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A Closer Look: 5 Decisive Moments In Vikings-Bears Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 26, 2012 – 3:39 pm

Following his team’s 28-10 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked during his post-game press conference what the turning point in the game was in his mind. Frazier didn’t identify one moment where the game turned around, and instead spoke broadly about how the game unfolded.

After a day reflecting on the game, I agree with Frazier that it’s hard to define a moment that changed the course of the game. So rather than hyper-analyze a moment or two that contributed to Sunday’s outcome, let’s take a look at five moments in the game that shaped what turned out to be the Vikings 5th loss of the season.

Matt Forte fumbles, Chad Greenway recovers (13:12, 1st quarter)
The very first moments of the game were not great for the Vikings. QB Christian Ponder was sacked on the first play of the game and the Vikings went 3-and-out. But it looked as if early momentum would swing back to the Vikings when Bears RB Matt Forte fumbled on Chicago’s first offensive snap. Chad Greenway recovered the fumble, and the Vikings offense set up shop on the Bears 28.

Chicago dodged a bullet, though, and forced the Vikings to bring Blair Walsh on the field for a 40-yard FG after just three plays. The rookie kicker converted and the Vikings led 3-0, but it was a “win” for the Bears because they didn’t allow a TD after the Vikings started with such great field position.

Adrian Peterson fumbles, Charles Tillman recovers (10:13, 1st quarter)
Just moments after the Forte fumble, the Vikings returned the favor. And the Bears were able to do what the Vikings could not – they turned it into a TD. Peterson took a handoff on the Vikings first play following a Bears 3-and-out after the Walsh FG, and he was tackled by Bears LB Nick Roach. Peterson fumbled the ball, and Bears CB Charles Tillman fell on it, giving the Bears offense good field position at the Minnesota 34.

Six plays later, RB Michael Bush plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard TD, and the Robbie Gould PAT gave the Bears a 7-3 lead.

Defensive pass interference called against Antoine Winfield in end zone (4:17, 2nd quarter)
Leading 10-3 late in the 2nd quarter, the Bears were driving and had a 1st-and-10 from the Minnesota 25. Jay Cutler dropped back to pass and had no one open, so he escaped the pocket to buy more time. After surveying the field and still seeing no one open, he rifled a pass toward WR Brandon Marshall, who was covered by CB Antoine Winfield. As if he were playing basketball, Marshall posted up on the shorter Winfield and made a play for the ball. The nearest official threw a flag for what appeared to be offensive pass interference. But the call went against Winfield, and the Bears were set up with a 1st-and-goal from the 1.

On the Bears next play, Bush once again plunged in for a 1-yard score, and then Chicago ran a fake Pat to score a 2-point conversion and take an 18-3 lead.

Jay Cutler 13-yard TD pass to TE Matt Spaeth – reviewed and upheld (1:55, 2nd quarter)
Vikings QB Christian Ponder was intercepted by Bears S Chris Conte, and it didn’t take Chicago long to turn the Vikings second turnover of the game into another TD.

On the Bears first play from scrimmage after the INT, Cutler found TE and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Matt Spaeth in the corner of the end zone for a 13-yard TD. After catching the ball, Spaeth fell to the ground and was out of bounds. The call on the field was a TD, but the play was reviewed. After review, the officials upheld the original ruling, and after another Gould Pat the Bears led 25-3.

Matt Forte fumbles, Mistral Raymond recovers and returns 52 yards for a TD – play is overturned (6:39, 3rd quarter)
The Vikings had just scored a TD on a Ponder-to-Kyle Rudolph 2-yard connection, making the score 25-10. On their ensuing possession, the Bears were driving and were at midfield. Forte took a handoff and was stopped by a group of Vikings, and then fumbled on his way to the ground after being bent back awkwardly. Vikings S Mistral Raymond wisely scooped up the ball and sprinted 52 yards to the end zone, where the officials ruled the play a TD. After review, though, the play was overturned and the Bears retained possession.

