Quotulatiousness

November 17, 2014

Vikings lose to Bears, 21-13

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:36

By the end of the first quarter, you could understand why Fox Sports had “flexed” out of covering this game … it was anything but rivetting TV. The Vikings looked rusty, as if they’d been off for several weeks rather than just the one week bye. The highlight of the game was a fake punt that caught the Bears totally by surprise as Andrew Sendejo took the ball 48 yards (a Vikings record). Aside from that, the offense couldn’t manage very much production and forced the defence to go back on the field far too quickly — the time of possession was very lopsided, as the Bears held the ball for over 38 minutes, leaving under 22 minutes for the Vikings.

Former Viking Jared Allen had by far his best game of the season, treating former Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Kalil like a turnstyle and pressuring Teddy Bridgewater several times and sacking him once. The Viking defensive line was held in check all day, recording no sacks and relatively few hits. Cornerback Josh Robinson was Cutler’s favourite target … as a shorter player, he was at a disadvantage against the Bears’ tall wide receivers, and Cutler completed a lot of passes to whoever he was covering on the play. Brian Hall has the details:

The Vikings knew all about the size disadvantage coming in. The Bears have Brandon Marshall (6-foot-5) and Alshon Jeffery (6-foot-3) on the outside. Minnesota has 5-foot-9 cornerback Captain Munnerlyn starting in the base defense and 5-foot-10 Josh Robinson to go with 6-foot-1 Xavier Rhodes on the outside in the nickel defense.

Chicago knew where Josh Robinson was and targeted him often with the tall receivers. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler just threw the ball up and let Marshall and Jeffery use their length. Jeffery was targeted 17 times and had 11 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown against Robinson. Marshall had 10 targets leading to seven catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns against Robinson.

Robinson wasn’t out of position in many of the cases, but Marshall and Jeffery used their size to make plays. Cutler was 31-of-43 passing — with 27 attempts to Marshall and Jeffery — for 330 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Minnesota, particularly Robinson, just had no chance against Marshall and Jeffery.

Joe Oberle says the game was actually worse than the score might indicate:

It’s difficult to determine which unit was more culpable for the loss, so we will start with the offense. They say numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but in the case of this game they tell enough. The Vikings had 243 total yards on offense (with 48 of them coming on a fake punt and a bunch more in what turned out to be garbage/prevent time).

Teddy Bridgewater was 18 of 28 for 158 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was inaccurate when throwing past five yards down field. He was sacked twice and hit five times, which shows once again that the offensive line that struggled to protect him. It was well into the game before Bridgewater targeted a wide receiver, as either he didn’t have time to see them or they were not getting open. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

These atrocious numbers came against the 26th ranked defense in the league coming in—a defense that had given up 106 points in their past two games. Were it not for the fake punt that set up the only touchdown, the final score would have been worse. Bridgewater and the offense took a step backwards against a team that had been demoralized. This game for the Vikings was actually worse than the score indicated.

March 27, 2014

Jared Allen signs with Chicago, Vikings fanbase in denial

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:19

We all knew that Jared Allen’s time as a Viking had come to a close, as he was at the end of a massive contract and the team had already designated Everson Griffen to take his spot on the defensive line (and given him a big contract). He’d been rumoured to have offers or outlines of offers from several teams and we all expected to see him playing for Seattle or Denver this year. Seattle was the obvious choice for Allen, and not just because of the unwritten NFL rule that says all former Vikings must sign with Seattle, so yesterday’s announcement took everyone by surprise. Arif Hasan, who is making a strong case to take Tom Pelissero’s place as the top writer in Vikings coverage, was uncharacteristically dour:

Someone named Jared Allen signed with the Chicago Bears today to a four-year deal, worth $32,000,000. The structure of the deal is of course important with a player at Allen’s age (31), and it can be voided to a three-year, $24,000,000 deal. $15,500,000 is fully guaranteed — which comes from a base salary guaranteed fully in the first two years and a roster bonus he will receive next March.

On a per-year basis, this is a lower deal than the one he “missed out on” with the Denver Broncos when they offered him and DeMarcus Ware identical, $30,000,000 deals over three years, but it is similar amount of guaranteed money.

This of course means that Allen will play against the Vikings twice a year, an interesting set of circumstances that sees him paired up against his practice sparring partner, Matt Kalil.

This could also imply that Allen’s desire to play was balanced against his desire to go to a contender, as he had choice offers from the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys as well, the first of whom could give him a much better shot at a ring, but less playing time. The Cowboys, short on cap space, were likely in a much more difficult spot in terms of the type of contract they could offer him and the flexibility they had to give him a good deal.


