Several Vikings Step Up In Win Over Washington

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2011 – 2:27 pm

The Vikings earned a tough 33-26 road victory over the Washington Redskins on Saturday, and there was nothing conventional about how the game unfolded. Minnesota jumped out to 10-0 lead, trailed 13-10 early in the 3rd quarter, watched both Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder leave the game due to injury, and then outscored Washington 23-13 the rest of the way to notch the win.

To be on the road and face that much adversity – Peterson left with a severe knee injury and Ponder suffered a concussion – but still come out with a win is a testament to the Vikings depth and refusal to quit on the season.

Peterson and Ponder were both forced out of the game early in the 3rd quarter. Backups Toby Gerhart and Joe Webb stepped right in and were productive for the rest of the game. Gerhart finished with 109 yards on 11 carries, the first 100-yard game of his career, and Webb was 4 of 5 for 84 yards and 2 TDs, and he also added 5 carries for 34 yards and 1 TD.

But it was more than just Gerhart and Webb who stepped up on Saturday. Seven-year veteran Joe Berger started at LG in place of Steve Hutchinson, rookie interior OL Brandon Fusco replaced Anthony Herrera at RG after Herrera left with an injury, rookie S Mistral Raymond grabbed an INT and ended a big-time drought for the Vikings defense, and Brian Robison forced and recovered a fumble off of Rex Grossman.

There are more examples of guys who stepped up in the victory, but you get the picture. And Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was clearly pleased with the way his team played, from the top of the roster all the way to the bottom.

“As I mentioned earlier, just a good overall effort by our football team to go on the road and get a win against a Redskins team that had just come off a big win against the Giants the week before,” Frazier said during his customary day-after-the-game press conference. “And to handle some of that adversity that occurred during that game, to see the number of players who stepped up like they did, whether it be Toby Gerhart, Joe (Webb) coming into the game when Christian (Ponder) was injured, some of our defensive guys just stepping up, Mistral Raymond coming back and getting an interception for us, the big caused fumble by Brian Robison as well.

“A lot of good things in that football game. A lot of guys contributed to that win on Saturday, which really should be a spring board for us as we prepare for this ball game against Chicago.”

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Notes From Frazier Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 2:23 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his customary day-after-the-game press conference on Monday afternoon and in so doing he provided a quick injury update and then discussed some of the big issues coming out of Sunday’s close 34-28 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Here are a few notes from the press conference…

– Frazier the most significant injury coming out of the game was WR Stephen Burton, who injured the MCL in one of his knees. Burton will not undergo surgery, but the timetable for his rehab and return is such that he wouldn’t be able to make it back before the season concludes. As a result, the Vikings have placed him on the Reserve/Injured list, they’ve elevated Manny Arceneaux from the Practice Squad and Frazier indicated the team may sign another WR to take Arceneaux’s place on the Practice Squad.

– Frazier was optimistic on Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder being able to play this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. Frazier described Peterson, who is dealing with an ankle injury, as close to being able to play last Sunday and Ponder as “no worse for the wear” after playing into the 3rd quarter against Detroit with his hip injury. Frazier also noted that DE Brian Robison “banged” his knee during the game but was able to finish.

– The 6-point loss on Sunday in Detroit marks the 8th loss of 7 points or fewer for the Vikings this season. That’s a remarkable stat for this Vikings team considering the injuries they’ve had to overcome. With the losses mounting up, it’s also a credit to the leadership on the Vikings coaching staff and in the locker room that the team continues to battle so hard in close games. No one wants to be the loveable losers, but it’s even worse to be the bad team that doesn’t even try hard. The Vikings clearly are not a group that doesn’t fight to the end, and Frazier appreciates that team quality. “As I mentioned before, not a lot of solace when you lose games when you’re battling every week to try to get a win like we are,” Frazier said, “but the fact that they are continuing to fight and not giving up and not make any excuses gives you some hope that we’ll continue to fight each and every week and hopefully eventually get it turned where some of those tough losses end up being victories. Hats off to our players for fighting the way they’re fighting.”

– Detroit’s 2nd TD of the game came on a 57-yard pass to WR Titus Young on a play where Young ran past CB Cedric Griffin and then beat S Jamarca Sanford further down the field to haul in the pass and dash into the end zone. On the play, Griffin’s responsibility is to re-route the WR early, and then to pass the receiver off to the safety. The problem was that Griffin didn’t get a sufficient re-route of Young, which enabled the Matthew Stafford-to-Young hookup and score. Griffin didn’t see much action after that play and Frazier was asked about the situation on Monday. Frazier said Griffin is not “in my dog house” and that the team will discuss the issue and move forward this week with a plan. I don’t expect Frazier will “give up” on Griffin, a player who has come back from severe knee injuries and is a good locker room guy. As Frazier said, the technique of re-routing a WR is something Griffin has executed countless times in the past and it’s likely something he’ll continue to be able to execute for the team going forward.

