We will talk a lot about the 2013 NFL Draft on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog over the next 2.5 months. But right now, let’s take a look back at how the Vikings fared in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The impetus behind this idea is a piece put together by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. Immediately following each year’s draft, he applies a grade to each team’s effort by reconciling the selections made by each team against that team’s draft positions and specific roster needs. Anyone who does this will tell you there’s a high degree of error involved because it’s typically a 3-year process before you can complete the evaluation of a draft-class. But in order to be fair and to hold himself accountable, Kiper has decided to revisit his post-draft grades for each team and hand out new grades based on how the draft picks and teams fared during the 2012 season.
The Vikings efforts in the 2012 NFL Draft were applauded immediately after, as they came out of the event with a pair of 1st-round picks at positions of need and also peppered the roster with 8 other selections after that. Kiper gave the Vikings a post-draft grade of a “B” and said the following: “The Vikings did pretty well. They got the left tackle they coveted in Matt Kalil, and they moved up to get a safety. Both Kalil and Harrison Smith, their two first-round picks, should be starting in Week 1. Josh Robinson adds speed, if not a lot of polish, at corner, and has the chance to develop into a good player.”
A pretty spot-on post-draft evaluation. Kalil and Smith both started all 16 games this season, and Robinson indeed has the look of a developing player after playing in all 16 games and starting 6 in his rookie season. Plus, he was 3rd on the team with 2 INTs and 7th on the team with 61 tackles.
In revisiting the draft and handing out new grades, though, Kiper has increased that grade by changing it to an A-. Kalil, Robinson and Smith fulfilled his expectations, and then others, most notably Blair Walsh, add significant contributions to cause Kiper to upgrade his evaluation. Here’s what he provided as new commentary:
“Kalil not only started 16 games at left tackle, played well at a significant position and if his run-blocking catches up with his pass-blocking, he’ll become among the league’s best. Smith became exactly what the Vikings had hoped, started all 16 games at free safety and should be there for years to come. The instincts he showed at Notre Dame were on display, and he’ll continue to get better. Robinson is raw, but could ultimately take over for Antoine Winfield. And don’t overlook one of the steals of the draft. Blair Walsh was taken at No. 175 overall, and was the best kicker in the league in 2012. A year later, a pretty good draft looks even better.”
And that’s not even to mention WR Jarius Wright coming on in the second half of the season, Rhett Ellison well on the way to providing the offense with gritty blocking and sneaky-good production in the passing game, and late-round picks Robert Blanton and Audie Cole poised to take on increased roles after serving on special teams from time-to-time in 2012. Including the injured Greg Childs, 9 of the Vikings 10 draft picks from last year are still on the team.
The news gets better from here, too. The Vikings are currently slated to have 8 draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which provides GM Rick Spielman and Co. with plenty of ammunition and opportunity to add even more young talent to an already young and talented roster that will continue to get better.
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, 2013 NFL Draft, Audie Cole, Blair Walsh, Greg Childs, Harrison Smith, Jarius Wright, Josh Robinson, Matt Kalil, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 41 Comments »
Now is the time of year when various media outlets and NFL teams vote on and/or select recipients for awards and honors. Several Vikings players have been recognized for many of these awards, so we’ll keep a running tally here to keep you up to date.
Vikings Team MVPs
Defense: LB Chad Greenway
Offense: RB Adrian Peterson
Special Teams: K Blair Walsh
2012 Vikings Ed Block Courage Award Recipient: RB Adrian Peterson
2012 Vikings Community Man of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
2012 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award: LB Chad Greenway
Pro Football Weekly
All-Pros: RB Adrian Peterson, C John Sullivan, K Blair Walsh
All-Rookie Team: LT Matt Kalil, S Harrison Smith, K Blair Walsh
NFL MVP: RB Adrian Peterson
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
Comeback Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
2012 Maxwell Football Club
Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
Bert Bell Most Valuable Player: RB Adrian Peterson
2012 NFL 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh, Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Jerome Felton, John Sullivan, Matt Kalil
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 83 Comments »
Move-out day in the Vikings locker room at Winter Park is a bitter-sweet experience. It typically follows a disappointing conclusion to the season because only one team each year in the NFL finishes the season having accomplished their ultimate goal. Unfortunately, this year the Vikings will not be that team.
