Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman met with reporters on Thursday and one of the disclosures he made was that the team voted on its MVPs. This has been an annual ritual for the team the past several seasons, with a MVP being named on defense, offense and special teams. The awards are voted on by Vikings coaches and players.
Chad Greenway was named the defensive MVP, Adrian Peterson was named the offensive MVP and Blair Walsh was named the special teams MVP. Greenway and Peterson recorded career-highs in tackles and rushing yards, respectively, and Walsh was arguably the NFL’s best kicker.
Spielman also said the team would announce its rookie of the year in April following this year’s draft at a special event. Who would you vote for as the Vikings Rookie of the Year for 2012? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.
Previous Team MVPs
2006: Antoine Winfield, Chester Taylor, Heath Farwell
2007: EJ Henderson, Adrian Peterson, Heath Farwell
2008: Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Longwell
2009: Jared Allen, Brett Favre, Ryan Longwell
2010: Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson, Chris Kluwe
2011: Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, Eric Frampton
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Chris Kluwe, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 160 Comments »
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Frazier meets with reporters multiple times per week during the regular season, but Tuesday’s press conference represents the last of these regular meetings of the 2012 season. Frazier will, of course, speak with reporters during the offseason, but this is the last extensive question-and-answer session he’ll have until most likely the Scouting Combine in late February.
Here are several notes and quotes from Frazier’s end-of-season press conference…
Proud of his team
The Vikings fell short of their ultimate team goal – winning the Super Bowl. But they accomplished many other goals throughout the 2012 regular season, including collecting enough wins to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2009. For that, and for other unstated reasons, Frazier said he was proud of this year’s team.
“I’m very, very proud of our football team and what they accomplished this season,” Frazier said. “Our guys worked extremely hard going all the way back to April 23 when they came back into the building to really set a foundation for this 2012 season. Because of their hard work, we were able to secure a playoff berth. The foundation has been set for our team, without question.
“Our core identities showed up. The traits that we talked about throughout the year…being a tough, smart, disciplined football team. It was exemplified through this group of young men.”
Developing a young roster
I didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the team until Frazier referenced it during his press conference, but 22 of the 53 players currently on the Vikings roster are listed as being in their 1st or 2nd season. It’s impressive that this team played so well so late in the season and qualified for the postseason with so many young players and so many young players at important positions.
Frazier credited his coaching staff for the work they did in developing young players and he also expressed gratitude to his veteran players for their leadership roles as well.
Frazier also said he didn’t anticipate changes to his coaching staff, barring any promotions some of them may receive.
Dome-field advantage is back
Frazier has said many times in the past that he understands how difficult an environment Mall of America Field can be for opposing teams. He mentioned it once again during Tuesday’s press conference, expressing appreciation for the support of Vikings fans and for the noise the crowd creates in the Vikings home stadium.
“I think for any team that comes to Mall of America Field, our goal going into the season, we wanted to make it extremely difficult for anybody to think that they could come here and win. Our guys, they got that done. To go 7-1 at home, with the support we got from our fans, that was a big deal for our success during the season.”
Frazier listed DE Jared Allen (shoulder) and P Chris Kluwe (left knee) as players who will likely undergo surgeries for ailments. He also listed LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder), RB Adrian Peterson (core muscle), QB Christian Ponder (triceps) and CB Antoine Winfield (hand) as players also dealing with injuries, but he didn’t indicate surgery would be needed for any of those players. Overall, none of the injuries should impact any of those players’ ability to participate minicamps, training camp or the 2013 regular season, according to Frazier.
Ponder is the Vikings starter going forward
Frazier was asked a series of questions about the team’s quarterback situation. He was unequivocal in saying that Ponder would be the team’s starter going into the offseason. He was vaguer about the depth chart after Ponder, saying Joe Webb would compete for the backup job behind Ponder and also mentioning McLeod Bethel-Thompson as someone who was involved in the team’s plans. Beyond that, Frazier wisely pointed out that it’s hard to prognosticate what will happen at that position – or any position – at this point in the offseason.