– The big story of the game for the Vikings is the removal of Ponder in favor of Webb, and then Webb’s subsequent performance and ability to nearly bring the team back to victory. While Frazier has maintained that Ponder is the team’s starter, he’s also acknowledged that the team would prefer to get Webb on the field more frequently because of his play-making ability. The issue right now is that Webb is the backup QB, and his value as the backup QB (which we saw on Sunday in Detroit) is too much to risk by having him on the field frequently. Once Sage Rosenfels, acquired two weeks ago, is more up to speed, then expect to see Webb in a more expanded role on offense. “No question, he is a guy who can create players when there’s nothing there,” Frazier said. “And we’ve got to do more as far as getting him out there and trying to put him in position to make plays, especially when Adrian is not playing and you’re relying so much on Percy. We need all the playmakers on the field that we can get and he is for sure one of our playmakers. It’s something we’ve got to continue to explore. We have some packages that we use sporadically, maybe we’ve got to go a little bit deeper with those packages.”

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Monday Morning Mailbag Extra: More On Ponder-Webb Discussion

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 10:24 am

We addressed it in the Monday Morning Mailbag, but because I’ve received – and continue to receive – so many emails on it and because not everyone who reads the blog necessarily reads the Mailbag, I wanted to bring up the Christian Ponder-Joe Webb discussion one more time here.

Ponder, dealing with a painful hip injury suffered last week in Denver, made it through this past week and was able to push himself enough to make the start on Sunday. Eventually, though, Ponder couldn’t overcome the injury and Leslie Frazier pulled him in favor of Joe Webb. As you surely saw or at least have heard by now, Webb sparked the team and nearly completed an improbable comeback.

As a result, many of you have formulated the opinion that Webb should be the starter. That’s the basis of the entire discussion, and I’ll provide my opinion here to open up discussion for everyone in the comments section and that will be the last I’ll mention it for the week. Frazier has already said that Ponder is the starter if healthy going forward, and I don’t see that changing.

I agree with Frazier that Ponder should be the starter. It’s not taking anything away from Webb; he came in and did everything he could possibly do to make plays and bring the Vikings back to life. To me, Webb has proven once again that he belongs on an NFL roster and he belongs on the field more often. He’s a playmaker and he possesses a unique skill set that any offense could utilize. And I believe the Vikings will utilize Webb more often going forward, especially once we get to the 2012 season. Let me reiterate – Webb is a terrific player, he belongs in the NFL, he answered the bell above and beyond the call of duty on Sunday, he was a great draft pick by the Vikings and I hope he remains on the team for many years to come.

But with all of that said, Ponder is and will remain the starter and the future of the position for the Vikings. Is he making mistakes right now? Yes, he’s making mistakes. And I know it gets frustrating to watch a quarterback repeatedly give the ball away to the other team. But when you’re in the business of developing a franchise quarterback who is currently in his first year, you have to live with growing pains. Overnight results happen when you’re making Jell-O and baking bread, but not when you’re developing franchise quarterbacks.

As I said in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, just look at some of the most successful quarterbacks in the NFL over the past decade. Then look at how they performed in their first year as the starter.

– Peyton Manning had three-interception games three times in his first four starts, and he had 11 interceptions over his first four games. After his first season, Manning had more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26). I bet Colts fans are glad the team didn’t give up on him.
— Eli Manning had more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six) in games that he started as a rookie and then he had four multiple-interception games, including a four-interception game, during his first full year as the starter for the Giants.
— Aaron Rodgers had two three-interception games in his first year as the Packers starting quarterback.
— Matt Ryan had four multiple-interception games in his rookie season.

I’d be willing to bet that each of those teams and their fan bases are glad the team didn’t give up on their respective quarterback after a few bad games.

The moral of the story is to be patient and resist the urge to overreact. Ponder has made mistakes, there’s no denying that. But he’s also shown that he has the ability to be a franchise-caliber quarterback, and he’s done that while playing for a two-win team that needs an influx of talent at several offensive positions.

Be patient, Vikings fans. Ponder will be worth the wait.

