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(Re)Making The Grade: Looking Back At 2012 Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 8, 2013 – 7:12 am

We will talk a lot about the 2013 NFL Draft on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog over the next 2.5 months. But right now, let’s take a look back at how the Vikings fared in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The impetus behind this idea is a piece put together by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. Immediately following each year’s draft, he applies a grade to each team’s effort by reconciling the selections made by each team against that team’s draft positions and specific roster needs. Anyone who does this will tell you there’s a high degree of error involved because it’s typically a 3-year process before you can complete the evaluation of a draft-class. But in order to be fair and to hold himself accountable, Kiper has decided to revisit his post-draft grades for each team and hand out new grades based on how the draft picks and teams fared during the 2012 season.

The Vikings efforts in the 2012 NFL Draft were applauded immediately after, as they came out of the event with a pair of 1st-round picks at positions of need and also peppered the roster with 8 other selections after that. Kiper gave the Vikings a post-draft grade of a “B” and said the following: “The Vikings did pretty well. They got the left tackle they coveted in Matt Kalil, and they moved up to get a safety. Both Kalil and Harrison Smith, their two first-round picks, should be starting in Week 1. Josh Robinson adds speed, if not a lot of polish, at corner, and has the chance to develop into a good player.”

A pretty spot-on post-draft evaluation. Kalil and Smith both started all 16 games this season, and Robinson indeed has the look of a developing player after playing in all 16 games and starting 6 in his rookie season. Plus, he was 3rd on the team with 2 INTs and 7th on the team with 61 tackles.

In revisiting the draft and handing out new grades, though, Kiper has increased that grade by changing it to an A-. Kalil, Robinson and Smith fulfilled his expectations, and then others, most notably Blair Walsh, add significant contributions to cause Kiper to upgrade his evaluation. Here’s what he provided as new commentary:

“Kalil not only started 16 games at left tackle, played well at a significant position and if his run-blocking catches up with his pass-blocking, he’ll become among the league’s best. Smith became exactly what the Vikings had hoped, started all 16 games at free safety and should be there for years to come. The instincts he showed at Notre Dame were on display, and he’ll continue to get better. Robinson is raw, but could ultimately take over for Antoine Winfield. And don’t overlook one of the steals of the draft. Blair Walsh was taken at No. 175 overall, and was the best kicker in the league in 2012. A year later, a pretty good draft looks even better.”

And that’s not even to mention WR Jarius Wright coming on in the second half of the season, Rhett Ellison well on the way to providing the offense with gritty blocking and sneaky-good production in the passing game, and late-round picks Robert Blanton and Audie Cole poised to take on increased roles after serving on special teams from time-to-time in 2012. Including the injured Greg Childs, 9 of the Vikings 10 draft picks from last year are still on the team.

The news gets better from here, too. The Vikings are currently slated to have 8 draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which provides GM Rick Spielman and Co. with plenty of ammunition and opportunity to add even more young talent to an already young and talented roster that will continue to get better.

 


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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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Keeping Up With Postseason Award Recipients/Winners

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 11, 2013 – 1:06 pm

Now is the time of year when various media outlets and NFL teams vote on and/or select recipients for awards and honors. Several Vikings players have been recognized for many of these awards, so we’ll keep a running tally here to keep you up to date.

Vikings Team MVPs
Defense: LB Chad Greenway
Offense: RB Adrian Peterson
Special Teams: K Blair Walsh

Pro Bowlers
Jared Allen
Jerome Felton
Chad Greenway
Adrian Peterson
Blair Walsh

2012 Vikings Ed Block Courage Award Recipient: RB Adrian Peterson

2012 Vikings Community Man of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson

2012 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award: LB Chad Greenway

Pro Football Weekly
All-Pros: RB Adrian Peterson, C John Sullivan, K Blair Walsh
All-Rookie Team: LT Matt Kalil, S Harrison Smith, K Blair Walsh
NFL MVP: RB Adrian Peterson
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
Comeback Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson

2012 Maxwell Football Club
Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson
Bert Bell Most Valuable Player: RB Adrian Peterson

2012 NFL 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson


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A Few Final Pre-Game Thoughts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 5, 2013 – 5:55 pm

Lambeau

The anticipation and build-up is nearly over. Game time is approaching. The 3rd matchup in 5 weeks between the Vikings and Packers is upon us, and this one means everything. It’s just the 2nd postseason game ever between these two clubs. It’s win or go home.

