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Vikings Power Past Packers To Playoffs With 37-34 Win

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2012 – 8:29 pm

Game Highlights >>
Box Score >>
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Postgame Pressers (Frazier / Ponder / Peterson) >>

A Vikings team that’s proven resilient throughout the 2012 regular season needed every ounce of it they had left to qualify for the postseason. When all was said and done, the Vikings defeated a high-powered Green Bay Packers team that showed no quit themselves by a count of 37-34 in front of a frenzied Mall of America Field Crowd on Sunday.

“Just a great job by our football team,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said moments after the game. “I’m so proud of our guys. A complete team effort all the way across against a very good football team. For our guys to be as resilient as they were throughout this ballgame…our fans were terrific throughout this game. It’s the first time in a long time I felt like, playing against Green Bay and being at home, we truly had home-field advantage because our fans were loud, they made it hard for their team to really function at times, and we needed that. I’m very, very grateful to our fans that really had an impact on this ballgame at Mall of America Field.”

There’s no question the Vikings heart and their home crowd’s noise made a difference in Sunday’s outcome. But the Vikings also needed firepower to get the job done, and that came from the arm of QB Christian Ponder, the legs of RB Adrian Peterson and the right foot of rookie Pro Bowl K Blair Walsh. Ponder, playing in the biggest game of his young career, came up big by completing 16 of 28 passes for 234 yards with 3 TDs and no INTs – good for a passer rating of 120.2.

“He’s playing at a high, high level at this point,” Frazier said. “And we needed that today going against a high-powered offense with an excellent quarterback. He did a terrific job. He’s playing very good football at the right time for us.”

As for Peterson, he’s been the heart and soul of the Vikings all season, and was in Sunday’s win as well. The best RB in the NFL carried the ball 34 times and continuously pounded a game Packers defense. He finished with 199 yards rushing and 1 TD, while also adding a receiving TD to his box score. Peterson became just the 7th player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season and he came up 9 yards short of breaking the NFL single-season rushing mark.

Defensively, the Vikings had a hard time containing Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s explosive passing game. Rodgers finished going 28 of 40 for 365 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs, good for a 131.8 passer rating. But there were moments when the Vikings defense combined with a raucous Mall of America Field crowd to come up big. Green Bay was forced to punt after their first three possessions, and that allowed the Vikings to build up a 13-0 lead.

On top of that, Rodgers was pressured for much of the day. The Vikings registered 5 sacks of Rodgers, with 3.0 of them coming from Everson Griffen and 1.0 each coming from Jared Allen and Brian Robison. It was Robison who sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble in the 3rd quarter that led to a TD pass from Ponder to Peterson and a 27-17 lead. LB Erin Henderson led the Vikings in tackles with 7 and Kevin Williams had a big pass defensed early in the game on a 3rd down.

The most important sequence of the game came at the end, following a cold-blooded offensive series by Rodgers and the Packers that resulted in a 2-yard TD toss to WR Jordy Nelson and a tied game at 34 with 2:54 to play. Marcus Sherels returned the ensuing kickoff 29 yards to the Minnesota 28, setting up Ponder and Co. with a 1st and 10 and an opportunity to march for a game-winning score.

And that’s exactly what happened, thanks in large part to a crucial 3rd-down throw by Ponder. After bouncing a pass incomplete to Peterson on 1st down and then Peterson losing a yard on a 2nd-down carry, the Vikings faced a 3rd and 11 at the 2-minute warning. The worst-case scenario for the Vikings was an incomplete pass that forced them to punt the ball to Rodgers, who could put together a game-winning drive of his own. Rodgers never got that chance, though, and it’s because of a perfectly-placed pass by Ponder to WR Michael Jenkins down the left sideline that yielded 25 yards, a 1st down, and hope within the stadium.

From that point on, the Vikings wisely rode the legs of Peterson, giving it to him 4 times and watching him rip off 37 yards to put the Vikings on the Green Bay 11. Walsh, who had already hit from 54 and 37 earlier in the game, handled things from there, converting a 29-yard game-winner as time expired to give the Vikings their 37th point, their 10th win, and their first trip to the playoffs since 2009.

