11 completion to WR Percy Harvin in the 4th quarter. On the play, Webb stood tall in the pocket and remained in control as it was collapsing around him by firing a 19-yard strike over the shoulder of Harvin for a 1sts down. The big gain set up Peterson’s 1-yard TD 2 plays later that delivered the final blow to the Eagles.

If Brett Favre is unable to start against the Detroit Lions next Sunday at Ford Field, Webb has proven with his Tuesday night performance that he has the abilities to guide a team as its starting QB. But in any case, Webb has recorded an impressive game that poses some important offseason decision-making for Vikings coaches and executives.

Do the Vikings want to build their franchise around Webb? Will his performance this season affect who will be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft?

As Mike pointed out in his Monday (Wednesday) Morning Mailbag, it’s tough to judge a player’s future potential when looking at a single performance, but the skill set is there for Webb and it will be interesting to see how the organization evaluates his performance and worth over the offseason.

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Webb Finesses Vikings To 17-7 Lead

Posted by cjsiewert on December 28, 2010 – 9:38 pm

Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb has given more evidence to his superior athletic abilities by weaving through the Eagles defense for a 9-yard “shake and bake” TD.

On the TD scramble, Webb rolled out to his right, couldn’t find an open receiver and made a quick sprint towards the front-right pylon. Just before reaching the goal line, Webb received a clear-out block from TE Jimmy Kleinsasser, opening the sidelines for the easy score.

Webb was perfect on the 7-play, 75-yard scoring drive, completing 3 of 3 passes for 20 yards with the 9-yard scrambling TD. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson jump-started the drive on consecutive runs of 18, 8 and 3 yards followed by an 11-yard reception on a screen pass from Webb.

Vikings WR Sidney Rice hauled in a 14-yard reception on the 5th play of the drive and was immediately hit by Eagles CB Asante Samuel. The hit was helmet-to-helmet contact, resulting in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.


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Vikings Take 10-7 Lead

Posted by cjsiewert on December 28, 2010 – 9:16 pm

Following a 2-yard TD pass that Vikings QB Joe Webb lobbed-up a jump ball to WR Sidney Rice in the left corner of the endzone, the Vikings silenced the Lincoln Financial Field crowd by taking a 13-7 lead early in the 3rd quarter. But the play was challenged by Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and was overturned after official review, nullifying the leaping TD grab.

Webb was unable to find an open Adrian Peterson on the following play and was ran out of bounds by pursuing Eagles defenders for a loss of 10 on a 3rd and 2 attempt at the PHI 2. On the ensuing play, Vikings K Ryan Longwell’s 30-yard FG attempt was good, giving the Vikings a 10-3 lead.

The Vikings now have the ball at midfield at the 9:55 mark of the 3rd quarter following a pair of long runs by Peterson.

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Halftime: Vikings 7 – Eagles 7

Posted by cjsiewert on December 28, 2010 – 9:01 pm

Ebbs and flows in the Vikings secondary resulted in 2 critical missed turnover opportunities and finished on a 45-yard fumble return to knot the game at 7.

With :55 remaining in the half, Vikings CB Antoine Winfield came off the right end on a corner blitz and sacked Eagles QB Michael Vick at midfield. While making the tackle, Winfield stripped the ball out of Vick’s hands for a fumble and returned the loose ball 45 yards for the game-tying score.

Prior to the fumble return, the Vikings defense fell victim to their own mistakes, specifically in the secondary, as a pair of easy INT opportunities were dropped.

At the 10:18 mark of the 2nd quarter, Vikings CB Lito Sheppard – who spent his first 7 seasons in Philadelphia – jumped in front of Vick’s pass intended for WR DeSean Jackson and had a prime opportunity for an INT, but he bobbled and dropped the ball. On the ensuing play, though, Vick fired a deep pass down the middle of the field again intended for Jackson and was picked off by Vikings S Husain Abdullah at the MIN 14.

After the INT, the Vikings offense gained 22 yards on their first 2 plays – Webb 7-yard scramble and Peterson 15-yard gain – but gave possession back to the Eagles after Peterson fumbled the ball at the end of a 23-yard rush. Replays showed that Vikings WR Bernard Berrian kicked the ball loose out of Peterson’s hands while finishing a block on an Eagles defender. The play resulted in Philadelphia possession at their own 41.

The Purple secondary had another INT opportunity fall right through their hands, literally, as CB Frank Walker dropped an errant Vick pass that fell well short of the intended receiver Jackson. The Vikings regained possession on an Eagles punt the following play.

The Vikings defensive front 4 have pressured Vick consistently throughout the half, specifically DE Jared Allen (3 tackles), with Winfield leading the team with 4 tackles, 2.0 sacks and a FF that resulted in a score.

In his first-career NFL start, Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb has completed 9 of 15 passes for 71 yards with 14 yards on 2 carries.

