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Quick-Starting Vikings Blitz 49ers, Win 24-13 At Home

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 3:59 pm

Not many teams looked better than the San Francisco 49ers through the first two weeks of the 2012 season, but the Vikings prepared all week to change that. On Sunday at Mall of America Field, the Vikings preparation paid off in a big way. After jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, the Vikings never looked back as they blitzed the heavily-favored 49ers and came away with a thorough 24-13 victory.

“Our preparation this week was on point,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “The way we prepared this week, you knew that we were going to play good football. I didn’t say that to our team before we played Indy (last week). We did not handle the success against Jacksonville the right way. And I mentioned that to our players during the week prior to Indy. We came back this week and our guys were locked in. They were focused throughout the week and it showed in the way we played.”

The Vikings outstanding preparation definitely showed right off the bat, as Christian Ponder and the offense methodically drove down the field on the game’s opening drive. When all was said and done, Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 1-yard TD on 4th and goal to cap a 16-play, 82-yard drive that took 7:40 off the clock. The drive featured balanced playcalling, with 8 rushes and 8 passes, and it included only three 3rd-down plays.

San Francisco QB Alex Smith and his offense couldn’t match the execution on their first possession, as they were forced to punt away after just one 1st down. It was clear at that point that San Francisco was in for a day-long battle against the Vikings. The Vikings and 49ers exchanged punts after that, and then San Francisco got on the board with a 29-yard FG by David Akers.

Ponder, in the midst of perhaps his best game as a pro, responded following the 49ers FG. He drove the Vikings offense once again through the fierce 49ers defense, this time going 80 yards in 11 plays and capping the drive with a 23-yard TD sprint right through the heart of the 49ers defense. That score gave the Vikings a 14-3 lead with just 5:39 to play in the 1st half.

The 49ers offense gained some rhythm on the following drive and looked as if they’d be able to help the team carry some momentum into the locker room at halftime. They drove from their own 24-yardline to the Vikings 25 in 11 plays to set up Akers for a FG with just a minute play in the half. But the Vikings got a fantastic push up the middle and DT Letroy Guion extended his arms to block the kick, which gave Ponder and Co. possession on their own 33-yardline. Eight plays later, Blair Walsh came on to salvage a late-half score by splitting the uprights on a 52-yard kick. Walsh’s FG – the 3rd consecutive game he’s converted a FG of 50+ yards (Vikings record) – gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead at halftime.

San Francisco came out fast in the 3rd quarter, as Kyle Williams returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Minnesota 14-yardline. But the Vikings defense rose to the occasion, forcing the 49ers to settle for a 29-yard FG. The Vikings went 3-and-out on their next drive, and the 49ers filled the building with anxiety by driving 86 yards in 9 plays to score on a 1-yard TD from Alex Smith to TE Vernon Davis, making the score 17-13 in favor of the Vikings.

As they did most of the day, though, Ponder and the Vikings fought through the 49ers defense to produce points. Ponder found Rudolph for another TD – this time from 2 yards out – to cap a 12-play, 86-yard drive that took 7 minutes off the clock. At that point, the lead was 24-13, and the Vikings defense took it from there.

The 49ers following 5 drives ended in a lost fumble that was forced by S Jamarca Sanford and recovered by LB Marvin Mitchell, two punts, an INT by CB Josh Robinson and then another lost fumble that was forced by DE Jared Allen and recovered by DE Brian Robison. After the sack-forced-fumble by Allen, the Vikings offense took the field in the victory formation.

The Vikings defense was paced all day by LB Chad Greenway, who finished with 13 tackles and 2.0 sacks. CB Antoine Winfield was credited with 8 tackles, and both Sanford and fellow S Harrison Smith had 6 stops each. Sanford came in to replace starter Mistral Raymond, who went down with a leg injury early in the game.

Ponder finished the day going 21 of 35 for 198 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs (94.7 passer rating). Percy Harvin was Ponder’s favorite target, as he hauled in 9 of the 11 passes thrown his way for 89 yards. Rudolph had the 2 TDs on 5 receptions for 36 yards. It may not have been sensational, but the Vikings running game was solid against one of the best run defenses the NFL has seen in recent memory. Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Harvin and Ponder combined for 146 rushing yards on 41 carries.

The win moves the Vikings to 2-1 on the season as they prepare for a road contest against the Detroit Lions this week.


