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Vikings Special Teams Give Strong Showing

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2011 – 7:11 am

It’s generally not something you find football fans talking about, but it’s a vital part of every team and it’s an important factor in every game. We’re talking about special teams. And this preseason for the Vikings, it’s an especially important group to watch because there’s a new special teams coordinator in town with Mike Priefer aboard.

After one preseason game, it’s so far, so good for Priefer’s special teams groups. In what was mostly an uninspiring performance from the Vikings on Saturday night in Tennessee, the special teams groups looked strong. Let’s take a moment to point out a few of the strongpoints…

– P Chris Kluwe had a nice night, booming five punts and generating an average of 41.6 yards per punt and 39.4 net yards per punt; a net average of 39.4 yards would’ve ranked Kluwe 4th among all punters last year. Also, Kluwe put two of his five punts inside the 20-yardline and only three of his punts were returned.

– The Vikings punt coverage unit performed well in unison with Kluwe, allowing just 3.7 yards per return on three attempts.

– On kickoff returns, the Vikings averaged 26.0 yards per try, which would’ve ranked them 2nd in the NFL last year. In kickoff return coverage, the Vikings allowed just 19.0 yards per return, which also would’ve ranked them 2nd best in the NFL last year.

– Give credit to the group of Kluwe, K Ryan Longwell and long snapper Cullen Loeffler because they didn’t have a botched snap, hold or kick all night. Longwell was true from 37 yards out to give the Vikings their only points.

– WR Jaymar Johnson, who is trying to earn a spot on the WR depth chart, certainly helped his cause by performing on special teams. He returned a punt 40 yards in the second half, displaying a quick burst and then excellent top-end speed on the play. Another WR – Devin Aromashodu – who is also trying to win a spot on the WR depth chart helped himself on special teams as well by notching a tackle.

– Others who chipped in with special teams tackles were LB Larry Dean, S Eric Frampton and LB Heath Farwell.


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Vikings Lose Preseason Opener To Titans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 13, 2011 – 9:49 pm

The Vikings dropped a 14-3 decision to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday Night at LP Field in Nashville. The game represented each club’s preseason opener and each club surely came away knowing there is still plenty of work to be done before the regular season begins on September 11.

Both teams gave their starters the quick hook, so as to minimize their exposure to injury. That combined with the fact that offenses are even more behind pace than usual because of the lockout – which cancelled all offseason work – didn’t give fans a good look at what their club will look like in 2011.

Both the Vikings and Titans are featuring new, veteran starting QBs and both guys didn’t see much action. For the Vikings, Donovan McNabb went 6 of 11 for 40 yards with no TDs or INTs. He actually looked fairly sharp, converting a couple of 1st downs and using his athleticism to evade the pass rush a couple of times. One 1st-down completion was to WR Percy Harvin, a connection Vikings fans are itching to see more of once the season begins.

Matt Hasselbeck is the Titans new passer and he wasn’t any more sensational in his debut performance. Hasselbeck was 5 of 6 on the night for 55 yards with no TDs or INTs. Actually, the Titans relied on their running game for the most part in the first half. RB Jamie Harper had 8 carries for 27 yards and even found the endzone once.

Both of Tennessee’s TDs came in the 2nd quarter. Rookie QB Jake Locker entered the game once Hasselbeck left and he connected with Yamon Figurs for a 45-yard scoring toss on what turned out to be a near-botched play. Locker fumbled the snap, chased the ball down, picked it up and connected with Figurs, who had run behind the Vikings secondary when CB Chris Cook hesitated at the sight of the fumble. Tennessee’s second TD came on Harper’s two-yard run just moments later.

The Vikings finally got on the board in the 3rd quarter when Ryan Longwell was true on a 37-yard FG that capped an 11-play, 59-yard drive led by Joe Webb. Speaking of Webb, he came in once Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier decided to pull McNabb. Webb, who was quick to pull the ball down and vacate the pocket, was 4 of 8 for 45 yards with no TDs and 1 INT. But he did look good when running with the ball and he finished the night with 33 rushing yards on 5 carries.

Ponder was the third Vikings QB to enter and he flashed plenty of potential. While he wasn’t able to lead the offense to any points, the Vikings did go for it twice on 4th down when they were in FG range. Also, Ponder had two completions of 10 yards – including his first throw of the night, which was to fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph – and he also had another 16-yard completion. It was encouraging to see Ponder running around and making plays, especially with some of the plays coming downfield.

Defensively, it was new starting outside LB Erin Henderson who led the way. He had 10 tackles, which was far and away the team high. His older brother, E.J. Henderson, was tied with three others for second on the team in tackles with 3. E.J. Henderson also had a forced fumble.

