Friday, March 27, 2015
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adrian peterson

The Vikings were without their top two running backs, their most productive offensive lineman this season, and their starting cornerback duo.  As if the odds weren’t stacked enough against them, Minnesota had to play the potent offense of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, so expectations were minimal as fans filed into the Metrodome.

The Vikings, however, had no-names show up big on their way to a 48-30 beatdown of the Eagles.  Here are ten things I noticed about the game:

1.  NFL Network reported prior to the game that Matt Cassel would remain with the Vikings into 2014.  The understanding is that both Cassel and the Vikings have the option to void the second year of his contract following the season, so I was surprised to see such a concrete report come across the TV.  Cassel then proceeded to have one of the best games of his career.  He finished 26 of 35 for 382 yards and two touchdowns.  He threw one interception and took three sacks, but for the most part he was sharp and poised on his way to a 116.6 quarterback rating.  He also ran for 19 yards and another score.  These are the types of games we just never saw out of Christian Ponder and it is no wonder that Cassel’s future with the franchise suddenly looks far brighter than Ponder’s.  Jennings had never before, in his entire career, caught 11 passes in one game.

2.  Greg Jennings continued to show that he can better reward the Vikings for their investment when Cassel is at the helm.  His best game as a Vikings so far came to the tune of 13 targets, 11 catches, 163 yards, and a touchdown.  Jennings continues to be precise with his route running and the main difference lately seems to be that he now has a quarterback willing and able to take advantage of his talents.

Well, that was a crazy game.  It didn’t mean a whole lot, but here are ten random things you should know following all the chaos:

1.  The Vikings are currently slotted to have the 4th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Houston, St. Louis (via Washington), and Atlanta are the only teams currently slotted to pick in front of the Vikings.  Assuming the Vikings lose to the Eagles this week, they should end up with the third slot a week from now, because Atlanta and Washington play each other this week.  Houston will play Indianapolis.

2.  The Ravens and Vikings saw six lead changes in the fourth quarter on Sunday.  That is an NFL record, officially making it one of the craziest endings in history.

3.  As if the double fist pump by the official upon announcing the Ravens final touchdown on Sunday wasn’t enough, the refs’ performances from Sunday are under heavy scrutiny.  Almost every Vikings coach, player, fan, and media member have stated publically that the game was handled in ridiculous fashion.  Leslie Frazier said he got a call from the NFL on Monday, and that it was unsolicited, so it wouldn’t be too big of a surprise to hear that others higher up the chain also felt our team was at an artificial disadvantage.

4.  Adrian Peterson immediately took to Twitter following the game to call out the refs and said Ravens fans are a no-good snowball-throwing fanbase.  Both Peterson and Frazier have mentioned getting hit by snowballs in Baltimore.  I’m not sure that calling out an entire city was Peterson’s smartest move, especially after a loss, but I could certainly understand the frustration.  Hey, at least these next two years playing outdoors in Minnesota are sure to be void of drunken fans that think it is acceptable to throw… umm, uh oh.

5.  Peterson gave us all a scare when he went to the ground on Sunday and didn’t get up, but instead lay on the ground flailing around in obvious agony.  Peterson will see a foot specialist soon, but the good news is that they have yet to find any major breaks, tears, or other horrible things.  The team, in my opinion, should still consider shutting him down for the season, but it seems unlikely that this foot injury will have any impact on the 2014 season.

6.  The crazy day didn’t end at the stadium.  Vikings players took to Twitter to complain that their team plane was sitting on the runway when a catering truck struck the plane, causing them to seek an alternate aircraft.  A plane had to come in from Detroit to pick them, delaying their takeoff by about three hours, and it just seemed like a fitting end to the day.  Somewhere, regarding caterers, Randy Moss is saying “Told Ya’ll.”

7.  Peterson is big news, but he isn’t the only injury plaguing this team right now, and the list is actually quite lengthy.  The Vikings have officially placed tight end Kyle Rudolph on injured reserve and wide out Greg Childs on the PUP list.  Tight end John Carlson will have to pass concussion tests this week in order to continue filling in for Rudolph.  Toby Gerhart has filled in nicely for Adrian Peterson at times this season, but a strained hamstring suffered in Baltimore could slow him up a bit.  Xavier Rhodes has really started to look like a top-tier cornerback in recent weeks, but he is also hobbled from a sprained ankle.

8.  While the injuries are stacking up, at least one promising young player is on the mend and appears close to returning.  Safety Harrison Smith is rumored to be set to return this week.  The big-hitting safety could breath some life into this defense upon his return, but it is too little too late, and one has to wonder if the Vikings shouldn’t just keep him out and focus on being more successful next year.