Sunday’s win and the subsequent postseason berth is a remarkable accomplishment for a team coming off a 3-13 season a year ago. This is a team that, prior to the season starting, many thought would be an afterthought by this time. But these Vikings are anything but an afterthought at the moment.

They’re a playoff team.


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Will Cobb’s Availability Impact Vikings Approach?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2012 – 7:28 am

The Packers have 13 players listed on this week’s injury report, many of them key players. Many of those key players are making progress and should be available for Sunday’s season finale against the Vikings.

K Mason Crosby (illness) and G Josh Sitton (concussion) went from not practicing on Wednesday to being limited on Thursday, and C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee) and DEs CJ Wilson (knee) and Jerel Worthy (hamstring) went from limited on Wednesday to full participants on Thursday. On top of that, WR Jordy Nelson looks to be on track to play after missing the past 3 games with a hamstring injury.

Another important name to watch with regard to availability on Sunday is Randall Cobb. He injured his ankle on a 3rd quarter punt return during last week’s win over Tennessee, forcing him out of the game. Listed on the injury report with a knee and ankle injury, Cobb practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and did not practice on Thursday. Earlier in the week, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the team would test Cobb’s knee on Friday to gauge his availability for Sunday.

“I think it’s a possibility,” Cobb told Packers.com on Thursday after he observed practice. “We’re going to take it day by day and see where we are on Sunday.”

If Cobb is on the sidelines rather than on the field Sunday, it will help the Vikings. Cobb averages 25.4 yards per kickoff return and 9.4 yards per punt return, both solid numbers. In fact, Cobb is the caliber of returner that the Vikings could alter their approach on kickoffs based on Cobb’s status. If Cobb plays, the Vikings may elect to have K Blair Walsh attempt to blast his kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks. If Cobb doesn’t play, perhaps the Vikings will elect to have Walsh put hang time under his kicks, land them just inside the goal line, and then rely on the coverage team to make a play – something they’ve done frequently this season, as illustrated by the fact that no one has returned a kickoff past the 25-yardline against the Vikings since October 7.

How the Vikings approach kickoffs this week, whether Cobb plays or not, remains to be seen. And Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer did not tip his hand on Thursday.

“Randall Cobb is a great returner,” Priefer said. “I know he’s a little banged up right now, but I expect him to play. I would expect him to be back there because this game is big for them as well. I think touchbacks are fine with a returner like that, but we’re going to kick it high and deep and we’re going to cover them and when he brings them out we have to be there to make the play.”

Also keep in mind, this season has been Cobb’s best on offense. He ranks 1st on Green Bay in receptions (80), targets (104), receiving yards (954) and 20-yard receptions (17).

Expect some news to develop on Friday afternoon regarding Cobb’s availability. But it won’t be a surprise if the Packers wait until 90 minutes prior to kickoff before making public their decision on whether Cobb will play or not.


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The Hard Count, Paying Felton’s Fee & A Great Decision In Houston

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 27, 2012 – 1:54 pm

As they do each Thursday before a Sunday game, the three Vikings coordinators met with reporters inside the Winter Park field house. Here are a few of the notable discussion points from each of their conversations…

The Hard Count
One of the nuances fans can pick up by watching games on television is the different cadences of QBs across the NFL. Many QBs have non-descript cadences, but some have a distinct pattern and/or tone. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is one with a distinct cadence, and it caused the Vikings some trouble in the Week 13 game at Lambeau Field.

In going through that game’s play-by-play, I counted 5 times in which the Vikings were flagged for defensive offsides. Some of those penalties were declined, some were accepted. But all of them were because of how good Rodgers is at what they call the “hard count” to try and draw the defense across the line before the snap, sometimes resulting in a “free play” for the offense and often times resulting in a 5-yard penalty.

“You’ll see time and time again the defenses that are jumping offsides in the neutral zone,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams noted on Thursday. “We want to make sure we key the ball and get off on the ball and not any voice reflections and that type of thing.”

Working on this is nothing new for NFL teams. The Vikings have made that a focus of practice every week of the season, it’s just that Rodgers is better than most at drawing opponents offsides.

