The Vikings passing attack took a big step forward on Sunday, and a big reason for it was the reemergence of one of Christian Ponder’s favorite targets – TE Kyle Rudolph. The 2nd-year TE hauled in 7 receptions for 43 yards, including a 20-yard TD early in the 4th quarter that gave the Vikings a 14-point lead.
Of Rudolph’s 7 receptions, 4 resulted in a 1st down or TD and a 5th led to a Blair Walsh FG. Rudolph was targed 9 times on the day.
Rudolph is one of Ponder’s most reliable targets, but he had been neutralized in recent weeks. After scoring 5 TDs in Weeks 2-6, Rudolph had just 2 receptions in his previous 3 games. That of course changed on Sunday, and the change came after the Vikings placed an emphasis on getting Rudolph more involved.
“We actually have been emphasizing Kyle; we just haven’t been able to get him uncovered,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “We did some things today to try to get that done from a schematic standpoint and also formation wise, we were able to connect. We’ve been trying the last few weeks to get him the ball, we know in order for our passing game to succeed we need him involved.”
On Sunday, he was involved. And on Sunday, the passing game succeeded.
Tags: Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 65 Comments »
Football fans know it can be foolish to cast final judgment on a draft class too early. Just 10 games into the season, it’s clearly far too early to grade each NFL team’s performance in the 2012 NFL Draft. But it’s also clear that just 10 games into the season, the Vikings got a lot of things right last April.
On Sunday, it became even clearer. Matt Kalil continues to hold down the left side of the offensive line, Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson have helped the secondary improve, Blair Walsh set a team record for touchbacks and is now 23 of 24 on FGs, and Robert Blanton, Rhett Ellison and Audie Cole continue to contribute on special teams and in other phases of the game. But now there’s a new contributor.
Jarius Wright, a receiver the Vikings drafted in the 4th round (118th overall) last April, made his regular season debut on Sunday and hit the ground running with 3 receptions for 65 yards and 1 TD. On the Vikings fifth offensive play, Wright dashed through the Detroit Lions secondary and QB Christian Ponder threw a shoulder fake to the left before lofting a pass toward Wright down the middle of the field. Wright hauled in the pass while falling to the ground and was tackled at the 1. Just moments later, Ponder found Wright in the end zone for a 3-yard TD to give the Vikings an early 7-0 and to give Wright his first NFL score.
Let’s keep things in perspective: it was one game and Wright had just one catch after hauling in two during the first series. But let’s also enjoy this moment, because Wright infused excitement and athleticism into a passing game that was missing its most explosive component – Percy Harvin.
The Vikings 2012 draft class has looked good all season. But after Wright’s debut on Sunday, it looks even better.
Tags: Christian Ponder, Jarius Wright, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 94 Comments »
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.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Blair Walsh, Chad Greenway, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Jamarca Sanford, Jarius Wright, Kyle Rudolph
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 205 Comments »
The highly-anticipated regular season debut for Jarius Wright couldn’t have started much better.
Wright, active in his first NFL game on Sunday with Percy Harvin sidelined due to an ankle injury, hauled in a 54-yard pass from QB Christian Ponder on the Vikings fifth offensive play of the game. The Ponder-to-Wright connection got the Vikings to the Detroit 1, but a penaly on the next play backed them up to the 6. Two plays later, Ponder went back to Wright and the rookie hauled in a pass for the TD, the first of his career.
That sequence of events gave the Vikings an early 7-0 lead, and they now lead 13-3 at halftime. Wright is the Vikings leading receiver with 3 receptions for 65 yards and the score, while Ponder has been efficient on the day going 13 of 18 for 102 yards with the TD to Wright and no INTs for a passer rating of 104.4.
Tags: Christian Ponder, Jarius Wright
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 100 Comments »
The Vikings began this season with wins in four out of their first five games. Since then, however, they’ve lost three of their last four and two in a row. It’s time to get back on the winning track, and to do so the Vikings will have to upend division rival Detroit for the second time this season.
It’s only Wednesday, so we have plenty of time to breakdown the matchups and analyze the trends. Here are seven Vikings-Lions storylines we’ll be chasing this week.