RB Adrian Peterson leads the team with 8 carries for 52 yards and WR Percy Harvin has a team-leading 4 receptions for 40 yards.

The Vikings will receive the 2nd half kickoff.

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Eagles Score First On Vick-Harbor TD Connection

Posted by cjsiewert on December 28, 2010 – 7:42 pm

The Philadelphia Eagles scored the first points of the game at Lincoln Financial Field as a result of a 3-yard TD pass from QB Michael Vick to TE Clay Harbor at the 7:47 mark of the 1st quarter.

The Eagles 7-play, 50-yard scoring drive was highlighted by a 28-yard connection from Vick to WR Jeremy Maclin on a 3rd and 15 attempt from the MIN 31. Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier attempted to challenge the play but threw the challenge flag too late for officials to review the play. It appeared that Maclin may have bobbled the pass when falling out of bounds, but nonetheless, the reception gave the Eagles possession at the 3.

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield recorded his 1st sack of the season on a corner blitz and DE Jared Allen has been disruptive in the backfield with 2 tackles.

The Eagles lead 7-0 with the Vikings threatening to score in Philadelphia territory nearing the end of the 1st quarter.

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What To Expect From Webb vs. The Eagles

Posted by cjsiewert on December 28, 2010 – 1:55 pm

Not a whole lot: that would be the answer to what we should expect from Vikings QB Joe Webb, who will likely be tonight’s starter since Brett Favre is still listed as doubtful with a concussion.

Webb would be making his first-career NFL start on the road against a team jockeying for position in the NFC playoffs. And oh by the way, the game comes after yet another unexpected weather-related delay that forced the Vikings to call their hotel rooms in Philadelphia “home” for an extra 2 days.

It is rightfully assumed that Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid has a defensive approach in place for Webb that will feature many different blitz packages and fluid formations to confuse the rookie QB. So when combining the intangibles of tonight’s matchup with Webb’s inexperience, there’s not much that we should expect out of him tonight.

Or is there?

Webb’s raw quarterbacking skills present a weak link in the Vikings offense – as shown in last week’s loss to the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium (0 passing TDs and 2 INTs) – but his superior athletic abilities offer a unique dynamic for which the Eagles will have to account. Webb has already shown us what he is capable of when the defense puts on the pressure.

Last week against the Bears, Webb was sacked 3 times under pressure but also exhibited his athleticism when he found a way out of said situations. Down 27-7 with 9:55 remaining in the 3rd quarter and facing a 1st and 10 from the Bears 13, Webb rolled out to the right side on a play-action fake, pulled the ball down after a blitz by Bears LB Lance Briggs and beat 4 Bears defenders to the front-right pylon for a diving TD. The 13-yard score was his longest rush of the game.

So when we take into account the possibility of multiple blitz packages and continually moving defensive fronts from the Eagles, what is going to happen if Webb eludes those rushing defenders and finds open space in front of him?

His timing and connection with his receivers may not be in midseason form, but Webb has shown glimpses of what he can do in the open field and that is certainly something to keep an eye on tonight.

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A Quick Season Review

Posted by cjsiewert on December 27, 2010 – 1:57 pm

With another day to wait for kickoff against the Philadelphia Eagles due to “blizzard-like” weather on the East Coast, let’s take a look back at one of the most memorable – whether we’d like to remember it or not – seasons in Vikings history.

These are just a few of the notable events that will mark the 2010 season…

Aug. 17: Brett Favre ended all speculation on whether or not he would return for his 20th season by returning to Winter Park after a brief courting by fellow teammates and close friends Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell.

Aug. 22: The Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers in their 2nd preseason game, but the real story of the day was the return of LB E.J. Henderson. It was Henderson’s first appearance on the field since a devastating leg injury that ended his season late last year against the Arizona Cardinal that had many thinking his career would be ended as well.

Henderson looked like the old E.J., tallying 7 tackles in just 1 quarter. One of those tackles was for a loss, and the play was the exact type of play Henderson made regularly before injuring his leg; he knifed through the backfield and swept his arm across the legs of 49ers RB Anthony Dixon to trip him up before he got back to the line of scrimmage.

Sept. 26: After starting the season with 2 consecutive losses, the Vikings returned home to Mall of America Field where they beat up division rival Detroit Lions by a mark of 24-10. RB Adrian Peterson carried the team with a 23-carry, 160-yard, 2-TD performance, highlighted by a career-long 80-yard TD run.

Oct. 6: In an unimaginable trade, the Vikings acquired WR Randy Moss from the New England Patriots to bolster a depleted WR unit. The trade reunited the Vikings and Moss, who spent his first 7 seasons in Minnesota, and excited a fan base that needed a spark after watching its team start the season with just 1 win after 3 games.