“He’s one of the masters at it,” Williams said of Rodgers, “and we have to make sure that we hold our water and not jump and shoot ourselves in the foot because we did do that the last time we played them.”

Paying Felton’s Fee
Vikings FB Jerome Felton was named to his first Pro Bowl on Wednesday, a well-deserved honor for the hardworking 5th-year pro. Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave was asked a few questions about his all-star fullback, and within one of the answers he provided a funny story from his time in Jacksonville.

“When I was in Jacksonville, James Harris, our General Manager, used to say you have to pay the fullback’s fee at times for all that blocking that they do,” Musgrave explained. “It’s nice to hand them a belly every once in a while, a dive, throw the ball out there to him in the flat. We haven’t paid Jerome his fee very often and he continues to do a good job.”

No Problem In Houston
A key moment in last week’s win over the Houston Texans came in the 4th quarter, with the Vikings leading 16-6 and facing a 4th and 9 from the Houston 40. For most teams, that’s an automatic punting situation. But with Blair Walsh on the team, the Vikings aren’t most team. Earlier in the game, Walsh blasted a 56-yard FG through the pipes, giving him a NFL-record 9 FGs of over 50 yards on the season.

Had the Vikings decided to trot Walsh and Co. out onto the field from the 40, it would’ve been about a 58-yard try that, if converted, would’ve extended the Vikings lead to 19-6. If it was off the mark or short, Houston would’ve taken over at their own 40 trailing by 10 with roughly 12:30 to play.

The Vikings decided to punt. And the decision paid off.

“Coach (Frazier) and I talked about that,” Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer explained. “And the risk-reward, the risk was higher than the reward at that point in my opinion. The way our defense was playing, he and I talked about it, he made a great call and a great decision on going ahead and punting it there in that situation. Because of the situation, the way our defense was playing, pin them back deep and let’s go. Kluwe had a great punt, Josh Robinson made a really nice play for us.”

Kluwe’s punt landed at around the 5 and Robinson sped down the field to down it at the 1. Houston went 3-and-out, punted the ball away, and the Vikings offense marched onto the field and then marched down the field on a 10-play, 64-yard TD scoring drive that was capped by a 1-yard Toby Gerhart plunge. The score put the Vikings ahead 23-6, the drive took 6:01 off the game clock, and the decision to punt rather than try a 58-yard FG turned out to be the right one.


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Vikings Pro Bowlers React To Honor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2012 – 6:16 pm

JARED ALLEN
“When you work so hard at your craft, it’s great to be recognized by your peers for that effort. This time around it’s extra special because I’ve had to battle through some injuries. But while the personal honors are great, the real reason we play this game is to win a championship, so I’m even more proud of the guys in the locker room who have put in the time and the effort to get to where we are as a team.

JEROME FELTON
“This honor means so much to me. Just to be in the NFL means a lot to me, but to be voted to the Pro Bowl by your peers, the coaches and the fans, that is something that is always in the back of your mind as a player, but to have it come true means so much. I felt like it was something I could achieve if I was able to land in the right spot and Minnesota has been that place for me. I knew when I came here to visit as a free agent that the team was committed to running the football and that was not going to change. When you have a back like Adrian Peterson, running the ball is going to be your identity. I’m just happy I’ve been able to contribute to the team this year and Adrian’s season.”

ADRIAN PETERSON
“This is a blessing. It’s a great achievement to be honored by the guys you play against every week. It just goes to show when you put your faith in God and you put in the work, you can accomplish great things. I’m also thankful that Jerome was selected, but I’m disappointed that none of the guys up front were chosen. Those guys have contributed so much to the team’s success and to my success; they are all Pro Bowlers to me.”

BLAIR WALSH
“As soon as I was drafted it was a goal for me to achieve to the highest level. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great people, from Coach Mike Priefer to Chris Kluwe and Cullen Loeffler. They’ve made my transition into the NFL and with Minnesota so smooth. I got the news this afternoon from Coach Priefer, which was appropriate because he put a lot on the line when the Vikings drafted me and I owe him so much for the season that we’ve had. It’s been an unbelievable year and I hope that it’s not done for a long while yet.”