Four plays later, Gould salvaged the drive with a 46-yard FG, increasing the Bears lead to 28-10. The series of plays represented a 10-point swing in which the Vikings could trailed by just 8 points early in the 2nd half but instead wound up trailing by 18 points.


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Peterson, 3 Other Vikings Lead In Pro Bowl Voting

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 14, 2012 – 3:04 pm

Adrian Peterson is the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter for the NFC at RB and is 5th among all NFL players, with 5 weeks of voting remaining. Three other Vikings – DE Jared Allen, KR Percy Harvin and LT Matt Kalil – also lead their respective positions in NFC Pro Bowl voting.

It’s great news that 4 Vikings lead their positions in the balloting, but that also means Vikings fans have work to do. Fans can click here to cast their ballots.

Blair Walsh is having the best season among NFC kickers, having converted 23 of 24 FGs (5 of 5 from 50+) and boasting 41 touchbacks already. TE Kyle Rudolph is 2nd among NFC TEs with 6 TD receptions, FB Jerome Felton is lead-blocking for the NFL’s leading rusher, John Sullivan has developed into one of the League’s finest centers, Chad Greenway is the NFL’s leading tackler and Antoine Winfield looks to have found the fountain of youth. Those are just a handful of Vikings who are deserving of Pro Bowl consideration.

Balloting will conclude on Monday, December 17 following the conclusion of Monday Night Football. The teams will be announced at 6:00 p.m. CT Wednesday, December 26 on NFL Network’s “Total Access.”

The AFC and NFC All-Star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent the American Football Conference and National Football Conference in the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 20-21.

The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 27, 2013 and televised live on NBC at 6:00 p.m. CT from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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Bring Out The Brooms! Vikings Win 34-24, Sweep Lions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 11, 2012 – 4:10 pm

After a two-game losing streak fanned the flames of a hot 5-2 start, the Vikings reignited their season on Sunday at Mall of America Field with a fiery 34-24 victory over the Detroit Lions that featured a bounce-back performance from QB Christian Ponder, another dominating performance from RB Adrian Peterson and timely ferocity from the defense.

Before a blow-by-blow recap of how the Vikings won, here’s a quick summary of the stand-out performers…

– Peterson continues to display why he’s the best RB in the NFL. Coming off 3 consecutive 100-yard games, Peterson ran through the Lions as well. He rushed for 171 yards and 1 TD on 27 carries, including a game-breaking and victory-clinching 61-yard dash in the 4th quarter. The Vikings are now 27-12 when Peterson carries the ball 20+ times. Peterson has 1,128 yards on the season, which averages out to 112.8 yards per game and puts him on pace for a career-high 1,804 yards. Not bad for a guy coming off knee surgery.

– Ponder critics were out in full force the past three weeks, but they’ll have to take a couple weeks off after Sunday’s outing. Ponder was 24 of 32 on the afternoon, throwing for 221 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs for a passer rating of 114.2. He took just 1 sack on the day and pulled the ball down to run 7 times, gaining 15 yards. Ponder hit 10 different receivers on the day (including himself) and leaned heavily on TE Kyle Rudolph (7 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD).

– LB Chad Greenway is the NFL’s leading tackler. He was up to his usual tricks again on Sunday, but he put a stamp on this week’s performance by grabbing a 1st-quarter INT. His big play led to a Blair Walsh FG and a 10-0 Vikings lead.

– S Jamarca Sanford has stepped up big time for the Vikings this season. He forced yet another fumble on a Calvin Johnson reception. He has 5 forced fumbles on the season. Antoine Winfield recovered the fumble, which set up yet another Walsh FG.

– We should mention Walsh here because he had a fantastic day. Walsh was 4 for 4 on FGs, connecting from 48, 23 (twice) and 33 yards. He also blasted 6 touchbacks and now is the Vikings single-season record holder in that category. P Chris Kluwe was also a standout performer on the afternoon, flipping field position with ease and often times pinning Detroit deep in their own territory.