I’ll be joining the Vikings Radio Network pre-game show about 40 minutes before kickoff to help the guys preview this game. Prior to me joining the show, all the main subplots will surely be addressed. Do the Vikings have an answer for Aaron Rodgers? Do the Packers have an answer for Adrian Peterson? How will Joe Webb play as the team’s starter? So my focus will be on some of the other subplots in this game – subplots that may not be talked about as much, but will still have an impact on this game.

Here’s a sneak peak of what we’ll talk about when I join host Mike Mussman on the Vikings Radio Network…

– We saw the Vikings defensive coaching staff draw up creative game plans to defeat St. Louis and Houston. They used zone blitzes, linebacker pressures and defensive back blitzes to generate pressure on opposing passers. What can Leslie Frazier’s staff do tonight to Green Bay that represents a new wrinkle?

– A big part of the Vikings defensive effort will be Antoine Winfield’s inclusion. He will be key to defending the pass, but I think he’s a huge part of defending the run, too. The Vikings don’t want to let Green Bay run the ball. Rodgers is good enough the way it is, if Green Bay can keep the Vikings off-balance, look out.

– Matt Kalil vs. Clay Matthews. This was a good matchup last week. Whenever these two are lined up across from one another, it’s a fun one to watch. I thought Matthews had the edge early in last week’s game, but then Kalil settled down and the Vikings were able to operate without Matthews blowing things up.

– Ball control and field position important for the Vikings. The Vikings did win a shootout over this explosive Packers team last week, but I don’t expect the Vikings to initiate a shootout tonight. I think the Vikings would benefit from a lower-possession game, a game that is a battle over field position and a game in which points are at a premium.

– The Vikings kickoff and punt coverage groups leaked yardage last week. That can’t happen tonight. The Packers are good enough offensively. To give Rodgers and Co. a short field tonight will make for a long night.

– The two X-factors tonight are Everson Griffen for the Vikings and Charles Woodson for the Packers. Griffen had 3.0 sacks in last week’s win over Green Bay and he has a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Green Bay must find a way to block him. Woodson returns to action from a broken collarbone tonight. He’s missed 9 games because of the injury, but now he’s ready to go. The guy is a future Hall of Famer, so the Vikings must be aware of him.


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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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8 Vikings-Seahawks Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 31, 2012 – 6:39 am

Wednesday is finally here, which means the NFL calendar flips from last week to this week. For the Vikings, who are coming off a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home last Thursday night, that’s a good thing.

This weekend the 5-3 Vikings travel to Seattle for a contest against the 4-4 Seahawks. Both teams are hungry for a win after losses in Week 9. Here are a few storylines we’ll be chasing this week…

1. Can Vikings Contain “Lynchpin” of Seahawks Offense?
Ordinarily the Vikings are a great run-stopping defense. Over the last three games, though, poor gap integrity and shoddy tackling have plagued the Vikings. The Vikings will have serious problems on Sunday if they don’t fix those issues because Marshawn Lynch will have no mercy. Lynch is the NFL’s 2nd-leading rusher behind Adrian Peterson and he’s not an easy guy to tackle. At 5-11, 215 pounds, Lynch has a combination of speed and power that causes defenses fits.

2. All Eyes on Ponder
Fair or not, the blame for the Vikings recent woes in the passing game has generally fallen on the shoulders of QB Christian Ponder. After opening the season with 0 INTs through four games, the 2nd-year passer now has 7 INTs in his last four outings and he’s completed just 51.9% of his passes for 309 yards in his last two games. We know Ponder can get the job done by playing well and moving the ball through the air, and now all eyes will be on Ponder to see if he can get things turned around after a few extra days off following the Thursday night loss to Tampa Bay.

3. Familiar Foes
Both the Vikings and Seahawks have players on their team who were significant figures with the other franchise. A trio of former Vikings – Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell, LB Heath Farwell and WR Sidney Rice – will face their former team in the regular season for the first time since leaving the team after the 2010 season. The three helped the Vikings reach the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season and both Farwell and Rice were named to the Pro Bowl that season.

On the flip side, TE John Carlson left Seattle to come home and join the Vikings via free agency in 2012. In Seattle, Carlson caught 106 passes and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons, and in 2010 he helped the 7-9 Seahawks upset the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the first round of the playoffs with a pair of touchdown catches.

4. Defending Russell Wilson
Speaking of familiar faces, the Vikings will see one under center for Seattle. Rookie QB Russell Wilson has been a pleasant surprise in the NFL. The 3rd-round pick in last April’s draft beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job coming out of training camp and he’s played well in the first half of the season. Vikings coaches are familiar with Wilson because he was the starting QB for Frazier’s North squad down in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl. In order to win the game, the Vikings will now need their defensive linemen to become familiar with Wilson by pressuring him constantly and bringing him to the ground.