1. Harvin’s Ankle, Megatron’s Knee
Two of the NFL’s best WRs reside within this Vikings-Lions matchup, and they are both dealing with injuries. Vikings WR Percy Harvin leads the NFL in receptions with 62, but he injured his ankle in last week’s loss to Seattle. Harvin wouldn’t rule himself out for Sunday’s game, but he also called himself a “long shot” to play. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is widely regarded as the best receiver in the NFL, and he looked every bit the part in last week’s win over Jacksonville. Johnson had 7 receptions for 129 yards on the day, making a profound impact on the game even though he didn’t get into the end zone. Johnson missed practice all of last week with a knee injury, and although he doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy of missing the game on Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see how the knee ailment impacts his practice time this week and then his performance on Sunday.
2. Can Ponder Shake His Slump?
A beautiful beginning to the season, highlighted by a solid outing against San Francisco in which he generated 3 TDs, has turned into a dreadful slump for Vikings 2nd-year QB Christian Ponder. The slumping Ponder has thrown for fewer than 100 yards twice in the last three games and he now has 8 INTs in nine games after going through the first four games of the season without throwing it to the opposing team. I believe Ponder will emerge from his slump in a big way, and it could happen on Sunday.
3. Vikings Looking For Pass Rush Re-Emergence
No team has more sacks than the Vikings (74) since the start of 2011, but the Vikings also have just 2 sacks over the past two games. In order to slow down this Lions passing attack, the Vikings must pressure Lions QB Matthew Stafford. In five career games against the Vikings, Stafford has been sacked 20 times, including three times in each of the last three games. Last year, Vikings DE Jared Allen registered 6.0 sacks by himself against the Lions. On the flip side, the Lions have improved their pass protection this season and have allowed just 15 sacks through eight games, 10th-best in the League.
4. More Special Teams Fireworks?
The Vikings defeated the Lions earlier this year by a score of 20-13 in a game that was dominated by special teams. The Vikings won the game, yet didn’t score an offensive TD. Both Vikings TDs were on returns, with Harvin registering a 105-yard kickoff return and Marcus Sherels darting through and around the Lions coverage group for a 77-yard punt return TD on his birthday. At that point, the Lions had surrendered both a kickoff return TD and a punt return TD in back-to-back games. Since then, though, the Lions have not allowed a return TD. Can the Vikings find a way to gouge the Lions coverage groups again?
5. Peterson Gunning For 4th Straight 100-Yard Game
Adrian Peterson has given the phrase “back and better than ever” a whole new meaning. Just over 10 months removed from a major knee injury, Peterson is leading the NFL in rushing with 957 yards and also leads the NFL in yards per carry (5.7) among players with 100+ carries. And Peterson isn’t slowing down. He rushed for a season-high 182 yards last week in Seattle, giving him his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Can he make it four straight?
6. Glancing At The Standings
While it’s still too early to attach the “must-win” tag to this game, there’s no disputing this game’s importance to both Detroit and Minnesota’s playoff hopes. The loser of this game will be looking up at the three other teams in the NFC North and will do so with a losing record in the NFC. Both teams are 3-3 in NFC play, an important metric for tie-breaking purposes when it comes to awarding playoff spots after the regular season. Regardless of who wins and loses this game, both the Vikings and Lions have enough division games remaining that they control their own destinies. Even still, the fact remains that Sunday’s game is a big one in terms of placement in the NFC North standings.
7. Salute To Service
The NFL will continue its long history of honoring veterans and active duty members of the military with its annual Salute to Service campaign. For every point scored during the NFL’s 32 designated Salute to Service games, the League will donate $100 to each of its three core military non-profit partners – Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).
The Vikings will participate in the Salute to Service campaign during Sunday’s game by incorporating several pre-game, in-game and halftime elements in its game production. Here are just a few examples…
The Honorary Viking will be Betty Strohfus, one of just over 1,000 American women who flew military aircraft during World War II; the Honorary Captain will be Sergeant Brian Neill, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who served in the Minnesota National Guard for a period of 23 years; a traditional riderless horse will cross through the end zone during a moment of silence and remain there through the National Anthem; during the National Anthem, the entire stadium will participate in a card stunt. The stunt will display a patriotic message and stars/stripes graphics. Fans should be in their seats 15 minutes prior to kickoff to ensure full-stadium participation;
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Marcus Sherels, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 125 Comments »
As voters head to the polls on Tuesday to exercise one of many great American rights, John Sullivan and many of his teammates will visit those who dedicated much of their lives to fighting and protecting that freedome. Sullivan, along with Christian Ballard, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Everson Griffen, Marvin Mitchell, Mistral Raymond, Jerome Simpson and the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders and Viktor the Viking visited the VA Medical Center on Tuesday morning.
