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Just Like Old Times – Vikings Win Thriller 27-24

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 7, 2010 – 4:17 pm

The defense registered 6 sacks and allowed just 93 yards in the 2nd half, QB Brett Favre guided the offense to 17 points after halftime – including a game-tying 25-yard TD pass – and K Ryan Longwell booted a game-winning FG from 35 yards out. It all came together and the result was a dramatic 27-24 victory in front of another soldout, raucous crowd at Mall of America Field.

It was just like old times.

The Vikings won games in this fashion on a regular basis during the 2009 season but they’ve come out on the wrong side of drama-filled games several times already in 2010. This time, though, the Vikings came out on the right side and it’s fair to wonder if Sunday’s win will serve as a turning point for the reining NFC North champs.

The win moves Minnesota to 3-5, a far cry from their 12-4 performance last season. But the reason we’ll watch to see if Sunday’s win serves as the turning point is because the win was emotional and it came after a tumultuous 2 weeks; perhaps it will galvanize the Vikings going forward. It also came about because the defense finally found its pass rush – 6 sacks of Derek Anderson – and Favre regained his form from last year – 36 of 47 for 446 yards and 2 TDs.

There will be much more to come as vikings.com’s coverage of this week’s win over the Cardinals continues tonight and into tomorrow.


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Analyzing Vikings-Patriots Special Teams Matchups

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 9:19 am

In setting the table for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots I mentioned that one of the best matchups will be on special teams. This area of the game is often overlooked, but it could make a huge difference in any given week.

Drilling even deeper here, the best 2 matchups happen to be when the Vikings kick off and when the Vikings punt. So, let’s take a quick look…

When the Vikings kick off: New England uses WR Brandon Tate as their primary kickoff returner and he’s been excellent so far in 2010. Tate is averaging 31.7 yards per kickoff return and he’s taken 2 returns to the house for TDs. Conversely the Vikings kickoff coverage team has been solid this season. Because he can’t boom the ball through the endzone regularly, the Vikings emphasize placement of kicks and this will be key on Sunday.

Also key on Sunday will be the 10 guys running down the field in coverage for the Vikings. Generally speaking, this area has been good this season and certainly improved from seasons past. The Vikings yield 23.7 yards per kickoff return, which is middle of the road in terms of NFL rankings, but that includes a pesky 86-yard return. Anyway, they’ll need to be at their best on Sunday to slow down Tate.

From a raw numbers standpoint, the Patriots have the edge here. But Longwell and Co. will certainly have a plan for Sunday and it’ll be a matter of executing that plan and not missing tackles.

When the Vikings punt: The edge in this department goes to the Vikings. P Chris Kluwe is having another marvelous season, as he’s ranked #2 in the NFL with a 41.8 net average and he also has 11 punts downed inside the 20. Just as important, though, is the fact that Kluwe and the punt coverage team are allowing a league-low 3.1 yards per punt return and only 11 of Kluwe’s 28 punts have been returned; opposing returns have called 9 fair catches. These stats indicate a couple of things: 1) Kluwe is doing a good job of directional kicking and hang time and 2) the coverage guys are doing a nice job of surrounding the returner and bringing him down quickly.

New England counters with a nice returner in WR Julian Edelman. Both Tate and Wes Welker have logged punt returns, but Edelman has taken the majority of them and when he does New England gets 13.4 yards per return, which would rank 4th best in the NFL if it qualified. Edelman has yet to call for a fair catch and although he doesn’t have a return TD yet, he does have a long return of 34 yards, so you know he’s got the moves to make it happen.

This is a good matchup and one to watch on Sunday; the Vikings have a slight edge here.


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Vikings Stats Of The Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 23, 2010 – 2:14 pm

On a Saturday full of college football, you might be thirst for some NFL football. While I can’t bring you actual NFL action, I can bring you some NFL statistics.