Futures for Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield
Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield have been productive players for the Vikings for many seasons, and both were vital components to the defensive effort in 2012. But both guys are also quite long in the tooth, with Williams having completed his 10th season and Winfield having completed his 14th. As it stands right now, though, it sounds like Frazier would love to have both guys return for the 2013 season.
“The intangible in this is a big deal when you’re trying to get the locker room the way you want it,” Frazier explained. “And both Antoine and Kevin are guys who have achieved a lot in our League, a lot of success. So to have star players with the demeanor and leadership qualities that they both possess, helped our football team in 2012, there’s no question about it.
“Would love to have those guys on our team going forward. That’s something we’re going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department. Just talk about their fit going forward. But from my vantage point, very appreciative of the leadership they provided this season, what they’ve meant in my time here in Minnesota, and I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Rick Spielman, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 182 Comments »
A huge takeaway from the Vikings 2012 season will be that the team made a 7-win improvement from the 2011 season. That 7-win improvement represents the largest single-season turnaround in franchise history.
That’s good news. But don’t for a minute think players in the locker room will identify satisfaction in that improvement as the dominant emotion as they depart for the offseason. This is a Vikings locker room that is encouraged by its improvement, but is now hungry for more.
“It was a big improvement from last year, but we’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs,” DT Kevin Williams said. “We wanted to stay in a little longer and try to make it to New Orleans (site of this year’s Super Bowl). It’s a step. We’ve got to keep improving.”
One of Williams’ teammates along the defensive line, a pretty important teammate at that, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re not in the business of just making the playoffs,” DE Jared Allen said. “It’s a feel-good story, it’s a great turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 and being in the playoffs. But that’s not what we’re here for.
“Typical offseason now…you’ve got to let your body rest up and use this as motivation to get back, and next year win it.”
Although Vikings players departed Winter Park for the 2013 offseason following a disappointing playoff loss to Green Bay and having not accomplished their ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl, you could sense an aura of momentum and positivity. The key now is for those positive sentiments to yield ambition and hunger rather than satisfaction and complacency.
Judging by the above-comments from some of the team’s leaders, that won’t be a problem.
Tags: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 55 Comments »
A quick glance at the box score might lead one to conclude that the disparity in production at QB led to the outcome of Saturday night’s Wild Card game playoff between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Green Bay came out a winner by a 24-10 count behind a 274-yard, 1-TD performance from QB Aaron Rodgers, while the Vikings offense struggled with backup QB Joe Webb under center.
It’s true that a big difference in play at QB was a determining factor in the game. But mistakes in other areas of the game were contributing factors as well. Just as frustrating for the Vikings as not having their starting QB available for the biggest game of the season was the fact that many of the costly mistakes committed by the Vikings were uncharacteristic of the way the team played down the stretch, when they won four consecutive games to qualify for the postseason.
Consider the following costly miscues committed by the Vikings:
– Leading 3-0 midway through the 1st quarter, the Vikings held Green Bay to a 3-and-out on its first possession and then stopped them on 3rd and 2 on their second possession. But an offsides penalty against veteran DT Kevin Williams extended Green Bay’s drive, and RB DuJuan Harris made the Vikings pay several minutes later when he scored from 8 yards out.
– On the first drive of the 3rd quarter, Green Bay was stopped again on 3rd down and was forced to bring their FG team out onto the field to salvage a score. But the Vikings had 12 men on the huddle due to a miscommunication from the sideline, and Green Bay was awarded a 1st down. On the next play, Rodgers found FB Jon Kuhn for a 9-yard TD, giving the Packers a commanding 24-3 lead.
– With 14:12 to play in the 4th quarter, the Vikings forced a punt from Green Bay and were poised to take possession while trailing by 21 points. But Marcus Sherels, who had been solid as the team’s punt returner all season, muffed the punt and it was recovered by the Packers. Green Bay was forced to punt again just 3 plays later, but they burned 2 more valuable minutes before doing so.
