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Vikings Coordinators Discuss Bye Week Self-Scouting

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 13, 2009 – 9:46 am

All 3 Vikings coordinators met with reporters on Thursday and the 1st question each of them were asked was along the lines of “What did you notice about your group while self-scouting over the bye week?”

Here is what each of the Vikings coordinators had to say in response:

Assistant Head Coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier: “Probably for us on defense the biggest thing is being better tacklers. We are really concerned about our first-half of the season tackling. We had far too many missed tackles and it really led to some explosive plays that we want to cut down on going into the second half of the season. That’s probably the number one area that we want to improve on. If we can do that we’ll achieve a lot of our goals. We are doing some good things with our run defense. We think that is headed in the right direction, but our pass defense has to improve, in particular being able to tackle after people make a five-yard, say, check-down; limiting the yards after the catch. That is the one thing that we kept harping on.”

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell: “We try to break ourselves down in every possible way we can. Obviously there are a lot of good things going on, we are scoring points, we are converting third downs and we are doing pretty well in the red zone. Obviously we want to see those things continue. There are some tendencies we feel like we had to change up somewhere. Sometimes it’s easy to do in a game and sometimes it’s not. It doesn’t end up being part of the game plan. You have a tendency and you can end up breaking it because that is not what your plan is that week. There are some things that we can take a look at. There are some things that we continue to do well and things that we obviously want to improve on.”

Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy: “It’s pretty similar to what the offense and defense does; make sure that you’re not caught in a rut in terms of what you do scheme-wise. I think special teams, a lot of it has to do, too, with where you place your personnel throughout the scheme. So we try to take a look at that and make sure that we are not predictable in terms of where guys are aligned all the time.”


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Vikings Not Overlooking 1-7 Lions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 12, 2009 – 2:05 pm

You might think a 7-1 team coming off a bye and with a 3-game lead in its division might overlook a 1-7 opponent it had already beaten once during the season. But judging by the comments from Winter Park today, especially those from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the Vikings don’t appear to be falling into that trap.

On paper the Vikings-Lions matchup is more like a mismatch. But anyone who has watched this series lately knows the games tend to be close. The Vikings have dominated in the win column against Detroit in recent seasons, but most of those wins haven’t come easy. Even this year the Lions led Minnesota at halftime before the Vikings eventually pulled away and won by 14.

“Every time we’ve played Detroit, it’s been a dogfight,” Bevell said to reporters on Thursday. “Because obviously they’re a divisional opponent; we know each other in and out. We know personnel in and out. Any time you play division (opponent), I know it’s cliché to say, you really have to throw out the records and you have to bring your ‘A’ game.”

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said yesterday that he’s noted how hard the Lions are playing for new head coach Jim Schwartz. Bevell issued a similar sentiment when discussing the Vikings opponent this week.

“The one thing you can say about Detroit is they’re playing hard,” Bevell explained. “He’s (Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz) got them flying around, particularly on defense. They’re tackling the ball well. I think they’re doing some good things, just not getting the end result that they’re looking for.”

Because the Vikings have a solid group of veterans leading the team, it would be a surprise to see them come out on Sunday without focus. Many of the Vikings core players have been through bye weeks before and rise to the challenge of regaining mid-season form immediately after a bye.

Increasing the likelihood that the Vikings will be sharp in their 1st game back from the bye is the fact that the coaching staff seems determined to not allow their players to overlook this particular 1-7 team.

“You have to make sure the guys are prepared; that they’re ready; that they know what they’re going to see,” Bevell insisted. “And they have to make sure that we play at an intensity level that they’re unwilling to match. We can’t say ‘hey, we have to play up to theirs.’ We have to set it and make them play at ours.”


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Frazier Mindful Of Packers Explosive Passing Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 29, 2009 – 5:05 pm

Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Thursday that he wishes it was Adrian Peterson rushing 51 times and Brett Favre throwing 18 passes instead of the other way around against the Steelers last week.

While the Vikings preferred mode of operation is to establish the run and then just keep running it, the Packers have a different thought in mind. And considering how explosive their passing offense can be, one can’t blame them for preferring the air over ground.

Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers already has 24 passes of 20-plus yards, which ranks him tied for the 5th in the NFL. Of the QBs above him, all but 1 (Drew Brees) have played in 7 games compared to Rodgers’ 6.

Rodgers’ top targets are his starting WRs – Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. While it was Jennings who emerged last year with 1,292 receiving yards and 9 TDs, it’s Driver who has led the way this season.

Driver, a favorite target of Favre’s when he was wearing green and gold, currently ranks tied for 3rd among all NFL offensive players with 9 receptions of 20+ yards. In addition, Jennings averages 44.8 yards per 20+-yard reception.