There’s much more to go over from Saturday night’s game, including: a solid performance overall by the Vikings special teams group, RB Lorenzo Booker showing up in the box score, Jaymar Johnson taking a step forward and a couple of rookies showing up to make plays.

We’ll cover all of that and more right here on the vikings.com over the next 24 hours, so stay tuned.


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Vikings Make Several Roster Moves Official

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 31, 2011 – 12:15 pm

On the same day that Vikings players and coaches will check in to 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, the team also made official several roster moves. We’ll break them down for you right here, but we’ll also post the full press release this afternoon on the home page of vikings.com.

The Vikings signed a pair of veteran WRs to shore up that position, bringing aboard Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins. Aromashodu, who is 6-2, 201 pounds, was most recently with the Chicago Bears – you’ll remember he had a huge game and the game-winning catch against the Vikings in overtime during the 2009 season – and he possesses a combination of speed and toughness. Jenkins comes from Atlanta, where he was coached by George Stewart for two seasons before Stewart joined the Vikings and where he was with current Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for several seasons. Jenkins knows the Vikings offense inside and out and he provides Donovan McNabb a big target because he measures in at 6-4, 217 pounds.

The team reached agreement with five of its own free agents, re-signing the following: S Husain Abdullah, DT Fred Evans, S Eric Frampton, LB Erin Henderson and K Ryan Longwell.

Lastly, the Vikings signed their entire 2011 draft class, including first-round pick QB Christian Ponder.


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Team Leaders Stepped Up For Vikings

Posted by cjsiewert on December 29, 2010 – 4:16 pm

Headed into Tuesday night’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings had lost consecutive games by a combined score of 61-17 and were forced to wait an extra 2 days to play their Week 16 game due to another weather-related delay.

Frustration and anxiety could have best suited the feelings among Vikings players while waiting to play the Eagles, but instead, team leaders took a stand to staying focused and making sure the rest of the team had the same mindset.

“After having a couple of tough losses like we had and some of the circumstances involved in those losses, guys can tend to, especially young guys, begin to think more about the offseason than the next opponent,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said during his day-after-the-game press conference. “I needed our veteran guys to step up in that locker room, on the field and at practice to lead the way and that’s exactly what Jared Allen did, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Adrian (Peterson), different guys that are in leadership roles, that’s exactly what they did.

“They stepped up and not only backed it up with talk but they did it on the field as well and our younger players really followed their example last night.”

Frazier re-established a group of team leaders after he assumed his current role as interim head coach in order to create a stronger relationship between himself and his players. He also wanted to make sure that the team leaders would gain a better understanding of what was expected of them and to communicate that message with the rest of the players in the locker room.

The days leading up to Tuesday night’s victory and the outcome of the game may well have been the best example of the Vikings cohesiveness between the head coach, team leaders and the rest of the club.

After the decision had been made to postpone the game until Tuesday night, Vikings team leaders shared their thoughts on the issue and it is clear that everyone remained focus on the task at hand.

“Coach Frazier told us to continue to stick together, to stay focused, and that’s what we’ll do,” RB Adrian Peterson mentioned on Monday.

Other leaders voiced their opinions on Monday as well. DE Jared Allen said, “We have to remain together as a team and keep a positive mind frame.”

Vikings K Ryan Longwell referenced a meeting the team leaders had with Frazier on Monday.

“We have every reason, because of the season, to say ‘this is the last straw and I’m checking out,’” Longwell said. “But this is the NFL and you can’t do that. You have to show up ready to play Tuesday night and that’s what we’re trying to get the young guys and everybody to understand.”

Frazier needed his leaders to step up on Tuesday night and that’s exactly what they did. And it rubbed off on the younger players as well en route to the 24-14 upset victory over the Eagles.


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Thoughts From Vikings Players On Moving Game To Tuesday Night

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2010 – 1:18 pm

As you know by now, tonight’s Vikings-Eagles game has been postponed due to weather and is not scheduled for Tuesday night. The Vikings gathered as a team earlier this afternoon to go over details and we were able to catch up with a bunch of players following that meeting to hear their thoughts on the situation.

Here’s what they had to say…

Adrian Peterson: “Hey, at least it’s another couple of days to heal. We just have to handle this like we have everything else that has gone on this season. Coach Frazier told us to continue to stick together, to stay focused, and that’s what we’ll do. This is just another bump in the road.”

Jared Allen: “What else can you say? Just add this to the list for the 2010 season. But you know what, we have to remain together as a team and keep a positive mind frame. It’s important to be a professional and be ready to play on Tuesday night.”