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Vikings Push Lions To Limit, Lose On Last Play 34-28

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 11, 2011 – 5:26 pm

You wouldn’t have thought it was possible in the 1st quarter, when the Lions were firmly in control and held a 21-0 advantage at one point, but the Vikings had a ton of fight in them on Sunday at Ford Field and they gave the Lions more than they could handle.

Unfortunately, though, giving the Lions more than they wanted to handle wasn’t enough. Detroit, a team that came in having lost 3 of their last 4 and 5 of their last 7 after starting 5-0, was able to escape the game clinging to a 34-28 victory as a last-second play from the 1-yardline went awry for the Vikings and the officials missed a severe facemask infraction against Lions LB DeAndre Levy (just look at the photo on the home page of to see how severe and obvious an infraction it was).

There is so much to go over from this game that presenting it in paragraph fashion will not be effective. Here’s a quick summary of the game, with many details missing but the main story explained…

– A pretty good looking start quickly turned into an awful series of events for the Vikings. The Lions won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. The Vikings defense forced a punt after giving up just 1 first down. The Vikings offense took over 1st and 10 on the 10-yardline. On the Vikings first offensive snap, Lions DE Cliff Avril got around the edge of RT Phil Loadholt and Vikings QB Christian Ponder was not able to step up into the pocket quick enough. Avril batted the ball from Ponder’s hands and then LB Stephen Tulloch pounced on the ball to score a TD.

– Things got much worse before they got better for the Vikings. Ponder was intercepted by CB Alphonso Smith on the next possession, and Detroit turned the turnover into a TD just two plays later when QB Matthew Stafford found WR Titus Young down the left sideline for a 57-yard score. The Vikings punted the ball away on their next possession, and Stafford struck again 3 plays later, this time finding TE Brandon Pettigrew for a 12-yard score. At that point the score was 21-0 and it looked like the game would be no contest.

– But Ponder and the Vikings showed life. The rookie QB drove his team down the field – 80 yards in 10 plays – and capped the drive by finding TE Visanthe Shiancoe for a 7-yard score.

– Things looked as if they’d get better on the next drive, as the Vikings forced another Lions punt. Two plays later, though, Ponder threw another INT. This one was returned by Smith for a 30-yard TD, and the Lions lead was 28-21. Once again, Ponder responded by driving down the field for a TD. After another 10-play drive, this one for 60-yards, Ponder found WR Percy Harvin for a 12-yard score, and we had a game at 28-14 midway through the 2nd quarter.

– The teams exchanged 3 punts after the Harvin TD, and the Vikings had the ball 1st and 10 from their own 16 looking to pull to within 7 points before halftime. But RB Lorenzo Booker lost a fumble and the Lions were able to turn it into 3 points just before halftime to take a 31-14 lead into the locker room.

– On the first drive of the 2nd half, Ponder threw another INT, his 3rd of the game, and after that was replaced by Joe Webb. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained after the game that the move to Webb was the result of Ponder not being able to operate normally because of his hip injury. Going forward, Frazier explained, Ponder will be the starter. For the rest of the game, though, it was Webb’s ballgame. And Webb answered the bell, in a big way.

– The Vikings defense bowed up in the 2nd half, paving the way for Webb to mount a furious comeback. Webb got the party started late in the 3rd quarter by dashing through and away from the Lions defense for a 65-yard TD run. It was the longest run ever by a Vikings QB and the 6th-longest run ever by an NFL QB. More important, though, is the fact that it pulled the Vikings to 31-21 with just over 19 minutes to play in the game.

– The Vikings defense continued to shut down the Lions offense, holding Detroit to just 3 points in the entire 2nd half. After Jason Hanson’s 4th-quarter FG to make the score 34-21, Webb drove the Vikings down the field – 12 plays, 60 yards – and found RB Toby Gerhart for a 2-yard score. That made the score 34-28 in favor of the Lions.

– The Vikings defense answered the bell yet again on the next drive, forcing the Lions to punt the ball and opening up an opportunity for Webb to finish the comeback effort. Down 21-0 and 28-7 at various points in the game, the Vikings were poised to stun the Lions and their home crowd by notching a game-winning TD on the game’s final drive.

