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Team Names Greenway, Peterson, Walsh MVPs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2013 – 1:21 pm

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman met with reporters on Thursday and one of the disclosures he made was that the team voted on its MVPs. This has been an annual ritual for the team the past several seasons, with a MVP being named on defense, offense and special teams. The awards are  voted on by Vikings coaches and players.

Chad Greenway was named the defensive MVP, Adrian Peterson was named the offensive MVP and Blair Walsh was named the special teams MVP. Greenway and Peterson recorded career-highs in tackles and rushing yards, respectively, and Walsh was arguably the NFL’s best kicker.

Spielman also said the team would announce its rookie of the year in April following this year’s draft at a special event. Who would you vote for as the Vikings Rookie of the Year for 2012? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.

Previous Team MVPs
2006: Antoine Winfield, Chester Taylor, Heath Farwell
2007: EJ Henderson, Adrian Peterson, Heath Farwell
2008: Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Longwell
2009: Jared Allen, Brett Favre, Ryan Longwell
2010: Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson, Chris Kluwe
2011: Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, Eric Frampton


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Notes And Quotes From Frazier’s End-Of-Season Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 8, 2013 – 1:43 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Frazier meets with reporters multiple times per week during the regular season, but Tuesday’s press conference represents the last of these regular meetings of the 2012 season. Frazier will, of course, speak with reporters during the offseason, but this is the last extensive question-and-answer session he’ll have until most likely the Scouting Combine in late February.

Here are several notes and quotes from Frazier’s end-of-season press conference…

Proud of his team
The Vikings fell short of their ultimate team goal – winning the Super Bowl. But they accomplished many other goals throughout the 2012 regular season, including collecting enough wins to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2009. For that, and for other unstated reasons, Frazier said he was proud of this year’s team.

“I’m very, very proud of our football team and what they accomplished this season,” Frazier said. “Our guys worked extremely hard going all the way back to April 23 when they came back into the building to really set a foundation for this 2012 season. Because of their hard work, we were able to secure a playoff berth. The foundation has been set for our team, without question.

“Our core identities showed up. The traits that we talked about throughout the year…being a tough, smart, disciplined football team. It was exemplified through this group of young men.”

Developing a young roster
I didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the team until Frazier referenced it during his press conference, but 22 of the 53 players currently on the Vikings roster are listed as being in their 1st or 2nd season. It’s impressive that this team played so well so late in the season and qualified for the postseason with so many young players and so many young players at important positions.

Frazier credited his coaching staff for the work they did in developing young players and he also expressed gratitude to his veteran players for their leadership roles as well.

Frazier also said he didn’t anticipate changes to his coaching staff, barring any promotions some of them may receive.

Dome-field advantage is back
Frazier has said many times in the past that he understands how difficult an environment Mall of America Field can be for opposing teams. He mentioned it once again during Tuesday’s press conference, expressing appreciation for the support of Vikings fans and for the noise the crowd creates in the Vikings home stadium.

“I think for any team that comes to Mall of America Field, our goal going into the season, we wanted to make it extremely difficult for anybody to think that they could come here and win. Our guys, they got that done. To go 7-1 at home, with the support we got from our fans, that was a big deal for our success during the season.”

Injury report
Frazier listed DE Jared Allen (shoulder) and P Chris Kluwe (left knee) as players who will likely undergo surgeries for ailments. He also listed LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder), RB Adrian Peterson (core muscle), QB Christian Ponder (triceps) and CB Antoine Winfield (hand) as players also dealing with injuries, but he didn’t indicate surgery would be needed for any of those players. Overall, none of the injuries should impact any of those players’ ability to participate minicamps, training camp or the 2013 regular season, according to Frazier.

Ponder is the Vikings starter going forward
Frazier was asked a series of questions about the team’s quarterback situation. He was unequivocal in saying that Ponder would be the team’s starter going into the offseason. He was vaguer about the depth chart after Ponder, saying Joe Webb would compete for the backup job behind Ponder and also mentioning McLeod Bethel-Thompson as someone who was involved in the team’s plans. Beyond that, Frazier wisely pointed out that it’s hard to prognosticate what will happen at that position – or any position – at this point in the offseason.

Futures for Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield
Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield have been productive players for the Vikings for many seasons, and both were vital components to the defensive effort in 2012. But both guys are also quite long in the tooth, with Williams having completed his 10th season and Winfield having completed his 14th. As it stands right now, though, it sounds like Frazier would love to have both guys return for the 2013 season.