The last mistake did not result in a Green Bay score, but the previous two mistakes resulted in two Green Bay TDs. Keep in mind, the winning margin for Green Bay in the game was 14 points.
“To give up fourteen points after we should’ve been off the field, it is uncharacteristic,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “We’ve done a good job with penalties this year. Marcus has been great catching punts. We never had to worry about him fielding punts.
“Those are things you don’t want to see happen – unforced errors in a game like this. It’ll kill you, that’s a good football team. For whatever reason it happened to us tonight.”
Despite the mistakes and the effort that resulted in a 14-point loss and early exit from the playoffs, Frazier reiterated during his press conference that he was proud of his team’s effort over the course of the season. No one is proud of the result, but that doesn’t preclude one from appreciating the effort and results that came from a successful 2012 season for the Vikings.
“I thought our guys played hard,” Frazier said. “We just didn’t always play the way we are capable of playing in some instances.
“I’m extremely proud of our football team, and the way they worked throughout this year to represent our organization, to represent our state. The effort that they have every single week throughout the course of this season, including tonight, those guys never let anyone put limitations on what they could achieve and they played as hard as they could and tried to do the very best they could to give us a chance to win. Tough loss, not the way we wanted our season to end. But because of the character of the men on this football team, there are a lot of things that we can learn from this 2012 season.”
Tags: Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Marcus Sherels
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 100 Comments »
The performance of young players on the roster has been a vital part of the Vikings success in 2012. Rookies Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh have been outstanding performers week-in and week-out. Everson Griffen registered a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Kyle Rudolph was 2nd among all NFL TEs with 9 TDs. Christian Ponder played his best game in the season’s biggest moment.
But now, with a postseason matchup against Green Bay just two days away, a few Vikings veterans are stepping up to the plate to provide leadership and perspective to the entire team.
Jared Allen, who had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in last week’s win and has registered 16.0 sacks in 11 games against the Packers, is one of the leaders equipped to set the postseason tone. Since arriving in Minnesota via trade in 2008, Allen has helped the Vikings reach the playoffs 3 times in 5 seasons. In that time, he has been one of the team’s most productive players as well. His 12.0-sack season in 2012 gives him 6 straight seasons of 10+ sacks, and 5 of those seasons have come as a Viking. Only one player (DeMarcus Ware – 77.5) has more sacks than Allen’s 74.0 since 2008, and no NFL player has more sacks than Allen’s 117.0 since he entered the League in 2004.
On Wednesday while meeting with reporters, Allen was asked what his memories were of the last time he appeared in a postseason game – the NFC Championship Game following the 2009 season.
“I thought I was going to the Super Bowl, then that got ripped away from us. So, bad memories I guess, because we lost, but still it’s fun, that will always be a game that I cherish,” Allen acknowledged. “It helps you realize how important this opportunity is. I think that is what we have been trying to convey to the guys that haven’t been to the playoffs, the young guys on the team, is that this opportunity doesn’t come around often.
“This is my ninth year in the league and this is I think my fourth playoff appearance, so the odds of getting back aren’t certain and they aren’t always skewed in the positive direction. So guys take advantage of this opportunity. The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen. You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl.”
Adrian Peterson offered a similar message when asked about the loss in the NFC title game.
“Well, it definitely wasn’t good memories,” Peterson said. “One game away from the Super Bowl and you lose, so I don’t ever want to have to relive that feeling again.”
Asked if he thought it would take this long to make a return to the postseason, Peterson was candid.
“I didn’t at all,” he said. “That’s why you really can’t take things for granted because making it to the post-season is extremely hard.”
Peterson is in the prime of his career. He’s not a young buck anymore, but he hasn’t been around as long as some of his senior teammates such as Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield. So his perspective is an interesting one when it comes to assessing whether or not this team’s leadership is effective in sending the right message.