Chad Greenway: “It’s just another interesting twist to our season. It’s been tough to deal with all the distractions and this just adds to it. We’ll be staying here for a couple nights, so we’ll treat it like a (college) bowl game. In a bowl game you’re typically there for about a week and we’ll be here for about three days. But it has that feel. Everybody is here together; we’ll be hanging out. I’ll probably go get a cheese steak tonight and just hang out.”

“At this point, there is so much time. We have to take some time just to relax, watch a couple movies and hang out. When it comes down to it, tomorrow we’ll get back into our game planning. We’ll watch some more film and keep interested in what’s going on instead of getting lost in the craziness.”

Ryan Longwell: “It’s tough, especially in a season that you didn’t think any more curve balls could happen. This is a rough one being away from our families during Christmas and being stuck in Philly. At the same time you realize that you’ve got to reconfigure the mind for Tuesday night and show up ready to play.”

On what the leadership committee discussed with Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier: “A couple different angles. One is the logistics of being stuck in a hotel. Usually we’re a hotel for one night so guys bring one change of clothes and that’s it. Now we’ll be here for three days and we have to figure out how to take care of guys. So the logistics is one thing. Two is keeping your mind right. We have every reason, because of the season, to say ‘this is the last straw and I’m checking out.’ But this is the NFL and you can’t do that. You have to show up ready to play Tuesday night and that’s what we’re trying to get the young guys and everybody to understand.”

Percy Harvin: “Football is football, no matter what day you play it. They’re accommodating us very well at the hotel. We get to wash our clothes, there are movies to watch and we can eat. It’s just like being at home; we’ve just got to stay here, relax and then be ready when it’s time to play.”

Visanthe Shiancoe: “As a professional athlete, as coach (Leslie Frazier) said, you can only control your attitude and your approach to it. So we have to have a positive approach to it. We get a little extra time to rest, a little extra time to be in the playbook and we’re still going to be on a national stage. We still have a chance to showcase the Vikings. We need to stay ready, no matter the circumstances.”

Joe Webb: “It’s another situation you can’t control. The only thing we can control is keeping our focus and staying composed. We need to fight through this adversity. It’s important to not check out mentally and stay in the playbook studying so we are prepared for the game.”

Heath Farwell: “We’re just going to roll with it, that’s what we have to do. We’ve had a lot of adversity this year and this is another example of it. We are professionals and we have to adapt to what’s given to us.”


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Loss Hides The Shine On Special Teams’ Stars

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2010 – 9:22 am

Lost in the negativity of last week’s 21-3 loss to the NY Giants at Ford  Field in Detroit and the whirlwind of developments involved in the collapse of the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome roof was an outstanding performance by the Vikings special teams unit. Let’s take a quick look back at what happened…

Punt/Punt Coverage
One of the Vikings top performers all season has been P Chris Kluwe, and he was in great form once again last week. A sputtering Vikings offense wasn’t able to sustain drives, meaning Kluwe was called on often to boot the ball away while also trying to maintain some kind of field position advantage. Kluwe had 10 punts on the night, with a net average of 42.4. More importantly, though, is that 4 of Kluwe’s punts stopped inside the Giants 20, only 3 of the 10 were returned and just 1 of them went into the endzone for a touchback.

For the season now, Kluwe ranks 3rd in the NFL in net punting (40.9), 1st in the NFC with 29 punts inside the 20 and tied for 1st in the NFL in fair catches. We also shouldn’t forget about the coverage team, as they’ve combined with Kluwe to allow just 5.5 yards per return, which ranks 1st in the NFL.

Punt Return
Kluwe wasn’t the only busy punt on Monday night. New York’s Matt Dodge had 7 punts on the night, but Vikings punt returner Greg Camarillo made sure Dodge and the Giants punt team didn’t have the same kind of success Kluwe and his group had. Camarillo returned 5 of the 7 punts and averaged 18.0 yards per try, an outstanding number. On top of that, he had a 52-yard return in which he ran across the field twice, dodging would-be tacklers and setting the offense up with good field position. Camarillo has been excellent in terms of securing the ball this season on punt returns, but on Monday he displayed some burst and playmaking ability.

Kickoff Return
Last season Percy Harvin was a Pro Bowl kickoff return selection, but the Vikings were without him on Monday night. So the newly-acquired Lorenzo Booker stepped in and looked like a natural running behind some solid blocking from special teams coordinator Brian Murphy’s group. Booker had 4 returns for 123 yards – a 30.8-yard average – and he had a sensational return that went for a TD but was called back because of a blocking in the back penalty. Add in the extra yards lost from that penalty, plus the TD, and the kickoff returns numbers would’ve looked even better.