Fans left the game talking about Peterson and Ponder, but in the early stages it was rookie receiver Jarius Wright who created a buzz. Active for his first regular season game with fellow receiver Percy Harvin sidelined due to an ankle injury, Wright got the party going early by dashing through the heart of the Lions defense on his team’s fifth play from scrimmage and hauling in a 54-yard reception from Ponder that set the Vikings up with a 1st and goal from the 1. Just two plays later, Ponder went back to Wright to cap the drive with a 3-yard TD to give the Vikings an early 7-0 lead.

The Vikings took a 13-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, and then extended that lead to 16-3 early in the 2nd half when Blair Walsh hit his 3rd FG of the game, that one from 23 yards out. The Lions responded immediately with a quick 4-play, 81 drive that culminated in a 16-yard TD reception by TE Brandon Pettigrew. Ponder and Co. showed resiliency, though, and answered the Pettigrew score with a TD pass to their starting TE – Kyle Rudolph. Ponder found his buddy for a 20-yard score and Peterson bulled his way into the end zone for the 2-point conversion, giving the Vikings a 24-10 lead early in the 4th quarter.

QB Matthew Stafford and the Lions would not go away, though. Explosive plays and Vikings penalties put the Lions on the Vikings goal line in just 6 plays, and Stafford found WR Titus Young for the TD to pull his team to within 7 points midway through the 4th quarter. The Vikings went 3-and-out on their next drive, but the defense responded by forcing a Lions punt as well.

That set the stage for Peterson to dagger Detroit. He exploded through the Lions defensive front for 19 yards on 1st down, and then dazzled the home crowd on his next carry with a 61-yard exclamation point, giving the Vikings a 31-17 lead. Johnson fumbled on the Lions first play after the Peterson TD and Walsh tacked on another FG to move the Vikings lead to 34-17. The Lions found Johnson for a late TD, but it was too little, too late for the Lions.

The Vikings came away with the victory, giving them a series sweep of their division rivals and moving them to a perfect 2-0 within the NFC North. The win snapped their 2-game losing streak and sends them into their bye with optimism, as a grueling 6-game stretch awaits them. The Vikings will come out of their bye week with consecutive road games against the Bears and Packers, and then will host the Bears on December 9 before hitting the road for consecutive games once again (at St. Louis and at Houston). The Vikings will conclude their regular season schedule with border rival Green Bay on December 30.


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Adrian Peterson Dominates, But Vikings Fall In Seattle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 5, 2012 – 1:13 am

Adrian Peterson was in prime form on Sunday afternoon, rushing hard and fast for 182 yards and 2 TDs on 17 carries. But his Herculean effort, which included a 74-yard run on the second play of the game, was not enough to overcome several Vikings shortcomings. The end result was a 30-20 victory for the Seahawks over the Vikings at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

From the opening kick through the 4th quarter, Peterson ran over and danced around a formidable Seattle defense and reminded everyone why he’s the best running back in the NFL. He averaged 10.7 yards per carry and had runs of 15, 16, 24, 28 and 74 yards, breaking multiple tackles on a play with regularity and showing no signs of a player who incurred such a serious knee injury last December.

The Vikings were off to a quick start thanks to Peterson’s 74-yard gallop on the game’s opening series. Two plays later, Peterson plunged in from a yard out to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead. But it unraveled from there, as Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch and rookie QB Russell Wilson capitalized on short fields (thanks to Seattle takeaways) and second chances (thanks to Vikings penalties).

The Seahawks got on the board following a Percy Harvin fumble on the Vikings second drive of the game, with Wilson finding WR Golden Tate for a 6-yard strike. The Vikings punted on their ensuing drive, and Seattle took a 14-7 lead with Wilson-to-Sidney Rice TD strike.

The Vikings responded, with Ponder driving his team 80 yards in 11 plays to watch Peterson score from 4 yards out to tie the game at 14. Blair Walsh tacked on 3 more points with a 36-yard FG that salvaged a drive after a sack on 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 11. The Vikings led 17-14 at that point, but saw that lead disappear after a masterful 12-play, 80 drive by Wilson and the Seattle offense that was capped by another Tate TD reception, the 3rd TD throw of Wilson’s day. The extra point was blocked by Kevin Williams, so Seattle took a 20-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Seattle used a 4-point edge in the 3rd quarter thanks to a Lynch TD (Walsh had a 55-yard FG, too) to take a 27-20 lead into the 4th quarter. The teams exchanged punts at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Seattle K Steven Hauschka split the uprights on a 40-yard try to make it 30-2-, and then the Vikings weren’t able to inch any closer for the remainder of the game.