But move-out day also represents a time for players to get away, spend time with family and loved ones, and recharge their batteries for the offseason program and for the upcoming season.
On their way out the door, several Vikings players took a few moments to chat with reporters about what transpired this season and what the future might hold for this team in 2013 and beyond. Here are a few highlights from a few of the guys…
On what Adrian Peterson meant to the Vikings: “What Adrian did this year, I mean it’s inspiring. Not even just on a football level, just on a level of commitment. I think he’s a true example of never letting someone put limitations on you. So many people said he couldn’t do it, and he proved them wrong. It’s just like that in life. You can’t let people put limitations on what you want to do and what you want to achieve. And for him to be a walking testament to that is awesome. For that, it was an inspiring season from him.”
A Rookie Kicker?: “Blair had an unbelievable season. I’ll be the first one to say, you get a rookie kicker and you’re like ‘Ah crap, here we go. We let one of the best in the League go in Longwell, and how’s this guy gonna fit? Is he going to choke the very first opportunity he has to make a pressure kick?’ You know what, he was incredible.”
No wow factor: “No, I didn’t at all. I didn’t wow myself. This is what I expected. I know that sounds nonchalant, like ‘Oh, I’m sure you did.’ But I did. That’s why I’m able to take things as it is. But I feel like there’s room for me to get better, and I look forward to doing that.”
Standout moment of 2012: “Just getting back to practicing with the guys. That was the best feeling. To be kind of bummed out once I actually got back to training camp and found out they put me on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, I was kind of bummed out. But once I got back on the field with the guys and was able to participate, that felt good. There was nothing like it. And just coming back in September for that first game in the dome against the Jaguars, that was a defining moment for me. That felt good.”
Who should be named NFL Coach of the Year?: “Leslie Frazier, without a doubt. He’s a great guy, he’s helped me on and off the field. He’s demeanor, spiritual faith, just the man that he is. He radiates positive energy…you can’t help but feed off of him. He has really been a big part of my development, not only as a football player but as a human being. He’s very inspirational.”
What did you learn in 2012?: “That I can do the things to help this team be in a position to be successful. And not just me, but this whole team can handle the pressure of what it takes to get to a playoff berth. We knew that if we lost (vs. Green Bay in Week 17) we wouldn’t make it. So just to handle that pressure as a whole team, especially with how young we are, I think that showed a lot. I need to play at that level consistently for sixteen games. I’ll learn from that, and use what I did in those games to work on next year.”
Anticipating improvement: “We were able to get into the playoffs, but next year I expect to, I made a pretty good leap from first year to second year, I expect an even greater leap from the second year to the third year.”
Success begins at the top: “Our GM (Rick Spielman) has done a great job. Rick’s done a great job with his vision. Building a young roster, guys who are hungry and want to work hard. And having good veteran leadership. I think we’re definitely a team on the upswing. Obviously we’re still disappointed, the loss (to Green Bay) is pretty fresh. We didn’t accomplish our ultimate goals, but we made huge strides, and as long as we go about our business the right way this offseason, rest up right now while it’s time to do that, get healthy and come back ready to work once the offseason program starts, we’re definitely a team on the upswing.”