– Using his legs and his throwing arm, Webb drove the Vikings from their own 20 to the Lions 1. Facing a 1st and goal from the 1 with 9 seconds to play, the Vikings called a fade/fade stop option route to TE Kyle Rudolph, who faced single coverage split wide left. Rudolph was covered right after the snap, and as Webb attempted to extend the play by scrambling left, Levy grabbed his facemask and forced a fumble. Detroit recovered the fumble all the way down the field at the Minnesota 43, but the referees failed to call the egregious penalty. Had the officials made the right call, the Vikings would’ve had an untimed down from inside the 1-yardline with no time on the clock. But because the referees missed the call – which should’ve been easy to see because the facemask infraction caused the fumble – the game was over and the Lions escaped with a victory.

There’s so much more to go over from this game, including discussion about the Ponder/Webb situation, the tremendous play of DE Jared Allen (3.0 sacks), Toby Gerhart performing well in place of superstar Adrian Peterson, and the surge in play we’ve seen from DT Kevin Williams over the last several weeks. We’ll get to all of that over the next 2 days or so on the Blog as we digest this game and get ready to move on to next week’s matchup with the New Orleans Saints, who will visit Mall of America Field on Sunday.

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Notes From Frazier’s Monday Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 5, 2011 – 2:57 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his customary day-after-the-game press conference on Monday and came away from the film room with the same emotion he displayed immediately after Sunday’s loss – mistakes in the 2nd half overshadowed a lot of positive developments.

“After having had a chance to go back and look at the tape, those breakdowns in the second half really nullified a great effort by so many guys on our team,” Frazier said. “Guys coming out fighting and really playing to win; a number of guys. Percy, Toby, Jared, Kevin Williams, just a number of guys across the board battling. But we had some breakdowns in our secondary that really hurt us in the second half of that ball game.”

Frazier also cited turnovers and a special teams lapse as mistakes, ultimately acknowledging that “we are just not good enough at this point to overcome some of our own mistakes.”

As resigned as Frazier has been since the end of Sunday’s game, he actually sounds even more determined to help his team get past those mistakes and start playing better football.

“It’s something that you are concerned about and we will keep working at it as a team and as a staff,” Frazier said. “We have four games remaining this regular season, none more important than this game coming against Detroit. We have to work extremely hard to try to fix some of the problems that showed up. That kind of takes away from all the good things that did occur during the course of the game when you don’t get a win.”

Here are a few more notes from Frazier’s press conference on Monday…

Turning to Page?
Last week the Vikings made a bevy of roster moves, mostly due to injuries, and one of those moves was the signing of free agent S Jarrad Page, a 6-year veteran out of UCLA. Page has 45 career starts in his NFL career, including 5 this season with the Eagles and 1 last year in New England. Page won’t be in the starting lineup this week against the Lions, but Frazier did say on Monday that he could get some playing time on defense on a rotational basis this week.

“We are hoping he can,” Frazier said. “He did some really good things on special teams yesterday, so the fact that he has started some games this year in the League and he seemed to pick up things pretty well at the end of last week.  We are going to try to give him a little bit more and wee if he can get in the game and help us out. We are going to look at that depending on how he practices this week.”

Rosenfels’ role
Another one of the roster moves made last week was the signing of veteran Sage Rosenfels. This is Rosenfels’ second stint with the Vikings – he was with the team in 2009 – and while at some point Rosenfels could emerge as the backup, right now Joe Webb will be the #2 QB. This is an important note this week because starting QB Christian Ponder is dealing with a hip injury.

“That would be Joe,” Frazier said when asked if Rosenfels would take 1st-team reps should Ponder miss practice time. “Sage is not at that point, and I talked with Sage about his role on the team and he’s comfortable being that third guy and really helping Christian, along with Joe, to develop. But he wouldn’t be far enough along to put in a starting role.”

Happy having Herrera back
RG Anthony Herrera made his return to the starting lineup after battling back from another knee injury, this one sustained against the Green Bay Packers on October 23. Herrera made the Vikings roster as an undrafted free agent and has ascended the depth chart to establish himself as a starter. With that as his professional background and with a fiery attitude, Herrera gives the Vikings offensive line a needed edge at times, so Frazier was happy to have Herrera back in the lineup on Sunday.

“He played well,” Frazier said. “He had some moments where he struggled a little bit and then he really got his legs under him and played extremely well. It was great having him out there. He gives us some leadership, brings some intensity to our offensive line. We missed him. It was good just to have his presence on our offensive line. He brings a different vibe to our offense and gives us something that lacks at times.”