Here are a few notable Vikings statistics coming off of last week’s win over the Dallas Cowboys…

– The Vikings have allowed just 83 first downs on the year, the lowest in the NFL.
— WR/KR Percy Harvin’s 95-yard kickoff return for a TD against Dallas was the 6th-longest in Vikings history. It was Harvin’s 3rd career return for a TD; he is the only Viking in team history to return more than 1 kickoff return for a TD and he now has TD returns of 101, 95 and 88 yards.
— With his 2 INTs against Dallas, LB E.J. Henderson became only the 10th linebacker in team history to intercept 2 passes in a game.
— K Ryan Longwell became only the 4th kicker in team history to make 100 FGs as a Viking (100). Longwell’s FG percentage of 87.0 ranks as the highest of the four.
— WR Randy Moss had 5 receptions against the Cowboys, moving him into 9th place in NFL history for the most career receptions. Moss now has 944 career catches.
— With his 73 rushing yards against the Cowboys, RB Adrian Peterson became only the 4th Vikings player to reach 5,000 rushing yards (5,037). Peterson accomplished the feat in a team-record 51 career games, which is tied for 5th in NFL history for the fewest games needed to reach 5,000 yards.


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Murphy Points To Continuity, Unselfishness In Solid Special Teams Effort

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 21, 2010 – 12:30 pm

Vikings special teams coordinator Brian Murphy met with reporters on Thursday, as he does each week, and there were a few interesting notes to take from what he had to say. Let’s take a look at them…

– I wrote on Monday that the Vikings put together perhaps their most complete special teams effort in Sunday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys, thanks in large part to Percy Harvin’s 95-yard kickoff return for a TD but also because of outstanding work by P Chris Kluwe, K Ryan Longwell and the kick coverage units.

Murphy was asked on Thursday about his team’s overall effort against Dallas and said that it was a solid performance. He also explained that the quality play is a function of continuity.

“It was a solid performance,” Murphy said. “It’s a reflection of stability at all the positions. Playing with the same guys will lead to success; the same guys doing the same things, working with the same people.”

– This was Murphy’s response when asked if Harvin would be utilized on punt returns: “It’ll come eventually. I don’t think it’s him (not being smooth enough yet), it’ll be the right place and the right time for him to be back returning punts.”

– Kluwe is receiving rave reviews for his punt performances not because of how far he’s kicking it but because of his accuracy and ability to hang the ball up in the air long enough to allow the coverage unit to surround the returner.

“He’s been very consistent,” Murphy said of Kluwe, “and he’s another guy that you appreciate because the bottom line is winning and he’s doing what it takes for us as a team to win. Punters are judged right, wrong or indifferent, they’re judged by their gross punt (average). But in order for the Minnesota Vikings to win, we need to net out and change the field. And he’s done that unselfishly. He’s doing the things that we need to win.”

– You’ll remember that TE Jim Kleinsasser had a good game catching the ball against Dallas. But in recent seasons Kleinsasser’s value has been as an effective in-line blocker for the offense. He’s also a core special teams player, though, and Murphy was asked to comment on what Kleinsasser means to the special teams group.

“Jim is one of those guys [who] regardless of years, he comes, he prepares, he’s a steady performer, you know what you’re going to get out of him and that’s great effort,” Murphy explained. “He’s strong at the point (of attack). He never lets you down in that role. He’s willing to do those things. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what he brings to the table because not only does he do it without a lot of fanfare, I think it’s a good example for the rest of the guys in the room to see a guy like that that has played that long and is still willing to do those things.”


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Vikings Special Teams Unit Continues Solid Season

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 18, 2010 – 7:27 am

It’s easy for special teams play to get lost in the shuffle when evaluating and digesting NFL games. But we won’t let that happen here, not after the Vikings put together perhaps the most complete special teams performance since Brian Murphy took over as coordinator of the unit before the 2009 season.

We’ve mentioned a few times in the vikings.com Blog this season that the special teams unit is playing well, but often times that praise has been easily overlooked because the team got off to a rocky 1-3 start. So now with win #2 on the season in the books, let’s take a quick look at the impact Murphy’s group had on the outcome.

– We’ll begin with the catalyst for the Vikings 2nd-half surge against Dallas. The Vikings went into the locker room at halftime trailing 14-7. But they came out of the locker room in the 2nd half and immediately tied the game when Percy Harvin dashed 95 yards through the middle of the field for a TD. Harvin was virtually untouched on the play, so credit goes to the 10 blockers there. And he did a nice job of sticking his foot in the ground and heading straight upfield.

“Coming out of the half there’s no better way to set the tempo than taking the opening kick back,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after the game. “It’s a testament to those special teams. You talk about covering people up, I don’t know that Percy broke stride on that return. He set the tempo for us special teams-wise as well as those other 10 guys and then got on the field and got a three-and-out on defense and were able to hold on.”

