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MVP! Rudolph Wins Pro Bowl MVP Honors

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 27, 2013 – 9:49 pm

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could well win NFL MVP honors in less than a week.

But the Vikings already have another MVP on their roster.

TE Kyle Rudolph took home Pro Bowl MVP honors on Sunday night after hauling in 5 receptions for 122 yards and 1 TD. It was the first Pro Bowl appearance in the 2-year pro’s career, and he came ready to play. The majority of Rudolph’s contributions came early in the game as the NFC built an insurmountable lead. Rudolph’s 3-yard TD grab from NY Giants QB Eli Manning came late in the 2nd quarter and gave the NFC a 31-14 lead at halftime. Also, Rudolph’s 122 receiving yards was a game high.

In the regular season, Rudolph had 9 TDs, which was tied for 1st (Jimmy Graham) in the NFC and tied for 2nd in the NFL (Rob Gronkowski).


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Rudolph, Walsh And Teammates Help NFC 62-35 Route AFC

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 27, 2013 – 9:37 pm

Kyle Rudolph had a 3-yard TD reception and led the NFC with 122 receiving yards on 5 receptions. Blair Walsh hit FGs of 48 and 26 yards to go along with 8 PATs. Chad Greenway had a fumble recovery. Jerome Felton had a 4th quarter TD run. It was a good night for Vikings at the Pro Bowl.

Those contributions plus many others from the rest of the NFC squad led to a 62-35 victory over the AFC in the Pro Bowl. Rudolph’s TD came from NY Giants QB Eli Manning and it gave the NFC a commanding 31-14 lead as the squads went into the locker rooms at halftime. Felton’s TD came midway through the 4th quarter, with the game out of hand, and it gave the NFC its 62nd point and a 34-point lead.

Matt Kalil played much of the game while rotating between LT and RT, while Jared Allen also played much of the game and emphasized the importance of players participating in the game when voted in by their peers during a sideline interview during the 4th quarter. It’s notable that Allen made the statement because he’s played through a shoulder injury all season and did so once again during the Pro Bowl.

Adrian Peterson, who won Pro Bowl MVP honors after the 2007 season, had 5 carries for 13 yards and made a quick exit.

The NFC’s victory this year marks their 4th in the last 6 games.

Other standouts from the game included:

– Packers C Jeff Saturday snapping the ball to Broncos QB Peyton Manning. Saturday played for the NFC and Manning for the AFC, but the snap was a special moment because the two were long-time teammates with the Indianapolis Colts, and Saturday is set to retire this year.

– NY Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul intercepting a pass intended for Houston DE JJ Watt and thrown by Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck.

– Bengals WR AJ Green grabbing 7 receptions for 119 yards and 3 TDs.

– NY Giants QB Eli Manning going 16 of 23 for 191 yards and 2 TDs.

– Seattle QB Russell Wilson going 8 of 10 for 98 yards and 3 TDs.

– Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson and NY Giants WR Victor Cruz combining for 16 receptions for 187 yards and 3 TDs.

– Saints QB Drew Brees throwing for 131 yards and 1 TD on 8 of 11 passing.


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Rudolph Becomes 6th Vikings Pro Bowler

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 23, 2013 – 8:04 am

The Vikings already had 5 Pro Bowlers. But a reinforcement is coming for good measure.

TE Kyle Rudolph has been named to his first Pro Bowl, as he replaces Tony Gonzalez for the NFC squad.

“When I first heard, I was surprised,” Rudolph said. “I’m just so excited and honored to be playing in the Pro Bowl. It is a dream come true, a dream I had since I was a little kid.

“Having six guys in the Pro Bowl says a lot about our team. All offseason we had the mindset and the mentality that the sky was the limit. We kept that to ourselves within the locker room and worked hard all off season. It paid off during the regular season.”

Rudolph tied for 1st in the NFC among TEs with a career-high 9 TD receptions during the regular season, which was good for 2nd in the NFL behind only New England’s Rob Gronkowski. The second-year product out of Notre Dame also recorded career-highs receptions (53) and receiving yards (493) in 2012.

Rudolph, who started all 16 games in 2012 and the team’s Wild Card playoff game, becomes the first Vikings TE to make the Pro Bowl since Byron Chamberlain did so in 2001. He joins fellow Vikings Jared Allen, Jerome Felton, Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh in Hawaii.


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A Win The Size Of Texas: Vikings Top Houston, Win 3rd Straight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2012 – 5:41 pm

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.


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Vikings Start Strong In Houston, Lead 13-3 At Half

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2012 – 1:29 pm

A stout defensive effort and steady play from QB Christian Ponder paced the Vikings to a 13-3 halftime lead over the Houston Texans.