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Vikings Players, Athletic Training Staff Host “Play 60″ Clinic At St. Joseph’s

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 12, 2012 – 4:45 pm

The Vikings Athletic Training Staff, along with Devin Aromashodu, Larry Dean, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Tyrone McKenzie and Jamarca Sanford, host a “Play 60” clinic at Catholic Charities-St. Joseph’s Home for Children on Tuesday.

Approximately 50 youth from St. Joseph’s Home for Children were led through a series of drills designed to teach the basics of football. Players delivered a positive message to the children about the importance of perseverance and teamwork, and they stressed the importance of being active every day.

NFL Play 60 is the NFL movement for an active generation and is aimed at getting children active for at least 60 minutes a day.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Vikings Athletic Training staff participated in support of the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation. St. Joseph’s Home for Children is recognized by the NFL’s Ed Block Courage Award Foundation as serving as a “Courage House” for the Minnesota Vikings. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is dedicated to heightening awareness of the plight of abused and neglected children. St. Joe’s provides shelter and intake services for Hennepin County children removed from their homes due to abuse or instability.

Since 1998 the Vikings have partnered with Catholic Charities St. Joseph’s Home for Children on numerous community events. The Catholic Charities program annually assists more than 2,000 children.


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Safety First Continued: Hard-Hitting Returning Starter

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 16, 2012 – 5:50 pm

Mistral Raymond: He’s Got The Look
Harrison Smith: Progression Continues
Jamarca Sanford: Hard-Hitting Returning Starter

Our daily look at the competition for starting safety positions continues today with analysis of Jamarca Sanford.

Jamarca Sanford is one of the Vikings best  special teams players, and now he has a chance to emerge as a playmaker on the Vikings defense, too.

No player in the vaunted Southeastern Conference (SEC) accumulated more tackles than Sanford during his four seasons at Ole Miss. The Vikings noticed Sanford’s penchant for finding the ball-carrier and selected him with a seventh-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Sanford immediately became a standout special teams contributor and is now working to become a playmaker on the Vikings defense as well.

Sanford is actually a returning starter in the Vikings defense, as he started 15 games at safety a year ago. But improvement is the name of the game for the Vikings secondary in 2012, and Sanford is determined to be a part of the equation.

The area of Sanford’s game the team is looking to improve is his ability in coverage.

“As I mentioned before with Jamarca, we have to be able to see him make some plays on the ball down the field,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “That is something we want to see him improve on and he will get enough turns here in camp and in the preseason to see if that is happening.”

Frazier also said Sanford’s teammates feed off of his passion for the game.

“He is one of those guys who plays at a high level all the time,” Frazier said. “You can always hear him chirping and talking, and the players kind of feed off of that. We all like that energy that he brings.”


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Safety First: Competition Continues In Vikings Secondary

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 14, 2012 – 12:40 pm

Harrison Smith: Progression Continues
Mistral Raymond: He’s Got The Look

Improving the pass defense was a top priority for the Vikings this past offseason, and the effort to do so has continued during 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the preseason. Two starting positions at safety are open for competition, and the race to win those spots will continue this week as the Vikings prepare for preseason game #2 against the Buffalo Bills at Mall of America Field on Friday.

In the days leading up to Friday’s game, we’ll take a daily look at three players vying for starting safety positions – Mistral Raymond (today), Harrison Smith (Wednesday) and Jamarca Sanford (Thursday).

Keep in mind that there are others fighting for spots, too. Andrew Sendejo, for example, led the Vikings in tackles last week at San Francisco and is pushing for playing time on defense. Others in the mix include Robert Blanton, Eric Frampton and Reggie Jones.

We’ll begin this series with a look at Mistral Raymond…

He’s got the look
Entering his second season, Raymond has the look of star in the making. He has the frame (6-1, 202 pounds) and skill set to be a ball-hawking NFL safety. The Vikings acquired Raymond with a sixth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but the hope is he’ll make a top-pick kind of impact on the Vikings defense.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams says physical ability and a willingness to mix it up on defense are not concerns. The thing keeping Raymond from emerging as a reliable contributor on defense is experience, something he’ll gain during his second NFL season this year.

“Yes, without a doubt,” Williams quickly responded when asked if Raymond was willing and able enough to play safety. “Willing, not a problem whatsoever, strong enough, not a problem. Experience is just going to be the thing that he needs to come along with.

“With him it’s just every situation is going to be new for him, that he hadn’t seen it, there will be some wrinkles from week-to-week and we just need to make sure that we get him enough reps in practice, and in ball games to get him up to speed so that every situation is just not new to him, that he has some experience with them.”