The players visited the community living room and spinal cord injury center multi-purpose room. As part of the visit, UnitedHealthcare executives donated a Ride 2 Recovery Stealth road bike to the Patient Recreation Program to be used soldiers who come through the program.
The Vikings organization has marked the November 11th Vikings-Lions matchup, on Veterans Day, as their “Salute to Service” game.
This is the 12th consecutive year the Vikings and Minnesota Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars have partnered for a community outreach project.
Tags: Christian Ponder, Everson Griffen, Jerome Simpson, John Sullivan, Marvin Mitchell, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Mistral Raymond
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 12 Comments »
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.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh, Brian Robison, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 499 Comments »
Wanting to start quickly is not a novel idea for offenses. Anyone who knows football knows that it’s much easier to operate offensively when you have a lead. Both Head Coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder spoke at length on Wednesday while meeting with reporters about starting fast this week against Seattle, so it’s obvious the idea has been a talking point for the Vikings.
And for good reason. CenturyLink Field, home stadium of the Seahawks, is regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
“Their fans do a good job of getting in the game early and making it hard on offenses and teams in general to function, much like our fans here,” Frazier explained. “When we have it going it’s a tough, tough place to play at Mall of America Field and their environment is similar in that way. You don’t want to fall too far behind in that environment, it can be tough.”
Seattle is 9-2 over the last calendar year at home, including 3-0 this season with impressive wins over Dallas, Green Bay and New England. CenturyLink Field is especially tough for opposing offenses. The Cowboys offense averages 19.5 points per game this season, but they managed just 7 points in their game at Seattle. Green Bay was held to 12 points (they average 24.1 per game) and the high-octane Patriots offense was held a full TD+ below its season average.
In order to avoid a similar fate, the Vikings offense must make strides of improvement this week in practice. That fact is not lost on the coaches or players coming off last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, a game in which the Vikings offense turned the ball over three times, went 3-and-out on its first 3 series and generated multiple 1st downs on just three of its first 12 possessions.
“There are some things we definitely want to do better,” Frazier said of his offense’s early-game struggles against Tampa Bay. “Get some first downs, we talked about that and we’re going to do our very best to improve in that area. We don’t want to have a lot of three-and-outs, especially on the road this week. We want to put some first downs together in order to help our team.”
There is good news and bad news. The bad news is the offense wasn’t able to generate enough production for a win. The good news is that Ponder and Co. believe the mistakes that led to the loss are correctable.
“It goes back to execution,” Ponder explained. “It really wasn’t anything they did, it goes back to what we did, which is a good sign. Everything is fixable, so we just have to fix it.”
The Vikings started that process early. Frazier had his team report to Winter Park on Monday before taking the day off on Tuesday and then resuming preparations for Seattle on Wednesday. The extra days off over last weekend following Thursday night’s game helped coaches and players clear their minds and recharge their batteries. The extra practice on Monday was designed to help the Vikings correct mistakes and regroup for an important week.
“Obviously, we have a lot of stuff to work on this week,” Ponder said. “I thought Monday we came out and kind of focused on us before focusing on Seattle. We had a great practice and did a lot of things to improve and we’re going to keep doing that this week and we’re looking at having a big jump from last Thursday to this Sunday, and we’re excited about it.
“It’s a good opportunity to start the second half of this season. It’s crazy that we’ve already played eight games, but we’re in a good place right now and we’re going to keep looking forward.”
Tags: Christian Ponder, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 464 Comments »
Wednesday is finally here, which means the NFL calendar flips from last week to this week. For the Vikings, who are coming off a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home last Thursday night, that’s a good thing.