Texans RB Arian Foster, the AFC’s leading rusher, was held to 12 yards on 8 carries and the Vikings defense got off the field on 3rd down on 5 of 6 attempts. A turning point in the 1st half was a fumble by Foster that was forced by LB Jasper Brinkley as the Texans were driving deep in Vikings territory.

Houston QB Matt Schaub was 10 of 18 for 104 yards, and he was sacked once on a play by blitzing CB Antoine Winfield. Houston came into the game averaging 25.5 offensive points per game.

The Vikings offense, meanwhile, stayed committed to the run. Adrian Peterson had 40 yards rushing on 13 carries. It was Ponder who led the way, though, connecting on 10 of 17 passes for 119 yards, including a TD toss to Kyle Rudolph on the Vikings first drive of the game.

The Vikings will start the 2nd half with the ball and a 10-point lead as they battle for a spot in the NFC playoffs.


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5 Vikings-Bears Storylines To Watch This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 5, 2012 – 7:32 am

The Vikings rugged post-bye schedule continues this week as they prepare to conclude their season series against the Chicago Bears by hosting them at Mall of America Field on Sunday. Both the Vikings (6-6) and Bears (8-4) are coming off losses last week, but both are very much in the NFC playoff hunt.

Chicago won the earlier matchup between these two teams back on November 25, a 28-10 victory that was never really in question after the 1st quarter. The Vikings figure to put forth a better effort this week as they return to play at home for the first time since November 11 and as they look to gain ground on a division opponent and keep pace with a handful of other teams vying for playoff positioning.

Here are 5 Vikings-Bears storylines to chase this week…

1. Pressure On Christian Ponder Mount
Christian Ponder completed 75% of his passes for 221 yards with 2 TDs and no INTs the last time he played at home – a 34-24 victory over the Detroit Lions. In two road games since then, Ponder is just 35 of 68 (51.4%) for 278 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Last week in Green Bay, Adrian Peterson ran for 210 yards and the Vikings defense and special teams groups played well enough to win, yet a sputtering passing game prevented the Vikings from putting the game out of reach and the Packers were able to log a comeback victory. Pressure is mounting on Ponder to snap out of his drought and show the signs of promise he displayed earlier in the season when he wasn’t turning the ball over and was one of the League’s highest-rated passers. The Bears will surely go “all-in” to stop the Vikings elite rushing attack, which means they’ll dare Ponder to beat them.

2. Key Players From Both Teams On The Injury Report
It’s not uncommon for injury reports to fill up this time of year, and the Vikings and Bears will most certainly not be exceptions this week. Percy Harvin has missed the last 3 games due to an ankle injury and his status bears monitoring all week. Also, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier disclosed on Monday that DE Jared Allen underwent an MRI for a back ailment. Expect other odds and ends to show up on the report as well, such as the shoulder injuries LB Jasper Brinkley and TE Kyle Rudolph have been dealing with, knee swelling for RT Phil Loadholt and a rib injury for C John Sullivan.

The Bears are no different. Three players – WR Earl Bennett (concussion), LB Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and CB Tim Jennings (shoulder) – left last week’s loss to Seattle; Urlacher is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Three other starters – WR Devin Hester (concussion), WR Alshon Jeffery (knee) and G Chris Spencer (knee) – missed last week’s game but are hopeful to return this week in Minnesota. LB Lance Briggs and RB Matt Forte both played last week but are both dealing with ankle injuries, CB Charles Tillman is battling an ankle injury as well, and both DT Stephen Paea and G/C Edwin Williams are playing through shoulder injuries.

3. Vikings Must Contain Bears WR Brandon Marshall
He didn’t get into the end zone against the Vikings two weeks ago, but don’t let that fool you – Brandon Marshall was a thorn in the Vikings side all game. Several times the Vikings had Chicago in unfavorable 3rd-down spots, and several times Marshall bailed the Bears out with a great grab in traffic or a few extra yards after the catch. Marshall had 12 catches against the Vikings two weeks ago and he had another 10 for 165 yards last week against Seattle. Two numbers that illustrate Marshall’s importance to the Bears passing game are 91 and 138: Marshall has 91 receptions in 138 targets this season, while the next highest Bears receiver in each category is 30 receptions for Forte and 43 targets for Bennett.