“They’ve had a lot of explosive plays this season,” Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier explained. “We have to be mindful of it and we have to be able to defend those deep balls with Jennings and Driver.”

Last week against the Steelers, the Vikings gave up a 40-yard TD to rookie WR Mike Wallace and another 45-yard reception to WR Santonio Holmes. Those 2 plays represent an area in which the Vikings defense has struggled this year – giving up the big passing play.

The Vikings have allowed 27 receptions of 20+ yards, more than any other team in the league. On top of that, 7 of their 10 TD passes allowed have been of the 20+-yard variety, which is 4th highest in the NFL.

With a trip to Lambeau for a battle against an explosive passing game such as the Packers, Frazier’s bunch must improve in this area. But there’s reason to expect Frazier’s group will find a way to neutralize Rodgers and the Packers passing offense.

After allowing Ravens QB Joe Flacco to accumulate 385 passing yards in Week 6, most of them after CB Antoine Winfield left the game with a foot injury, Frazier and his unit turned around the next week without their star CB and held Pittsburgh’s passing offense to just 175 yards.

In addition, the Vikings held Driver and Jennings to a combined 86 yards on 7 receptions in the Vikings and Packers first meeting back in Week 4.

Frazier said on Thursday that aside from being in the proper position and executing the proper technique in coverage, the Vikings must also improve on one other area.

“And tackling; we’ve got to tackle if they make a catch,” Frazier emphasized. “You don’t want a 15-yard in or a 6-yard slant to be a 30-yard completion. You just make the tackle and give us a chance to play the next play and we’ll be fine.

“That’s what we’re emphasizing with our guys; no plays over the top.”


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Wrapping Up And Putting Away The 3-4 Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 29, 2009 – 12:38 pm

As the Vikings finish up the first half of their schedule this weekend in Green Bay, they might also be finishing up their battles against the 3-4 defensive scheme. Beginning in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns and continuing this week with the Packers, the Vikings have faced a 3-4 defense in 6 of the first 8 weeks of the season.

The scheme doesn’t necessarily add another level of difficulty – if it did then everyone would use it – but it does present unfamiliar looks for the Vikings, who don’t typically face the scheme as much.

“We’ve played quite a few in a row,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Thursday. “But obviously when you play that many in a row you get better at it, you get used to seeing it.”

Just as it is with facing different 4-3 schemes across the league, the 3-4 scheme has several different versions and each team presents its own set of challenges for opposing offenses.

“Each team presents different issues with their 3-4 and how they run it,” Bevell explained. “What type of guys they have on the edge, what type of big guys they have in the middle, if they reduce the front or not. Again this is a stout one that we’re playing (this week).”

Earlier in the week, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress described the Packers version of the 3-4 as more of a “New England” 3-4 – likening it to the Patriots scheme – as opposed to a “Pittsburgh” 3-4, which current Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has familiarity with from his time with the Steelers.

So even though the Vikings saw a 3-4 scheme against Baltimore in Week 6 and Pittsburgh last week, what the Purple sees this week could be significantly different.

One element in the Packers 3-4 scheme is a look that includes 5 LBs on the field at the same time, a tactic they’ve used periodically this year. Against the Vikings in Week 4, Green Bay also used their nickel package to matchup with the Vikings 2-TE, 2-WR look, not a common tactic to use against such a heavy offensive set.

Another factor for the Vikings to consider is the way Green Bay will utilize one of their best defenders, Aaron Kampman. In Week 4, Kampman was relatively quiet against the Vikings, registering just 5 tackles but not a sack or pass defensed. In order to free him up against the Vikings this week, Green Bay may try a different tactic.

“I think they’re rushing him more, letting him put his hand in the dirt,” Bevell said when asked if he’s noticed any difference in how Green Bay has used Kampman since Week 4. “Get back to rushing the passer, which I think is helping him.”

To sum it up, Childress said, the Vikings challenge this week is to be prepared for anything the Packers might throw their way.

“(There are) no articles of war,” Childress acknowledged. “I don’t have any illusions. They could play their five-linebacker thing that we thought we would see that they played the week before against St. Louis. That could be the flavor of the day this week. So you have to prepare for all.”


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Vikings Prepared For “Angry” Ravens Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 16, 2009 – 9:21 am

Heading into last weekend, the Vikings streak of 27 straight games of not allowing a 100-yard rushing individual was 2nd to the Baltimore Ravens streak of 38 consecutive games.

While the Vikings held Rams RB Steven Jackson under the 100-yard mark to increase their streak to 28 games, the Ravens surrendered 120 yards to Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson, ending their impressive streak.