Oct. 11: The 29-20 loss to the NY Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium marked Moss’ return to purple, but it was delayed by an hour due to heavy rain and lightning. (A sign of things to come?)

Trailing 12-0 in the 3rd quarter, Favre connected with Moss for a 37-yard TD that sparked a Vikings offense that appeared lethargic in the 1st half. The TD marked Moss’ first in purple since his departure in 2004 and Favre’s 500th career passing strike.

Nov. 7: With 4:39 remaining in the game and trailing by 14, the Vikings appeared to be on the brink of falling to 2-6 with the Arizona Cardinals silencing the Mall of America Field crowd. But Favre orchestrated his 45th-career game-winning drive by guiding the offense with a 4-play, 40-yard TD drive and another 5-play, 77-yard TD drive following a defensive hold to force the game into overtime where Longwell eventually punched through the game-winning 35-yard FG.

Favre finished the game setting new career-highs in passing yards (446) and completions (36).

Nov. 6: Just a quick as he was brought in, Moss was placed on the waiver wire. Head Coach Brad Childress simply stated, “it didn’t work out.”

Nov. 22: Childress’ tenure as Vikings head coach came to an end following consecutive losses to division leaders Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier took over as interim head coach.

Dec. 12: Due to over 17 inches of snowfall in the Twin Cities area, the Teflon roof of the Metrodome collapsed as 3 panels were destroyed. The Vikings were scheduled to host the NY Giants at Mall of America Field but the game was moved to the following Monday night at Ford Field – home of the Detroit Lions.

Dec. 20: The roof of Mall of America Field at the Metrodome was unable to be fixed in time for the Vikings next home game against the Chicago Bears, a Monday night matchup marking the Vikings last home game. The team still wanted to play its last home game in front of its fans, so the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium was shoveled out to allow the game to be played there. It took an entire week, but the stadium was readied in time for the Monday night game and the franchise was able to celebrate and honor its “50 Greatest Vikings” at halftime. Legendary Vikings head coach Bud Grant highlighted the ceremony by walking out of the tunnel in just short sleeves and was carried off the field on the shoulders of his former players.

Dec. 26: “Blizzard-like” conditions on the East Coast forced the Vikings scheduled game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field to be postponed until Tuesday night – just another weather-related schedule change for the Vikings that now seems par for the course.

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Vikings Playing For Pride, Future

Posted by cjsiewert on December 22, 2010 – 4:16 pm

With a win on Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles can clinch a playoff berth and an NFC East Championship, so needless to say, there’s a lot at stake for the NFC East leaders. But the Eagles are not the only team with something to play for this week – the Vikings will be playing for pride and look to improve upon many different things looking forward to next season.

“I really believe that our guys are mentally where they need to be as we have to focus on the Philadelphia Eagles who are a very good football team,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “They’ve got a lot to play for at this time of the year and in a lot of ways, we do as well. Our guys have really bought into the fact that we’re playing for our own personal pride, but also, we have a chance to go on the road and get a win against a very good team which would bode well for us as we go forward.”

Ever since falling out of playoff contention after the loss to the NY Giants at Ford Field 2 weeks ago, there have been questions swirling about whether players would “coast out” to finish the season. But after receiving his 2nd Korey Stringer Good Guy Award – honoring the Vikings player who is the most cooperative and has the best attitude with the media – LB Ben Leber pointed out that it his job to continue playing and leave any other concerns for the offseason.

“No, I mean it hasn’t been tough at all,” Leber responded when asked if it’s hard to finish out the season while not thinking about the future. “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’ll have a long offseason, especially we don’t have a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) to think about, what’s going to happen with my future. I’ll have plenty of time to think about that. Just focus on how I’m going to get myself and this team better.”

It’s safe to say that there will be some significant roster moves to a Vikings team that has fallen to 5-9 just one season after claiming their 2nd consecutive NFC North title and a conference championship appearance. Also consider the amount of free agents after this season and those looking for new contracts. But what remains a priority of Frazier’s is to stay focused at the task at hand, and that’s to beat the Eagles on Sunday night.

Frazier spent 1999-2002 with the Eagles as their DBs coach, so he holds ties back in Philadelphia, but still has his mind set on one thing – winning.

“It’s special in the fact that we get a chance to go back and see some old friends, but we just need a win so bad,” Frazier said. “I mean that’s what’s on my mind more than anything. What can we do to figure out a way to get a win against a good team on the road? That’s where my energy and focus is.”

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Offensive Line Looks To Step Up vs. Eagles

Posted by cjsiewert on December 22, 2010 – 2:06 pm

Since the Vikings have posted only17 points in their last 2 games, a host of different aspects of the offense could be blamed for their current woes. Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned that the offensive line is one area that is looking to improve in order to have an opportunity to win this Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“We’ll have to play our best game on both sides of the football up front,” Frazier said during his Wednesday press conference. “In particular with our offensive line.”