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Four Vikings Receive Pro Bowl Nods

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2012 – 6:05 pm

The results are in, and 4 Vikings have been named Pro Bowlers.

This year’s Vikings Pro Bowlers are:

DE Jared Allen – For the 5th time as a Viking (in as many seasons) and for the 7th time in his career, Allen has double-digit sacks. Coming off a 22.0-sack season in 2011, almost any number would represent a decrease this season. But Allen has come back from his near-record sack total a season ago to post another strong total in 2012 with 11.0 through 15 games. Allen has 3 multi-sack games this season and he’s registered a sack in 8 of the team’s 15 games, including 2.0 sacks in last week’s win over the Houston Texans. This will be the 5th Pro Bowl of Allen’s career.

FB Jerome Felton – It can be hard to measure a FB’s impact on an offense. But if you’ve watched Vikings football this season, it’s not been hard to notice how well Felton is playing as a lead blocker for Adrian Peterson. You’ll read more about Peterson below, and keep in mind that Felton is a big part of that success. The Vikings rank 3rd in rushing this season and 1st in yards per carry. Also, the Vikings 2,417 rushing yards as a team, the Vikings rank 3rd in franchise history and are 217 rushing yards away from setting the franchise record (2,634 – 2007).

RB Adrian Peterson: He leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,898) and scrimmage yards (2,023). He’s also tied for 2nd in rushing TDs with 11. Peterson is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, has tied Barry Sanders for 50-yard runs in a season with 7, is one 150-yard game shy of the NFL record and is 102 yards shy of the 2,000-yard mark and 208 yards shy from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105. This is Peterson’s 5th Pro Bowl appearance.

K Blair Walsh – He’s been the NFL’s best kicker this season, going 32 of 55 (94.1%) on FGs this season, including a perfect 9 of 9 from 50+. His 9 FGs from 50+ yards are a team and NFL single-season record. He’s 3 FGs shy of tying Gary Anderson’s team record for FGs in a season, and he’s already set a new rookie scoring record (128) and a single-season record for touchbacks (49).


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9 Vikings-Packers Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2012 – 8:22 am

It’s Vikings vs. Packers. It’s Week 17. And playoff implications are on the line. It won’t take much effort to drum up excitement for this game. The story will write itself most of the week and on Sunday, but we’ll still stick to our normal Wednesday routine and go over several Vikings-Packers storylines to watch during the week.

1. Major Playoff Implications On The Line
The Vikings can punch their ticket to the postseason with a win over Green Bay on Sunday. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2009 and it would most likely setup a rematch against Green Bay next weekend at Lambeau Field. To do that, the Vikings will have to overcome the Packers best effort because they also have something to play for – a 1st-round bye. If Green Bay wins on Sunday, not only could they knock their border rivals from the playoff picture, they can also secure a spot in the Divisional round.

2. Historic Turnaround
With a win on Sunday the Vikings will notch their 10th victory of the season, which would represent a 7-win turnaround from their 3-13 campaign a season ago. That would be the team’s biggest increase in win totals from one season to the next in team history. From 1997 to 1998, the Vikings increased their win total by 6, going from 9-7 to 15-1.

3. Game Flexed To 3:25; FOX’s #1 Crew Aboard To Broadcast Game
With so much on the line Sunday, the NFL and FOX have decided to the game from a 12:00 CT kickoff to 3:25 p.m. In addition, FOX will send its top broadcast team to Minneapolis for the game, with Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Pam Oliver (sideline reporter) calling the action.

4. Adrian Peterson Chases History
Can he do it? That’s what everyone’s wondering as the final regular season game approaches and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson sits so close to history. Peterson is 102 yards from the 2,000-yard rushing mark and he’s 208 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. It’s perhaps the NFL’s top individual story of 2012, with Peterson rushing towards history less than a year removed from a serious knee injury. All the accolades and team success also has Peterson neck-and-neck with Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning for MVP talk. If Peterson tops the 2,000-yard mark, surpasses or even approaches Dickerson’s mark and the Vikings win to clinch a playoff spot, I find it hard to make a case against Peterson for MVP honors.