What did you like about being in the NFL?: “I just like the chemistry of the team. Every guy on the team is a guy that you want to play with, and guys that you have fun playing with and can count on. It seems like with the guys we have here, the leadership we have with the coaches, the front office, things are going in the right direction.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, John Sullivan
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 55 Comments »
The Vikings emerged from Sunday’s border battle season finale with a huge win and a berth in the postseason. For the most part, the Vikings also got out of Sunday’s game looking good on the injury front, too. Here are a few notes on injuries for both the Vikings and Green Bay Packers as they begin preparations this week for Saturday’s Wild Card round showdown…
– It appears the biggest injury concern for the Vikings will be CB Antoine Winfield. He injured his hand two weeks ago but was able to play in Sunday’s contest against Green Bay. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to finish the game. Winfield left midway through the game and was not able to return, which raises question about whether he’ll be able to play in 5 days when the two teams battle once again in what will surely be frigid conditions at Lambeau Field. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with Antoine [Winfield], we’ll see how he does throughout the week,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “He was in quite a bit of pain yesterday, so we’ll have to see how he does during the week and make a decision maybe later on.”
– S Harrison Smith left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, but Frazier said he was able to return to the game. It’s expected that Smith will not be a full participant in practice all week, but there’s optimism that Smith will be ready to play on Saturday night.
– Adrian Peterson was listed on the injury report with an abdomen injury last week. But it looks as if he came out of Sunday’s game in pretty good shape. Frazier said that Peterson reported feeling better after the Packers game than he felt a day after the Houton Texans game a week earlier.
– DE Brian Robison missed the December 23 game in Houston because of a shoulder injury, but was able to start and finish Sunday’s game against Green Bay. Frazier said Robison should be available for Saturday’s rematch with the Packers.
– Late in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, the Packers lost DL Jerel Worthy to a leg injury. He was carted off the field and, according to this report from packersnews.com, left the locker room on crutches and in a full leg brace. Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy has not yet provided an update on Worthy’s status for Saturday.
– Green Bay held out WR Randall Cobb (ankle) and DB Charles Woodson (collarbone) on Sunday, but there’s a good chance both will return on Saturday. There’s nearly a 100% chance Cobb will return, in fact, and that’s big news for Green Bay because he’s a top-flight returner and he’s also the team’s leader in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receptions of 20+ yards. As for Woodson, he’s misssed 10 weeks because of the collarbone injury and is still waiting to be cleared for contact. He’s such a saavy veteran, though, that it won’t take him long to get back into the groove once he’s cleared. It won’t be a surprise to see him on the field Saturday.
– Both LB Clay Mathews and WR Jordy Nelson left Sunday’s game at one point or another, but both players are expected to play and start on Saturday.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Harrison Smith, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 18 Comments »
They say everything is bigger in Texas. And that includes NFL upsets. The Vikings earned a huge one on Sunday in the Lone Star State.
The Vikings marched into Reliant Stadium in Houston as 9-point underdogs to the Texans and proceeded to control the game from start to finish along the way to a convincing 23-6 victory that keeps them very much alive in the NFC playoff race.
After holding the Texans to a FG on their first possession, the Vikings responded by driving 78 yards in 8 plays to capture their first score of the game. The drive included a 20-yard dash by Adrian Peterson on the first play, a 27-yard catch-and-run by TE Kyle Rudolph on the third play and a 32-yard perfectly-placed floater from Christian Ponder to Michael Jenkins on 3rd and 6 from the Houston 34. Ponder found Rudolph from 3 yards out on 2nd and goal to finish the drive, and the Vikings led 7-3 midway through the opening quarter.
The teams exchanged punts on each of their next possessions, and then Houston started putting together another nice series near the end of the 1st quarter. But on 2nd and 7 from the Minnesota 28, RB Arian Foster took a handoff and was popped by Vikings LB Jasper Brinkley. Foster coughed up the ball, and Vikings CB AJ Jefferson was there to recover it. The turnover ruined a scoring chance for Houston and led to a Blair Walsh 56-yard FG roughly 5 minutes later; that FG for Walsh set an NFL record for 50-yard FGs in a season (9).
The Vikings extended their lead to 13-3 before halftime, and carried with them into the locker room momentum that would only grow in the 2nd half.