Wilson finished going 16 of 24 for 173yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Lynch, the NFL’s 2nd-leading rusher behind Peterson, rushed for 124 yards and 1 TD on 24 carries.

While the Vikings were next to unstoppable on the ground, they struggled throwing the ball. QB Christian Ponder was 11 of 22 for 63 yards with no TDs and 1 INT. LBs Jasper Brinkley and Chad Greenway each registered 13 tackles and DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison were each credited with a .5 sack.

The loss drops the Vikings to 5-4 on the season as they get set this week to host the Detroit Lions at Mall of America Field before heading into their bye week.


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Sullivan, Greenway, Vikings Sponsor New Playground At Amplatz Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 29, 2012 – 6:06 am

Vikings center John Sullivan is donating $150,000 to make a new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital playground possible. To support Sullivan’s efforts, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, has donated $25,000 through his Lead the Way Foundation while the Vikings organization – through the Vikings Children’s Fund – has contributed the remaining $25,000 for the $200,000 project.

A ceremony will take place on Tuesday to name the playground and reveal renderings of the future project, which is set to open in Spring 2013. During the event, the playground will be officially named “Sullivan Playground” in Sullivan’s honor. Children wearing “Team Sullivan” t-shirts will celebrate the naming and refreshments will be served.

Immediately following the ceremony, Sullivan, along with teammates Brandon Fusco, Greenway, Charlie Johnson, Tyrone McKenzie, Kyle Rudolph and others, will host a “Halloween Huddle” for patients and their families in the lobby of University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The players will then make bedside visits throughout the hospital.

About the Sullivan Playground
Just outside of University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital will be the Sullivan Playground for patients and their siblings. The play space is secure, private and comfortable. Working with Landscape Structures, a Minnesota company focused on designing inclusive playgrounds for children of all abilities, Amplatz Children’s Hospital child rehabilitation therapists and child-family life specialists selected a variety of activities and structures that are fun and appropriate for all children, regardless of age and medical conditions.  This playground and design will incorporate therapeutic, sensory and development elements as well as an innovative mixture of climbing, discovery, sliding, spinning and social function that are necessary for our patient and sibling population.  The unique features have exploration elements with ground level interaction.  As the first commercial outdoor slide ever made to accommodate children with IVs, the custom designed posts and attachments allow patients to climb ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) stairs and go down the roller slide without disconnecting from their devices.


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Buccaneers Beat Up Vikings 36-17

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 25, 2012 – 11:08 pm

The Vikings didn’t play sound football in any phase, Tampa Bay rookie RB Doug Martin had his breakout performance and Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman remained on a roll. It all combined for a disappointing night at Mall of America Field, as the Buccaneers came away with a 36-17 victory over the Vikings on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.

Martin and Freeman paced the Buccaneers offensive attack. Martin, selected 31st overall by Tampa Bay last April, racked up 214 yards of offense (135 rushing, 79 receiving) and 2 TDs against a Vikings defense that was coming off a dominant performance against Arizona a week ago. Freeman, who came into this contest on fire, turned up the heat in Minnesota by passing for 262 yards and 3 TDs. Over the last 3 games, Freeman has thrown for 1,010 yards with a 9-1 TD-INT ratio.

As if battling those two playmakers wasn’t enough, the Vikings defense was constantly forced back onto the field because the Vikings offense couldn’t stay on it. The Buccaneers claimed a 15:30 time of possession advantage over the Vikings, as QB Christian Ponder and Co. failed to get into a rhythm. Their first three drives ended in three-and-outs and then punts, and then they were forced to punt three more times in the second half while they also saw drives end in a fumble, INT and on downs.