“The veteran guys have always been leaders, but this year it’s been more vocal,” Peterson explained. “Having a lot of young guys here that can play ball, and the guys that I call veterans, Antoine and Kevin and Jared, those guys are able to see that. In tough times they came up and called the team together and shared their thoughts. I’m sure they know that their time is starting to come to an end, they know how hard it is to get to the post-season so they want to take advantage of that opportunity. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of guys step up and lead in different ways this year.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 37 Comments »
A Vikings team that’s proven resilient throughout the 2012 regular season needed every ounce of it they had left to qualify for the postseason. When all was said and done, the Vikings defeated a high-powered Green Bay Packers team that showed no quit themselves by a count of 37-34 in front of a frenzied Mall of America Field Crowd on Sunday.
“Just a great job by our football team,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said moments after the game. “I’m so proud of our guys. A complete team effort all the way across against a very good football team. For our guys to be as resilient as they were throughout this ballgame…our fans were terrific throughout this game. It’s the first time in a long time I felt like, playing against Green Bay and being at home, we truly had home-field advantage because our fans were loud, they made it hard for their team to really function at times, and we needed that. I’m very, very grateful to our fans that really had an impact on this ballgame at Mall of America Field.”
There’s no question the Vikings heart and their home crowd’s noise made a difference in Sunday’s outcome. But the Vikings also needed firepower to get the job done, and that came from the arm of QB Christian Ponder, the legs of RB Adrian Peterson and the right foot of rookie Pro Bowl K Blair Walsh. Ponder, playing in the biggest game of his young career, came up big by completing 16 of 28 passes for 234 yards with 3 TDs and no INTs – good for a passer rating of 120.2.
“He’s playing at a high, high level at this point,” Frazier said. “And we needed that today going against a high-powered offense with an excellent quarterback. He did a terrific job. He’s playing very good football at the right time for us.”
As for Peterson, he’s been the heart and soul of the Vikings all season, and was in Sunday’s win as well. The best RB in the NFL carried the ball 34 times and continuously pounded a game Packers defense. He finished with 199 yards rushing and 1 TD, while also adding a receiving TD to his box score. Peterson became just the 7th player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season and he came up 9 yards short of breaking the NFL single-season rushing mark.
Defensively, the Vikings had a hard time containing Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s explosive passing game. Rodgers finished going 28 of 40 for 365 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs, good for a 131.8 passer rating. But there were moments when the Vikings defense combined with a raucous Mall of America Field crowd to come up big. Green Bay was forced to punt after their first three possessions, and that allowed the Vikings to build up a 13-0 lead.
On top of that, Rodgers was pressured for much of the day. The Vikings registered 5 sacks of Rodgers, with 3.0 of them coming from Everson Griffen and 1.0 each coming from Jared Allen and Brian Robison. It was Robison who sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble in the 3rd quarter that led to a TD pass from Ponder to Peterson and a 27-17 lead. LB Erin Henderson led the Vikings in tackles with 7 and Kevin Williams had a big pass defensed early in the game on a 3rd down.
The most important sequence of the game came at the end, following a cold-blooded offensive series by Rodgers and the Packers that resulted in a 2-yard TD toss to WR Jordy Nelson and a tied game at 34 with 2:54 to play. Marcus Sherels returned the ensuing kickoff 29 yards to the Minnesota 28, setting up Ponder and Co. with a 1st and 10 and an opportunity to march for a game-winning score.
And that’s exactly what happened, thanks in large part to a crucial 3rd-down throw by Ponder. After bouncing a pass incomplete to Peterson on 1st down and then Peterson losing a yard on a 2nd-down carry, the Vikings faced a 3rd and 11 at the 2-minute warning. The worst-case scenario for the Vikings was an incomplete pass that forced them to punt the ball to Rodgers, who could put together a game-winning drive of his own. Rodgers never got that chance, though, and it’s because of a perfectly-placed pass by Ponder to WR Michael Jenkins down the left sideline that yielded 25 yards, a 1st down, and hope within the stadium.