Kickoff
The Vikings didn’t do much scoring, so Ryan Longwell and Co. only had 2 kickoffs on the night. In the limited reps, though, they were solid. Kickoff teams love touchbacks, and Longwell delivered one against the Giants. On the only other kickoff, the Vikings yielded just a 19-yard return.

Placekicking
Again, not much to report on here, but Longwell was a perfect 1-for-1 on the night, hitting a 21-yard try in the 1st quarter to stake the Vikings to a 3-0 lead. For the season, Longwell has been steady, converting 14 of 15 FG tries with his only miss coming at blustery Soldier Field when he banged one off the uprights.

Longwell is one of the most consistent performers I’ve ever seen with the Vikings. He’s converted 85-of-89 (95.5%) FGs from inside 45 yards since joining the Vikings in 2006 and he is currently ranked 8th all-time in NFL history with a career FG percentage of 83.3%. Longwell owns the team record for the most consecutive FGs made under 40 yards with 35.


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What 2 Watch 4 Against The Bills

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 3, 2010 – 7:18 am

Last week the Vikings broke their 9-game road losing streak with a win over the Washington Redskins and this Sunday they have a chance to win consecutive games for the first time in 2010. The Buffalo Bills come to town and a potential 2-game winning streak is just one of many statistical achievements to watch out for Sunday – here are a few more…

– Sunday’s game will be Leslie Frazier’s first opportunity to lead the Vikings in a home game at Mall of America Field. Frazier is 1-0 as the interim head coach.

– With a sack, DE Jared Allen can move into a 4th place tie in NFL history for the most sacks in the first 7 seasons. Allen has 79.5 since entering the NFL in 2004, which ranks 5th and trails Leslie O’Neal’s 80.5 (1986-93). With 1.5 sacks, Allen can tie Richard Dent’s (1983-89) 81.0 for 3rd.

– K Ryan Longwell can move up the NFL charts for career FGs made. Longwell currently ranks 16th in NFL history with 334 FGs made. He can tie George Blanda (335) for 15th place with 1 FG.

– RB Adrian Peterson needs 1 rushing TD to move into a 7th place tie in NFL history for the most rushing TDs in the first 4 NFL seasons. Peterson is currently 9th with 48 career rushing TDs and trails Jim Brown and Maurice Jones-Drew, who both had 49 in their first 4 years.

– With 15 receiving yards, TE Visanthe Shiancoe can pass Stu Voigt’s 1,919 career receiving yards as a Viking, which ranks 2nd in team history. Currently Shiancoe has 1,905 receiving yards.


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Vikings Stats Of The Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 28, 2010 – 10:13 am

A few interesting stats to look over as you wait for kickoff of today’s Vikings-Redskins game…

– Leslie Frazier’s 1st career INT came against Tommy Kramer and the Vikings on November 28, 1982, which is 28 years to the day from his 1st game as a (interim)head coach of the Vikings.
— DE Jared Allen now has 78.5 sacks since entering the league in 2004, which ranks 5th among all all NFL players for the most in the first 7 seasons. Allen surpassed Bruce Smith’s 78 in 5 years.
— G Steve Hutchinson can block for his 10th consecutive 1,000-yard rusher (had a 1,000 yard rusher in each of his 9 previous seasons) if RB Adrian Peterson rushes for 20 yards or more.
— TE Jim Kleinsasser can block for his eighth 1,000-yard rusher if  Peterson rushes for 20 yards. Kleinsasser has blocked for 4 straight 1,000-yard rushers.
— Kleinsasser can move into 2nd place for the most consecutive games played by a Vikings TE. Currently he has played in 90 consecutive games, which ranks 3rd and trails Brent Novoselsky’s 91 (2nd).
— K Ryan Longwell can move up the NFL charts for career FGs made. Longwell currently ranks 16th in NFL history with 333 FGs made. He can tie George Blanda (335) for 15th place with 2 FGs.
— Peterson has 49 career combined TDsin 55 career games. With 1 TD, he can move into 7th place in Vikings history, tying Sammy White with 50 career TDs.


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Player Reaction To Coaching Change

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 22, 2010 – 3:42 pm

Several Vikings players have provided their thoughts on the Vikings coaching change. Here’s what they had to say…

DE Jared Allen
“Today is really a mix of emotions. I’m going to miss Coach Childress. Brad brought me here back in 2008, and I’m thankful for that. I wish him nothing but the best. At the same time, Leslie is a stand-up guy who has our respect. He helped turn this defense into a top ten unit year in and year out. Now this will be a chance for him to lead the organization. Leslie’s great at managing players and coaches, and I know the guys will play hard over the next six weeks.”

