Vikings Look To Decrease Negative Rushing Plays

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2009 – 12:02 pm

Though he’s stopped short of labeling last Sunday’s 35-9 domination of the Seattle Seahawks as his team’s most complete game of the season, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has acknowledged that he was pleased with his team’s performance, saying on Monday that he saw “a ton” of good things from all phases of his team while watching film.

“Without going back through each one, it was pretty good,” Childress said. “I mean it was a good job in all phases and nobody let off, whether it was their offensive drive before halftime, [the] defense ramping up and getting us the ball back and us being able to elect whether we wanted to continue on. There were a couple of blips, the screen pass that got out, but it was a good overall effort.”

Asked about areas in which his team could improve going forward, Childress immediately cited negative rushing plays. The Vikings are tied for the 2nd most negative rushing plays with 38. Childress said “winning runs,” which he defined as 4 or more yards on 1st down, half the yardage to gain on 2nd down and then a conversion on 3rd down, will be a focus for his team going forward.

“A plus one run on first down, you do not like so much,” Childress explained. “Those are some things if you can go back through and look at this game and look at our first down run efforts, particularly the first ten to 15, there’s a lot of one’s, zero’s, two’s, one’s, two’s, three’s.”

The Vikings called runs on 8 of the first 13 plays from scrimmage and gained just 29 yards. So they adjusted at that point and called passes on 11 of the next 16 plays, which resulted in 14 points. But instead of relying on the pass for the rest of the game, the Vikings wisely came back to the run game and found success, thanks in large part to their efficient passing display in the 2nd quarter.

RB Adrian Peterson eventually finished the game with 82 yards on 24 carries and Chester Taylor chipped in with 73 yards on 11 carries.

The Vikings will get a chance to improve their standing in terms of total negative rushing plays this week when they host the Chicago Bears. In 4 games against the Bears, Peterson is averaging 138.5 yards per contest and his has 9 rushing TDs.

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Peterson Picking It Up In Receiving Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 3, 2009 – 7:53 am

In our last blog entry from yesterday, we explained that Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe is on pace to set career highs in receptions and receiving TDs. After continuing to review Vikings statistics, I found another Vikings player who is on pace to establish new career highs in receiving statistics.

RB Adrian Peterson, who had 1 reception for 44 yards in Sunday’s 38-26 win over Green Bay, now has 19 receptions for 189 yards on the season. That puts him on pace for 38 receptions and 378 receiving yards, which would crush his current single-season career high in receptions (21) and receiving yards (268).

The increase in production for Peterson as a receiver is significant because about the only critique one could give the superstar RB is his performance as a receiver and in the passing game in general. The Vikings also have Chester Taylor on the roster, who is often a better option on obvious passing downs because of his experience as a receiver out of the backfield and because of his superior blocking abilities.

But as one of the team’s hardest-working and most determined players, Peterson has set out to improve in all areas of the game and specifically in the passing game. And now the results are beginning to show.

“If you can get him in air, he’s good enough to be able to turn to the quarterback with his back to the defense, catch the football,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said last week. “If you can get him to turn his face on the defenders, he’s got a chance to wiggle and then use his physical skills as a check down guy. Yeah, he can be a threat there as well.”

Taylor’s role with the Vikings will not be reduced, but the increase in performance and production from Peterson in the passing game will do nothing but make the league’s 2nd-highest scoring offense even more potent.

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Emptying Out The Monday Night Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 7, 2009 – 7:56 am

Just wanted to empty out the notebook from Monday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers before we begin to look ahead at this week’s game in St. Louis…

— Great job by the Vikings of cleaning up the penalties. You’ll remember that this was a problem area for the Vikings during the preseason. In 4 preseason games, the Vikings had 40 penalties enforced against them for a total of 286 yards, which averaged out to 10 penalties a game for losses of 71.5 yards a game, which looks like a nice scoring drive. Against the Packers on Monday night, the only 2 penalties were enforced against the Vikings. Credit goes to both the coaches and players for cleaning that up.

– I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that WR Sidney Rice was one of the hardest-working players during this past offseason. Well so was WR Jaymar Johnson, and it paid off for him on Monday night. Johnson, who saw his 1st regular season action because of the injury to WR Darius Reynaud, returned 2 punts for a total of 42 yards. His 1st return was an 18-yarder that advanced the ball from the Vikings 26-yardline to the 44. The 2nd return was even better, as Johnson advanced the ball 24 yards from his own 25-yardline to the 49-yardline.

– It’s more than appropriate that we give kudos to the Vikings offensive line for a great job of pass protection on Monday night. The unit was receiving criticism after 3 games for how many times QB Brett Favre was being sacked and hit, but against the Packers they kept Favre completely clean, allowing zero sacks and giving Favre enough time to complete 24 passes for 271 yards and 3 TDs.