Jared Allen #69 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

March 12, 2014

Gerhart moves on and Joseph moves in

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:29

I was off being a pallbearer in Toronto when the NFL’s free agency period started, so I didn’t get caught up on the early moves until much later in the day. As far as the Vikings were concerned, the two biggest moves were backup running back Toby Gerhart signing a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars and former Giant defensive tackle Linval Joseph signing a five-year, $31.5 million deal with the Vikings:

Linval Joseph is 25 years old, and will turn 26 years old midway through the season. He doesn’t have extraordinary statistics that you would more likely see come from an undertackle like Henry Melton or Kevin Williams, but he does plug the run extremely well. He has had 9.0 sacks in the previous three years, which is more than what fellow 1-tech and previous Vikings Pat Williams was able to do in any three-year stretch with the Vikings.

Linval Joseph is unique, in that at 328-pounds, he could have played 3-technique coming out of college. He has a good first step and is both strong and quick with a good understanding of leverage, though was weak at consistently lowering his pads coming out of East Carolina.

He is supposed to be good for a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme because of his ability to anchor, length (with astonishing 34.5″ arms) and quickness, although the Giants have almost exclusively used him in a one-gap role.

If Joseph is as good as hoped for, it will make a huge difference to the Vikings’ defensive line, which has never regained the form it had with “Fat Pat” at the nose. The signing may make it less likely that Kevin Williams returns to the Purple, as many were assuming he could slide over to nose tackle (having had a huge game in that spot last season, when both Letroy Guion and Fred Evans were injured). Williams had said he wasn’t interested in playing the nose, and is an unrestricted free agent.

Also looking for the right contract (as in “pay me”), former Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen is still unsigned. He’d been rumoured to be looking at a deal with Denver, but the Broncos may be more interested in DeMarcus Ware, who is also a free agent this season. The Bears and the Seahawks are also said to be talking with Allen’s agent. Allen hinted that he’d retire rather than play as a situational pass rusher, but Andrew Krammer thinks that’s bluff: “Why I won’t believe Jared Allen would retire: that all-time sack total means too much to him. That list in his locker said so.” Allen kept a regularly updated list in his locker showing where he ranked in the all-time totals.

January 27, 2013

Another Viking to the Pro Bowl in last-minute switch

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:45

The Minnesota Vikings 2012 season ended at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, but the individual efforts of a number of players has been recognized by nominations to the NFC Pro Bowl team. Originally the Viking contingent consisted of running back Adrian Peterson, fullback Jerome Felton, and rookie kicker Blair Walsh. Alternates who were added to the team included defensive end Jared Allen, linebacker Chad Greenway, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Yesterday, it was announced that rookie offensive tackle Matt Kalil would be going to Hawaii as an injury replacement for the Washington Redskins’ Trent Williams:

Whoever invented the term “the more the merrier” must’ve been looking into the future at the Vikings’ 2013 Pro Bowl contingent. That contingent stood at six as of Friday morning. And now it stands at seven after the last-second addition of left tackle Matt Kalil to the team. Kalil replaces Trent Williams of the Redskins who dropped out. I think every original member of the team has now dropped out except the four Vikings. And Jeff Saturday who is the one guy who totally does not belong there.

Update: There’s apparently a bit of a backstory to why Williams won’t be playing:

January 7, 2012

Vikings fire only defensive coach whose unit did well this year

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:08

Okay, I admit I’m stumped: the Minnesota Vikings had a putrid 2011 season. They lost games they should have won and they barely managed to win the games they should have dominated. I get it that the defence was clearly a problem and that changes were going to have to be made. What I don’t understand is that the only coach on the defence whose unit played well is the very first coach to be fired:

“This is what they wanted,” Dunbar said in a phone interview with the Star Tribune. “Coach Frazier told me the ownership wanted to go in a different direction. And for me, that’s fine. As football coaches, we know we’re all migrant workers and we go where the jobs are. Now, my job in Minnesota is over.”

Dunbar joined the Vikings in 2006 when Brad Childress became coach and helped the defensive line establish a reputation as a sturdy, run-stopping unit. Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen all earned Pro Bowl invitations while playing under Dunbar. And this season, despite the well-documented struggles of the entire defense, the d-line may have had the most solid season of any Vikings’ position group, ranking 11th in the NFL against the run. The Vikings also tallied 50 sacks as a team with defensive end setting a new single-season team record with 22.

Still, after a 3-13 finish, Frazier has vowed to shake things up and make significant changes to his coaching staff. Dunbar’s exit is likely just the start of the revolving door at Winter Park.