4. Bear Trap: Can Chicago Stop Adrian Peterson?
It’s not a good week for Chicago to lose their middle LB because they are set to face the NFL’s best RB at a time when he’s playing at perhaps his highest level. Adrian Peterson is the NFL’s rushing leader by 308 yards, has logged 6 straight 100-yard rushing games, is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and is on pace for 1,928 yards (a career best). He nearly single-handedly defeated the Packers last week, and you can count on him trying to do the same to the Bears this week. Even without Urlacher, the Bears have a formidable run defense and will be up for the challenge to stop Peterson. Yes, the Bears will be up for the challenge. But so is Peterson.

5. Rematch: Vikings DL vs. Bears OL
In the matchup two weeks ago between Minnesota and Chicago, many expected the Vikings defensive line to embarrass the Bears offensive line. The Bears were coming off a Monday Night Football beatdown at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in which QB Jason Campbell was sacked 6 times. Chicago’s offensive line responded, however, and allowed just 1 sack in Cutler’s return to the lineup. Entering this game, the matchup still favors the Vikings on paper. Only three teams have permitted more sacks than the Bears, and the Vikings pass rush at home can overwhelm teams. As we saw two weeks ago, though, this Bears offensive line has the ability to respond.


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Peterson’s Beastly, 82-Yard TD Run Aides Vikings To 14-10 Halftime Lead

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 2, 2012 – 1:32 pm

Adrian Peterson has done it again. And it’s only halftime.

The best RB in the NFL took a handoff and ran off right tackle. It looked as if he’d be ushered out of bounds for a non-descript 8-yard gain. But Peterson didn’t stop running, and he wound up ripping off a career-best 82-yard TD run to give his team a 14-10 lead. Through 2 quarters, Peterson has 126 yards and the TD on 13 carries. It’s the 5th consecutive 100-yard outing for Peterson and the 7th of the season.

Green Bay got off to a fast start, taking an early 10-0 lead. But Christian Ponder found Kyle Rudolph for a TD late in the 1st quarter and then Peterson stunned the stadium with his incredible 82-yard jaunt to give the Vikings their 4-point lead at intermission.

Ponder is 5 of 8 for 36 yards with 1 TD on the day; he also has 4 carries for 14 yards. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been sharp, connecting on 18 of 23 passes already for 170 yards with 1 TD.


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5 Vikings-Packers Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 28, 2012 – 7:29 am

The 2012 version of the twice annual border battle rivalry between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers commences this week at Lambeau Field, as the 7-4 Packers will host the 6-5 Vikings. Sunday’s game will be the first of two between the teams in four weeks and it marks the latest in a season that these teams have played the first game in the season series.

The week leading up to Vikings vs. Packers is always fun because there is so much on the line on game day, regardless of records or time of year. As we anticipate Sunday’s game, here are five Vikings-Packers storylines to follow this week…

1. Vikings Look To Remain In Playoff Chase
Sunday’s game at Lambeau is not “do or die” for the Vikings with regard to their playoff outlook. But there’s no denying how important a win would be to the Vikings as they look to stay in the hunt for not just a Wild Card berth, but also a division title. Last week’s loss in Chicago dropped the Vikings two games behind the Bears, but there are still five to go (including this week in Green Bay) and the Vikings get one more shot at the Bears. On top of that, the Bears have a tough game against the Seahawks at home this weekend and they also have games remaining against the Packers and at the Detroit Lions.

Regardless of how the Bears do this week against Seattle, the Vikings can move into a tie with the Packers at 7-5 with a win.

2. Packers On The Rebound After Blowout Loss To Giants
Last week’s Sunday Night Football game featured a matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions – the Packers and the NY Giants. But just one of the teams looked super, and it wasn’t Green Bay. The Giants logged a 38-10 victory. As such, the Vikings aren’t the only team in this week’s NFC North showdown coming off a thorough loss. A quick look at the game’s stats doesn’t yield an obvious reason for Green Bay’s lackluster showing, but New York did capitalize on two specific stats that likely led to the final outcome: the Giants were +2 in turnover ratio and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked 5 times. Expect Green Bay to make those two stats points of emphasis this week as they prepare for the Vikings.

3. Both Teams Dealing With Injuries To Key Players
The Vikings have been missing WR Percy Harvin since he sprained his ankle in a Week 9 loss at Seattle on November 4, and now all eyes will be on TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith after they left last week’s loss against Chicago to be evaluated for concussions. In addition to that, both LB Jasper Brinkley and RB Adrian Peterson have shoulder ailments and RT Phil Loadholt is dealing with knee inflammation. None of those players have been ruled out for Sunday’s game, and in fact it’s entirely possible that they’ll all be available, but their statuses do bear monitoring as the week goes.

The Packers are dealing with their own injuries, as well. WR Greg Jennings, LB Clay Matthews and DBs Sam Shields and Charles Woodson all missed last week’s game with injuries. They’ve also lost players such as RB Cedric Benson, starting RT Bryan Bulaga, and LBs Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry to injury for extended periods of time and some even for the season.