9.  This team is discovering some of it’s less experienced talent is looking to be quite talented as the get more experience (got that?  good.).  Cordarrelle Patterson had the best overall performance of his young career and is looking like one of the best rookie wide outs in the NFL, and is certainly the most versatile.  Andrew Sendejo got his first career interception on Sunday, had a second called back on that Chad Greenway interference call, and should easily be a starting safety on this team moving forward even after Smith returns.  Xavier Rhodes may have been hurt on Sunday, but not before he broke the record of Orlando Thomas for passes defended by a rookie with 20.  Audie Cole led the Vikings with 13 tackles and had another decent showing in his third consecutive start.

10. The Vikings are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.  Just in case you were still holding out hope.

The overtime victory against the rival Bears on Sunday was a positive step for Vikings fans that just wanted the team to prove they still know how to win football games, but a step back for those that want to see the Vikings nab the first overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The mixed emotions about this win don’t end there, though.  A win is a win, but this was not a pretty one, and there is certainly a great deal of things we saw on Sunday that were beyond worrisome.  I’ve decided to split the difference and will look at five things I liked and five things I didn’t following the 23-20 victory.

FIVE POSITIVES

1.  Matt Cassel Shows Stones

When Christian Ponder had to exit early it was Matt Cassel, not Josh Freeman, who was dressed and ready to take the reigns.  Cassel came in as a reserve, but played in a way that should clearly give him a leg up in the quarterback conversation in Minnesota.  He went 20 for 33 and a touchdown.  His lone pick was not his fault in the slightest, as tight end Rhett Ellison bobbled a perfect strike, and it really should have ended up being a second touchdown on the statline.  The only reason it wasn’t a touchdown for the Bears, by all appearances, was Cassel’s hustle as he chased down linebacker Khaseem Greene after he returned the ball for 49 yards.  Cassel may not be the starter next week against Baltimore, because no decision regarding this team ever seems to be the obvious one, but he showed up big after the Vikings offense netted just 16 passing yards through the first half with Ponder at the helm.

2. Nobody Does It Better

Much was written about Adrian Peterson’s greatness Monday, after the future Hall of Famer broke the 10,000 rushing yard threshold Sunday, but I’m so in awe of his everyday accomplishments that I can’t even begin to put into words how prolific his career has been thus far.  Peterson ran for 211 yards on 35 carries (6.0 yard average) against the Bears and seemingly willed the offense down the field at times, including moments in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and you just know he is the still a player that makes his team a competitor week-in and week-out.  Even when they are a bad team.

 The Vikings are set to tangle with the division rival Chicago Bears this weekend at the Metrodome. It’s a game that usually has me buzzing all week most seasons… not so much this year.

 The Vikings match up pretty well with the Bears this time around and actually have a solid chance to win this game. Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are coming off a combined season high 239 yards rushing on 40 carries last week at Lambeau Field and you can expect to see more of the same again this week.

The Bears are giving up 4.9 yards per carry and currently ranked 32nd in the NFL in rushing defense allowing 145.2 yards per game. Last week the Bears’ defense let the Rams run the ball 29 times for 258 yards. That’s a whopping 8.9 yards per carry! Ouch.

 So, why am I not trash and smack talking to all the Bears fans I work with? I guess because maybe it’s a meaningless game. Or, maybe I’ve just thrown in the towel on this disheartening season? In any case, my psychologist told me that I just need to forget about wins and losses, draft positions, coaching fixes, injuries and arrests… and just focus on enjoying a good football game.

The last Vikings game I really got fired up to enjoy was way back in week two. I was seated one row from the top at Soldier Field during a rainy contest that unfortunately saw the Vikings fall short to the Bears in the final seconds of an exciting 30-31 ballgame. Yes, I know first hand that when these two teams get together it will usually result in an entertaining affair.

I’m counting on another engaging contest between the Vikings and the Bears this Sunday. A week 13 win just seems fitting. Wins have been few and far between lately… so why not enjoy this one? Punching the Bears in the mouth would be the highlight of the year for me.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Metrodome really rocking one last time? And, I think the Vikings can win one more game and still land a quality, gritty, big-armed senior QB like Fresno State’s Derek Carr or LSU’s Zach Mettenberger come draft time.

 Go Vikings! My pulse still beats for the purple.

 

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For the first time this season the Vikings will face an opponent without much-criticized middle linebacker Erin Henderson.  This means reserve linebacker Audie Cole will get the nod, despite having been released and re-signed within the last few weeks.  It is also expected that rookie Michael Mauti will see some time at the spot with the first team.

The Vikings won’t have to be without Adrian Peterson as they face the Green Bay Packers.  Despite a nagging groin injury, Peterson is expected to play, as will receiver Greg Jennings who returns to face the Packers for the first time since leaving in free agency.

The Vikings inactives today:  QB Josh Freeman, LB Erin Henderson, CB Josh Robinson, TE Kyle Rudolph, G Jeff Baca, DT Chase Baker, and WR Rodney Smith.  This marks Freeman’s fifth inactive game since joining the Vikings and the team’s unwillingness to give him another crack at the starting job continues to puzzle many fans.

With the Packers missing Aaron rodgers today, however, Christian Ponder has a chance to finally be the best quarterback on the field.

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