After driving 52 yards in 8 plays and converting a key 3rd and 10 from midfield, the
Vikings offense stalled at the Houston 21. Walsh came on to salvage the drive, converting his third FG of the game and giving the Vikings a 16-3 lead early in the 2nd half.
Neither offense could muster much production the rest of the 3rd quarter, but the Vikings were okay with that because they held a commanding lead and their defense was a step ahead of Houston’s offense all day. Even after a Vikings turnover on a J.J. Watt strip-sack gave Houston possession near midfield, Matt Schaub and Co. continued to be stymied by the Vikings defense.
Exchanged punts continued in the 3rd and early stages of the 4th quarter, finally setting the stage for Ponder to dagger the Texans. The Vikings took possession at their own 36 following a 65-yard punt by Houston. Ponder hit Rudolph for 9 yards on 1st down, then scrambled for 29 yards two plays later to bring the Vikings to the Houston 27. Peterson and Toby Gerhart carried the ball on the Vikings next 5 plays, and then Ponder found Jarius Wright on a shallow crossing pattern to convert a key 3rd-down conversion. A facemask penalty was tacked on, giving the Vikings a 1st and goal from the 3. Gerhart plunged in from there on the next play, finishing a 10-play, 64-yard drive and essentially finishing the Texans for the day.
The Vikings forced a fumble on the next series when Harrison Smith punched the ball from QB T.J. Yates, who had come on to replace starter Matt Schaub. The Vikings recovered and were able to run out the clock from there.
Ponder finished the day with a box score of 16-30 for 174 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs. He played efficient, smart football, often times avoiding the disastrous play and frequently making a clutch throw to pick up a 1st down or take advantage of busted coverage. Peterson, who entered the game 294 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing mark of 2,105 yards, finished the day with 86 tough yards on 25 grinding carries. He is now 102 yards from the 2,000-yard mark and 207 yards from Dickerson’s record.
The Vikings defense put forth a sensational, dominating effort in limiting a Houston offense that averaged 25.5 points per game coming into the contest to no TDs and just 6 points during the entire game. Schaub was frustrated and ineffective all day, completing 18 of 32 passes for 178 yards with no TDs or INTs. Foster, the AFC’s leading rusher, finished the day with 15 yards on 10 carries; he left the game due to an irregular heartbeat, according to the Texans, and did not return. Smith was the Vikings leading tackler and he also had a forced fumble, while he, Jared Allen, Fred Evans and Antoine Winfield collected sacks.
A key moment in the game came late in the 3rd quarter and was registered by the Vikings defense. A 12-yard completion from Schaub to Kevin Walter put Houston on the Vikings 1. From there, though, Houston was unable to punch it in. Schaub threw incomplete on 1st down, #2 RB Ben Tate was stonewalled by Chad Greenway and Kevin Williams on 2nd down, and then Evans sacked Schaub on 3rd down. Houston had to settle for a FG, but it was a momentous victory for the Vikings at that point to surrender just the 3 points. The Texans never got closer than their own 40-yardline from there on out as the Vikings professionally put away their 3rd straight win.
The win is the Vikings 9th of the season, an impressive number considering they were 3-13 a year ago. With the win, the Vikings began their trek back to Minnesota with an extra bounce in their step and knowing they’ll have a shot to make the playoffs next week with a win over the Green Bay Packers at Mall of America Field and perhaps a little help from other teams in the NFC.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Fred Evans, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Kevin Williams, Kyle Rudolph, Michael Jenkins, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 183 Comments »
Lost in the shadow of Adrian Peterson’s historic season and the weekly hyper-analyzing of Christian Ponder’s performance is the drastic improvement the Vikings have made in pass defense. Under first-year coordinator Alan Williams, the Vikings rank 10th in yards per attempt allowed (6.8), 19th in yards per game allowed (237.0) and 21st in passer rating allowed (90.3).