5. Overcoming the Loss of CB Chris Cook
The Vikings improvement in pass defense was a big reason they jumped out to an impressive 5-3 start in the first half of the season. The presence of Chris Cook, who missed 12 games last year, was a big reason for that improvement. But now, with Cook expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken arm, the Vikings will rely on their depth to overcome his loss. Expect Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson to get most of the looks, and expect them to play well in Cook’s stead.

6. Strength vs. Strength: Battle For Field Position
CenturyLink Field in Seattle is known as one of the toughest places to play for visitors. A big part of overcoming the disadvantage this week for the Vikings will be to win the field position battle. Both the Vikings and Seahawks do things to help them win the field position battle. Percy Harvin (35.7) and Seattle’s Leon Washington (29.8) rank 1st and 2nd, respectively, in kickoff return average. Also, the Vikings rank 2nd in average starting field position after kickoff (25.3-yardline) and K Blair Walsh is tied for 1st in touchbacks with 31.

7. What a Rush!
A sneaky-good subplot to this Vikings-Seahawks matchup is a pair of battles that will happen between very good LTs and very good DEs. Vikings DE Jared Allen has a sack in six straight games, and on Sunday he’ll go against Seattle LT Russell Okung. The Seahawks took Okung 6th overall in 2010 and he’s rounding into a great player on their offensive line. Another outstanding performer for Seattle has been DE Chris Clemons. The 6-3, 254-pound pass-rushing ace has 7.0 sacks this season and had 11.0 sacks in each of the last two years entering 2012. He’ll go against 4th overall pick Matt Kalil, who has made a rookie mistake here and there but has generally played extremely well for the Vikings.

8. Second Half of the Season Begins
The Vikings were a surprise team in the NFL through the first half of the season, winning five of eight games and upsetting a pair of playoff teams from a season ago – Detroit and San Francisco. The second half of the season begins for the Vikings, and the attitude inside Winter Park should be that there’s no reason they can’t be a surprise team in the second half of the season, too. Sure, four of the Vikings final six games are against division opponents and are on the road, but the Vikings have proven they can play with anybody when they play well.


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3 Keys To Vikings Improvement Along Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 11, 2012 – 11:02 am

In taking a closer look at the Redskins running attack earlier on Thursday, we referenced the camaraderie generated from playing the same five starters in all five games as one factor that’s led to production. In taking a look at the Vikings offense through five games, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder have similar sentiments about their front line.

“The offensive line is playing tremendously well,” Ponder said on Wednesday. “You can tell the chemistry they have and the amount of communication they have on the line. They’re doing such a great job and they’re really gelling together, not even just the pass protection, they’re opening up holes in the run game. They couldn’t be playing any better.”

Frazier mentioned communication as a key to the line’s play as well while speaking with reporters on Wednesday.

“I see them at practice, in between, talking to one another about how we have to combo block, what we have to do from a technique standpoint,” Frazier said. “It’s a good chemistry on our offensive line right now and it’s showing up on the field.”

This type of play from the offensive line is refreshing to the Vikings and to those who’ve followed the Vikings in recent seasons. Individuals have played well at various times, but it’s been a couple of seasons since the Vikings offensive line played this well collectively. There are likely several factors behind the improvement. Let’s take a look at three of them.

1. Coach Davidson
There’s no better place to start than with Vikings OL coach Jeff Davidson. This is his second year on the job, and the veteran coach with multiple Super Bowl rings and NFL playing experience to his credit is starting to see results. It’s often said that a head coach or even defensive/offensive coordinator needs time to incorporate his scheme. A new position coach faces a similar challenge working with his subset of players, and therefore it’s fair to grant that position coach time as well. Davidson has put plenty of time in, and it’s beginning to pay off.

2. Buying the right groceries
If Davidson is the chef concocting the recipe for success along the offensive line, Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his personnel staff are responsible for buying the groceries from which Davidson creates the recipe. You may hate the analogy, but the point remains that Spielman has punched the right buttons when it comes to personnel decisions along the offensive line.

John Sullivan, whom Spielman selected with a 6th-round pick in 2008, has turned into one of the best centers in the NFL. Phil Loadholt, a 2nd-round pick in 2009, has taken a big step forward in 2012 and is in a contract year. The Vikings saw something they liked in Brandon Fusco, a 6th-round pick in 2011, and their decision to award him a starting job after training camp has turned into the right one. And you can’t talk about draft picks along the offensive line without mentioning Matt Kalil, the Vikings 4th overall pick this past April. He’s dominated the opposition at LT so far this season and looks every bit the part of a 4th overall choice. The selection of Kalil allowed the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson, last year’s LT, to his more natural position – guard.