“The intangible in this is a big deal when you’re trying to get the locker room the way you want it,” Frazier explained. “And both Antoine and Kevin are guys who have achieved a lot in our League, a lot of success. So to have star players with the demeanor and leadership qualities that they both possess, helped our football team in 2012, there’s no question about it.

“Would love to have those guys on our team going forward. That’s something we’re going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department. Just talk about their fit going forward. But from my vantage point, very appreciative of the leadership they provided this season, what they’ve meant in my time here in Minnesota, and I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well.”


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Packers Injury Report: CB Woodson Ruled Out, But DL Getting Healthier

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 27, 2012 – 8:00 am

Future Hall of Fame CB Charles Woodson did not play in the first Vikings-Packers matchup of the season because of a broken collarbone suffered against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7. And he won’t play in the second Vikings-Packers matchup, either, because of the injury.

Sunday will mark the 9th game Woodson has missed because of the injury. The Packers were hopeful that Woodson would make his return this week for the season finale, hoping the game would serve as a tune-up for the team’s postseason run.

“We were hopeful this was going to be the game,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is his fourth week now going through practice. I know he’s disappointed. This is a game he’d really like to play in.”

Elsewhere, though, Green Bay is getting healthier. That is especially the case along the defensive line, where starter CJ Wilson returned to practice after missing the past 4 games and rookie DE Jerel Worthy also returned to work after missing last week’s game. Wilson is one of Green Bay’s top run stoppers, and his absence from the first border battle was a plus for Adrian Peterson and the Vikings as they ran up and down Lambeau Field. Worthy is a high-performing member of the DL rotation and one of several contributors from the Packers 2012 draft class.

Green Bay has 13 players listed on its injury report. Listed as out was Woodson. Listed as non-participants in practice were K Mason Crosby, G Josh Sitton and RB James Starks. Listed as limited participants in practice were WR Randall Cobb, G Evan Dietrich-Smith, CB Davon House, Wilson, Worthy and C Jeff Saturday. Full participants were TE Tom Crabtree, RB Alex Green and WR Jordy Nelson.

For the Vikings, DE Jared Allen, RB Adrian Peterson and CB Antoine Winfield did not practice. DE Brian Robison was limited, and P Chris Kluwe, RT Phil Loadholt and CB Marcus Sherels were full participants.


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The Forgotten Phase: Vikings Special Teams Group Key In Sunday’s Win

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 11, 2012 – 7:17 am

Special teams is often the forgotten about phase of football. But it’s been hard to miss the Vikings special teams performance this season, especially with the Vikings being just one of eight teams with both a punt return and kickoff return TD and with rookie K Blair Walsh ready to set the team rookie scoring mark and already having set a team single-season touchback record.

In Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, a team known for having spectacular special teams play annually, it was the Vikings special teams group that continued to make a difference.

Walsh continued to execute well on kickoffs. He’s already proven to have a powerful leg with 41 touchbacks through 13 games. But now the Vikings are displaying some variety in their kickoff game plan by asking Walsh to put some hang time on his kickoffs so the coverage team can run down and tackle returners inside the 20. The Vikings executed that plan to perfection on Sunday, keeping Bears kickoff returner Eric Weems from crossing the 20-yardline on all 4 of his attempts.

Speaking of keeping teams inside the 20, Vikings P Chris Kluwe did just that twice on Sunday. In fact, his 2 punts inside the 20 were downed at the 5 and the 3. The Bears were forced to punt after 6 plays on one of those drives and then turned the ball over on downs on the other series. Kluwe had 7 punts on the afternoon, and 5 of them were returned by the ever-dangerous Devin Hester. But Hester was not dangerous on Sunday. He did surpass his season average for punt returns, but he wasn’t able to break off a long enough return to flip the field position, which he’s done so many times against the Vikings over the years.

When all was said and done, Chicago’s average drive start was their own 21, and their average drive start after a kickoff was their own 14. When Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer’s group puts up numbers like that, it puts Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams’ and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave’s group in better position to succeed.