Ponder was 19 of 35 for 251 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. He threw a beautifully thrown pass to WR Percy Harvin for the TD, striking from 18 yards out to make the score 13-7 in the middle of the 2nd quarter. The Vikings also scored a TD on the ground, with Adrian Peterson breaking two tackles and then out-sprinting the Buccaneers defense to the end zone for a 64-yard score that introduced thoughts of a late-game comeback.

The late-game comeback was not to be, however, as Freeman put together a cold-blooded drive to open the 4th quarter that put the game out of reach for the Vikings.

Following Peterson’s long TD jaunt, his 3rd rushing score of the season, the Vikings and Buccaneers exchanged two punts a piece. Tampa Bay had a tenuous 30-17 lead with just over a quarter to play, and off the long Peterson run and a rejuvenated Vikings defense the atmosphere at Mall of America Field was such that a comeback seemed to be in the offing. But Freeman dashed those dreams by putting together a 16-play, 87 yard drive that ended in a 1-yard Martin plunge for a TD. The drive included 5 conversions on 3rd down, three of which were for 9 yards or longer and the last of which was the 1-yard TD run.

That made the score 36-17 with just a little over 7 minutes to play. The Vikings drove the ball 66 yards on the ensuing drive, but they were unable to convert a 4th and 7 from the Tampa Bay 19 and ultimately turned the ball over to the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay took a few more minutes off the clock before punting it back to the Vikings. Ponder threw his only INT of the game 4 plays into the next drive, which allowed the Buccaneers to kneel on the ball and run out the rest of the clock.

The win improves Tampa Bay to 3-4 on the season and it’s the first road win since they won here in Minnesota early last season. The loss drops Minnesota to 5-3 on the season and is their first at home of the 2012 campaign. The Vikings will regroup on Friday and this weekend, and then will turn their attention to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings and Seahawks will play in Seattle a week from Sunday.

Vikings Leaders
– Peterson had 15 carries for 123 yards and 1 TD. He now holds the Vikings career record for 100-yard rushing games (30) and is also the NFL’s leading rusher with 775 yards.

– Harvin had 7 receptions for 90 yards and 1 TD. He currently leads the NFL in receptions with 70.

– Chad Greenway and Harrison Smith were both credited with 13 tackles to lead the team.

– Jared Allen had the only Vikings sack of the game and now has a sack in six consecutive contests.


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Vikings Ride Defense, Peterson To 21-14 Win Over Cardinals

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 21, 2012 – 3:46 pm

A familiar combination of ingredients proved to be the winning recipe for the Vikings on Sunday, as they used their stout defense as a base and sprinkled in plenty of Adrian Peterson for good measure along the way to a 21-14 victory at Mall of America Field. The win was the Vikings 5th of the season and their 4th at home.

The Vikings defense continually repelled Arizona’s offense despite the Cardinals frequently obtaining favorable field position. The Cardinals began a series in Vikings territory 4 times during the 1st half, but came away with just 7 points in those drives. The Cardinals had 7 possessions in the 2nd half and scored a TD on the final one to move the score to 21-14, but the Vikings defense dominated in the first 6 possessions, forcing drives to end in a turnover once, downs twice and a punt 3 times.

CB Antoine Winfield had another outstanding performance, leading the team in tackles for the second consecutive week with 11 stops. He also had a sack on a key 4th-down play. DE Brian Robison registered a standout performance as well, dominating his matchup up and down the field while tallying 3.0 sacks and a forced fumble. The Vikings leading tackler for the season – Chad Greenway – had a solid outing with 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss (TFL). As he usually is, DE Jared Allen was a factor in the game, adding 2.0 more sacks to his season total, which has risen to 6.0 after he had no sacks in the opening two games of the season.

The key play of the game came early in the 3rd quarter, when Vikings rookie S Harrison Smith stepped in front of a John Skelton pass and intercepted it. Smith, a running back in high school, used good vision, some nifty maneuvering and then finally straight-line speed to weave around and then out-sprint Cardinals offensive players all the way to the end zone for a 31-yard TD, giving the Vikings a 21-7 lead.