– As explosive as Harvin was with that return, P Chris Kluwe was every bit as consistent on the day, as he’s been all season. Kluwe had 5 punts on the day for a net average of 41.8. But more importantly, he landed 4 of those 5 punts inside the 20 and 2 of them inside the 10. Of Kluwe’s 5 punts, only 2 of them were returned and Dallas managed just 3 total yards on those 2 returns. That’s outstanding work from Kluwe.

“He’s done a great job of directional punting,” Childress said of Kluwe. “He’s really taken that bit. The other thing he’s doing is kicking with great height and hang-time and I think I’ve mentioned to you guys before the people that do a great job in terms of not having punt returns are the people that are able to hang it up in the air and let our guys go down and cover it. Again, the kicking teams were outstanding.”

– While a lot of credit is due to Kluwe for the lack of Dallas return yardage on Sunday, credit also goes to the Vikings coverage unit. LB Jasper Brinkley tallied 3 special teams tackles on Sunday while the newly-acquired Fran Walker also got in on the action. Dallas returned 5 kickoffs on the day and averaged 16.2 yards per return, a pedestrian average. The most impressive kickoff cover of the day may have been the opening kickoff, when Brinkley smashed Akwasi Owusu-Ansah at the Cowboys 19 after just a 13-yard return. The hit got a great reaction from the crowd that went from “Whoa!” to loud cheers.

– We can’t talk about the Vikings special teams play without talking about K Ryan Longwell, who was perfect on his PAT tries and also hit the game-winning FG in the 4th quarter from 38 yards out. Longwell also appeared to do a nice job on his kickoffs in terms of placing the ball where the coverage team expected him to place it.

– Finally, the best special teams play (aside from Harvin’s return) may have been the last special teams play of the day. The Vikings forced a 3-and-out after Longwell’s 38-yard FG and the offense took over on the MN 25. Four Adrian Peterson runs and a pass interference penalty allowed the Vikings to run over 2 minutes off the clock. Ultimately the Vikings had to punt the ball away with 29 seconds remaining in the game. Kluwe’s punt came down near the Dallas 4, where Dez Bryant received it and tried to make a few moves to pickup yardage. But the Vikings punt team covered the perfectly placed kick well and strung Bryant out. Eventually Bryant was surrounded by the entire coverage team and he was dropped after just a 3-yard gain to the 7. That left the Cowboys with more than 60 yards to gain in 13 seconds to get in FG range, a task too tough to accomplish as the Vikings came away with the 24-21 victory.


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Favre 2 TD Passes Away From 500 In Career

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 19, 2010 – 9:45 am

A few hours from now the Vikings hope to celebrating their 1st win of the season. But there could be another reason to celebrate after the game as well, with QB Brett Favre on the verge of setting another career milestone.

Entering today’s game against the Dolphins, Favre has 498 career TD passes. A quick math check tells me he needs 2 more to reach 500 for his career and he would of course be the 1st QB to ever reach 500 career TD passes. Also, Favre is quickly approaching 70,000 passing yards. With 69,500, he is just 500 yards shy of becoming the 1st NFL player to throw for 70,000 yards.

Here are a couple of other Vikings milestones that are within reach today…

– With 220 passing yards, Favre will move into 2nd place in team history for the most passing yards in the first 2 seasons as a Viking; he currently has 4,373 yards, trailing Fran Tarkenton’s 4,592 from 1961-62.

– With 6 points, K Ryan Longwell will move into 6th place for most career points in team history. Longwell has 451 points since joining the Vikings in 2006; he trails Bill Brown’s 456.

– With 99 receiving yards, TE Visanthe Shiancoe will move into 4th place in Vikings history for most receiving yards by a TE; Shiancoe’s 1,561 yards trails Jermaine Wiggins’ 1,659.


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Vikings Captains

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 8, 2010 – 10:49 am

The 5 Vikings team captains in 2010 will be the same group of players that fulfilled the role a season ago when the squad went 12-4 and won a 2nd consecutive NFC North title.

Offensive captains will be QB Brett Favre and LG Steve Hutchinson, defensive captains will be LB E.J. Henderson and DT Kevin Williams and the special teams captain will be K Ryan Longwell.

The 5 captains have a combined 60 years of NFL experience and 23 Pro Bowls. Favre leads the way in both categories, with 11 Pro Bowls to his name and with this being his 2oth NFL season. Hutchinson has 10 years of experience and 7 Pro Bowls , Williams has 8 years of experience and 5 Pro Bowls, Longwell has 14 years of experience and Henderson has 8 years of experience.