5. Blair Walsh Chases History, Too
If not for Peterson’s pursuit of such revered records, one could make a solid argument for K Blair Walsh being the Vikings MVP. Walsh, a rookie selected in the 6th round last April, is 32 of 25 (91.4%) on FGs for the season, including a perfect 9 of 9 from 50+. His 9 FGs of 50+ yards is a team and NFL single-season record, his 49 touchbacks on the season rank 4th in the NFL and 1st in team history, he’s already set a new Vikings rookie scoring record, and he’s just 3 made FGs from tying the team record (Gary Anderson – 1998).

6. Injury Report – Who’s In, Who’s Out?
The Packers have dealt with injuries to key players all season, especially over the course of the last two months. Last week, the Packers were without TE Tom Crabtree, RBs Alex Green and James Starks, WR Jordy Nelson, DL CJ Wilson and Jerel Worthy and CB Charles Woodson. WR Greg Jennings has missed significant time this season, several offensive linemen have been in and out of the lineup and LB Clay Matthews missed time because of a groin injury. Now, though, Green Bay is getting healthier. All of the above-mentioned players will have a good shot to be in the lineup this Sunday.

Speaking of injuries to key players, the Vikings will be watching two defensive starters closely this week. DE Brian Robison (shoulder) and CB Antoine Winfield will be on the injury report. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier expressed confidence that Winfield will make it to Sunday, but was less sure about Robison. Also, Peterson has been dealing with an abdominal injury and will be monitored all week, but Frazier said after Sunday’s win in Houston that Peterson will play on Sunday.

7. Can Vikings Pass Rush Get To Aaron Rodgers
Everyone will surely point to pass rush as the key defensively for the Vikings. The Vikings defense has been in top form the past 2 weeks, shutting down the Houston Texans last week and stifling the St. Louis Rams the week prior. Slowing down Aaron Rodgers and Co. is an entirely different matter, however. In 10 games against the Packers, Vikings DE Jared Allen has 15.0 sacks and 4 passes defensed. Can Allen register one of his trademark games against Green Bay? Everson Griffen has a career-high 5.0 sacks this season. Can he add to his total? The Vikings have utilized more pressures (LBs) and blitzes (DBs) to pressure the passer the past 2 weeks. Will the Vikings continue that trend against Green Bay? All interesting questions this week.

8. Vikings Offensive Line Comes Off Dominant Performance vs. Houston
The Vikings have started the same 5 offensive linemen for all 15 games this season, and they are set to make it 16 straight games on Sunday against Green Bay. And if that group plays against Green Bay the way they played against Houston, the Vikings will be in great shape. Here are just a few of the notable accomplishments the Vikings OL registered against a well-regarded Texans defensive front last Sunday: 11 rushing 1st downs, the most Houston has allowed all season; 34:46 time of possession compared to just 25:14 for Houston; previous high for rushing yards allowed by Houston was 158, and the Vikings rushed for 174 yards; Vikings ran the ball 42 times and Houston’s previous high allowed was 33;  Vikings are now one of just three teams to register a rushing TD vs. Houston; just 1 sack allowed against a team that registered 3 per game coming into the contest.

9. Will Vikings Dome-Field Advantage Make A Difference?
The Vikings have traditionally had one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Last year, though, they were just 1-7 at home. The tides have quickly changed this year, as the Vikings boast a 6-1 record at home and are looking to make it 7-1 after Sunday. Frazier often mentions the Mall of America Field crowd as being a difference-maker in games, and if the Vikings win on Sunday you can be sure that a raucous home crowd will have been a factor.


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A Win The Size Of Texas: Vikings Top Houston, Win 3rd Straight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2012 – 5:41 pm

They say everything is bigger in Texas. And that includes NFL upsets. The Vikings earned a huge one on Sunday in the Lone Star State.

The Vikings marched into Reliant Stadium in Houston as 9-point underdogs to the Texans and proceeded to control the game from start to finish along the way to a convincing 23-6 victory that keeps them very much alive in the NFC playoff race.

After holding the Texans to a FG on their first possession, the Vikings responded by driving 78 yards in 8 plays to capture their first score of the game. The drive included a 20-yard dash by Adrian Peterson on the first play, a 27-yard catch-and-run by TE Kyle Rudolph on the third play and a 32-yard perfectly-placed floater from Christian Ponder to Michael Jenkins on 3rd and 6 from the Houston 34. Ponder found Rudolph from 3 yards out on 2nd and goal to finish the drive, and the Vikings led 7-3 midway through the opening quarter.