LB Heath Farwell
“Coach Frazier is very capable of stepping into this role. He’s an even-keel type of guy who has the respect of the locker room. This is a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills as a head coach, and I support him 100%. I feel bad for Coach Childress. Unfortunately he’s the guy that took the fall for us as players who haven’t been playing as well as we should. I have a lot of support for Brad and I wish him and his family the best moving forward.”

QB Brett Favre
“Leslie is a respected, knowledgeable coach and a quality person. I’ve enjoyed being around him the past couple years and I know he’s going to take this opportunity and make the most of it. What you see is what you get with Leslie. He has a background of winning Super Bowls as a player and coach and he knows what it takes to win in the NFL. He can relate to players having been in their shoes himself and will prepare the team well. Brad Childress is a good guy, a man with strong faith and a great family; I wish him the best in the future. I think we all, starting with me, could have done more to make this a successful season.”

LB Chad Greenway
“I’m saddened and humbled by the firing of Coach Childress. He gave me the opportunity to play for this organization and was responsible for bringing me into the NFL. He shouldn’t have to take the fall for our performance on the field, but now we have to move on. I have a lot respect for Coach Frazier. Leslie is a guy we’re very comfortable with. He’s never too up and down, and he does a good job with game-planning and preparing for opponents. He deserves the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL.”

G Steve Hutchinson
“It’s a tough day because I respect the work that Brad Childress put into this team. Nobody in this locker room would have thought we would be in this position at the start of the season but we have to try to make the most of it now. Brad wanted to win more than anybody, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. I have confidence that Leslie will do a great job moving forward. He’s a standup guy and has a great demeanor.  I know Leslie will be a positive presence for the guys on the team and we’re going to be behind him.”

K Ryan Longwell
“I’m excited for Coach Frazier to have an opportunity to be a head coach. At the same time, it’s disheartening to see Coach Childress go. Ultimately this game comes down to players playing, and we weren’t getting the job done.”

RB Adrian Peterson
“Leslie is a good man and will do a great job as the interim coach. He’s got great football smarts and players can relate to him and vice versa. He has a certain vibe and energy that everyone can feel when they’re around him. When he speaks, guys perk up and tune in. I feel for Coach Childress today. I’ve got the utmost respect for him and I will always owe him. One of my goals when I was drafted here was to win a championship with Coach Childress. He took a chance on me and I’ve always wanted to accomplish our ultimate goals together; I’m sad it didn’t work out that way.”

DT Kevin Williams
“We’re excited to go into the rest of the season with Leslie. We’re ready to roll from here and get back on the field. I wish Brad the best in the future. He and his family were always great to me and my family. As players, we’ve got to move forward from here with a new focus.”

DT Pat Williams
“I’m sad to see Coach Childress leave. I respect him as a coach and a person, but we have to keep fighting as a team for the remainder of the season. Leslie has my full support. He’s a good person and a good coach. He deserves to be a head coach in this league. Whether it’s here or somewhere else after this season, he deserves the opportunity.”


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Longwell Accurate On Missed FG Last Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 18, 2010 – 12:11 pm

I mentioned several times in the days leading up to last week’s Vikings-Bears game in Chicago that weird things tend to happen at Soldier Field. We won’t go through all the examples right now, but there are several that come to mind immediately. And now there’s another one to add to the list – Ryan Longwell’s missed FG in the 2nd quarter of last week’s game.

The wind was whipping at Soldier Field last Sunday but Longwell appeared to have the conditions under control. He nailed 36-yard try in the 1st quarter and he was solid during warmups. As he lined up a 39-yard attempt with 12:14 to play in the 2nd quarter and the Vikings winning 3-0, the wind was still whipping and Longwell apparently was prepared to compensate for it. The trouble was, the wind changed its behavior at the last second and Longwell’s attempt went directly at the left upright and bounded away.

“That’s where he was aiming it,” Vikings special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said at his press conference on Thursday. “There was a gust going across the field and just as he goes to approach, the wind dies down and the [kick] stayed true right to where he hit it. If that wind continues on the way it was, that thing would’ve been good. Unfortunate moment in time right there.”

I offer this bit of information not to make an excuse for Longwell, but to illustrate the preparation and thought that goes into the kicking aspect of the game. Murphy and the Vikings specialists are on the field before anyone else – especially when playing on the road and in an outdoor venue – because they need to test the field and weather conditions to try and figure out what adjustments need to be made.


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