After the Smith TD, both the Vikings and Cardinals defenses dominated the game. Arizona held the Vikings to just 58 net yards in the 2nd half and Arizona, while able to rack up yardage, was unable to penetrate the Vikings defense and score. It wasn’t until a late 7-play, 79 drive that Arizona reached the end zone again. That made it a one-score game at 21-14, but the Vikings were able to run out the clock on 4 Peterson carries after recovering the ensuing onside kick.

Speaking of Peterson, he turned in another signature performance. He carried the ball 23 times and churned out 153 yards, placing him in a 1st-place tie with Robert Smith for career 100-yard rushing games in Vikings history. Peterson showed no signs of being nagged by an ankle injury that has limited his practice time the past two weeks, as he dashed through the Cardinals defense several times and carried multiple Cardinals defenders for extra yardage on multiple occasions as well.

Percy Harvin scored the offense’s other TD on a 3-yard pass from QB Christian Ponder in which the diminutive playmaker came out of the backfield to catch the pass in the right flat before making a defender miss and finding a seam to reach the ball into the end zone. Harvin finished the day with 4 receptions for 37 yards and the TD. Harvin actually returned the opening kickoff the game 103 yards for a TD, but an illegal block in the back penalty nullified the return and forced the Vikings to begin on their own 8.

Outside of the running game – 27 carries for 166 yards (6.1 yards per carry) – the Vikings offense failed to generate much of a rhythm, especially in the 2nd half. Ponder was 8 of 17 on the day for 58 yards with the TD toss to Harvin and 2 INTs. He was sacked 3 times and under duress for much of the day.

But Peterson was good enough and the defense was dominant enough to take care of the Cardinals on Sunday. It should also be noted that the Vikings special teams group did well in their goal of limiting the Cardinals explosive punt returner – Patrick Peterson. The 5th overall pick in 2011, Peterson had 4 punt return TDs a season ago. But in his meeting with the Vikings last season, he was held to zero return yards on 4 punts. On Sunday against the Vikings, he was once again limited. Peterson had just 7 total return yards on 4 opportunities and was forced to call 1 fair catch.

In analyzing the overall offensive performance, the late TD allowed by the defense and the 7 penalties for 35 yards called against them, this isn’t the most impressive win of the season. But in the NFL, you never apologize for winning a game. There are too many times when a team plays well but still winds up on the losing end of the scoreboard.

A win is a win, and the Vikings found their 5th of the 2012 season, moving them to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the NFC.

“A good win for our football team,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s tough to get wins in the National Football League. We played a good football team today, one that I’m sure in December will be battling for a spot in the playoffs. They’ve got some good players. Our guys battled and battled, and found a way to get a win at home.”

Depending on what happens on Monday night in Chicago, where the Bears are slated to host the Detroit Lions, the Vikings could finish the week atop the NFC North standings. The Bears currently sit at 4-1, meaning a loss would drop them below the Vikings in the standings at 4-2, while a win would put them in 1st place.

The Vikings must turn around quickly this week and prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Vikings and Buccaneers, former NFC Central rivals from 1977-2001, will battle at Mall of America Field on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.


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ESPN’s Jaworski Praises Harrison Smith, Vikings “Harmony” On Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 12, 2012 – 11:20 am

The Vikings defense is off to a great start in 2012. Vast improvements have been made in pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 61.8% of their passes (down 6.4% from last year)for an average of 6.08 yards per attempt (down 2.03 yards) and their rating is just 84.6 (down 23.0 points).

On top of that, the Vikings stout run defense has returned. The Vikings are #2 in yards per carry allowed (3.2) and #6 in yards per game allowed (78.6), and the Vikings have a League-best long run allowed of just 15 yards. In the last three games, the Vikings have allowed fewer than 300 yards of total offense and just 11.0 points per game.

The big-time improvement by the Vikings defense has been appreciated locally by fans, and now it’s gaining national attention as well. Or at least the attention of one well-respected ESPN NFL analyst.

In his appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, which was broadcasting live from Notre Dame’s campus on Friday morning, Ron Jaworski praised the Vikings defense by explaining that several veterans were playing well and are being complimented by one rookie who has been impressive through his first five games.