3. You win with players
It’s only fair to credit coaching and personnel decisions when credit is due, so the first two points remain applicable. But the bottom line is that players have to go out and do their jobs. And that is what’s happening for the Vikings along the offensive line, through the first five games. There’s a lot of season to play, and the players will be the first to admit there are improvements to be made, but so far their ability to communicate and play well together has made a big difference for the Vikings offense.

“I like how they’re working together collectively,” Frazier said. “That is what you need as a unit to be effective on an offensive line and those guys are helping one another. I can see Matt [Kalil] working with Charlie [Johnson] and Charlie helping him. Then I see what John [Sullivan] is doing with Brandon [Fusco],who’s a young guy who is early in his career and helping him. And then Phil [Loadholt] is much more consistent. So each guy playing a little bit better and what it has created is a solid offensive line.”


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Little Acclaim, Big Results: 3 Vikings Flying Under The Radar

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 8, 2012 – 1:38 pm

The Vikings are off to a fast 4-1 start in 2012, and their good fortune is the result of many great individual efforts. Many of those individuals, such as leading tackler Chad Greenway and do-everything playmaker Percy Harvin, are rightfully receiving acclaim for their contributions.

But as anyone who follows the game of football realizes, team success is also a function of outstanding individual effort that merits little or no acclaim. The Vikings early-season success is not exempt from this rule. So let’s take a moment to recognize three Vikings who are performing well but have not been in the headlines very much.

TE Rhett Ellison
The Vikings have received outstanding contributions from their 2012 draft class to this point, with CB Josh Robinson and S Harrison Smith infusing the secondary with energy and talent, LT Matt Kalil (more on him below) helping to shore up the offensive line, and Blair Walsh off to a tremendous start. Many may not know it, but TE Rhett Ellison should be included in that group as well. He’s played in all 5 of the Vikings regular season games and has been a contributor on special teams as well as offense.

A lot of what Ellison does will not show up in the box score. For example, he was a vital component to the Vikings blocking scheme against San Francisco 49ers DE Justin Smith. A 3-time Pro Bowler, Smith was held in check against the Vikings and finished the game with just 3 tackles. In Sunday’s win over the Titans, though, some of what Ellison can do to help the team did show up in the box score. He had 2 catches for 35 yards, including a 29-yarder late in the 3rd quarter that led to a Vikings TD three plays later.

Ellison can block. He can catch and run. And he can cover kicks or block for returners. That’s why Vikings GM Rick Spielman selected him in the 4th round last April, and that’s why he’s one of three players we’ve identified as a top “under the radar” performer for the Vikings this season.

FB Jerome Felton
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. That’s perhaps the best way to characterize the contributions of FB Jerome Felton to the Vikings offense. He’s not asked by the team to carry the ball much or run routes. He’s basically an extended family member of the offensive line, paving the way for RB Adrian Peterson and solidifying the pocket for QB Christian Ponder. Some have speculated in the past that Peterson doesn’t like running behind a FB, but I’m going to guess he doesn’t mind running behind Felton. Peterson is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and the Vikings rank 9th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Felton is a big reason why.

“I think Jerome Felton is a guy who hasn’t gotten a lot of recognition,” Vikings QB Christian Ponder said, “but watching him on tape, he’s done a heck of a job lead-blocking for Adrian.”

LT Matt Kalil
In much the same way it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of a FB such as Felton or a “blocking” TE such as Ellison, it can be tricky gauging the performance of an offensive lineman because there’s no box score metric that directly applies to the position. But you don’t need a box score metric or even a bunch of film study to realize how dominant Kalil has been through 5 games. He’s gone against several formidable DEs and he’s held his water without problem. Also, according to one statistical study, the Vikings have run to the left (Kalil’s side) with success – 44 carries for 199 yards (4.5 yards per carry).


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Offensive Line Paved Path To Victory For Vikings Over 49ers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 25, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Did the Vikings offensive line have their best performance of the season in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers? It sure looked like it, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier thought so, too.

“I think, collectively, yeah. And when you consider the front they were going up against, that’s a very good front,” Frazier said.

Frazier credited LG Charlie Johnson for a solid performance against 49ers All-Pro Justin Smith, and he also noted that Matt Kalil fared well against standout pass rusher Aldon Smith. Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt anchored down on the right  side of the offense, and the lynchpin of it all is C John Sullivan. Credit should also be given to the Vikings coaching staff, who used a creative blocking scheme at times to create opportunities for the offense. Loadholt shifted to the left side of the formation on at least one snap to give San Francisco a different look, and the club also found a way to get rookie Rhett Ellison in on the action.