In college, Raymond was used both as a cornerback and safety. The Vikings are confident that Raymond’s experience playing cornerback in college will give him sound coverage skills as a safety in the NFL.

“He’s an athletic safety that still has cover skills that have not diminished since we put him at safety from the time that he was playing corner,” Williams said. “He is still learning on the go, though. He is a young safety.”

Raymond started five games last year as a rookie and flashed plenty of potential while also learning from mistakes. Entering his second season, Raymond knows his performance in training camp and practice are important, but he also knows the game experience from last year is invaluable.

“You go out in practice and give it everything you’ve got, but some of those game situations you just can’t simulate,” Raymond explained. “It’s big to get those live game reps. I think the more reps I got, the more comfortable I became and the more I started to see things. Hopefully that will translate to this season.”

The Vikings seem anxious to see what Raymond can add to the Vikings secondary.

“We’re looking to put him in as many situations as we can so that when it comes to play on Sundays, it’s not the first time that he has done it or seen it or been it,” Williams said. “He still has a ways to go, but we like his potential.”


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Vikings Issue First Depth Chart Of Preseason

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 8, 2012 – 5:19 am

There’s a long way to go before NFL teams have to make roster decisions, but there’s not a long way to go before teams take the field for their first preseason game. So while there’s still plenty of time for players to make their case for a roster spot, NFL teams began releasing their initial preseason depth charts this week.

You can find the Vikings initial depth chart by clicking here.

There aren’t any major surprises or developments in the depth chart, but here are a few notes…

– As expected, Brandon Fusco is listed as the starter at RG, with Geoff Schwartz as his backup. Chris DeGeare is listed as the backup at LG behind Charlie Johnson.

– Lex Hilliard is listed as the 3rd-team RB, with Derrick Coleman and Jordan Todman stacked evenly behind Hilliard.

– Veteran Joe Berger is listed as the backup center, with undrafted college free agent Quentin Saulsberry listed with the 3rd team.

– D’Aundre Reed is lasted as the backup left DE and Nick Reed backs up Jared Allen at right DE.

– Tyrone McKenzie is in the lead for backup middle LB duties, with Audie Cole listed as the 3rd-team middle LB. Everson Griffen is also with the 3rd-team, listed at the weakside LB position.

– Marcus Sherels backs up Antoine Winfield at one CB position and Chris Carr is behind Chris Cook at the other CB spot. Based on my observations at practice, Carr would be ahead of Sherels in any 3-CB defensive alignment.

– Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are listed as starters at safety, with Harrison Smith behind Sanford at FS and Eric Frampton behind Raymond at FS. This is a fluid position, and Smith has been getting more and more reps with the 1st-team.

– Percy Harvin is listed as the top kickoff returner and Sherels is listed #1 at punt returner. Sherels also backs up Harvin at kickoff return and rookie WR Jarius Wright is listed as the backup punt returner.


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Frazier Says CB Robinson Back Soon, TE Carlson Has Knee Sprain

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2012 – 11:20 am

The Vikings conducted their customary morning walk-thru on Wednesday at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and head coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters afterward to give an update on his team through the first half-week of work. We’ll post the video in on-demand format soon, but until then I’ll go over a few notes I took from the press conference.

– Frazier said the new practice schedule of walk-thrus in the morning and practices in the afternoon is working well for the team so far. In year’s past, the Vikings conducted their practice in the morning and then a walk-thru in the afternoon. But being able to watch the walk-thru prior to practice to learn which mistakes to correct during the padded practice has been an advantage for the team, Frazier explained.

– TE John Carlson injured his knee on Tuesday and Frazier confirmed that the injury is a Grade 2 MCL sprain that will sideline the Minnesota native for 1-2 weeks. The good news on the injury front, though, is that CB Josh Robinson is expected to take a step forward in his recovery from a hamstring injury today. Frazier said that Robinson might begin working out on the side during practice with the training staff.

– Frazier spoke in glowing terms about rookie TE Rhett Ellison. The Vikings selected Ellison in the 5th round and based on early observations it looks like Rick Spielman and Co. found a good deal. Ellison will likely fulfill multiple roles in the Vikings offense and is the kind of player that will remind Vikings fans of Jim Kleinsasser. Frazier said Ellison’s maturity is notable, and he also said that the rookie has great preparation habits, attention to detail and a work ethic you don’t typically see from a first-year player.