The teams exchanged punts on each of their next possessions, and then Houston started putting together another nice series near the end of the 1st quarter. But on 2nd and 7 from the Minnesota 28, RB Arian Foster took a handoff and was popped by Vikings LB Jasper Brinkley. Foster coughed up the ball, and Vikings CB AJ Jefferson was there to recover it. The turnover ruined a scoring chance for Houston and led to a Blair Walsh 56-yard FG roughly 5 minutes later; that FG for Walsh set an NFL record for 50-yard FGs in a season (9).

The Vikings extended their lead to 13-3 before halftime, and carried with them into the locker room momentum that would only grow in the 2nd half.

After driving 52 yards in 8 plays and converting a key 3rd and 10 from midfield, the
Vikings offense stalled at the Houston 21. Walsh came on to salvage the drive, converting his third FG of the game and giving the Vikings a 16-3 lead early in the 2nd half.

Neither offense could muster much production the rest of the 3rd quarter, but the Vikings were okay with that because they held a commanding lead and their defense was a step ahead of Houston’s offense all day. Even after a Vikings turnover on a J.J. Watt strip-sack gave Houston possession near midfield, Matt Schaub and Co. continued to be stymied by the Vikings defense.

Exchanged punts continued in the 3rd and early stages of the 4th quarter, finally setting the stage for Ponder to dagger the Texans. The Vikings took possession at their own 36 following a 65-yard punt by Houston. Ponder hit Rudolph for 9 yards on 1st down, then scrambled for 29 yards two plays later to bring the Vikings to the Houston 27. Peterson and Toby Gerhart carried the ball on the Vikings next 5 plays, and then Ponder found Jarius Wright on a shallow crossing pattern to convert a key 3rd-down conversion. A facemask penalty was tacked on, giving the Vikings a 1st and goal from the 3. Gerhart plunged in from there on the next play, finishing a 10-play, 64-yard drive and essentially finishing the Texans for the day.

The Vikings forced a fumble on the next series when Harrison Smith punched the ball from QB T.J. Yates, who had come on to replace starter Matt Schaub. The Vikings recovered and were able to run out the clock from there.

Ponder finished the day with a box score of 16-30 for 174 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs. He played efficient, smart football, often times avoiding the disastrous play and frequently making a clutch throw to pick up a 1st down or take advantage of busted coverage. Peterson, who entered the game 294 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing mark of 2,105 yards, finished the day with 86 tough yards on 25 grinding carries. He is now 102 yards from the 2,000-yard mark and 207 yards from Dickerson’s record.

The Vikings defense put forth a sensational, dominating effort in limiting a Houston offense that averaged 25.5 points per game coming into the contest to no TDs and just 6 points during the entire game. Schaub was frustrated and ineffective all day, completing 18 of 32 passes for 178 yards with no TDs or INTs. Foster, the AFC’s leading rusher, finished the day with 15 yards on 10 carries; he left the game due to an irregular heartbeat, according to the Texans, and did not return. Smith was the Vikings leading tackler and he also had a forced fumble, while he, Jared Allen, Fred Evans and Antoine Winfield collected sacks.

A key moment in the game came late in the 3rd quarter and was registered by the Vikings defense. A 12-yard completion from Schaub to Kevin Walter put Houston on the Vikings 1. From there, though, Houston was unable to punch it in. Schaub threw incomplete on 1st down, #2 RB Ben Tate was stonewalled by Chad Greenway and Kevin Williams on 2nd down, and then Evans sacked Schaub on 3rd down. Houston had to settle for a FG, but it was a momentous victory for the Vikings at that point to surrender just the 3 points. The Texans never got closer than their own 40-yardline from there on out as the Vikings professionally put away their 3rd straight win.

The win is the Vikings 9th of the season, an impressive number considering they were 3-13 a year ago. With the win, the Vikings began their trek back to Minnesota with an extra bounce in their step and knowing they’ll have a shot to make the playoffs next week with a win over the Green Bay Packers at Mall of America Field and perhaps a little help from other teams in the NFC.