Those rankings may seem modest at first glance, but considering the Vikings ranked 30th in yards per attempt, 26th in yards allowed and 32nd in passer rating allowed a season ago, the improvement is considerable. That begs the question: What has led to the improvement?
There are several factors that have contributed to the improvement, but perhaps none more important than the young talent the Vikings added during last year’s draft. The selection of S Harrison Smith in the 1st round and then CB Josh Robinson in the 3rd round has made a profound impact on the defense’s ability to defend the pass. The additions of Smith and Robinson will pay dividends for years to come because they both figure to be foundational players for the Vikings defense. But those additions are paying immediate dividends as well, and Sunday’s win over the Bears is just the latest illustration.
Both Smith and Robinson grabbed INTs on Sunday, and both led to scores for the Vikings. Robinson’s came in the 1st quarter, and he returned the INT 49 yards for a TD. The play was later overturned and Robinson was ruled out of bounds at the 5, but Adrian Peterson scored moments later to put the Vikings up 14-0. Smith’s INT came in the 3rd quarter, and he dodged and weaved his way to the end zone for a 56-yard score to give the Vikings a 21-7 lead that would prove insurmountable for the Bears. It’s the second INT-returned-for-TD by Smith of the season.
Both plays are certainly notable in the aftermath of the Vikings win because the directly led to points for the Vikings. That both plays were made by first-year Vikings is notable as well because one could argue that a season ago those plays would not have been made.
Tags: Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 168 Comments »
After nearly a month away from home, the Vikings returned to Mall of America Field on a snowy Minnesota Sunday and got back on the winning track. Using an early dose of Adrian Peterson and a heavy dose of defense, the Vikings powered their way to a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, avenging a loss to their division rivals just two weeks ago at Soldier Field.
The Vikings got out of the gates gracefully, handing the ball to Peterson and watching him rip off a 51-yard gain on the first play of the game. Five plays later, Peterson plunged in from a yard out to put his team ahead 7-0. Then, five plays into the Bears ensuing drive, rookie CB Josh Robison picked off a Jay Cutler pass and returned it 49 yards for a TD, whipping the home crowd into a frenzy. Officials eventually overturned the TD, ruling that Robinson had stepped out of bounds at the Chicago 5, but Peterson took care of business on 3rd and goal from the 1 to put the Vikings ahead 14-0.
Peterson has been a near unstoppable force since returning from a knee injury in time for the season-opener against Jacksonville. And that continued to be the case on Sunday against Chicago, as he topped the 100-yard mark before the 1st quarter even ended. By halftime, Peterson had 125 yards rushing and 2 rushing TDs on 18 carries.
The Bears were able to add a Cutler-to-Alshon Jeffery TD late in the 1st half to make the score 14-7 as the teams headed for the locker rooms at intermission.
The teams exchanged two punts each to open the 2nd half, and that set the stage for the Vikings defense to strike once again. Facing a 3rd and 2 from his own 39, Cutler dropped back and threw a pass to his top target – Brandon Marshall. The pass sailed on Cutler, though, and rookie S Harrison Smith was there to collect the INT. Smith, a high school running back, used good vision and plenty of solid downfield blocking to weave his way to the end zone, tallying a 56-yard INT return TD to give his team a 21-7 lead.
Forced to come right back onto the field following the return TD, the Vikings defense surrendered a 36-yard run to Bears RB Matt Forte. A personal foul penalty against Jared Allen tacked on 15 more yards, and the Bears were set up with a 1st and 10 from the Vikings 34. But that’s all the further they would get, as the Vikings defense held from there and eventually forced a punt (thanks to a holding penalty against Chicago). The Vikings then embarked on a drive that didn’t result in a score, but took over 6 minutes off the clock. When Chicago got the ball back, they trailed by 14 with 9:13 to play.