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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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Final Thoughts: Rushing Offense, Pass Rush Key Vikings Victory

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 23, 2012 – 6:20 am

The Vikings have a quick turnaround this week, as they’re slated to play on Thursday night in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We’ll turn our full attention to the Vikings-Buccaneers matchup later on Tuesday. But first, here are a few final thoughts from the Vikings 21-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Getting Home With Four
We identified rushing four defensive linemen and dropping seven defenders into coverage as the defensive key to the game in last week’s Verizon Wireless Winning Formula. The Vikings identified the same strategy as the way to contain Arizona’s offense, and it worked. Cardinals QB John Skelton was sacked 7 times in the game and was constantly under duress. That disrupted the Cardinals passing game and it prevented superstar WR Larry Fitzgerald from ever becoming a factor.

“That was the goal, to go into this game and be able to generate a pass rush without having to bring five or six guys,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday. “Our D-line stepped up to challenge. They dominated just like we hoped they would. It really took a lot of pressure off our secondary and helped them to play a very good game as well. It was great execution, but it started with our guys up front.”

Of the Vikings 7 sacks, 6.0 of them came from defensive linemen. DE Brian Robison had 3.0, DE Jared Allen had 2.0 and DT Kevin Williams had 1.0. The other sack went to CB Antoine Winfield (more on that play later). The pressure generated by the Vikings front four allowed the Vikings secondary and LBs to focus on Arizona’s receivers, specifically Fitzgerald. Only one other team this year (New England Patriots) has held Fitzgerald to fewer catches and receptions than the Vikings, who held the former Holy Angels (Richfield, MN) star to 4 receptions for 29 yards.

Run It, All Day
When you play the Vikings, you know you have to buckle it up and get ready to stop Adrian Peterson. But then, when you’re able to shut down the Vikings passing game almost entirely, you surely know Peterson will be coming at you. Even so, Arizona could not stop the best RB in the NFL. Peterson had his best day on the field since returning from his knee injury, carrying the ball 23 times for 153 yards and 1 TD. On the Vikings two TD drives, Peterson carried the ball a total of 8 times for 87 yards.

Perhaps most impressive about the Vikings rushing performance was the fact that they did it despite Arizona consistently stacking the box to try and slow #28.

“For our running back, Adrian Peterson, who is the premier back, to know they’re going to be in eight-man fronts, nine-man fronts at a time, and be able to rush for 153 yards, that’s the formula for success if you’re in a tough situation throwing the football,” Frazier said. “Credit our guys for buying into that philosophy and finding a way to get a win.”

What I also loved to see was the way the Vikings finished the game. The Vikings were in a precarious situation, holding on to a 7-point lead with :14 to play in the game and a 4th and 5 from the Arizona 33. There was too much time remaining to kneel again because that would give the Cardinals the ball on about the 35 with 12 or so seconds to go. They could use one quick pass to the sideline to put themselves in position to throw a hail mary. Trying a FG was an option, but a miss would give the Cardinals the ball at the spot of the hold, with a chance at a hail mary on the following play. So what did the Vikings do? They gave it to Peterson.

The result was good – an 8-yard gain up the middle for the 1st down, permitting the clock to tick down to zero.

Key Play: Antoine Winfield’s 4th-Down Sack
A key moment in the game came at the 7:47 mark in the 3rd quarter, with Arizona facing a 4th and 2 from the Minnesota 18. The Vikings just took a 21-7 lead on the previous series when Harrison Smith returned an INT 31 yards for a touchdown. With a makeable distance to go on 4th down inside the red zone, Arizona decided a FG wasn’t going to do much for them, so they decided to go for it.

It didn’t work out.

Skelton took the snap and rolled to his right, looking for a receiver in the right flat. That receiver was blanketed by Winfield, so Skelton tucked the ball and attempted to run for the 1st down. Being chased by Robison, Skelton sprinted toward the sideline and the 1st down marker, which prompted Winfield to come off his coverage at the just the right time and administer a crushing blow to Skelton before he could reach the 1st down marker – before he could even get back to the line of scrimmage. Robison got there a split-second later to increase the punishment, and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs.

It was one of those signature plays from Winfield, a defender who plays with a unique blend of calculation and tenacity.

Vikings Neutralize Patrick Peterson
When it comes to punt returners in the NFL, Patrick Peterson has been Superman. He had a record-setting season returning punts last year as a rookie, scoring 4 TDs and totaling 699 yards on 44 returns. The 4 return TDs tied the NFL single-season record and set a franchise record, and the 699 return yards established an NFL rookie record and ranks as the 2nd-highest single-season total in NFL history (Desmond Howard, 875, 1996).