Dunbar said he wasn’t able to diagnose the root cause of the Vikings’ 3-13 freefall.

“I’m a position coach,” he said. “I’m not a coordinator. I’m not a head coach. When I look at what I did with the Minnesota Vikings, my piece of the puzzle was to make the defensive line play as well as they could. We played well against the run. I think we finished No. 11 against the run. And we finished No. 1 in sacks. And the guy I coached led the league in sacks with 22 on a team that really didn’t have a lead the last eight games of the year. So I thought that was my piece of the puzzle. I can’t worry about running backs, defensive backs, receivers, linebackers. When you do it, you focus on your job, put your piece of the puzzle in and go from there.”

If your defence was putrid — and it was, between injuries and legal issues — someone has to be seen to pay, but why is the only guy whose players more than earned their salaries the first one to go? I just don’t get it.

October 31, 2011

Vikings hang on to defeat Panthers at home, 24-21

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:34

For what was billed as a team that couldn’t stop the run, Carolina certainly kept Adrian Peterson bottled up for much of the day — at least on the ground. Peterson didn’t break 100 yards of rushing, but he made up for that in receiving yards with 162 yards in total. Cam Newton did awful things to the Vikings’ secondary including a big completion on fourth-and-fourteen that kept the Panthers’ final drive alive. Christian Ponder put in a good performance at quarterback for the Vikings, making no serious mistakes and keeping the chains moving on third down, especially in the second half.

Carolina looked snake-bit early in the game, with several ugly plays that the Vikings failed to fully capitalize on. Their first possession lasted exactly one play as a strip-sack handed the ball over to the Vikings deep in Panther territory. Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson hit Newton forcing the ball out, and Jared Allen came up with the loose ball. Allen also had a sack later in the half, which also forced Newton to fumble. Allen set a new team record with a sack in ten consecutive games.

Percy Harvin, on the other hand, had a much more up-and-down game. He scored a rushing touchdown, but was also stripped of the ball deep in Panthers’ territory, and also drew a 15-yard penalty for what looked like a fistfight with Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn well off the playing field (actually at the Panthers’ bench).

(more…)

October 17, 2011

Vikings stink up Soldier Field, losing 39-10 to the Bears

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:11

The difference between this loss and the earlier losses is that the Vikings were never in this game. Chicago jumped out to an early lead, and never looked back. The normally great first-half defence didn’t show up tonight, and the offence was its usual anaemic self.

The Vikings had done well to avoid injuries so far this season, but lost several players to injury over the course of the game, including safety Jamarca Sandford, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, and centre John Sullivan. With two offensive line starters out, Donovan McNabb was running for his life back there.

On the good side of the ledger, after a quiet start, Jared Allen got a sack and stripped the ball from Jay Cutler. The Vikings turned that into 6 points on an Adrian Peterson run. Late in the game, Christian Ponder took over at quarterback for Donovan McNabb, and showed some nice situational awareness (avoiding the pass rush) and good accuracy and distance downfield. Other than that, there wasn’t much for Vikings fans to cheer.

After the game, coach Leslie Frazier was careful not to commit himself about who will start next Sunday’s game, but Andrew Kulha at Bleacher Reports is sure that we’ve seen the start of a new quarterback era:

It may be time for former Philadelphia Eagles star, former Washington Redskins mistake and current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb to take his curtain call.

It’s been a great run for McNabb, but it’s probably best to stop digging while he still has a chance to get out of the hole that is the latter stages of his career.

Christopher Gates at the Daily Norseman agrees:

Statistically, if you look at Donovan McNabb’s line from Sunday night, it doesn’t look like he played all that badly. . .he only threw five incompletions on the evening, and put up 177 passing yards. However, as the fourth quarter started at Soldier Field on Sunday evening, Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier decided that the time had finally come.

And, with that, the Christian Ponder era got underway in Minnesota.

Sure, by the time that Ponder got into the game, the Vikings only had five healthy offensive lineman. . .Phil Loadholt was out of the game with an (as of now) undisclosed injury, and John Sullivan suffered a concussion early in the second half. As the Vikings only had seven offensive linemen dressed on the evening, another injury probably would have seen Jim Kleinsasser lining up at tackle or guard. However, despite that, and despite spending most of the evening running for his life, Ponder was not sacked once in 18 pass attempts, and completed 10 of his passes for 99 yards in his quarter of work.

Update: Tom Pelissero sums up the brief (about a quarter) appearance of Christian Ponder:

Ponder made his NFL debut with 14 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, who led 39-10 and sacked starter Donovan McNabb five times.