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Brett Back At Winter Park

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 17, 2010 – 3:10 pm

In a scene nearly identical to what transpired a year ago today, Vikings QB Brett Favre has arrived at Winter Park after an offseason of contemplation on whether he would return for another season of football.

Reports surfaced earlier this morning that 3 of Favre’s teammates – DE Jared Allen, G Steve Hutchinson and K Ryan Longwell – had flown down to Mississippi to speak with the QB. By the time practice had concluded late Tuesday morning, word had spread that the quartet of Vikings were on their way to Minnesota.

The plane carrying the 4 players landed in Eden Prairie around 4:00 p.m. CT and then the group hopped into a car and drove to Winter Park, arriving to a throng of media and fans just as Favre had done a year ago.

No word yet on a press conference, but stay tuned to vikings.com for updates and more information.


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Childress Needs To Hear It From “The Horse’s Mouth”

Posted by cjsiewert on August 3, 2010 – 11:35 am

As you all know, reports are flying all over the place about Vikings QB Brett Favre potentially announcing his retirement. The fact of the matter is that Favre has yet to release a statement about his intentions and Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has not yet heard from Favre about his decision.

“I’m not a big hear-say person,” Childress said when questioned about the reports. “I’m a horse-say, I got to hear it from the horse’s mouth.”

Vikings K and long-time Favre teammate Ryan Longwell was on the same line of information that Childress spoke of that he has also not heard Favre mention anything about his retirement.

“Well I got a text from him, but no, he hasn’t mentioned anything like that [retirement],” Longwell said. “I told him about the free buffet at Pizza Ranch and he said he’d be on the next flight up, so I don’t know if that will turn him around to get up here sooner than later but he certainly didn’t say that he was ending it or retiring.”

Keep in mind that these reports have not yet been confirmed. Training camp will continue this afternoon with practice at 3:00 p.m. We will continue to keep you updated on any Favre reports along with Mike’s observations from the afternoon practice. I’ll be watching the safeties again and I’ll try to get a few words in from Tyrell Johnson, Jamarca Sanford or Madieu Williams, so keep it here on vikings.com.


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Gaining The Extra Edge: K Ryan Longwell

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 6, 2010 – 12:19 pm

#5 – CB Lito Sheppard
#4 – WR Bernard Berrian
#3 – CB Antoine Winfield
#2 – K Ryan Longwell

After a brief reprieve over the 4th of July holiday weekend, our “Gaining The Extra Edge” series continues today, as we identify 5 players (not including obvious stars such as Jared Allen or Brett Favre) who hold the key to the Vikings gaining the extra edge in 2010. We’ve tagged a pair of CBs and a WR so far, but #2 on the list is a special teams ace – K Ryan Longwell.

Longwell’s clutch and reliable kicking has been both comforting and key for the Vikings during their back-to-back division championship run in 2008 and 2009 and those traits have also made Longwell’s signing via free agency one of the best transactions during Head Coach Brad Childress’ tenure with the club. It was Longwell’s game-winning 50-yard FG against the NY Giants in Week 17 of the 2008 season that clinched a division title and then a career-best season from #8 was vital to the 2009 division title.

Speaking of game-winners and 50-yard FGs, they have been specialties of Longwell’s career. The 14-year veteran ranks 2nd in team history with 7 game-winning FGs and has 16 career game-winners. He also holds the Vikings career record with 9 FGs of 50+ yards.

Longwell enters the 2010 season coming off a career year in 2009 where he posted a career-best 132 points and moved to 15th in NFL history with 1,502 career points. He connected on 26 of 28 (92.9%) FG tries – the highest mark of his career – and was named Vikings Special Teams MVP in a vote by his teammates. In a display of his remarkable consistency, Longwell had a streak of 16 straight FGs made from a Week 5 game at St. Louis to a Week 14 game vs. Cincinnati.

In 2010 Longwell should be even more zeroed in on his FG kicking game because the Vikings acquired Rhys Lloyd to handle kickoff duties, allowing #8 to hone in on FGs and PATs. Longwell’s ability to come through in both routine and clutch situations gives the Vikings offense a license to be aggressive in the opponent’s territory.

In what will likely be a tight division race in a competitive NFC, Longwell’s clutch and reliable kicking will be vital and will give the Vikings that extra edge in 2010.


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