But when it comes to defending punt returners in the NFL, the Vikings have been Peterson’s Kryptonite. In last year’s matchup, Peterson had zero return yards on 4 Vikings punt. In Sunday’s matchup, Peterson had 7 total return yards on another 4 Vikings punts. Credit goes to Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer, P Chris Kluwe and the team’s punt coverage crew for finding a way to neutralize the explosive and dynamic Peterson.

Harrison Smith’s Temperament Impresses
Vikings rookie S Harrison Smith is off to a fantastic start. Even before his 31-yard pick 6 this past Sunday, Smith was having a great season. Add in that play, which was ultimately the game-winning score, and you can’t be anything but completely excited about how much of an impact player Smith will be for this Vikings defense.

Smith plays the safety position in a way we haven’t seen very much in Minnesota. He’s been fined for illegal hits and he’s been penalized for mixing it up after a play. But the penalties and/or fines that Smith has received after a couple of big-time hits have not caused Smith to temper his aggressiveness. He’s learning to modify his play so that he can remain aggressive while playing within the rules.

“Sometimes when you get fined as often as he’s gotten fined in these first seven games, it can temper your emotions and make you start playing a little tentatively,” Frazier explained. “And that hasn’t been the case with him. He’s been aggressive. He’s still in-tune with everything we’re trying to get done. He doesn’t seem to be sidetracked by anything that happened.

“I remember explaining to him about horse collaring and what happened a week ago against Washington and talking him through it again, although we’ve covered this before. And he said, ‘Okay, I understand.’ Then he just moved on, and that’s the attitude you want to see.”

Now Smith adds a defensive touchdown to his body of work in the NFL. Typically, players who bring that much to the table are emotional and volatile by nature. But that’s not the case with Smith, and that’s impressed Frazier as well.

“His resiliency, his maturity is very, very impressive,” Frazier said. “He’s a bright guy and very athletic but his maturity and just not letting stuff hang on to him that can be negative, that’s impressive.”


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Vikings Fans Encouraged to Help Tackle Hunger This Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 18, 2012 – 5:44 am

Vikings coaches and players will be hard at work on Sunday at Mall of America Field trying to defeat the Arizona Cardinals and move to 5-2 on the season. Before the game, though, the Vikings are encouraging fans to help them team with UnitedHealthcare in the effort to defeat hunger.

The Vikings and UnitedHealthcare will host a Food & Fund Drive before this Sunday’s game. UnitedHealthcare volunteers will greet fans attending the game at all entrances to Mall of America Field and will collect food and funds for Second Harvest Heartland to help in the fight against hunger in the heartland. Donated foods can include non-perishable and non-breakable items such as canned soups, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned meat, boxed pasta, rice, and peanut butter.

Hunger has doubled in Second Harvest Heartland’s service area over the past five years. Today, more than half a million men, women, children, and seniors in Minnesota miss an estimated 100 million meals every year.

The Vikings Food & Fund Drive is part of UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” employee volunteer initiative, a national effort to prevent hunger, diabetes and obesity. For more information on UnitedHealthcare and its “Do Good. Live Well.” campaign, visit www.dogoodlivewell.org. For more information on Second Harvest Heartland, visit www.2harvest.org.

Kluwe Kicks In
For the second year, members of the Vikings and 180 volunteers from UnitedHealthcare provided “double coverage” in the fight against hunger in the heartland by teaming up to pack food for hungry Minnesotans. The event, which supports Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger relief organization, is also a part of UnitedHealthcare’s Do Good. Live Well. employee volunteer initiative.

Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders, Viktor the Viking, executives and players, including Chris Kluwe, were joined by the UnitedHealthcare volunteers and representatives from Second Harvest Heartland for the event.


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Dual Threat, Take Two: Vikings Have Eye On Patrick Peterson

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 17, 2012 – 11:04 am

Last week the Vikings defense had to deal with a dual threat on the Washington Redskins offense in QB Robert Griffin III. Entering the game, RG3 had 8 total TDs – 4 receiving and 4 rushing – and he was able to tack on 3 more against the Vikings, with 2 coming on the ground and another one through the air.