So now, as Vikings prepare to host a Ravens team that has lost 2 consecutive close games and a Ravens defense that is chomping at the bit to begin a new streak against opposing RBs, they know this Baltimore defense will be an angry one.

“You will see an angry defense,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We have to match the intensity that they are going to bring. We pride ourselves on running the ball. We would like to be the second one in a row to rush for over a hundred yards, but that is going to be a challenge.”

Although Peterson has more rushing yards through 5 games this year than he had through 5 games last year, he only has one 100-yard rushing performance in 2009. And in order to log his 2nd such game this weekend against Baltimore, Peterson says he can learn a lot from watching Benson’s performance last week.

“Watching Benson and some of the things he did, he was very patient with his runs and his reads,” Peterson said. “He did a good job of being patient and just making that one cut and getting up field. There are little things that I can watch and learn from.”

But Peterson was more than willing to put the thoughts of 100-yard rushing games aside and instead focus on the ultimate outcome.

“As far as our team coming in, we have our goals and we’re not going to let anybody come between that and stop that,” Peterson explained. “We are coming in focused on doing our jobs and coming up with a big win. It’s our last home game for the next (several) weeks. So it’s going to be exciting for the fans to be in there cheering us on and we are going to pull it out with a big win.”


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Ravens S Reed Is A Game Changer

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 15, 2009 – 4:07 pm

We’ve mentioned LB Ray Lewis a few times over the past couple of days in talking about the Ravens defense, but it’s important to acknowledge another perennial All-Pro and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who is also at the heart of Baltimore’s defense.

Ed Reed is one of the best safeties in the game and he makes a game-changing play seemingly every week. Reed holds the Ravens franchise record and is the active leader since entering the league in 2002 with 43 INTs. The 5-time Pro Bowler and 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has taken 5 of those picks back for TDs. Last week against the Bengals, Reed picked off a Carson Palmer pass and returned it 52 yards for a score.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell agreed that the Lewis-Reed combination might be the best LB/S combination in the NFL.

“Ed Reed is a ball-hawk,” Bevell said. “You can see him sometimes sneaking around back there (in the secondary) like he’s hiding behind a rock or something. He thinks he’s hiding himself. He does a great job obviously of getting his hands on balls, picking them off, making big plays with them, taking them back for touchdowns.”

Bevell said that beyond Reed’s physical abilities, it’s his mental preparation that sets him apart from other players at his position.

“He understands his defense; I think he understands the teams that he’s playing as well as he understands his defense,” Bevell commented. “So he knows where he can take a chance, what type of route he might want to jump.”


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Edwards, Hutchinson Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 8, 2009 – 3:29 pm

After sitting out of practice yesterday, Vikings DE Ray Edwards (hamstring) and All-Pro G Steve Hutchinson (back) both practiced on a limited basis today. This is good news for the Vikings considering both players are starters and also considering 5 other players appear on Thursday’s injury report, including RT Phil Loadholt (ankle).

During his weekly press conference today, Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said that all players go through aches and pains at this point in the season but that Hutchinson might be feeling it a little more than most at this point.

“Obviously we appreciate it; we’re never going to put anybody out there who is injured, but they’re going to have to play through some aches and pains,” Bevell said. “He’s doing that; he’s fighting through it. He’s a tough guy, he competes hard and he’s going to go as much as he can go. A lot of the guys are doing the same thing.”

Loadholt was not on yesterday’s report but appeared on it today and was noted as a limited participant. Also limited today were QB Brett Favre (foot/ankle/knee), LB Erin Henderson (calf) and CB Cedric Griffin (hand). WR Darius Reynaud (hamstring) did not participate in practice today.

There were a few changes to St. Louis’ injury report as well. On the negative side, WR Ruvell Martin (hamstring) was added to the report as a limited participant in practice. WR Keenan Burton (hamstring) and S Anthony Smith (achilles) went from limited to did not participate.

On the positive side, CB Ron Bartell (thigh) and S Craig Dahl (concussion) went from limited to full participants.

WR Donnie Avery (hamstring), QB Marc Bulger (right shoulder) and RT Jason Smith (ankle) remained  limited participants.


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Extra Motivation?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 3, 2009 – 9:31 am

Win this game for Brett? You’d be hard-pressed to get a coach to admit that his team was motivated to win a game for a teammate also playing in the game. In fact, Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Friday that it wasn’t happening, and Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has been down-playing the hype all week as well.

As explained in an earlier blog entry, that’s probably the wise approach to take, and Vikings fans should be grateful it’s the approach being taken by this staff.

And even though Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is on message with that approach, he also showed a human side during his meeting with local reporters on Friday, saying that a part of him does want to win on Monday night for Favre.