“Chester (Taylor) had a great blitz pick up on the pass that Brett had to Sidney (Rice) in the end zone, with the guy coming off the edge,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said. “I thought the inside three guys did a nice job as well as the guys with the speed rushers and the tight ends and the backs are involved in that. They were just all on the same page and nobody got beat.”

– Jared Allen was the Vikings DE who had the best game on Monday night, tallying 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble while making QB Aaron Rodgers’ life completely miserable. But another DE had a good game also – Brian Robison got in there for 1.5 sacks and had a tackle for a loss. He’s a high-motor guy who has played in a few spots along the line. He can play inside on passing downs and he has also played both DE spots. And Childress says Robison is contributing to other areas of the team as well.

“Not just spot rushing, having that sack and jumping inside, but he’s doing a tremendous job and really has embraced what he does on the special teams,” the coach said. “In that return that Percy (Harvin) had last week he was running stride-for-stride with (Nate) Clemens down the field blocking him. So he’s doing nice things all the way around; in our return game, our coverage game.”

– The Vikings outscored their opponent once again in the 3rd quarter, besting Green Bay on Monday night 7-0. That runs the Vikings positive 3rd quarter scoring margin to 38-3. The Vikings 38 points in the 3rd quarter is the most of any team, and the Vikings rank 4th in overall scoring with 29.5 PPG.

I don’t know how what’s led to the positive 3rd quarter scoring margin, but I’ll give the coaching staff the credit for making good adjustments at halftime. After all, if the Vikings were being outscored 38-3 in the 3rd quarter, the coaching staff would be getting killed for it.

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A Word on 3rd Down

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 29, 2009 – 1:05 pm

In a game with as thin a winning margin as there was in Sunday’s Vikings-49ers contest at the Metrodome, there are likely several factors that, if changed even slightly, could’ve resulted in the opposite outcome occurring.

You can’t help but point to 3rd downs as one factor from last Sunday.

The Vikings did not allow San Francisco to convert one 3rd down in the game, forcing the 49ers to go a crippling 0-11. According to Stats, Inc. (and passed along to me by Jeff Anderson of the Vikings PR department), the Vikings hadn’t held an opponent to zero 3rd down conversions since 12/6/98 against Chicago (they did it twice in 1998 – 11/8 vs. New Orleans was the other time). Even more impressive is that since the 2000 season, NFL teams have held opponents to zero 3rd-down conversions just 30 times.

The Vikings offense, meanwhile, converted 10 of 20 third-down tries against San Francisco, increasing their 3rd down conversion rate for the season to 42.2%, which is 9th best in the league.

Since the Vikings ranked just 19th in 3rd down conversion rate in 2008, I thought a quick analysis of the team’s success in that area was in order.

I can’t tell you how many times, after the amazing Brett Favre-to-Greg Lewis-TD to beat San Francisco, I’ve heard someone say “That’s why the Vikings signed Favre.” And I can’t disagree, that play is certainly an example of the magic and “never out of it” style that Favre brings to his team.

But it seems another area where Favre will help improve the Vikings is on 3rd downs. As stated above, the Vikings are already up to 9th in the NFL on 3rd downs after finishing 19th last year. A big reason behind the improvement is Favre, who has a passer rating of 99.2 and 2 TDs on 3rd down. Fittingly, Favre’s game-winning TD strike to Lewis on Sunday came on a 3rd down.

Going even deeper, and as pointed out to me by my buddy and Vikings PR maven Evan Koch, Favre’s favorite targets on 3rd down have been WR Percy Harvin and RB Chester Taylor, who have 8 third-down receptions a piece. Harvin leads the team in receiving yards with 128, and 84 of those receiving yards (72.7%) have come on 3rd down (so has 1 of his 2 TDs). Also, 88.9% of Taylor’s receiving yards this year have come on 3rd down.

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A Few More Odds and Ends From Monday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 7, 2009 – 4:41 pm

A few more notes from Moday’s action at Winter Park…

– Rookie CB Asher Allen has changed from #30 to #21. The jersey change comes after the release of Marcus McCauley, who had previously worn the #21 jersey. I asked Allen why the switch to #21, and he told me that he wore #21 in high school and that 21 is his favorite number.

– In case you missed it last night, the Vikings waived undrafted rookie C Jon Cooper from the 53-man roster last night and added C Kory Lichtensteiger. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress was asked about Lichtensteiger on Monday after practice and here’s what he had to say:

“We liked him coming out (of college). He has played for a year in that West Coast offense there (in Denver). He was kind of caught in the numbers game (in Denver). I will be interested to watch him with pads on, how he carries his pads. He did not have practice squad eligibility, so that was kind of the thing that pushed it the way it went. But anyhow, I think he is a big body. He’s a smart kid, an intelligent kid, and an aggressive kid. You like some of those things.”