The Vikings opponent this week – the Arizona Cardinals – also has an extremely talented athlete who poses as a dual threat. This time, though, it will be the Vikings offense and special teams that will have to deal with the threat.

The player is Patrick Peterson. He is a starting CB for the Cardinals defense and he’s one of the NFL’s best punt returners. Arizona selected Peterson with the 5th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and it didn’t take Peterson long to make a profound impact on the League.

Peterson started all 16 games at CB for Arizona’s defense and recorded 2 INTs and 13 passes defensed. His most notable impact, though, came on special teams. He had a record-setting season returning punts, scoring 4 TDs and totaling 699 yards on 44 returns. The 4 return TDs tied the NFL single-season record and set a franchise record, and the 699 return yards established an NFL rookie record and ranks as the 2nd-highest single-season total in NFL history (Desmond Howard, 875, 1996).

For those efforts, Peterson was selected to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, becoming the first Cardinal rookie since Anquan Boldin (2003) to earn Pro Bowl honors. He also earned 1st-Team All-Pro recognition as a kick returner and was the only rookie named to the team.

“He’s a good player,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “Good corner and has good cover ability. They’ve been playing him in some man situations, he’s good in zone situations. And then as a punt returner, he’s in a whole class by himself.

“He’s incredible…four touchdowns over eighty yards a year ago and set an NFL record. So he’s a special guy when it comes to punt return. We talked about him in our meeting and what we’ve got to do to keep him corralled. He can definitely change a game as a punt returner, and even as a defensive back. Outstanding player.”

So far in 2012, Peterson has already surpassed his INT total (he has 3 already). But he’s yet to take a punt return to the house and is averaging 10.1 yards per return on 22 tries. In last year’s matchup with the Cardinals, the Vikings were able to minimize Peterson’s impact. He collected 4 tackles on defense and was forced to take 3 fair catches on 4 Chris Kluwe punts. Kluwe had an impressive day against the Cardinals, with a net average of 47.5, no return yardage for Peterson and 2 punts downed inside the 20, one of which was downed at the 3.

It will take another outstanding effort by Kluwe and the rest of the Vikings to keep another outstanding dual threat at bay.


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Special Teams Make Profound Impact For Vikings In Victory

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 1, 2012 – 8:45 am

Given how the imbalance of attention devoted to defense/offense over special teams, the number of special teams snaps in a given NFL game comes as a surprise to many. For instance, in the Vikings victory over Detroit on Sunday there were 28 special teams snaps. With that being the case, it’s easy to see why special teams has such a direct impact on the outcome of each NFL game.

Let’s take a look at several key moments for the Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer’s group in Sunday’s win…

Percy Harvin returns opening kickoff 105 yards for a TD: Percy Harvin has been an invaluable player for the Vikings offense in 2012. To open Sunday’s game against Detroit, he reminded everyone just how invaluable he is on special teams, too. Harvin fielded the opening kick 5 yards deep and started the return going to the left before veering quickly to the right. Setting up his blocks perfectly, which he does so well, Harvin gained the corner of the blocking scheme and outsprinted the Lions coverage group down the sideline.

Marcus Sherels weaves his way to 77-yard punt return TD: On the day he celebrated his 25th birthday, Marcus Sherels stood underneath a Detroit punt early in the 3rd quarter with the Lions coverage group bearing down on him. With teammate Percy Harvin having already registered a return TD of his own, Sherels would not be outdone. He caught the punt, immediately took a hit below the knees from a Lions defender, kept his balance and then began weaving his way up the gut of the Lions coverage team. After darting in and out several times and bouncing away from another defender, Sherels made one last cut to the left and sprinted down the Vikings sideline to register a 77-yard return that was ultimately the game-winning score.

Kluwe flips field position: The power of a punter. You wouldn’t think they have much, but because of their ability to flip the field position battle, they do. And Kluwe used his power judiciously against the Lions. There are two punts in particular that standout to me because they had the combination of result and timing that profoundly impacted the game. The first punt came at the end of the 2nd quarter, with the Vikings leading 13-6 and trying to get to the locker room with the lead. Kluwe booted the ball with around 29 seconds to play, plenty of time for Lions QB Matthew Stafford to put his team in position for a last-second FG. But Kluwe’s punt sailed 52 yards from the Vikings 26 to the Lions 22. On top of that, it had enough hang time for the Vikings coverage team to run down and tackle punt returner Stefan Logan for a loss of 1 yard. The Lions were then unable to try a last-second scoring attempt to close the half. The second standout punt came at the end of the game, with the Vikings leading 20-13 and 1:53 to go, again plenty of time for Stafford and Co. to drive down and score. Kluwe’s punt was high and 47 yards deep. It landed inside the 10, took a left-hand turn, and was downed by the Vikings coverage team at the 2. That made it tough for the Lions to dig out of their own territory, and ultimately Stafford ran out of time at the end of the game.