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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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Peterson, Walsh Nominated For Weekly Awards

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 18, 2012 – 6:59 am

The Vikings picked up a huge win on the road in St. Louis last weekend, and that win was the product of many great individual efforts. Two individuals who contributed to that win – RB Adrian Peterson and K Blair Walsh – have been nominated for a trio of weekly awards and Vikings fans can cast their votes to bring the honors home.

Peterson joins Houston’s Arian Foster and Denver’s Knowshon Moreno as finalists for the FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Week award. Peterson rushed for 212 yards and 1 TD on 24 carries. Fans can vote for the award on NFL.com/FedEx from 8 a.m. CT on Tuesday through 2 p.m. CT on Friday to determine the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week. The winner will be announced Friday on NFL Total Access on NFL Network and on NFL.com.

With his 212-yard performance, Peterson took another step toward becoming just the 7th player to rush for 2,000 yards as well as the NFL’s single-season rushing mark. Along with rookie QB Kirk Cousins lifting the Redskins into 1st place with a win on the road in Cleveland and the San Francisco 49ers surviving a 2nd-half rally by the Patriots on Sunday Night Football, Peterson’s pursuit of history has been nominated as a finalist for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Week. Fans can vote for Peterson on NFL.com/gmc through Friday at 2 p.m. CT. The winner will be announced Friday during NFL Network’s “Around the League” show and then posted on NFL.com.

Finally, Walsh has been named a finalist for Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week honors after going 5 of 5 on FGs against the Rams, including 3 of 3 on FGs from 50+ yards to raise his season total for 50+ yards FGs to 8 (tied for an NFL record). Also nominated for the award were Cousins, San Francisco’s LaMichael James, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Fans can vote for Walsh on NFL.com/rookies beginning Tuesday at 8 a.m. CT and ending on Friday at 2 p.m. CT. The Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week will be announced Friday on NFL Total Access on NFL Network and on NFL.com.


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Jerome Felton, Blair Walsh Deserve Pro Bowl Nod

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2012 – 3:54 pm

There are many Vikings players whose performances this season are worthy of praise. It’s not hard to make a Pro Bowl case for Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Matt Kalil, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield or Harrison Smith. In fact, I’d love to make a case for each of those guys and others (Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan and Kevin Williams for starters) right now, but at some point it would become white noise (what I say probably already is, I guess).

But with Pro Bowl voting set to end tonight, there are two more names I’m going to throw into the mix – FB Jerome Felton and K Blair Walsh. Both have played well on an individual level and their great individual performances have made a significant impact on the Vikings as a team this season.

Felton
Peterson deserves tons of credit for the season he’s having. You know the numbers by now. But Peterson will be the first to tell you it’s a team effort. He’ll credit his offensive line for opening up seams and creases. He’ll credit his wide receivers and tight ends for blocking downfield. And, he’ll most definitely credit his fullback for leading the way.

“He’s playing outstanding,” Peterson said. “He’s doing a great job blocking, opening things up for me. We communicate, we’re on the same page with different schemes we use to attack in the running game. He’s shown that he’s reliable to get the job done.

“Definitely should be a Pro Bowler. You just sit back and watch the film on him, you’ll see him blowing up guys. He’s got good hands, making big receptions, leading me to the end zone. He’s made a lot of plays.”

Walsh
This one doesn’t need much explanation. He set a single-season record for touchbacks several weeks ago and last week in St. Louis he set a new Vikings rookie scoring mark, surpassing the record previously set by Randy Moss. Walsh leads the NFL and has tied a single-season NFL record  for FGs of 50+ yards with 8 (he’s 8 of 8 from that distance), he’s 2nd in the NFC with 47 touchbacks, 3rd in the NFC in FGs made (29) and FG% (90.6%), and he has a game-tying kick and a game-winning kick (Week 1 vs. Jacksonville).

There’s not much more you can ask for from an NFL kicker.

You can cast your votes for Felton, Walsh and other Vikings by clicking here. Remember, voting ends Monday night, so head there now and make your voice heard.


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