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Hutchinson Hosts Early Thanksgiving Meal At Amplatz Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2011 – 7:00 am

Vikings All-Pro G Steve Hutchinson continued his tradition of providing holiday meals at childrens’ hospitals this week by hosting an early Thanksgiving meal for young patients and their families – approximately 100 people – at the new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

In a Vikings-themed room at the hospital, the meal (turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn and pies) was served buffet style. Joining Hutchinson were Vikings OT Patrick Brown, TE Jim Kleinsasser, S Tyrell Johnson, C John Sullivan, WR Kerry Taylor and QB Joe Webb. The players also visited children in their rooms who were not able to attend the Thanksgiving meal.

I’d like to send a special “thank you” to Jennifer Amundson of U of M Amplatz Children’s Hospital media relations for passing along the photos.

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Emptying Out The Notebook From San Diego

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 14, 2011 – 6:03 am

Wednesday is the day we flip the calendar from last week to this week. But before we do that this morning, I wanted to empty out the notebook from Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Chargers…

Positives to build on
It’s hard to look at the positives when you lose a game that you lead by 10 points at halftime, and in the process you generated just 10 first downs and 187 net yards. But there were some positives from the game and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned a few of them in his Monday press conference.

“I had a chance to go back and look at that tape and there were so many positive things that happened in that game,” Frazier said, “and particularly in the first half, just opening up the season the way we did with the kickoff going for a touchdown and guys just battling throughout and trying to make plays on both sides of the ball and our special teams as well.”

Frazier went on to mention other positives, such as: running the football (Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per carry); stopping the run (Chargers averaged just 2.9 yards per carry). Beyond that, it was good to see the Vikings win the turnover battle, hold QB Philip Rivers below his career averages in yards per attempt and passer rating and continue to cover kicks extremely well.

Defensive playmakers
Give a tip of the cap to Antoine Winfield, who intercepted Rivers late in the 1st half to stymie a scoring drive. It was the 24th INT of his career and his 18th as a Viking. Winfield will play in his 100th game as a Viking this Sunday in the team’s home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Other defensive playmakers from Sunday were LB Erin Henderson and DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison. In his first career start, Henderson had 6 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and a sack. Allen and Robison split a sack and Allen also added an INT deep in Vikings territory to halt another potential Chargers scoring drive. On Winfield’s INT, Robison hit Rivers as he threw it, which caused the ball to hang up in the air so Winfield could snag it.

Frazier encouraged by CB Cedric Griffin
The Vikings defense is better when Cedric Griffin is playing, and he was playing in a regular season game on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year. Frazier seemed encouraged by Griffin’s ability to play the whole game on Sunday.

“I was really impressed with the fact that Cedric Griffin played as well as he did and as long as he did,” Frazier said. “He played every snap on defense, he did a great job.”

Young defensive line rotation
With Kevin Williams missing in action for the first two weeks of the season, a few young defensive linemen saw extra snaps on Sunday. There wasn’t much of a pass rush from the inside, which we typically see when Williams is in the game, but you have to give the youngsters some credit for the way they played against the run. In the end, there is improvement to be made, but it was also a step forward for the young rotation. Also, this experience will only make the entire defensive line better once Williams does return.

Re-naming the “Wildcat”
The Vikings introduced their package of plays for QB Joe Webb. Some have questioned the timing, which is a good example of Monday Morning Quarterbacking if you ask me, but the bottom line is it was good to see the Vikings display some creativity and ambition in getting Webb on the field.

But I think we need to come up with a name for this package of plays. It sounds like Frazier and the offensive staff don’t view this subset of plays in the team’s playbook as the typical Wildcat package, largely because Webb is a dual-threat – he can run or stay in the pocket and throw.

“Well ours is a little different,” Frazier responded when asked about the “Wildcat.” “The way we’re using Joe Webb, it’s different. Most teams that put a guy back there can’t throw the ball as well as Joe. We have a legitimate quarterback running the offense when we do it.”

Unfortunately, the Chargers were able to contain Webb when he was in the ballgame. But watch for the Vikings to grow that package of plays and improve production.

“There is room to expound on what we did [Sunday],” Frazier said. “We are not ready to give up on it. They did a good job [Sunday] of defending it, but we think it has merit.”

I do, too.

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Vikings Impress During Preseason Finale, Shutout Texans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 1, 2011 – 9:41 pm

Most Vikings first-teamers didn’t play in the team’s preseason finale against the Houston Texans on Thursday night at Mall of America Field, but those Vikings that did play made sure to entertain everyone watching. QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, along with a host of other young Vikings, impressed in the final game of the preseason and put together a 28-0 victory.

