Friday, December 9, 2016

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In this weekly series of articles, I’ll be breaking down what went RIGHT or what went WRONG each game for the Minnesota Vikings. This week, the Vikings punished the San Diego Chargers behind a strong running attack and consistent quarterback pressure from the defensive line.

These Minnesota Vikings have the look of a certain team approximately 1,660 miles to the West — the Seattle Seahawks. Before you comment or tweet in outrage, hear me out, because the similarities are too obvious to ignore.

Like their counterparts in the Pacific Northwest, the Vikings are built to succeed through two fundamental concepts; a strong running game and a fast, aggressive defense. General manager Rick Spielman’s draft strategies and recent free agent signings have helped him achieve the look and feel of the Seahawks on both sides of the ball, from the secondary to depth at running back.

That starts with Harrison Smith, who through three games is already considered the league’s best safety, per Pro Football Focus. He’s this team’s Earl Thomas, a “quarterback of the defense” who can cover sideline to sideline and attack the line of scrimmage in run support. At linebacker, Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges, and Eric Kendricks exemplify many of the same traits that make Seattle’s mid-level defenders so dangerous — speed, versatility to blitz or cover, and instincts.

Beyond those position groups, the Vikings’ greatest defensive strength starts at the line of scrimmage. Everson Griffen is the anchor of the group, a force against the run and an elite edge rusher. He plays a similar role to the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, who lines up across the defensive line and is by far Seattle’s most consistent rusher, having tallied seven sacks in 2014. Joining Griffen are Brian Robison, Scott Crichton, Justin Trattou, and two of the league’s best interior linemen — Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph.

With a mix of double A-Gap blitzes, suffocating coverage from the secondary, and aggressive play from the front seven, Mike Zimmer’s defense passes the eye test. Like the Seahawks, they fly to the football and are an opportunistic bunch who have forced six turnovers through three games in 2015.

On the offensive side of the football, the Vikings are taking the Marshawn Lynch approach to moving the football, and fortunately, have the running back to do so. Adrian Peterson, the original “Beast Mode,” leads the league with 291 yards on the ground and in the past two games, rushed the ball 49 times. Last season, the Seahawks ran the football 53.63 percent of the time, and this year, the Vikings are on pace to surpass that. They’re rushing on 54.88 percent of their offensive snaps, taking the football out of Teddy Bridgewater’s hands and forcing defenses to commit to the run.

Hopefully, as they did for the Seahawks during their Super Bowl runs, the defense’s loaded boxes open up opportunities in the passing game. Russell Wilson, for example, finished the 2014 season with 3,475 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in an offense tailored to the running game. When we take Teddy Bridgewater’s statistics through three games and extrapolate them to project a 16-game season, we get the following: 2,693 yards, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. Underwhelming, yes, but Bridgewater is operating behind Adrian Peterson in Norv Turner’s offense, and he hasn’t been forced to win games with his arm.

As long as the formula — suffocating defense and a run-heavy offense — are leading to victories, the Vikings should stick to the plan. A similar one took the Seahawks to multiple Super Bowls, and the Vikings have a chance to get there very soon. If last week’s win over the Chargers was any indication, they’ve fully embraced this winning identity.

After the jump, Ill dive deeper into their performance and the building blocks being put into place for a successful playoff run.

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Photo courtesy of Jenna King-Shepherd

Jenna King-Shepherd, wife of Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings rookie offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, joined the show to talk about all things Purple (and some Crimson). We chatted about life as a football wife, the Austin Shepherd Foundation, transitioning to life in the Northstar State coming from Alabama, and I run her through a round of Minnesota Trivia!

All that and other “ROLLLLLL VIKINGS & SKOL Tide” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

Brock Vereen is returning to Minnesota to play football, this time for the Vikings.

The former University of Minnesota standout was signed by the Vikings on Thursday to the team’s practice squad. A spot was left vacant when linebacker Brian Peters was signed off the practice squad to the Houston Texans’ active roster.

Vereen, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick by Chicago just last year.

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(photo courtesy of Vikings.com)

Adam: Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
After three weeks of regular season action, I can honestly say that there is not much about the current standings that significantly surprise me. Part of that response might simply be because I expect some anomalies in the beginning of the season, as teams figure out their own identities, and that very little about the NFL surprises me these days.

I will say, however, that I would not have guessed that the Seattle Seahawks would be sitting there with a losing record at this point. Losing to Green Bay and beating Chicago are not overly surprising, but St. Louis blindsiding them in Week One sets them back in a way I cannot claim to have foreseen.

Lindsey: New Orleans Saints (0-3)
I had a feeling the Saints would struggle this year, and it’s not like their 7-9 record in 2014 was overly impressive. However, I definitely did not expect them to start the season with triple losses. I expected Arizona to beat New Orleans in Week 2, but seeing Drew Brees and Co. get beat at home by the Buccaneers in Week 2 absolutely caught me off guard. The Panthers are showing themselves to be a contender, already off to a 3-0 start, but I have to say I was still surprised to see the Saints lose to Carolina most recently. Their next game is Sunday Night Football against Dallas, and even without Tony Romo, I think the Saints are looking at an 0-4 start for the first time since 2007.

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All eyes will be on the star cornerback this week

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In what may be the most important, and crucial development heading into the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 4 game against the Denver Broncos, cornerback Xavier Rhodes has passed the NFL’s concussion protocol. The news, announced by head coach Mike Zimmer in a press conference Wednesday morning, paves the way for Rhodes to start this Sunday against one of the league’s most dangerous offenses and receiving corps.

The surprising clearance comes just days after a vicious hit that left Rhodes motionless on the field against the San Diego Chargers. Safety Andrew Sendejo collided with Rhodes while trying to break up a pass to Keenan Allen,  hitting Rhodes’s head and jerking his neck back in the process. When asked how concerned he was about the injury, Zimmer praised his cornerback’s toughness.

“I’m always concerned about my players when they get hurt, but Xav’s pretty tough,” Zimmer said on Monday. “I know he’ll be all right.”

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