Monday, November 30, 2015

adrian peterson

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Eight years in the making

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The Vikings return home a week after dominating division rival Detroit Lions, and the optimism that surrounded this team before the season began is suddenly back. Behind strong performances from Adrian Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater, and Mike Zimmer’s deep defensive line, the Minnesota Vikings turned their young season around at TCF Bank Stadium.

This week, they play host to the San Diego Chargers in what should be a competitive matchup between two potential playoff contenders. Lindsey Young thinks Adrian Peterson will have a big day on the ground — if he holds onto the footballBrent LaBathe, on the other hand, previewed the Vikings’ defense and thinks Philip Rivers could be in for a long day if Everson Griffen and Co. develop a consistent pass rush.

I also previewed a particularly intriguing matchup — San Diego’s pass-catching running backs versus Minnesota’s young linebacker corps. Both Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead are threats out of the backfield, and the Vikings will need to improve their play in coverage to be successful this afternoon.

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I play too much fantasy football, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m an expert when it comes to drafting, setting lineups, and scouring the waiver wire for fantasy sleepers. In all honesty, I love joining my friends’ leagues, even if I’ve yet to come away with the elusive championship prize in nearly ten years of play.

Case in point — my family owns a coffee shop, and I started an eight-man league with our baristas last year, thinking I’d waltz to a title against the less-experienced coffee makers. By the end of the season, I finished in fifth place, missed the playoffs, and watched my twin sister dominate to finish as the league champion. Fantasy football is a cruel, but rewarding endeavor given the unpredictable nature of the “sport,” and that’s what makes the Vikings Territory contest so exciting!

As Brett has told you before, we’re hosting a weekly contest through Draft Kings to bring Vikings fans together through easy-to-join DFS contests. For just $5, you can take part in the league and compete against a few of the VT writers, including myself, Brett, Adam, Brian, and Matt Engstrom! Setting your lineup takes no more than 10 minutes, and the top-3 teams walk away with cash prizes.


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The Vikings got back to .500 after defeating the Lions in their home opener, and the general morale of the coaching staff and team seems (understandably) much higher than it did following Week 1.

Both teams are 1-1, and while the Vikings will be playing their second consecutive home game, this will be the Chargers’ second road game in a row. The Vikings, who have a 5-6 record all-time against the Chargers, last played San Diego in Week 1 of the 2011 season, a 24-17 Charger win. Before then, the teams hadn’t met since 2007, in which Adrian Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards en route to a win.

Heading into Week 3, what does the offensive match up look like between Minnesota and San Diego?

Offensive Line

Although the offensive line has some weak spots due to injuries, previous-concern Matt Kalil has had a great start to his season.

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Carl: Justin Trattou’s interception
The 27 year-old undrafted four-year veteran from Florida only has one tackle in the stats column this season for the Vikings. The backup defensive end has played a whopping six total snaps, all verse the Lions in week two. Believe it or not though, he stands alone atop they Vikings’ leader board in the interceptions category. Maybe he was just in the right place at the right time, but his fourth quarter pick with just over 12 minutes to play gets my vote for biggest play of the game. With the Vikings up by 13, Stafford targets Eric Ebron in the left flat on a 1st-and-10 from midfield. Trattou didn’t rush the passer, nor did he drop back into coverage. With help from Andrew Sendejo covering the tight end, Trattou was able to simple slid into Stafford’s throwing lane and get his hands up in the air. I’m not sure how he made the catch, but his INT and 11 yard return was huge as it deflated the Lions while setting up the Vikings final scoring drive.

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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, thanks to a turnaround victory over the Detroit Lions, I’ll be focusing on the positives and what the Vikings can build on moving forward this season.

In the NFL, game plans can and do change on a weekly basis. Against a team like the San Francisco 49ers, stopping the run has to be a defense’s number one priority — though that’s not always the result. When playing the Detroit Lions, for example, teams put a premium on shutting down Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Matthew Stafford’s other receiving weapons.

On the offensive side of the ball,  finding a balance between running and passing is ideal. Depending on the defense or specific one-on-one matchups, that can change. Take the New England Patriots in Week 2 — Tom Brady threw the ball 59 times against the Buffalo Bills and shredded Rex Ryan’s defense. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins rushed the ball 37 times against the St. Louis Rams, riding the legs of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones to a victory.

A look at the Vikings’ first three offensive plays from both games illustrates this variation perfectly:

  • (9:19) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete short right to J.Wright.
  • (9:13) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete deep left to C.Johnson (T.Brock).
  • (9:07) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete deep left to J.Wright [A.Lynch].

The Vikings started their first offensive drive on San Francisco’s 26-yard line after a blocked field goal and Andrew Sendejo return, but couldn’t capitalize on the premium field position. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner scripted running plays, but Teddy Bridgewater checked into passes based on the defense’s alignment and coverage. After missing Jarius Wright in the flat and misfiring on two deep balls, Bridgewater and the offense watched Blair Walsh push a 44-yard field goal — giving the ball right back to the 49ers.

Against the Lions, Turner’s first few offensive calls — downhill, inside zone runs — illustrated his plan to feed Adrian Peterson early and often:

  • (14:55) A.Peterson up the middle to MIN 25 for no gain (E.Ansah).
  • (14:26) A.Peterson left tackle to MIN 36 for 11 yards (G.Quin, E.Ansah).
  • (13:57) A.Peterson up the middle to MIN 38 for 2 yards (J.Jones).

In the first quarter alone, Peterson had 13 carries and surpassed his game total of 10 rushes from the previous week. The offensive line established itself against the Lions from the start and Peterson set the tone on the team’s first drive. He looked more patient, more decisive, putting together 11-yard and 25-yard runs as the Vikings marched down the field for their first touchdown.

Special players make special plays, as evidenced by Adrian Peterson’s ability to turn the corner and outrun edge defenders, but their success wouldn’t be possible without the development of effective game plans. From an offense’s first scripted plays to a defense’s blitzes and pre-determined coverages (Xavier Rhodes shadowing Calvin Johnson,) the Vikings’ preparation is key to a victory each week. After the jump, I’ll take a look at some of that preparation (and a few individual performances) that highlight how the Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions in Week 2

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