“Defensively, when I watched them this week, they just jumped out at me,” Jaworski said. “Obviously they have Jared Allen, Kevin Williams playing great inside. I mean Chad Greenway is flying around making plays all over the field. Antoine Winfield is a wily, old veteran that is healthy this year.

“But that guy that flashed to me, and I know you’re at Notre Dame this morning, but Harrison Smith has been making plays all over the field. A tremendous leader, plays with great discipline.”

Jaworski didn’t stop after praising individuals from the Vikings defense. He also praised the group’s synergy, which is an indirect compliment to those responsible for the construction of the Vikings defense – GM Rick Spielman, Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams.

“And when I look at defense, I always use this word: harmony. When you have eleven guys working together, making great music, you have harmony. And that’s what I see out of this Minnesota Vikings defense right now.”

Hopefully the Vikings defense makes sweet music in Washington D.C., this weekend, too.


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Vikings Ride Defense, Harvin To 30-7 Win Over Titans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 7, 2012 – 6:58 pm

The Vikings used a consistent dose of body blows from their defense and several stunning jabs from Percy Harvin to knock out the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at Mall of America Field, coming away with a 30-7 victory when all was said and done that moved them to 4-1 on the season. The win was the Vikings third of the season at home and it keeps them in a 1st-place tie atop the NFC North with the Chicago Bears.

Tennessee began the game with the ball, and used a 17-yard gain on 3rd and 5 followed by a 12-yard gain on the following play to push the ball inside of Vikings territory. After that, though, the Vikings defense bowed up and forced a Titans punt. That was as good as it would get for the Titans offense until it was too late. That first drive went 7 plays and 33 yards before stalling out, and the Titans were not able to run more than five plays or gain more than 26 yards in any of the next eight series. Tennessee’s first nine drives ended in the following ways: punt, punt, fumble, interception, punt, punt, end of half, punt, punt.

While the Vikings defense was pitching a shutout for three-plus quarters, the Vikings offense was slowly putting together an insurmountable lead, with WR Percy Harvin as the lynchpin and QB Christian Ponder as the triggerman. Harvin was up to his old tricks, serving as a lethal and versatile threat throughout the game. He had 2 rushes for 8 yards, including a 4-yard TD, and caught 8 passes for 108 yards and another TD. Ponder threw his first 2 INTs of the season, but he was able to bounce back in a big way. He finished going 25 of 35 for 258 yards with 2 TDs to go along with the INTs. His second TD went to Kyle Rudolph in the 4th quarter and essentially ended any thought of an improbable Titans comeback.

As they’ve been able to do during their wins, the Vikings ran the ball with enough effectiveness to keep the opposing defense off-balance. Adrian Peterson carried the ball 17 times for 88 yards while Toby Gerhart logged 41 yards on 6 carries. As a team, the Vikings gained 175 rushing yards on 31 carries, good for a 5.6-yard average and good enough to allow the play-action pass to be effective. The Vikings picked up 25 first downs during the game, with nine of them coming on the ground, 13 through the air and another three via penalty.

But make no mistake, the foundation of Sunday’s Vikings win was a suffocating defensive performance that kept RB Chris Johnson frustrated and QB Matthew Hasselbeck uncomfortable. Johnson was held to just 24 yards on 15 carries (1.6 yards per carry) and Hasselbeck was sacked twice while going 26 of 43 for 200 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Those numbers a bit deceiving, though, because Hasselbeck had just 83 yards passing by the end of the 3rd quarter and picked up the rest while the Vikings played a conservative defense that forced Tennessee to methodically march down the field instead of striking quickly.

In the 1st half, though, the Vikings defense was anything but conservative. They sacked Hasselbeck twice, Antoine Winfield intercepted him once and they forced two fumbles with fumble recovery. The Titans were just 1 of 7 on 3rd downs in the first two quarters and Johnson had just 12 yards rushing on 8 attempts. Behind the stellar defensive performance, Harvin’s rushing TD and 2 Blair Walsh FGs, the Vikings led 13-0 at halftime.