Touchbacks: Rookie K Blair Walsh had looked nothing like a rookie through his first three games, and his performance in Detroit fell in line as well. While he did miss a 46-yard try wide left, Walsh was 2 of 3 on the day and hit FGs of 49 and 27 yards to salvage scoring drives. Just as importantly, though, has been Walsh’s performance on kickoffs. That continued in Detroit as well. Walsh kicked off 5 times in the game, and all 5 resulted in touchbacks. Walsh now has 12 touchbacks on the season, an impressive number considering the Vikings had 19 in all of 2012.


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5 Positives To Watch For Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 17, 2012 – 2:14 pm

The Vikings will open up the home part of their preseason schedule tonight by hosting the AFC East’s Buffalo Bills, with kickoff at Mall of America Field slated for 7:00 p.m. CT. If you aren’t able to watch the game on TV, be sure to go to the vikings.com home page to find alternative ways of catching the action. You can subscribe to Preseason Live and watch all preseason action for a small fee, and/or you can join us in the live game chat that will be held right here on vikings.com during the game.

As for tonight’s game, kickoff is fast-approaching. While you’re waiting for the game to begin, though, here are 5 positives to watch for tonight as the Vikings and Bills battle at Mall of America Field…

Finish Drives With Touchdowns
The Vikings 1st-team offense did a nice job of moving the ball against the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense last week, but a pair of drives stalled and had to be salvaged by K Blair Walsh with FGs. It was great to see Walsh come on and finish the job, but it’d be even greater to see Christian Ponder and Co. finish drives tonight on their own with TDs. When the Vikings get into scoring range, keep your eye on TE Kyle Rudolph. He’s one of the Vikings best offensive weapons, and he becomes especially lethal in crucial situations such as 3rd downs, in the red zone and near the goal line.

Remain Gap Sound On Defense
The Vikings have long been one of the NFL’s premier run defenses, but they didn’t look the part last week against the 49ers. That has to change this week against Buffalo. Lots of talk this offseason was about the Vikings improving against the pass, but any improvements the secondary has made the past several months will be negated if the defense can’t first stop the run. Watch for the Vikings 1st-team defense to perform much better tonight than they did a week ago at Candlestick Park.

Big Return On Special Teams
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer has seen his groups have a solid offseason program and training camp for the most part. Now it’s time to take the step from being solid to being spectacular. Expect Walsh to be as good or better than he was last week and expect P Chris Kluwe to take a major step forward this week as the Vikings play in the controlled environment of Mall of America Field. Beyond that, though, I’m looking for a big return, either on kickoff or punt (both would be nice, though). It’s appeared during training camp practices that the kickoff return and punt return blocking units have done a nice job, so now it’s time for one of the Vikings returners to stick their foot in the ground and rip off a big return.

Debut Of CB Josh Robinson
There has been lots of talk about Josh Robinson’s speed (he was the fastest player at the Combine this year), but now it’s time for the talk to give way to the action. Robinson was held out of last week’s preseason game, but he should be on the field tonight and see an expansive role. I expect he’ll see quite a few snaps on defense and I also expect he’ll be involved in the return game. Robinson has big-time upside and it’d be great to get a look at it tonight.

Harrison Smith A Starter?
I won’t be surprised if rookie Harrison Smith lines up as a starter tonight at safety. He’s had a good training camp and played very well last week against San Francisco. He did not start last week, though, and since last week he’s seen even more time with the 1st-team defense. This leads me to believe that he’ll be a starter in tonight’s game – just a guess. If he does start, I expect Smith to be a standout. He strikes me as a player who gets better as the game goes along because he’s a cerebral player who picks up on patterns and tells in the offense’s attack. Smith is not the kind of ballhawk who will grab a bunch of INTs, but he is the kind of player who is not afraid to mix it up in the run game or punish a receiver coming across the middle.


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