From that point on, the Vikings wisely rode the legs of Peterson, giving it to him 4 times and watching him rip off 37 yards to put the Vikings on the Green Bay 11. Walsh, who had already hit from 54 and 37 earlier in the game, handled things from there, converting a 29-yard game-winner as time expired to give the Vikings their 37th point, their 10th win, and their first trip to the playoffs since 2009.
Sunday’s win and the subsequent postseason berth is a remarkable accomplishment for a team coming off a 3-13 season a year ago. This is a team that, prior to the season starting, many thought would be an afterthought by this time. But these Vikings are anything but an afterthought at the moment.
They’re a playoff team.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh, Brian Robison, Christian Ponder, Erin Henderson, Everson Griffen, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Michael Jenkins
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 136 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 »
E.J. Henderson is no longer chasing quarterbacks and tackling running backs for the Vikings, but he continues to make a difference in the Minnesota community. Henderson, a standout for the Vikings defense from 2004-2011, will be joined by several current Vikings on Tuesday evening to bring smiles to the faces of 36 local families.
Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Fred Evans and Kevin Williams will brighten the Holiday season for the families by taking them on a shopping spree at the downtown Minneapolis Target store. This is the fourth annual E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation-sponsored event, and it’s the third time that Allen has supported Henderson’s event.
While a player for the Vikings, Henderson was one of the organization’s most community-conscious player and in 2010 he was named the Vikings Community Man of the Year.
About the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation
The E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation (EJHYF) is a 501(c)(3) organization that serves urban youth in the Twin Cities area. The mission of the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation is to provide opportunity and encouragement to urban youth through academic, life skills and athletic programs developing each student in mind, body and soul. The EJHYF’s goal is to provide youth with the skills to become responsible members of their communities and find success in their future. The organization uses a three-prong approach that emphasizes the importance of strong Mind, Body and Soul.
Tags: E.J. Henderson, Fred Evans, Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Kevin Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 18 Comments »
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has an affinity for old-school football after playing on one of the best defenses of all-time (the 1985 Chicago Bears) and with one of the greatest RBs of all-time (Walter Payton). As you can imagine, then, Frazier was quite pleased with his team following their big victory Sunday.
It’s a non-traditional final score, but the Vikings 36-22 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome was about as old-school as it gets. Another historic day by Adrian Peterson and a cleverly-crafted defensive game plan paced the Vikings winning effort, as they moved to 8-6 on the season and remained alive in the NFC playoff chase.
Peterson, who has been forward about his desire to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, looked like a man on a mission against the Rams. Constantly pushing through and dashing around Rams defenders, Peterson muscled and sprinted his way to 212 rushing yards and 1 TD on 24 carries. He had 2 runs of 50+ yards, including an 82-yard TD in the 1st half, and then his 54-yard outburst late in the game all but sealed the Vikings win.
As good as Peterson was on the day, he didn’t deliver the Vikings a victory on his own. The Vikings defense, which has come on of late, played perhaps its best game against the Rams. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams and his staff put together a game plan that held St. Louis to just 7 points in the 1st quarter and just 5.6 yards per play for the game.
Rather than relying on a 4-man rush from the defensive line and dropping 7 in coverage, the Vikings mixed up their calls and kept the Rams guessing. A quick glance at the stat sheet will illustrate the way the Vikings varied their defensive attack: defensive linemen Letroy Guion and Kevin Williams each had a pass defensed; linebackers Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson each had a sack; and Everson Griffen dropped into coverage and came away with a 29-yard INT return.
When all was said and done, the Vikings had 5 pass breakups, 4 sacks and a fumble recovery. Greenway led the team in tackles (again) and role players such as Christian Ballard (1.0 sack), Griffen and Marcus Sherels all had an impact on defense.
