Saturday, May 28, 2016

jarius wright

Peterson's catch was made possible by McKinnon

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Adrian Peterson lines up eight yards behind Teddy Bridgewater, eyes up, feet planted, ready to explode into the wall of defensive linemen waiting for him. It’s a position he’s comfortable in, and one he’s been successful in his entire career. Of his 2,362 career rushing attempts, 98 percent (2,241) have come when the quarterback is under center. On those carries, he’s rushed for 11,143 yards — five yards per carry — and scored 94 of his 96 career rushing touchdowns.

That trend’s continued this year, his first full season back since missing nearly every game in 2014. Through 15 games in 2015, he’s rushed the ball 272 times with Bridgewater (and Shaun Hill) under center. Those carries have helped propel him to the top of the league’s rushing standings, with 1,362 of his 1,418 yards coming in such situations. It’s a formula that’s pushed the Vikings’ offense near the top of the rushing yardage standings, but one that’s proven frustrating at times.

Before his 104-yard performance against the New York Giants last Sunday, Peterson had failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark in the three previous games. The Vikings lost two of those contests by forcing the ball to Peterson on first and second down, putting Bridgewater in third-and-long situations far too often. That’s been the case in each of the Vikings’ five losses this season; rely too heavily on Peterson despite a failure to produce early, and the offense will flounder. Play-action passes are successful when a defense commits to stopping the run. If Peterson isn’t producing on early downs, linebackers and safeties won’t bite when Bridgewater fakes the handoff to his running back. Simply lined up behind Bridgewater, Peterson is a threat, but that threat can only become a reality if the defense isn’t completely honed in on No. 28.

Fortunately, offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s discovered a new weapon — one that can distract defenses from Peterson — in his loaded arsenal; second-year running back Jerick McKinnon.

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Remember Joe Webb's improbable start and win over the Eagles in 2010?

Happy Holidays, Vikings Territory! Christmas is still two days away, but the Minnesota Vikings have already received a few early presents this year. On top of the fact that they won’t have to worry about Odell Beckham Jr. this Sunday, a win would guarantee their first playoff berth since 2012. The Vikings played some meaningful December football last year, but for the most part, their memories this month haven’t always been joyful. I asked the team — plus one familiar guest contributor — to look back and share their favorite Vikings memories from Decembers past.

What’s your favorite Vikings memory in December?

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(image courtesy of Vikings.com)

The Falcons may have started out 5-0, but things have turned sour for the team playing under first-year coach Dan Quinn. Quarterback Matt Quinn and Co. have now lost four of their last five games and have lost 13 turnovers in the same stretch. If the season would have ended after last week, Atlanta’s 6-4 record placed them one game behind Minnesota in the wildcard race for the playoffs. Therefore, Sunday’s game will be an important one for both teams; a win for the Vikings would be huge, especially after their recent loss to Green Bay.

Let’s see how Minnesota’s offense will match up against the Falcons.


Offensive Line

The offensive line has been holding its own, especially considering its patchwork makeup, but Week 11 was a different story entirely. Green Bay’s defense shook the offensive line significantly, and the results were undeniable. The Packers sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times, and beyond that he received plenty of pressure on (seemingly) most plays. The Vikings were the least-penalized team heading into last week, but they finished the game with eight penalties that cost them 110 yards; four of those were against offensive linemen, and three were against tackle Matt Kalil, who has been having a strong season thus far.

The unit also struggled with blocking, unable to create many holes for Adrian Peterson. Atlanta’s defense ranks No. 10 overall, but its pass rushing is not as much of a threat as one might expect, with only 12 total sacks on the season. That being said, there’s no question: Minnesota’s O-line needs to step it up Sunday in order for the Vikings to be successful. Bridgewater had his highest passing yards of the season against Green Bay, despite being on the ground so often; just think what could happen if he had solid protection.

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(photo courtesy of Vikings.com)

After already playing (and defeating) the Detroit Lions twice, Minnesota will now face another of its conference rivals: Chicago. The Bears have certainly looked to be a less-than-stable team so far this season, and the Vikings defense should be enough to handle Jay Cutler and Co.

It cannot be ignored, however, that Cutler is an unpredictable force and on any given Sunday can be playing at one extreme or the other. The Vikings have also historically struggled at Soldier Field. Since 2000, Minnesota has won just one of the 14 road games against Chicago.

There are plenty of factors to consider about Sunday’s game, so let’s see how the two teams match up offensively.


Offensive Line

Now that it’s been all but guaranteed that John Sullivan will not return to the field in 2015, the Vikings know exactly what they’re working with long term. While it’s incredibly difficult to fill Sullivan’s shoes (or cleats, in this instance), Joe Berger has done an okay job stepping in as a veteran who isn’t naturally a center. Heading into Sunday’s game, the biggest concern might be rookie T.J. Clemmings.

While Clemmings hasn’t done too terrible of a job considering he was tossed into the fire in Phil Loadholt‘s absence, the rookie got demolished against Denver in Week 4 and may face a similar situation going up against linebacker Pernell McPhee. Clemmings looked entirely overwhelmed blocking against the Broncos, and McPhee could give him trouble.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Stefon Diggs is everything the Minnesota Vikings had hoped Cordarrelle Patterson would become, and that’s through just two NFL starts for the rookie wide receiver. The film doesn’t lie, and neither do Diggs’s teammates, who’ve been singing his praises since he joined the team as a fifth-round selection in this year’s NFL Draft:

“He’s one of the [most] polished receivers I ever seen come, you know, as a rookie,” Captain Munnerlyn said. “He runs great routes, great route runner. Some guys it takes time to learn how to run route in the NFL. He already got that. He’s a great receiver, he’s got great speed, great hands, and he goes [to] get the ball.”

“When you look at a guy, you can tell from day one who can play football. I always felt like he could,” Mike Wallace said. “Just the skill set, the way he runs his routes, the energy that he has. It reminds me of him [Antonio Brown].”

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