The Vikings pushed their lead to 23-0 after another Walsh FG – he was 3-of-3 on the afternoon – and Harvin’s 10-yard TD catch before the Titans finally got on the board with a 10-yard TD pass from Hasselbeck to TE Jared Cook. Ponder and Co. wasted no time responding to Tennessee’s only score, though, driving 43 yards in just 6 plays on the following drive to score on a 15-yard Ponder-to-Rudolph connection, giving the Vikings their final 30-7 advantage.

The Vikings defense didn’t collect a bunch of sacks on the afternoon, but they were constantly pestering Hasselbeck and forcing him to either throw too quickly or throw inaccurately. The Vikings defensive line was also credited with 3 passes defensed, an indication that even when they didn’t get to Hasselbeck they were still able to disrupt him. Unofficially, LB Chad Greenway was credited with 9 tackles to lead the team and CB Josh Robinson was second on the team with 6 tackles. Greenway had 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass defensed, while S Jamarca Sanford (2), DT Kevin Williams (2), LB Jasper Brinkley (1), Winfield (1), CB Chris Cook (1) and DE Jared Allen (1) had the other pass break-ups. LB Erin Henderson had 2 tackles for loss and DE Brian Robison and Allen each had 1.

We will have much more analysis and reaction to the Vikings win on Sunday, so stay tuned to vikings.com to stay on top of it all. The Vikings next game is Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field, where they will challenge the Washington Redskins in a game that is scheduled to kick off at 3:25 p.m. CT.

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Frazier Lauds Defensive Depth, Credits Vikings Scouting

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 2, 2012 – 10:53 am

This season the Vikings defense has committed to more of a rotation during games with their defensive line, has a starting linebacker who has missed two complete games and a starting safety who has missed the past 7 quarters of action.

Through it all, the Vikings defense has performed well and has demonstrated a significant improvement from a season ago. Over the past two weeks, in fact, the Vikings have allowed just 26 total points and they’re yielding only 3.3 yards per rush (5th in the NFL) and 6.5 yards per pass attempt (6th) for the season.

Frazier explained to reporters on Monday that he’s not surprised his defense has been able to perform well despite a few adverse circumstances.

“Not completely because that was one of the goals,” Frazier said. “I know when Rick (Spielman) and the personnel department talked about what we were trying to get accomplished from a roster standpoint, that was one of the major conversations, improving our depth.”

Perhaps the best example of the Vikings defensive depth paying dividends is S Jamarca Sanford. He replaced an injured Mistral Raymond in Week 3 against San Francisco and then started the Vikings Week 4 game at Detroit. In those two games, Sanford collected 10 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He was also involved in a play with fellow safety Harrison Smith where the Vikings defenders caused Lions WR Calvin Johnson to drop a TD pass.

Other examples of the Vikings depth coming through include DE Everson Griffen, who has 8 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble, and LB Marvin Mitchell, who has filled in capably for an injured Erin Henderson.

“We know we’re going to have some injuries,” Frazier said. “We’ve experienced injuries here in the past couple of years, in the secondary in particular, so that was a point of emphasis, to improve our depth, to upgrade it to the point where if there was an injury, there wouldn’t be such a big drop-off that we’ve witnessed here in the past.

“And I credit our scouting department for doing a good job in that area so now when we rotate defensive linemen, you don’t feel as handcuffed as you would in the past. You lose a guy at linebacker, you don’t feel as strained as you do in the past and the same is true in our secondary.”

The Vikings have had success on defense thanks to standout performances from starters such as DE Jared Allen, (10 QB hits, 2.0 sacks), LB Chad Greenway (team-high 55 tackles) and CB Antoine Winfield (DBs-leading 34 tackles). But depth has played an important role, too. And, as Frazier pointed out, the nature of the game of football is such that injuries will happen and teams have to be able to adapt.

“You hope that you don’t have injuries,” Frazier said. “But they do occur, and depending on where that injury occurs, it could really have a major impact on your team if you don’t have quality depth. Fortunately for us, I think we have pretty good depth.”


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