4. Can Green Bay Contain Adrian Peterson?
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is the kind of player that can win a game for his team any week, no matter the matchup. Green Bay ranks 11th against the run this season, giving up 103.8 rushings yards per game. More impressively, though, is the fact that Green Bay has allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season. On the flip side, Peterson has six 100-yard games already this year, including 5 straight. And he’s the NFL’s leading rusher by 172 yards, is on pace for a career-high 1,798 rushing yards and loves running against the Packers.

5. Vikings Pass Rush Must Reemerge vs. Rodgers, Packers Offensive Line
Only one team (Arizona – 46) has allowed more sacks this season than the Packers (37). The bread and butter of the Vikings defense in recent seasons has been their pass rush. Huge advantage for the Vikings, right? You’d think so, but lately the Vikings pass rush has been contained. The Vikings have just 5 sacks in the past four games, and they rank just tied for 13th in sacks this season with 27. If the Vikings want to go into Lambeau Field and pull off this upset, they must get more pass-rushing production from their defense. The man to lead the charge is Jared Allen, who has 13.0 sacks against Green Bay in just nine career games.


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Miscues Doom Vikings In 28-10 Loss To Chicago

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 26, 2012 – 7:42 am

Soldier Field is a tough place to play for opposing teams, and poor execution combined with plenty of miscues does not help the visitor’s cause in trying to take down the Chicago Bears in their own house. The Vikings, who turned the ball over three times and executed poorly in crucial situations, are the latest to illustrate that point in a 28-10 loss Sunday in the Windy City.

After opening the game with a 3-and-out, the Vikings fortunes took an early turn-for-the-better when RB Matt Forte lost a fumble on Chicago’s first offensive snap of the game. The Vikings were not able to cash in with a TD, but Blair Walsh salvaged the scoring chance with a 40-yard FG. From that point on, though, it would be all Chicago Bears.

Adrian Peterson lost a fumble on the Vikings next series and Christian Ponder was intercepted later in the 2nd quarter. Making the bad news even worse for the Vikings was the fact that Chicago turned both turnovers into TDs and enjoyed a 25-3 lead at halftime.

The Vikings had a brief moment of optimism early in the 3rd quarter thanks to sloppy play from the Bears. CB Antoine Winfield intercepted Bears QB Jay Cutler, and the Vikings scored a TD five plays later when Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 2-yard score. On the seventh play of the ensuing Bears series, Vikings S Mistral Raymond picked up an apparent Forte fumble and returned it 52 yards for a TD. At that moment, the Vikings were on the comeback trail. But after review, the officials took the Vikings TD away, and Chicago responded four plays later with a FG to extend their lead to 28-10.

That would wind up being the Bears winning margin, as the teams exchanged a series of punts and the Vikings lost another fumble over the remaining quarter-and-a-half. Peterson wound up rushing for 108 yards – his 5th consecutive 100-yard game – on 18 attempts and rookie WR Jarius Wright led the team in receptions with 7 grabs for 49 yards. Those were the only bright spots in a day where the Vikings couldn’t overcome miscues.


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Peterson, 3 Other Vikings Lead In Pro Bowl Voting

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 14, 2012 – 3:04 pm

Adrian Peterson is the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter for the NFC at RB and is 5th among all NFL players, with 5 weeks of voting remaining. Three other Vikings – DE Jared Allen, KR Percy Harvin and LT Matt Kalil – also lead their respective positions in NFC Pro Bowl voting.

It’s great news that 4 Vikings lead their positions in the balloting, but that also means Vikings fans have work to do. Fans can click here to cast their ballots.

Blair Walsh is having the best season among NFC kickers, having converted 23 of 24 FGs (5 of 5 from 50+) and boasting 41 touchbacks already. TE Kyle Rudolph is 2nd among NFC TEs with 6 TD receptions, FB Jerome Felton is lead-blocking for the NFL’s leading rusher, John Sullivan has developed into one of the League’s finest centers, Chad Greenway is the NFL’s leading tackler and Antoine Winfield looks to have found the fountain of youth. Those are just a handful of Vikings who are deserving of Pro Bowl consideration.

Balloting will conclude on Monday, December 17 following the conclusion of Monday Night Football. The teams will be announced at 6:00 p.m. CT Wednesday, December 26 on NFL Network’s “Total Access.”

The AFC and NFC All-Star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent the American Football Conference and National Football Conference in the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 20-21.

The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 27, 2013 and televised live on NBC at 6:00 p.m. CT from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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