– Antoine Winfield looked to be in tip-top form during the offseason program, and that form appears to have carried into training camp. Frazier said that the coaching staff discussed on Tuesday night the fact that Winfield looks “invigorated” on the field and is showing no signs of slowing down. Frazier noted that is very good news on a number of fronts, not the least of which being that Winfield is a good mentor for the team’s young secondary.

– Frazier was asked about S Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games for the defense last year and is in the middle of a competition for playing time this year. The area of Sanford’s game that the team is looking to improve is his ability to make plays on the ball down the field. Sanford is built compactly and is an excellent tackler, Frazier said, but now the team is looking for an improvement in his pass coverage. Frazier called Sanford one of the NFL’s premier special teams players, and credited his strength, speed and passion for the game as reasons why he excels in that area of the game.

– On Tuesday Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams spoke about his philosophy of wanting a “hockey lineup” along the defensive line, drawing an analogy to one of Minnesota’s past times in order to illustrate the point that he wants to rotate the defensive line as much as possible to keep players fresh throughout games and the season. Frazier said that he subscribes to his new coordinator’s theory and is pleased with the depth they have along the line.

– Everson Griffen has made the switch from DE to LB in camp, but Frazier noted that there may be certain situations where they ask Griffen to move back to DE. The focus is still on getting Griffen rote at outside LB to improve that position, but the goal is to make the entire defense better and the team can do that by getting Griffen on the field more frequently.

– For the first time in a long time, E.J. Henderson is not playing middle LB for the Vikings. It’s Jasper Brinkley’s job now, and some are concerned about Brinkley’s injury history. Frazier noted that Brinkley has done well so far in camp, has not been to the training room and made a bit hit in practice on Tuesday. “So far, so good,” Frazier said about Brinkley.


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Roster Rundown: Safeties And Tight Ends

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 19, 2012 – 6:40 am

The Vikings made key additions to the safety and tight end positions this offseason, but they utilized different methods in doing so. At safety, the Vikings looked to the draft to add young talent and infuse the position with competition. At tight end, the Vikings turned to free agency to bolster the position.

Safeties and tight ends are the subject of today’s Roster Rundown. Let’s begin with the safeties…

Four players listed as safeties will return from last year’s team. Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games in 2011 and is entering his fourth season, has the most experience playing defense of the bunch. Eric Frampton, entering his sixth season, has been a core special teams player for the Vikings since 2007 and should retain at least that role in 2012. The two other returning players are Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo. Raymond started five games last year and Sendejo was added to the active roster via free agency in late November 2011.

The Vikings added two safeties to the roster via the draft, using a 1st-round pick to select Harrison Smith and a 5th-round pick to select Robert Blanton. As a 1st-round pick, the expectation for Smith is that he’ll emerge from training camp with a starting role. Blanton is converting from cornerback to safety and will compete for time at the other safety position. Others who will compete for time at safety are Reggie Jones and perhaps Zack Bowman (he could rotate between cornerback and safety).

Safety is a position to watch during training camp and the preseason. The assumption is that Smith will hold down one starting spot while Blanton, Raymond and Sanford compete for the other position. But don’t be surprised to see others insert themselves into the mix, including Bowman and Sendejo.

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The Vikings shed a fair amount of experience at tight end this offseason, with 13-year pro Jim Kleinsasser retiring and nine-year pro Visanthe Shiancoe not returning. But now the position is full of youth and play-making athleticism. Not many teams used more multiple-TE formations than the Vikings a season ago, so this will be an important position to watch develop during training camp and the preseason.

Kyle Rudolph was a 2nd-round pick of the Vikings last year and he came on strong at the end of the season. He and QB Christian Ponder clearly have a good rapport, so it won’t be a surprise to see Rudolph take a huge step forward in 2012. As if one athletic, field-stretching TE from Notre Dame wasn’t enough, the Vikings added John Carlson to the mix during free agency. A Litchfield, MN native, Carlson is a proven talent in the NFL with a pair of 50+ reception seasons and a per-catch average of 11.1 yards for his career.

Behind Carlson and Rudolph, the Vikings have a pair of former Big Ten tight ends who are also talented pass catchers in Allen Reisner and Mickey Shuler. Both have two years of experience and both will have to display an ability to help on special teams as well as on offense to earn a roster spot.

The last player we’ll mention in this space is Rhett Ellison, even though he may eventually be listed as a FB. The Vikings selected Ellison in the 4th round of this year’s draft and he could be asked to fulfill a variety of roles on the Vikings offense, including as a tight end. Billed as a big, physical blocking-type of tight end entering the draft, Ellison displayed fluid route running and pass receiving skills at the Vikings rookie minicamp in May. A blue-collar, nose-to-the-grindstone player, Ellison will quickly become a fan-favorite in Minnesota, similar to how Kleinsasser’s career progressed.