Chicago turned the ball over on downs, forced a Vikings punt, and then scored a late TD on a pass from Jason Campbell to Brandon Marshall. Campbell came into the game to replace Cutler, who took a shot to the head from Vikings DE Everson Griffen on an earlier series. After the Marshall TD, the Bears attempted an onside kick. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph recovered the desperation try, however, and the Vikings were able to kneel on the ball from there.
The win was a crucial one for the Vikings as they look to remain alive in the NFC playoff hunt. The Vikings now trail the Bears by one game in the NFC North standings and they’ll await tonight’s Packers-Lions game to see where they stand in relation to Green Bay. The win also moved the Vikings ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Both the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins also won on Sunday, so the Vikings were able to keep pace with both of those playoff-hopefuls as well.
Up next for the Vikings is a contest on the road against the St. Louis Rams, a team that also won on Sunday and is trying to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 319 Comments »
The 2012 version of the twice annual border battle rivalry between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers commences this week at Lambeau Field, as the 7-4 Packers will host the 6-5 Vikings. Sunday’s game will be the first of two between the teams in four weeks and it marks the latest in a season that these teams have played the first game in the season series.
The week leading up to Vikings vs. Packers is always fun because there is so much on the line on game day, regardless of records or time of year. As we anticipate Sunday’s game, here are five Vikings-Packers storylines to follow this week…
1. Vikings Look To Remain In Playoff Chase
Sunday’s game at Lambeau is not “do or die” for the Vikings with regard to their playoff outlook. But there’s no denying how important a win would be to the Vikings as they look to stay in the hunt for not just a Wild Card berth, but also a division title. Last week’s loss in Chicago dropped the Vikings two games behind the Bears, but there are still five to go (including this week in Green Bay) and the Vikings get one more shot at the Bears. On top of that, the Bears have a tough game against the Seahawks at home this weekend and they also have games remaining against the Packers and at the Detroit Lions.
Regardless of how the Bears do this week against Seattle, the Vikings can move into a tie with the Packers at 7-5 with a win.
2. Packers On The Rebound After Blowout Loss To Giants
Last week’s Sunday Night Football game featured a matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions – the Packers and the NY Giants. But just one of the teams looked super, and it wasn’t Green Bay. The Giants logged a 38-10 victory. As such, the Vikings aren’t the only team in this week’s NFC North showdown coming off a thorough loss. A quick look at the game’s stats doesn’t yield an obvious reason for Green Bay’s lackluster showing, but New York did capitalize on two specific stats that likely led to the final outcome: the Giants were +2 in turnover ratio and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked 5 times. Expect Green Bay to make those two stats points of emphasis this week as they prepare for the Vikings.
3. Both Teams Dealing With Injuries To Key Players
The Vikings have been missing WR Percy Harvin since he sprained his ankle in a Week 9 loss at Seattle on November 4, and now all eyes will be on TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith after they left last week’s loss against Chicago to be evaluated for concussions. In addition to that, both LB Jasper Brinkley and RB Adrian Peterson have shoulder ailments and RT Phil Loadholt is dealing with knee inflammation. None of those players have been ruled out for Sunday’s game, and in fact it’s entirely possible that they’ll all be available, but their statuses do bear monitoring as the week goes.
The Packers are dealing with their own injuries, as well. WR Greg Jennings, LB Clay Matthews and DBs Sam Shields and Charles Woodson all missed last week’s game with injuries. They’ve also lost players such as RB Cedric Benson, starting RT Bryan Bulaga, and LBs Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry to injury for extended periods of time and some even for the season.
4. Can Green Bay Contain Adrian Peterson?
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is the kind of player that can win a game for his team any week, no matter the matchup. Green Bay ranks 11th against the run this season, giving up 103.8 rushings yards per game. More impressively, though, is the fact that Green Bay has allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season. On the flip side, Peterson has six 100-yard games already this year, including 5 straight. And he’s the NFL’s leading rusher by 172 yards, is on pace for a career-high 1,798 rushing yards and loves running against the Packers.