“It was a good performance across the board,” Frazier said. “As a group, to rush for 146 yards on that defensive line or that defense, it’s pretty impressive.”

Having any success against the 49ers on the ground is impressive. Gaining 146 yards? Over the past two seasons, that’s nearly unheard of. San Francisco hadn’t allowed that many rushing yards since November of 2010, and the 344 total yards the Vikings amassed on Sunday is 5th best against the 49ers over their last 19 games. Also, the Vikings collected 25 1st downs – #1 against San Francisco over the last19 games – and they logged 33:28 in time of possession – #2 against the 49ers over that same span.

A few other notes on the offensive line’s performance against the very good 49ers defense:
— The 49ers have only been held without a sack one other time since the start of 2011 (19 games) – against Baltimore in 2011.
— The 49ers did not have an INT, and they’ve been held without an INT just four times in that same span.
— The 49ers have only been held without a SACK and INT one other time in that span – the Baltimore game in 2011.


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From The Ground Up: Vikings Offense Paced By Ground Attack

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 14, 2012 – 6:42 am

It’s no secret. The NFL is a passing league. In 2011, only 3 teams (Denver, Houston, San Francisco) ran the ball more frequently than they passed it, and nearly 33% of NFL teams threw the ball in excess of 60% of the time. Also in 2011, 3 NFL QBs (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford) threw for 5,000+ yards and 3 had (Brees, Stafford, Aaron Rodgers) 40+ TD passes.

While it’s no question the preferred method of moving the ball in the NFL is through the air, there are still teams and coaches who place a tremendous value on running the ball. The Vikings and Head Coach Leslie Frazier fall into that category. And it’s for good reason. Since 2007 when the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson and hired Frazier as defensive coordinator, the Vikings have been the NFL’s best rushing team. They rank first over that span in total rushing yards (11,272), per-carry average (4.7), rushing TDs (92) and runs of 10+ yards (333).

“It’s big for our team,” Frazier said of the running game. “In a League where passing the football has become first for so many teams, we’ve taken a little bit different approach and featuring a guy who we think is the best running back in pro football in Adrian Peterson and because of that, it takes a lot of pressure off our young quarterback as well as our passing game.”

The Vikings understand the importance of being able to move the ball through the air, too. That’s why they signed free agents such as TE John Carlson and Jerome Simpson, and that’s why they used draft picks on the likes of LT Matt Kalil and a pair of WRs in the 4th round (Jarius Wright, Greg Childs). The development of young QB Christian Ponder was priority A for the Vikings this past offseason, and everyone at Winter Park knows Ponder’s progress will be key to future success. Frazier’s contention, though, is that the presence of a productive running game will ease the pressure on Ponder because opponents are forced to figure out a way to contain Peterson and Gerhart before they think about defending the Vikings passing attack.

“Having a guy like the guy that we do have makes us very unique from an offensive standpoint,” Frazier explained, “but it helps us to achieve our goals as a football team, having a good running game and establishing the run for us to run our offense and really win the way we want to win.”

As he’s explained, Frazier wants the Vikings running game to set the tone and allow Ponder and Co. to operate with more freedom. Additionally, being able to run the ball well can shorten a game for a team when it has the lead. But Frazier also explained that his desire to run the ball well is not about being a conservative team that looks to shorten the game and win close contests. Frazier sees the Vikings running game as one with explosion and scoring capability.

“For us, that’s exactly the approach we take but we also believe that we can also get explosive plays through the running game because of who we have at the halfback position,” Frazier said. “It’s not just ground and pound. We have a guy who can break the 20-yard run, the 60-yard run. Most people have to get that throwing the football down the field, and we want to be able to do the same. That’s one of the reasons we made the offseason acquisition of Jerome (Simpson) and try to feature Percy the way we do. But being able to have a balanced attack and still feature our run game is who we are.”

Side Note
Peterson and Gerhart get most of the credit for the Vikings productive running attack. On Sunday in the season opener, though, another member of the backfield was key to the Vikings ground game – FB Jerome Felton. Both Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave mentioned how well Felton played in his first regular season game as a Viking.

Said Frazier: “He played extremely well and that was a lot of snaps for him. There wasn’t one time a season ago we had that many snaps with our fullback on the field and a lot of it had to do with the way he played and what’s happening when he is on the field. It was really encouraging for all of us to see him dominate the way he did. There may be more opportunities for him as we go forward.”

Said Musgrave: “Jerome Felton played really well. He was a presence out there. He was also a presence on the sideline in terms of being the leader. He suggested a couple of amendments to our game plan during the game and we took them to heart and they really paved the way for good runs there in the second half.”


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