Carlson and Rudolph will be the main threats at TE for the Vikings in 2012. While both are capable blockers, that is not their forte. That leaves opportunity for Reisner and Shuler to prove their worth during training camp; it will also be important for Reisner and Shuler to perform well on special teams during training camp and the preseason.


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Harrison Smith Gets Fired Up; Other Thoughts At Safety

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 13, 2012 – 5:14 am

Harrison Smith is a mild-mannered guy around Winter Park and in the locker room. Since arriving in Minnesota, the 1st-round safety has been gracious with his time in doing interviews and participating in community events.

But on Tuesday at Organized Team Activity #8, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier saw a different side of Smith, even if for a brief moment. And he liked it.

“I don’t know if it’s surprising, but it made me feel pretty good,” Frazier said when asked if he’s seen anything that’s surprised him about Smith. “I saw a play today where he really got angry. He got pretty fired up and you kind of need that out of your defensive backs. You need them to have a little something about them. It was good to see.”

Frazier is a good judge on temperament. He’s a mild-mannered and soft-spoken individual as well, but when he was on the field as a standout NFL defensive back for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, Frazier had a fierce attitude as well.

While meeting with reporters at Winter Park following Tuesday’s OTA, Frazier was also asked about a couple other safeties on the team’s roster competing for playing time – Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford.

Frazier, who called Sanford “one of the best special teams players in the League,” said that consistent open-field tackling will be key for Sanford as will displaying adequate range in pass coverage.

“Probably for Jamarca, just when we get the pads on, that’s when it’ll show up, where his fit will be, whether he’s going to be a starter for us or what role he’ll play,” Frazier said. “That will be the key for him, and being able to show the range in pass defense that we need and if he can get that accomplished in his second year as a potential starter, it’d be good for our defense, but putting the pads on will determine what happens with him down the road.”

As for Blanton, another rookie safety on the roster from Notre Dame, the key is transitioning from playing CB in college to safety in the NFL.

“There are some things you look at and you just know will take a little bit of time, just getting accustomed to being out in space. That’s different for him,” Frazier explained. “When you have the sideline as a twelfth man at times, you don’t have that safety. There’s a lot more space and the angles are a lot different and that takes time, but he’s getting it and we have to continue to expose him to more situations and we’re doing that. I think he’ll get it, but it’s just a matter of how fast it’ll be.”

While going through a position change in your first year in the NFL is certainly a tall task, Frazier refused to write the 2012 season off as just a developmental year for Blanton. He expects Blanton will challenge for serious playing time.

“I don’t look at it as a developmental season,” Frazier said. “This period that we’re in right now is more developmental because it’s not something he’s done very much of, but we’re hoping that he’ll challenge for a starting job and that’s why we drafted him when we did. We want him to challenge for a starting job at safety but it’s just a matter of how fast he’ll come along.”

 And don’t forget about Raymond. Frazier wasn’t asked about Raymond on Tuesday, but the 2nd-year safety on Tuesday had one of his best practices to date during OTAs. I saw him get his hands on a few passes and even haul in a couple of INTs. Raymond is in the mix to earn a starting spot as well.

Raymond and Sanford have taken snaps with the first team, but Smith got into that rotation as well this week. It’s too early yet to get a gauge on who has a hold on starting spots at this point because the team is still early in their preparations for the 2012 season and they’re more interested in experimenting with different combinations at this point than they are on deciding on a starting duo.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do,” Frazier said. “We started yesterday, we began to rotate guys and mix and match a little bit, just to see how they would gel together and we’ll continue to do it. We have quite a bit of time now before we get to that first game but we want to get a mix and see how guys work together to develop some chemistry in that secondary and that was a part of what happened today.”


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Young Vikings Secondary Rises To Challenge

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 3:47 pm

We said it before Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals began: with star CB Antoine Winfield unavailable due to a neck injury, the young Vikings secondary had to step up.

And they did.

With Winfield out and Cedric Griffin benched for the first series, the Vikings ran out Asher Allen (23 years old, 3rd season) and Chris Cook (24-2)  as their starters at CB. On the game’s first snap, the Vikings had their nickel package on the field, with Marcus Sherels (23-1) being the 3rd CB. Do the math, and you’ve got a group of CBs with an average age of 23.3 years and an average experience level of 2 seasons.

