Tuesday, January 23, 2018

marcus sherels

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Has the New Orleans Saints punter turned “Minnesota nice?”

Minnesota Vikings fans appreciate gutsy performances.

In last Sunday’s divisional playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium New Orleans Saints punter Tom Morstead made quite the impression. Morstead tore cartilage on the right side of his ribs making a tackle on Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels in the first quarter. Morstead stayed in the game despite his clear discomfort and pain. He booted a couple more punts and finished the game. He was even one of eight Saints players to return to the field for the mandatory extra point attempt following the Minneapolis Miracle.

Because of the respect for Morstead’s gritty performance, a movement was started by a Vikings fan on Reddit so fans could donate money to the punter’s charity. Well, it’s taken off.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings pull off a near-impossible victory over the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

The Vikings needed all sixty minutes to earn a victory over the Saints on Sunday. With ten seconds left in the game, Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs on an improbable 61-yard touchdown pass that will forever be remembered as the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

On a long sideline pass designed for the receiver to go out-of-bounds to stop the clock for a last-second field goal attempt, things fell in the Vikings favor. Saints safety Marcus Williams charged forward to make the tackle, missed Diggs completely, then the receiver turned up-field. The rest is history.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

2017 Minnesota Vikings Pro Football Focus grades.

Before we get started I would like to make some things clear about PFF grades.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) has been grading NFL players since 2004. The football analytics site evaluates individual performances on a play-by-play basis. On every play of every game, a PFF analyst will grade each player on a scale of -2 to +2 according to what he did on the play.

From the Pro Football Focus website:

pff player grades

The grading method was designed to build a clearer picture of how players performed, rather than simply judging performances based on box-score stats. Stats can be misleading.

While most statistical analysis is quantitative in nature, PFF uses qualitative measures and opinion-based grading as the basis of their rankings, so like baseball umpires, their calls could be construed by critics as “biased.” However, the grading process is overseen by at least three individuals per contest, so while the numbers may not always be perfect, the process itself is rather reliable.

What’s also unique about PFF is that season-level grades also account for the duration of good and bad play, resulting in “compounded” grades (both positive and negative) if the player’s performance continues for long periods of time. Basically, the grades factor in “streaky” play. Kinda cool, right?

Anyways…I hope that helped. It’s better to know these things beforehand because some grades may surprise you.

So without further adieu, here are the 2017 season grades for each qualified Viking. The players are arranged by grade within their position group. Notable position rankings are listed in parentheses.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings 24, Carolina Panthers 31

Game Recap

The Vikings came up short in their attempt to win nine games in a row Sunday. The last game of a three-game road trip resulted in Minnesota’s third loss of the season, and prevented the 10-3 Vikings from clinching the playoffs and capturing the NFC North division crown.

Offensively the Vikings failed to establish the rushing attack early. Jerick McKinnon led the team with 46 yards on seven carries (6.6 YPC) and Latavius Murray managed only 14 yards on nine carries (1.6 YPC). Quarterback Case Keenum added 40 yards on five rushes.

The Vikings had some success through the air but were doomed with turnovers at inopportune times. Keenum finished the day 27 of 44 (61%) passing for 280 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Vikings receiver Adam Thielen led Minnesota with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two key drops in the end zone before the half. Instead of taking the lead at halftime the Vikings settled for a Kai Forbath field goal.

Stefon Diggs had six catches for 64 yards but had a ball bounce off his hands late in the game which resulted in a Carolina interception.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph had three catches for 42 yards with a touchdown but he also had issues catching the ball. Two dropped passes in the first half would have resulted in big plays for the offense. The Vikings top three pass catchers all had crucial drops throughout the game.

The Vikings defense was hurt by big plays, specifically two long runs. Carolina’s first touchdown was a 60-yard blast by Jonathan Stewart to the right of the center on third-and-one. Later in the game Cam Newton sealed the win with a 62-yard scamper up the middle of the field.

Defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen each collected a sack but Zimmer’s top-2 defensive unit couldn’t bounce back after giving up the long runs. Carolina rode 216 rushing yards en route to their fifth victory in six games.

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Next Man Up

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Special teams has always been the odd-phase out.

Extra-point bathroom breaks are a weekly routine for many fans, and others even have had the audacity to challenge whether or not kickers and punters qualify as “football players”. It is understandable that special teams phases are typically viewed similarly to a third wheel, as offense and defense provide the vast majority of explosive, highlight-reel plays while the tug-of-war between the two “primary” game phases is perpetually tracked on scoreboards, statistical websites and, of course, social media.

This perception is rooted in a very simple, elementary-level dynamic: Six points will always be more than three, and, correspondingly, field goals will always finish second to touchdowns. Furthermore, attempting field goals, regardless of result, is the football-equivalent of settling for a consolation prize.

The scoreboard may not always directly reflect superior special teams play, but over the course of an entire season, teams that perform well in these phases of the game tend to finish much higher in the standings. The Minnesota Vikings are well aware of this truth and, as a result, have demonstrated that special teams excellence is not just an annual objective but a formal expectation every single season.