Asked if Cooper would be considered for the practice squad, Childress said: “I really don’t have any strong feelings either way, except that I still love Coop. He’s a competitive guy and that doesn’t change at all how I feel about him. There was another different guy out there that fit the bill and had to be a part of our 53 and didn’t have practice squad eligibility.”

– WR Percy Harvin was limited somewhat in the preseason because of injury, but Childress didn’t seem to have any trouble with the idea of Harvin participating in the return game going forward.

“I don’t really have any trouble with him settling under a ball either way, punt or kickoff return,” Childress said. “We have some good candidates to be able to do that. With Jaymar (Johnson), with Darius (Reynaud), you’ve seen Chester (Taylor) back there before. You’ve got to be able to move those pieces of the puzzle around. (Bernard) Berrian can return punts. You have got to have a lot of guys be able to do a lot of things. With 45 (active players) you don’t know who is going to be there and who is not.”

– Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini and RB Jamal Lewis will participate in a conference call with Twin Cities media on Wednesday. We’ll be sure to check in with you here on the Blog and give you an update on what they had to say. I’m guessing that Mangini will be asked quite a bit about working with Brett Favre last year in New York and also about his pending QB situation involving Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Jamal Lewis will probably be asked a lot about RB Chester Taylor. Lewis and Taylor played together for 4 seasons in Baltimore.

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Vikings Defeat Colts 13-3

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 14, 2009 – 9:13 pm

The Vikings defeated Indianapolis tonight by a count of 13-3, moving their preseason record to 1-0 and dropping the Colts to 0-1. The Viking scored all 13 of their points in the 1st half and put on a stellar defensive effort to smoother the Indianapolis offense all night.

QB Sage Rosenfels got the start and drove the Vikings 72 yards on 11 plays during the 1st series, resulting in a 5-yard Chester Taylor TD run and an early 7-0 lead. Colts QB Peyton Manning was sacked 3 times on his 1st drive and didn’t come back out for a 2nd series.

We’ll have more coverage on tonight and into tomorrow.

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“All Day” Improving Every Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2009 – 11:42 am

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is arguable the best RB in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for improvement every time he steps out on the practice field.

One area in which he could be utilized more frequently is the pass game. The Vikings do have an excellent receiving RB in Chester Taylor, and the team should continue to use him in the way they have over the past 2 seasons. But there’s also no question that involving Peterson in the passing game would only serve to make #28 a more lethal offensive weapon.

“He’s not a satisfied guy,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after this morning’s practice. “He’s not sitting back on his laurels and patting himself on the back. He wants to be well-rounded, he wants to be diversified. While he may be as good a running back as there is in the league, he wants to be great in all facets. So, you’ve got to give it to him from the standpoint of working on your weaknesses or perceived weaknesses. And getting better at something he can get better at. He can get better and he knows he can, and he’s resolute about doing that.”

Childress told reporters that he’s seen Peterson make improvements in both the run game and the pass game, something that other teams in the NFL probably don’t like to hear.

“I’ve seen growth in both run game reads and patience with that,” Childress explained. “I’ve seen growth in his understanding of pass protections and his position in pass protections. I think he’s taken strides there. They’ll continue to come with some of the game speed stuff that’s likely to happen, but I have seen some decent growth there.”

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More Than An Insurance Policy

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 3, 2009 – 7:54 am

We had a story yesterday on about the greatness of RB Adrian Peterson. While there’s no denying the invaluable role Peterson plays on the Vikings, there’s another RB on the Vikings roster who is relied upon in a significant manner.

Chester Taylor was acquired via free agency in 2006 and in his 1st season with the Vikings he helped set a tone in the run game that would eventually lead to the Vikings offensive identity. But now with Peterson leading the charge out of the backfield, Taylor’s role has morphed into one where he is the jack of many trades.

The area where Taylor has been the most valuable over the past 2 seasons has been on 3rd downs.

“We’re comfortable with Adrian Peterson, don’t get me wrong. But I would think you would say Chester Taylor did an outstanding job in that role as our third down back,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He scored a lot of touchdowns and converted a lot of third downs and what that does is save Adrian for some of those other downs.”

Taylor has even ventured into the special teams arena, returning 10 kicks in 2008 for a 23.4-yard average.

When you think of the Vikings offensive weapons, Peterson is obviously the 1st name that comes to mind, probably followed by other names such as Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. But Bevell knows that Taylor is another one of those weapons.

“We have a Chester Taylor. You might as well use him,” Bevell said. “You’re going to have a Percy Harvin, you got (Visanthe) Shiancoe, you got Bernard and you have to find ways to get those playmakers the ball.”

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