5. Vikings Pass Rush Must Reemerge vs. Rodgers, Packers Offensive Line
Only one team (Arizona – 46) has allowed more sacks this season than the Packers (37). The bread and butter of the Vikings defense in recent seasons has been their pass rush. Huge advantage for the Vikings, right? You’d think so, but lately the Vikings pass rush has been contained. The Vikings have just 5 sacks in the past four games, and they rank just tied for 13th in sacks this season with 27. If the Vikings want to go into Lambeau Field and pull off this upset, they must get more pass-rushing production from their defense. The man to lead the charge is Jared Allen, who has 13.0 sacks against Green Bay in just nine career games.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Kyle Rudolph, Phil Loadholt
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 338 Comments »
On Wednesday we’ll throw our entire focus toward Sunday’s contest against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Before we do that, though, let’s take one last chance to reflect on what’s happened over the first 10 games of the Vikings season.
This was the topic of last week’s Wobcast, as I explained my 10 takes through 10 weeks…
10. Vikings are in the playoff hunt!
A strong 4-1 start and a key win against Detroit heading into the bye has placed the Vikings in the mix for a playoff spot in the NFC. It’s quite a treat for Vikings fans to be in this position after watching their team go 9-23 the past 2 seasons. Kudos to GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier for turning this organization around and heading in the right direction. The Vikings are 6-4 overall, 2-0 in the division and 4-3 in the NFC. If the playoffs started right now, the Vikings would miss it because of tie-breakers to Seattle and Tampa Bay. But the playoffs don’t start right now, so we’ll get to see if the Vikings can overcome a few teams over the next 6 weeks.
9. Dome-field advantage has returned
The Vikings were just 1-7 at home last year and suffered to a 3-13 season. This year, the Vikings dome-field advantage has returned. They are 4-1 in home games, and a big reason for that is the Mall of America Field crowd. Frazier compliments Vikings fans after each game and is genuine in his praise. He’s coached against and played against the Vikings in that building and respects the difference the home crowd can make. Good job, fans. Thanks for helping us gain that incredible dome-field advantage.
8. Youth, health has led to improvement in pass defense
The Vikings pass defense has taken a huge step forward in 2012. They were 26th in yards allowed last season and were 14th in that category after 10 games this season. What’s been the key? It’s been health and youth. CBs Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook missed 21 games combined last season, but this year they both started and remained healthy for most of the team’s first 10 games. Cook is dealing with an arm injury now, but young guys are stepping up in his absence. AJ Jefferson and this year’s 3rd-round pick – Josh Robinson – have filled the void well. Also, Harrison Smith is playing the safety position like we haven’t seen in years from a Vikings safety.
7. Percy has no mercy on opposing defenses
Simply put, I think Percy Harvin is the most dangerous offensive weapon among non-QBs in the NFL. He has 100 touches through 10 games – that’s receptions, rushes and returns – and he’s averaging 13.4 yards per touch with 5 TDs. Harvin is the best kickoff returner in the NFL, one of the best receivers in the NFL, and a good runner. There are not many (any?) better all-around threats in the NFL.
6. Vikings special teams have been outstanding, and deserve more credit
– Often times special teams is the neglected phase of football. But special teams has not been neglected by the Vikings, and in fact I’d submit that special teams has been key to the Vikings success this year. Heck, the Vikings special teams basically single-handedly won a game this year – Detroit – Week 4. A bunch of credit goes to Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White for the work they’ve done together over the past two seasons. Through 10 games, the Vikings ranked 2nd in average drive start, 4th in kickoff return, 2nd in touchbacks on kickoffs and 9th in punt return. Special teams is something fans complain about when it’s going poorly, but forget about when it’s going well. Let’s take a moment during to appreciate the Vikings special teams play to this point. Bravo, guys.
To see the final 5 takes, which includes bold talk about Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh, check out last week’s Wobcast.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Mike Priefer, Percy Harvin, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 129 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
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