“Well, I can speak for myself and I would say, ‘yeah, of course,’” Peterson said when asked if there was a part of him that wanted to win the game for Favre. “He was with the Packers for 16 years, so coming up against these guys in a Monday Night game, (it’s) a big rivalry, to take a firm hold right now in our divisional lead, it’s a big game not only for Brett, but for the Minnesota Vikings. But, inside, I definitely want to get this win for him, too.”

Again, members of the coaching staff have been 100% on the money in their approach to this game – down-playing the hype surrounding Favre facing his former team and instead focusing on the team aspect of this game and the implications this game has on the NFC North. But it is also nice to see the human side of things and see a player acknowledge a source of extra motivation in the face of one of the most-hyped regular season games in this franchise’s history.

Plus, it’s not as if extra motivation for the league’s best RB as he faces the team’s biggest rival in a home game on Monday Night Football for a chance to get to 4-0 is a bad thing, right?


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Vikings Seeing Plenty of the 3-4

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 25, 2009 – 7:40 am

The 3-4 defense was at one time a scheme used primarily by AFC teams, meaning teams in the NFC such as the Vikings wouldn’t see very much of it on a season-to-season basis.

But in recent seasons, more and more NFC teams are employing the 3-4 as their base defense. The NFC North’s own Green Bay Packers, after the addition of Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, are one example of a team that’s switched to the 3-4.

As a result of both the scheduling formula that pits the NFC North against the AFC North this year and the growth of the 3-4 in the NFC, the Vikings will see the 3-4 defense several times in 2009. Three of the Vikings 4 preseasons opponents – Kansas City, Houston and Dallas – have a 3-4 base defense and the Purple’s Week 1 opponent – Cleveland – also uses the 3-4.

And there’s more. As Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell pointed out during his Thursday press conference, 5 of the Vikings next 6 opponents play the 3-4. San Francisco will bring the 3-4 with them to the Metrodome this weekend. Then, the Vikings will face the scheme twice against Green Bay in Weeks 4 and 8. The Vikings will also face 2 more AFC versions of the 3-4 when they play Baltimore in Week 6 and Pittsburgh in Week 7.

“Each time we play it we’ll be more comfortable with it,” Bevell said. “So we will get them all in a row and be able to see that technique. Now, some of the 3-4 schemes can be different. They can play their techniques a little bit different, but just being able to identify it, to see how they play it, each and every week, I only think we’ll get better at it.”

With just 3 down linemen and 4 defenders standing up near the line of scrimmage prior to the snap, the 3-4 defense is a dynamic scheme that can utilize multiple looks and subsets of alignments to confuse the offense. Just as teams who use the 4-3 defense have different strategies within that particular alignment, teams using the 3-4 are not all the same, either.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson noted a difference in the way Cleveland and San Francisco each run their versions of the 3-4.

“These guys (San Francisco) like to throw a lot of different looks out at you,” Peterson said. “Any 3-4 defense likes to confuse you. They get a lot of guys up standing up (and) rotating around. In Cleveland they did that a little bit, but not too much. Just watching these guys, you see them doing that a lot.”

Peterson agreed that having already seen the 3-4 defense several times in 2009 will help them against San Francisco and the other teams who run it, but he also indicated each team provides a different set of challenges.

“It will help because you got a feel for that defense, but still again, you got to make sure you focus on that opponent in the different formations that they have.”


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Loadholt Receives Positive Reviews From Bevell

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 17, 2009 – 4:08 pm

Much attention was paid to Vikings 1st round pick Percy Harvin as he made his regular season NFL debut in Cleveland last weekend. Harvin had a profound impact on the game, hauling in a 6-yard TD reception and accumulating 157 all-purpose yards on 8 touches.

But there was another 1st day pick who had an impact on the game as well. Phil Loadholt, taken in the 2nd round last April, played in his 1st NFL regular season game and got the start at RT. Without sitting down next to a coach or scout in the film room, it appears Loadholt performed well, considering Adrian Peterson rushed for 180 yards and 3 scores and the Vikings offense scored 30 total points.

Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell indicated on Thursday while meeting with reporters that Loadholt indeed had a good first outing.

“He’s a rookie, under those circumstances – starting a game on the road, his first NFL start – I think he did a nice job,” Bevell said. “He competed in there; he’s a physical guy, he’s a giant man.”

Loadholt’s size, as Bevell referenced, gives him the potential to be a truly dominant lineman in the NFL. And the good news for the Vikings, according to Bevell, is that Loadholt doesn’t seem to be the type of player who will rely simply on his size to do the work. He’s willing to put in the extra effort on a play-to-play basis.

“What I really like about him is he finishes plays,” Bevell explained. “You watch some of those tapes [and] you can see him downfield trying to get that extra block. That’s what I like about him.”


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