With so many starters out of action, the main storyline heading into Thursday night’s game was the fact that Ponder was making his first start. The 1st-round pick did not disappoint, going 10 of 17 for 83 yards with 1 TD and no INTs; Ponder also had 61 yards rushing on 8 carries, frequently utilizing his athleticism to avoid pressure and escape the pocket. Ponder’s TD toss went to fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph.

Webb also looked solid and led scoring drives of his own, guiding the Vikings on an 11-play, 59-yard drive that culminated in a Caleb King rushing score early in the 4th quarter and then leading another drive late in the 4th quarter that also ended with a King rushing score. For the game, Webb was 5 of 6 for 43 yards with no TDs or INTs; he also had 1 carry for 12 yards.

Another positive development was the play from the team’s RBs. Minneapolis native and Iowa State University product Alexander Robinson scored on a 4-yard run in the 3rd quarter and then King, an undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Georgia, scored twice in the 4th quarter. Tristan Davis got the start on Thursday night and rumbled for 25 yards on 8 carries. In total, the 3 RBs rushed for 135 yards on 34 carries. Robinson averaged 6.9 yards per carry and King was the leading rusher among the three with 62 yards.

The Vikings offense saw a lot of opportunities for success because the defense and special teams played so well. The Vikings defense surrendered only 14 first downs on the night and held Houston to a 33% third-down conversion rate. The Vikings kick coverage units were solid once again, as they have been all preseason, and allowed just 9.0 yards per punt return. P Chris Kluwe put 3 punts inside the 10, including one at the Houston 1-yardline in the 1st half.

Rookie CB Brandon Burton, who has flashed a bit over the past two games, notched an INT in the 2nd half and continues to make a strong case for himself. DE Adrian Awasom, who has lined up with the second-team defense all of camp and the preseason, registered a pair of sacks on the night and newly acquired DE Stylez White also had a sack. Reserve S Ryan Hill tallied a pair of special teams tackles and also led the team in defensive tackles with 5.

The victory over Houston concludes the Vikings preseason and now they’ll prepare for their regular season opener against the San Diego Chargers on September 11.

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Vikings Drop 23-17 Decision To Dallas

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 10:15 pm

The Vikings dropped a 23-17 decision to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night at Mall of America Field in a game that saw the return of the Vikings to their home stadium for the first time since December 5, 2010. The contest was the third preseason game for both teams and it gave coaches and fans an extended look at starters.

The difference in the game turned out to be on special teams, where Dallas blocked a 50-yard FG attempt by Ryan Longwell and returned it for a TD. Gerald Sensabaugh got his mitts on Longwell’s kick and CB Alan Ball eventually recovered the loose ball and dashed to the endzone, giving the Cowboys a 10-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter.

From that point forward, each team found the endzone once – Dallas on a 5-yard TD run by Felix Jones and the Vikings on a 10-yard scamper from QB Joe Webb – and Dallas came away with the 6-point win. Longwell came on to convert a 44-yard FG later in the game and the Cowboys converted a pair of FGs to create the winning margin.

The Vikings actually held an advantage in most statistical categories, including total yards, first downs and third-down efficiency. But the score on special teams was enough to tip the balance.

We’ll have much more from Saturday night’s game soon, including a look at the Vikings first-team offense and injury updates on the Vikings secondary. With three preseason games now in the books, the Vikings have a 1-2 record. Their next game is the preseason finale and it takes place on Thursday night at Mall of America Field against the Houston Texans.

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Frazier Says Webb Will Be #2 QB Saturday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 25, 2011 – 12:51 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters after practice today and he said that Joe Webb will be the team’s #2 QB in Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Webb and rookie Christian Ponder are in a closely-contested battle for the backup job behind veteran Donovan McNabb.

Frazier was also clear in explaining that neither guy has emerged as a favorite to be the team’s backup for the regular season. Both Ponder and Webb have performed well in camp and displayed improvement from preseason game #1 in Tennessee to the preseason game #2 in Seattle. Webb was the #2 in Tennessee and Ponder took those duties last week against Seattle.

The third preseason game is typically when starters get the most playing time and Frazier said he and the coaching staff are anticipating the roster beginning to shape after Saturday night. He even hinted that McNabb may not play much, if at all, in the Vikings preseason finale next Thursday against Houston.

“We’ve got some key decisions that we have to make at certain positions,” Frazier said. “This game, and I told our team this morning, will play a major rule in determining where some people are going to fit on our squad.”

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