As Mike mentioned in his “Setting The Table” segment, the Eagles defense is not as stout as other defenses the Vikings have faced this year, ranking 13th overall and 21st in scoring defense, but their front 4 features fluid formations that are always changing from play to play.

“The Eagles have a fast front,” Frazier acknowledged. “They do a great job of moving around and very seldom do they get stuck on the line of scrimmage. They are always moving. So our offensive line will be challenged probably as well as they have been in a game this season.”

The attributes of the Eagles front 4 that Frazier alluded to are obviously a hurdle the offensive line will have to overcome in order to improve, but this will all have to be done without their regular starting guards. Both Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson are on injured reserve, and although the offensive line has been without both of them for 3 weeks now, it is still a struggle to find cohesiveness. Especially for C John Sullivan, who has been working with a different G beside side him since Herrera suffered a season-ending injury against the Packers over a month ago.

“It’s been a little bit tougher for him in some ways,” Frazier said of Sullivan. “But he’s responded quite well. There have been moments where he found himself, and this has been more of late, where he has to take control of our offensive line. More so than he would have if Steve were there or Anthony were there. It’s a different mindset for him, but he’s responded to it and I think that he’s become more confident as time has gone on and this is one of those weeks that he’ll have to become a captain for us on that offensive line.”

Losing an All-Pro player such as Hutchinson to injured reserve has a dramatic impact on the play of the offensive line, but Frazier mentioned that his replacement – rookie Chris DeGeare – has stepped in nicely.

“He’s gotten better,” Frazier said. “There’s been moments where he’s struggled, which we thought he would being a young guy and playing as much as he’s had to play. But overall, we’ve seen some consistency, we’ve seen him not back down to situations and we expect him to get better as time goes on.”

Injury-plagued or not, the Vikings offensive line will have to step up to secure a win against another team vying to clinch its division.

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Vikings Rookies Gaining Valuable Experience

Posted by cjsiewert on December 22, 2010 – 7:04 am

Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears added only more dejection to an already tumultuous season, but a pair of Vikings rookies are continuing to make strides in their own NFL progression.

Vikings RB Toby Gerhart and QB Joe Webb both played a significant role for the offense on Monday night in place of 2 All-Pro players – Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre. And both Gerhart and Webb are learning from the opportunities provided to them.

“It’s a long process,” Webb acknowledged to reporters after making his first significant appearance on the field this season. “Hopefully I can get in the film room, study and learn from my mistakes.”

Gerhart, who has played in 13 games this year and made his first start on Monday night against the Bears, enjoyed having his number called to carry the load for the rushing attack.

“It’s fun,” Gerhart said after the game. “You know, anytime you get a chance to play and show what you can do it’s always fun and just go out there and do what I get paid to do and that’s run the ball.”

The Vikings may not be playing for playoff contention, but when it comes to this pair of rookies both understand that they must continue to improve with what’s left of this season. The product that they place on the field during the remaining 2 games will certainly have an affect on the offseason evaluations that the organization’s executives and coaches will soon be faced with.

Although the Vikings offense was only able to muster 293 total net yards, Gerhart and Webb accounted for 244 yards of that total. Gerhart rushed 16 times for 77 yards with 3 receptions for 18 yards, while Webb completed 15 of 26 passes for 129 yards and 2 INTs with 6 rushing attempts for 38 yards and a TD.

Gerhart was instrumental in the Vikings opening scoring drive, carrying the ball 3 consecutive times to start the series for 3, 6 and 9 yards and an 8-yard run on the 5th play of the drive setting up Favre’s 23-yard pass-and-go TD to WR Percy Harvin. His biggest play of the night came late in the 1st quarter where Gerhart ran off the left end and bulldozed his way to the MIN 41 for a season- and career-long 21-yard gain. The big gain was a testament to his running style of running behind his pads.

Webb’s superior athletic abilities and raw quarterbacking skills were on full display Monday night. His inexperience was shown by 2 arrant INTs during the 4th quarter, but his shiftiness and speed, most of all, provided the Vikings offense with a characteristic it hasn’t seen all season.

Down 27-7 with 9:55 remaining in 3rd quarter, Webb exhibited his athleticism on a 1st and 10 attempt from the Bears 13. Webb rolled out to the right side on a play-action fake to Gerhart, pulled the ball down after a blitz by Bears LB Lance Briggs and beat 4 Bears defenders to the front-right pylon for the diving TD. The 13-yard score was his longest rush of the game.

Gerhart is continuing to solidify his standing as a reliable #2 RB and Webb will likely significant playing time down the stretch – with Favre’s status in doubt – to make improvements in his progression as an NFL QB. And if both rookies continue to improve, it may be a common sight to see #14 and #32 in the same backfield during the 2011 season.

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