“I don’t see it ending like this, as you say,” McNabb said. “But it’s tough. You’re one-and-five at this particular point. I felt like we did a lot of great things (Sunday). But I guess we’ll sit down to talk, but I still expect to be in there next week.”

Ponder was 9-of-17 passing for 99 yards (52.9%) and a 70.5 rating over two drives, both ending with fourth-down passes caught short of the first-down marker. But the rookie first-round picks’s skills were on display as he repeatedly escaped pressure and made several rhythm throws into tight windows.

He scrambled for 8 yards and a first down on his second snap. His first throw was a swing pass to Adrian Peterson for no gain and his second a touch pass to Percy Harvin for 20.

“I thought he did a good job under the circumstances,” Frazier said. “We’ll go back and look at the tape and fully evaluate it. But it seems like he moved around pretty good.”

Ponder was 5-of-10 passing for 58 yards on his first drive, which went 69 yards in 12 plays before a fourth-and-10 throw to Visanthe Shiancoe gained only 9, stalling the Vikings at the Chicago 12-yard line. The Vikings’ next drive went 40 yards in eight plays before stalling at the Chicago 30.

“I was very grateful for the opportunity that Coach let me go in,” Ponder said. “I thought I made some plays, thought I missed some plays, missed a couple throws. But I definitely had fun. It’s always hard to have fun when you’re losing that bad, but I was grateful and I definitely had fun.”

Update, the second: In his column at the Pioneer Press, Tom Powers suggests it’s time for a fire sale:

Vikings for sale! Vikings for sale! Cheap!

Not the team, but individual players. Hey, all you NFL general managers out there, get your very own Minnesota Vikings player. Take him home to play with your kids. Let him tend to the petunias in the garden. Have him wash the car. All we ask for is a seventh-round draft pick in return. And, of course, you take over paying his salary.

The NFL trade deadline almost always passes unnoticed. It’s not a big deal the way it is in other sports where there is a flurry of last-minute activity. The Vikings desperately need to change all that.

The 2011 deadline is Tuesday. It should be a very big deal. There ought to be balloons, parades and free hot dogs at Winter Park if Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ Invisible Man, can partially salvage a lost season by dumping veterans for draft picks. Even very low draft picks would be swell. So would a bag of Doritos.

October 4, 2010

Jared Allen needs a new post-sack celebration routine

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:57

Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins report that the new head of NFL officiating wants the “calf roping” routine stopped:

An NFL spokesman confirmed Sunday that the league has informed Allen and the Vikings that the All-Pro defensive end will be penalized and possibly fined if he performs his “calf roping” celebration after a sack. FOX Sports first reported the story.

The league prohibits players from going to the ground in celebrations. After sacks, Allen takes a knee, pretends to rope a calf and then throws his arms in the air. Allen presumably can still perform his celebration as long as he’s standing on his feet.

Allen has performed his post-sack celebration for years so it’s curious the league is threatening punishment now. Asked about the new stance, a league spokesman wrote in an e-mail: “That is how the new head of officiating wants it enforced.”

It is odd that something that’s been okay for Allen’s entire career is suddenly singled out as having been in violation of the rules for all this time. If this trend continues, how long will it be before any celebration by the players will draw an unsportsmanlike penalty?

December 30, 2009

Eight Vikings to represent NFC in Pro Bowl

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:44

The voting for the Pro Bowl tends to trail actual performance by a year or more, as evidenced by the inclusion of Bryant McKinnie with the Viking players selected:

The Vikings lead all NFL teams this year by getting eight — yes eight — players named to this year’s NFC Pro Bowl roster. The next closest were the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles with six nods.

First, there are the usual suspects: Adrian Peterson and Steve Hutchinson got the starting nod at running back and guard respectively, which shouldn’t shock too many people. Kevin Williams and Jared Allen will once again start along the defensive line. Even Señor Schism himself, Brett Favre, made the team for the eleventh time. He’ll back up starter Drew Brees at QB.

Then there are a couple pleasant surprises. Wide receiver Sidney Rice made his first Pro Bowl, a very worthy selection in my slightly biased opinion. Heath Farwell was the NFC selection for Special Teamer. Besides last night’s debacle, Farwell has been the main reason for the vastly improved special teams unit this year.

A big difference from Pro Bowls in the past is that this game will be played before the Super Bowl, in an attempt to capture a larger viewing audience than the Pro Bowl traditionally garners. It also means that the Pro Bowl players named from teams going to the Super Bowl won’t be playing in the Pro Bowl.

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