The Vikings running game and defense were key in the victory, but credit also goes to QB Christian Ponder for a well-managed game. Ponder was efficient and careful, connecting on 17 of 24 passes for 131 yards with no TDs or INTs; he also had a 5-yard rushing TD in the 1st quarter. Blair Walsh also played a key role, hitting a NFL record 3 FGs of 50+ yards and going 5 of 5 on the day.
It was a huge win for the Vikings because it keeps them alive in the NFC playoff chase and improves their record in the NFC should that come into tie-breaking procedures. Now the team will sit back, watch the rest of the NFC games unfold late Sunday, and prepare for a game against one of the AFC’s best next week – the Houston Texans.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Alan Williams, Blair Walsh, Chad Greenway, Christian Ballard, Christian Ponder, Erin Henderson, Everson Griffen, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Marcus Sherels
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 265 Comments »
The Vikings and Buccaneers are fast at work preparing for their Thursday night showdown at Mall of America Field. Both teams had quick turnarounds after playing home games on Sunday. Here are a few subplots to watch this week…
1. Quick Turnaround, Short Week
The Vikings and Buccaneers are both coming off 7-point games that will have concluded just 4 days prior to kickoff of their matchup in Minnesota. The short week presents challenges for both teams as they prepare for the game. But there’s an additional challenge for the Buccaneers because they’ll jump on a plane Wednesday afternoon, spending valuable time during the short week up in the air and away from home.
According to Mike Garafolo of USA Today, since the NFL Network started its late-season Thursday broadcasts in 2006, road teams are 20-35 in the games. Garafolo notes that the figure includes Thanksgiving games (the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions are a combined 5-7 as home teams) but excludes season openers because they’re not played on short weeks. It also includes a New York Jets victory against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto that was a neutral-site matchup, not a true away game.
2. Looking For A Bounce-Back Performance From Ponder
There’s no hiding from the fact that Vikings QB Christian Ponder is coming off a poor outing against the Arizona Cardinals. Ponder himself was critical of his own performance following the game, and you can sense from listening to him speak with reporters that it bothers him to no end. The key now is to do something about it.
Past performances indicate that Ponder will indeed bounce back. We’ve seen Ponder bounce back from poor moments in games to lead the Vikings to points. Ponder had two INTs in the middle of the Titans game in Week 5, but responded in the 2nd half with a pair of TDs in leading the Vikings to victory.
You can count Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier as one who believes Ponder will respond on Thursday night following the effort on Sunday.
“When you look at moments where he’s struggled, and then you’ve seen him bounce back, even after the first interception to come back and take us down for a score when he threw the pass to Percy [Harvin] for a touchdown, those are signs that he’s maturing as a quarterback,” Frazier said. “He’s able to put bad plays behind him and that’s what you have to be able to do at that position. That’s important to our team, it’s important to him. I am. I’m confident that he’ll just continue to get better as time goes on.”
3. Strength vs. Strength: Vikings Rushing Offense vs. Buccaneers Rushing Defense
Adrian Peterson showed on Sunday against Arizona that 8- and 9-man fronts weren’t enough to slow him down. The Cardinals presented that road block for much of the game, yet Peterson still ran for 153 yards and 1 TD on 23 carries. Expect the Buccaneers to devise a plan to slow down #28.
Tampa Bay has done a good job of stopping opponents from the running the ball this season. They’ve allowed just one opposing rusher – Washington’s Alfred Morris – to top 100 yards this season and they rank #1 in the NFL by allowing just 3.1 yards per carry. Also, no team registered more opponent’s rushes of negative yards than Tampa Bay (37).
Although it’s not a tangible factor you can assess during the game, preparing for an opponent on a short week – with travel thrown in for Tampa Bay – and then playing two games within 4 days of one another is a significant subplot to this matchup.
4. Playing At Home, Can Vikings Defense Slow Down Freeman-to-Jackson Combo
Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman has played as well as any QB in the NFL the past two weeks, throwing for 748 yards with 6 TDs and just 1 INT the past two games. He’s taken just 2 sacks and has 8 completions of 25+ yards in that same span. While you certainly don’t anticipate Tampa Bay abandoning the run on Thursday night, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them try to attack through the air with a QB who is on a roll.