But that didn’t stop the group from playing well. Arizona was forced into a 3-and-out on their first series, and then with Griffin back in the fold, the secondary continued to play well. Allen grabbed an INT in the 1st quarter, and after the first two quarters of play, Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb had completed just half of his 22 pass attempts for 104 yards and he had a passer rating of only 44.5.

Star WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check, too, as he finished the game with 6 receptions for 44 yards and, most importantly, no TDs.

“They came up big for us today,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “Great to see Asher step up, great to see Jamarca step up. Chris Cook seems like he’s getting better every week. We all know there are big-time receivers every week in our league, and I haven’t seen him bat his eyes yet. He just continues to improve.”

In total, Kolb was 21 of 42 for 232 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs; backup QB Richard Bartel was 2 of 6 for 22 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT. Coming into the game, Kolb was averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt. On Sunday against a youthful Vikings secondary, Kolb averaged just 4.1 yards per pass and he was unable to find the end zone for the second consecutive week.

The bottom line is the Vikings secondary is a group that has been much maligned recently. Some of that criticism was warranted, and I’m sure some of it wasn’t. But after Sunday’s performance, there’s nothing but positives to take away from this group. And it’s a group that will only get better and gain more confidence once Winfield can return to action.


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Peterson, Vikings Defense Run Over Cardinals In 34-10 Victory

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 3:18 pm

Leslie Frazier earned his first victory as Vikings Head Coach on Sunday at Mall of America Field, as his team ran over the Arizona Cardinals to log a 34-10 win. And the Vikings did it the old fashioned way, with a relentless rushing attack and a punishing defensive effort that yielded only 3.8 yards per play and produced 4 turnovers.

The best RB in the NFL looked the part on Sunday, as the Vikings used three Adrian Peterson rushing TDs in the 1st quarter, along with a TD scamper by QB Donovan McNabb and a suffocating performance by the Vikings defense, to build a 28-0 lead before the 1st quarter came to a close. Arizona got on the board with a 2nd-quarter FG and then tacked on a TD in the 3rd quarter, but a rock-solid defensive effort, a commitment to the running game and two FGs by Ryan Longwell in the 2nd half helped the Vikings salt away their first victory of the season.

With a sold-out Mall of America Field crowd behind them, the Vikings defense played lights out for most of the game. But they were particularly sensational in the early going, forcing the following outcomes on Arizona’s first 6 drives: punt, punt, INT, fumble, punt, punt. There was a trio of three-and-out drives, and the Vikings converted both turnovers into TDs. Peterson scored from 4 yards out after the second Arizona punt and then dashed in from 24 yards out just one play after the INT. McNabb scampered in from 4 yards out after the fumble and then Peterson tallied his third rushing score of the day late in the 1st quarter after yet another Arizona punt.

All told in the 1st quarter, the Vikings scored 28 points, outgained Arizona 108-53, forced two turnovers and had an average drive start at the Arizona 40. Meanwhile, the Cardinals average drive start was their own 18, they converted zero of four 3rd-down attempts and they had nearly as many sacks and turnovers (3) as pass completions (4).

With CB Antoine Winfield sidelined because of a neck injury, it was imperative that the young Vikings secondary step up. And they did. Asher Allen grabbed the 1st quarter-INT, while S Jamarca Sanford collected two of his own to close out the game. The rest of the Vikings secondary played well also, as star WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check with just 4 receptions for 66 yards. QB Kevin Kolb completed just 21 of 42 attempts for 232 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs; backup QB Richard Bartel threw the 3rd INT.

Aiding the young secondary in their effort was a tremendous pass rush, paced once again by perennial Pro Bowler Jared Allen, who had a pair of sacks. Fellow starting DE Brian Robison also had 2.0 sacks on the day, and now the duo has combined for 13.0 sacks this season – Allen has 8.5 and Robison has 4.5.

The Vikings special teams group deserves a nod, too, as they generated an average starting field position for the offense of the MN 42, while creating an average starting field position for Arizona of their own 24. Marcus Sherels had 45 punt return yards on just 2 tries, while P Chris Kluwe allowed zero returns in 4 punts and had two of his punts downed inside the 20, one of which was downed at the Arizona 3. K Ryan Longwell was 4 of 4 on PATs, 2 of 3 on FG tries (including a 53-yarder in the 4th quarter) and had two touchbacks.

The win improves the Vikings to 1-4 on the season and it gets them moving in the right direction as they embark on a road trip to Chicago next weekend and then return home for a date with the Green Bay Packers.


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