This weekend the 5-3 Vikings travel to Seattle for a contest against the 4-4 Seahawks. Both teams are hungry for a win after losses in Week 9. Here are a few storylines we’ll be chasing this week…
1. Can Vikings Contain “Lynchpin” of Seahawks Offense?
Ordinarily the Vikings are a great run-stopping defense. Over the last three games, though, poor gap integrity and shoddy tackling have plagued the Vikings. The Vikings will have serious problems on Sunday if they don’t fix those issues because Marshawn Lynch will have no mercy. Lynch is the NFL’s 2nd-leading rusher behind Adrian Peterson and he’s not an easy guy to tackle. At 5-11, 215 pounds, Lynch has a combination of speed and power that causes defenses fits.
2. All Eyes on Ponder
Fair or not, the blame for the Vikings recent woes in the passing game has generally fallen on the shoulders of QB Christian Ponder. After opening the season with 0 INTs through four games, the 2nd-year passer now has 7 INTs in his last four outings and he’s completed just 51.9% of his passes for 309 yards in his last two games. We know Ponder can get the job done by playing well and moving the ball through the air, and now all eyes will be on Ponder to see if he can get things turned around after a few extra days off following the Thursday night loss to Tampa Bay.
3. Familiar Foes
Both the Vikings and Seahawks have players on their team who were significant figures with the other franchise. A trio of former Vikings – Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell, LB Heath Farwell and WR Sidney Rice – will face their former team in the regular season for the first time since leaving the team after the 2010 season. The three helped the Vikings reach the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season and both Farwell and Rice were named to the Pro Bowl that season.
On the flip side, TE John Carlson left Seattle to come home and join the Vikings via free agency in 2012. In Seattle, Carlson caught 106 passes and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons, and in 2010 he helped the 7-9 Seahawks upset the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the first round of the playoffs with a pair of touchdown catches.
4. Defending Russell Wilson
Speaking of familiar faces, the Vikings will see one under center for Seattle. Rookie QB Russell Wilson has been a pleasant surprise in the NFL. The 3rd-round pick in last April’s draft beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job coming out of training camp and he’s played well in the first half of the season. Vikings coaches are familiar with Wilson because he was the starting QB for Frazier’s North squad down in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl. In order to win the game, the Vikings will now need their defensive linemen to become familiar with Wilson by pressuring him constantly and bringing him to the ground.
5. Overcoming the Loss of CB Chris Cook
The Vikings improvement in pass defense was a big reason they jumped out to an impressive 5-3 start in the first half of the season. The presence of Chris Cook, who missed 12 games last year, was a big reason for that improvement. But now, with Cook expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken arm, the Vikings will rely on their depth to overcome his loss. Expect Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson to get most of the looks, and expect them to play well in Cook’s stead.
6. Strength vs. Strength: Battle For Field Position
CenturyLink Field in Seattle is known as one of the toughest places to play for visitors. A big part of overcoming the disadvantage this week for the Vikings will be to win the field position battle. Both the Vikings and Seahawks do things to help them win the field position battle. Percy Harvin (35.7) and Seattle’s Leon Washington (29.8) rank 1st and 2nd, respectively, in kickoff return average. Also, the Vikings rank 2nd in average starting field position after kickoff (25.3-yardline) and K Blair Walsh is tied for 1st in touchbacks with 31.
7. What a Rush!
A sneaky-good subplot to this Vikings-Seahawks matchup is a pair of battles that will happen between very good LTs and very good DEs. Vikings DE Jared Allen has a sack in six straight games, and on Sunday he’ll go against Seattle LT Russell Okung. The Seahawks took Okung 6th overall in 2010 and he’s rounding into a great player on their offensive line. Another outstanding performer for Seattle has been DE Chris Clemons. The 6-3, 254-pound pass-rushing ace has 7.0 sacks this season and had 11.0 sacks in each of the last two years entering 2012. He’ll go against 4th overall pick Matt Kalil, who has made a rookie mistake here and there but has generally played extremely well for the Vikings.
8. Second Half of the Season Begins
The Vikings were a surprise team in the NFL through the first half of the season, winning five of eight games and upsetting a pair of playoff teams from a season ago – Detroit and San Francisco. The second half of the season begins for the Vikings, and the attitude inside Winter Park should be that there’s no reason they can’t be a surprise team in the second half of the season, too. Sure, four of the Vikings final six games are against division opponents and are on the road, but the Vikings have proven they can play with anybody when they play well.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Blair Walsh, Chris Cook, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, John Carlson, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 93 Comments »
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.
– 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.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 97 Comments »