Freeman’s top target this season has been his newest target – free agent signing Vincent Jackson. The 6-5, 230-pound pass-catcher is one of the League’s best, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday that his route running is one thing that stands out about him. Jackson leads the Buccaneers in targets (60), receptions (27), receiving yards (586), receptions of 20+ yards (10) and receiving TDs (5). When Freeman goes to Jackson, it’s for the big play. He had a 95-yard grab last week against the Saints, and 25 of Jackson’s 27 catches have gone for a 1st down or TD.
The Vikings have done a nice job of neutralizing top threats. They held Detroit’s Calvin Johnson to 5 receptions for 54 yards and zero TDs in Week 4, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to 24 yards on 15 carries, and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald to 4 receptions for 29 yards. Defending Freeman-to-Jackson will be as tough a task as they’ve had this season.
5. Can Tampa Bay Slow Vikings Pass Rush?
The Vikings pass rush relentless pursued (and sacked) Cardinals QB John Skelton last Sunday. The defensive line was particularly productive, registering 6.0 of the Vikings 7 sacks on the day. DEs Brian Robison (3.0) and Jared Allen (2.0) got to him often, DT Kevin Williams tallied a key sack late in the game and then CB Antoine Winfield got a big on a 4th and 2 in the 2nd half.
Can Tampa Bay slow the NFL’s 3rd best pass-rushing defense? The Vikings have 22 sacks on the season, tied for 3rd, and no team has more sacks than their 72 since the beginning of 2011.
But Tampa Bay can pass protect. They have a mammoth offensive line, as their smallest lineman is C Jeremy Zuttah at 6-4, 308 pounds. Three others are 6-5 and their RT – Demar Dotson – is 6-9, 315 pounds. On top of that, Freeman is a big, strong athlete in the pocket and can be hard to bring down. The Buccaneers have permitted just 9 sacks through the first 6 games, which ranks tied for 4th best in the NFL.
6. Vikings In Prime Time
Most coaches and veterans will insist that a prime time game is “just another game.” Frazier explained to reporters on Tuesday that Thursday’s game is important to him because it’s the next game, not because it’s a prime time game.
That’s the prudent way for coaches and players to frame the game. But we don’t have to be prudent about framing the game. We can be excited to watch the Vikings play in prime time.
Thursday’s matchup between the Vikings and Buccaneers is one that features former NFC Central rivals. The Vikings and Buccaneers battled as division opponents from 1977-2001. As for playing on Thursday night, the Vikings own a 5-6 record in such games, are hosting their 1st NFL Network game in team history, and are playing in only their 2nd ever game on NFL Network, with the 1st being at Green Bay in December of 2006. This game will also mark the 1st prime time game at Mall of America Field since Green Bay visited in October of 2009.
The Vikings are 57-55 all-time in prime time games.
7. Matt Blair Goes Into Vikings Ring of Honor
It will have no bearing on Thursday’s game, but it’s appropriate to mention that former linebacker Matt Blair will become the 20th member of the Vikings Ring of Honor on Thursday night during a halftime ceremony honoring his career.
Blair played 12 seasons (1974-85) with the Vikings and ranks 2nd in franchise history with 1,452 tackles. He was a 2nd-round pick out of Iowa State and immediately made an impact on the Vikings defense, helping the team to Super Bowl IX as a rookie. Blair played on 2 Super Bowl teams with the Vikings, and the club won NFC Central Division titles and went to the playoffs in 6 of his first 7 seasons in the League. Blair had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, illustrated by his 20 blocked kicks. Alan Page (nine) is the only defensive player in club history with more Pro Bowls to his credit.
The Vikings Ring of Honor recognizes Vikings legends for their contributions to the success of the team on and off the field. Members of the Ring of Honor are recognized with a banner on the facade of Mall of America Field’s upper deck, forever living in Vikings lore.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier
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