October 23, 2017

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota: stout defence and field goals galore in 24-16 Vikings win

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford didn’t practice at all this week, so he was clearly not going to be playing against Baltimore, this meant that backup Case Keenum automatically became the starter for the game. Keenum didn’t show his abilities to their best during the game (20-of-31 passing for 188 yards and a passer rating of 67.7 and a pick), leading to placekicker Kai Forbath being the key scorer for Minnesota (six field goals from 52, 51, 43, 43, 34 and 32 yards, but a missed extra point to keep him humble), while Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker threatened to score from well outside normal kicking distances (48, 57 and 47 yards, yet the game announcers seemed sure he could make it from inside his own 20 yard line). Still, ugly games count just the same as awesome ones, so chalk this one up as an ugly win.

Both teams were missing key players: Baltimore was already down most of their top receivers (Breshad Perriman, Chris Matthews and Jeremy Maclin) when Mike Wallace took a hit from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo early in the first half which put him into the NFL’s concussion protocol (Sendejo was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the tackle, which negated a fumble recovery by Xavier Rhodes). Minnesota was missing both Stefon Diggs and Michael Floyd, which gave rarely used veteran Jarius Wright an opportunity to shine, making some clutch catches to extend Viking drives. Nick Easton had been ruled out, so Jeremiah Sirles got the start at left guard, and both Sirles and starting left tackle Riley Reiff suffered injuries during the game, so backup tackle Rashod Hill and rookie guard Danny Isidora got into the game as replacements.


October 17, 2017

Teddy Bridgewater cleared to return to Vikings practice

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will return to team practice on Wednesday, fourteen months after his career seemed to be over due to catastrophic injury. The team has a three-week window to observe Bridgewater’s progress before they need to either add him to the roster or move him to the injured reserve list for the remainder of the season. Despite the fan enthusiasm, it’s unrealistic to assume that he would be able to step back into the starting role for at least a few weeks, and Case Keenum is doing a good job of keeping the Vikings afloat while Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are unable to play.

During Bridgewater’s recovery time, Vikings Territory writer Jordan Reid made contact with him:

From a surprising follow back on Twitter, to actually reaching out to him about his progress just to see how he was doing. I can firmly tell you that Bridgewater is exactly the same type of person behind-the-scenes as he is in the public eye-view. He’s not only the quarterback of my favorite NFL team, but he’s now a personal friend and an athlete that means a lot to me outside of just football.

Many say I’m obsessed with Bridgewater, but that’s definitely not the case. Seeing his hard work, monthly progress and sending various encouraging messages during his injury journey helped me realize and have hope for an athlete that experiences trials and tribulations similar to me and you.

Many times, fans forget that athletes are people just like ourselves and get so trapped into just thinking about the football side of things. Seeing the type of individual he is outside of the public eye-view and experiencing first-hand what he went through the past 14 months has once again given me hope of an eventual return.

[…] Now knowing the type of person he is, the fourth-year quarterback is obviously not for everyone. He will never be the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL. That’s not Teddy Bridgewater, but what he gives you is hope.

Hope meaning a lot things. No. 5 gives hope to a fanbase that’s never won a Superbowl, but suffered through crushing playoff losses and constant instability at quarterback. Yes, I know he’s only thrown 28 touchdown passes in 30 games, but no matter what it takes or what outsiders think of his traits, he just wants to win.

The one underlying quality that Bridgewater has had since his collegiate days at Lousiville and now as an NFL quarterback is leadership. It’s a trait that can not be taught or developed. As I occasionally say on Twitter, it is a trait that an athlete either possesses or they don’t. It can not be developed over time, but is rather something that they are born with.

From beating Florida in the 2014 Sugar Bowl to sideline jokes with his teammates, and even organizing summer workouts in the off-season with other players around the league, leadership is a quality that Bridgewater undoubtedly has. It is a trait that most successful signal-callers must have in order to instill belief in not only his teammates, but the organization and its fanbase as well.

Regardless of how you feel about Teddy Bridgewater, when he was under-center, the last glimpse we saw of him against the then San Diego Chargers was the most hopeful we all have been of a Vikings team in quite some time. Will he ever return to that status? We won’t know, but what we do know is that he is an exuberant individual that we all will be happy for if he ever gets to play the game that he loves once again.

October 16, 2017

Packers lose Aaron Rodgers to injury in 23-10 loss to the Vikings

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

With Aaron Rodgers under centre, the Green Bay Packers are a threat to any team in the league — without Rodgers, the Packers are just another team. Early in the game at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the Packers were transformed from top-tier threat to ordinary as Rodgers was injured and had to leave the game. Green Bay backup Brett Hundley was unable to get the team going consistently, and the injuries piled up as the game went on (it might have been quicker to list the un-injured players by the end of the fourth quarter – “Injured Packers were carted off the field as if the driver were getting paid by the body”). If Rodgers is out for an extended period, Green Bay is going to continue to struggle.


October 10, 2017

Vikings hang on to beat Bears 20-17

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:11

Perhaps fortunately for my blood pressure, the telecast of this game was pre-empted in my area by an NHL game between Toronto and the Chicago Blackhawks, which went into overtime, so I didn’t see more than the last few minutes of the first half. Vikings starting quarterback Sam Bradford had been ineffective through most of that time, and Vikings Twitter was ablaze with demands to sit Bradford and get Case Keenum out on the field. Despite having taken most of the first-team snaps in practice last week, Bradford was clearly not healthy enough to play, and it’s disturbing that the team allowed him to make the start. By the time he left the field, he’d thrown 11 times with only five receptions for 36 yards, and he’d been sacked four times, including one for a safety.


October 2, 2017

Lions beat Vikings 14-7, in a game where if it could go wrong, it did go wrong (for the Vikings)

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Two very good teams met in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, and the outcome was in doubt until the final minutes. Both teams’ defences held up very well, and both teams’ offences were lacking, so the outcome depended on penalties and luck. The officiating squad didn’t throw a lot of penalty flags (including some that were blatant, yet un-noticed), so the game came down to luck. The Vikings were in luck, but it was all bad.

Sam Bradford’s knee is still not back to normal, so Case Keenum got the start again for the third straight game. Keenum is a very good backup quarterback, but he tends to be a one-read player so he sometimes misses big opportunities because he’s watching the receiver he’s already decided to go to and doesn’t see a better chance elsewhere on the field. Against Tampa Bay, that didn’t matter, but against Pittsburgh and on Sunday against Detroit, it mattered a lot.

The Vikings defence played (mostly) lights-out against the Lions. Danielle Hunter started the game off with a bang, notching his first sack of the season on the opening play, and he got another sack during the game. Everson Griffin chipped in with a sack of his own and two tackles for loss. Linval Joseph also got a sack, and linebacker Eric Kendricks got two. On the other hand, it seemed like everyone in purple had a chance for an interception but none of them could hang on to the ball, and there were periods in the game where Lions ball carriers appeared to be coated in Teflon and the Vikings just couldn’t wrap them up on the tackle.

Injuries are always at least a background concern for NFL teams, and the Lions came in to Minneapolis with a long list of injured players, but the worst injury of the day was on a non-contact run by Vikings rookie sensation Dalvin Cook, who may have torn his ACL while trying to make a cut (he fumbled the ball at that point, but I’m certainly not going to hold it against him under the circumstances). He’ll have an MRI on Monday which will clarify the extent of his injury. Sadly, Eric Thompson’s tweet is still as appropriate as ever:

Update: Yes, coach Zimmer confirms that it’s an ACL tear and Cook is going to be put on the injured reserve, ending his season.


September 25, 2017

Tampa Bay at Minnesota – welcome to the Case Keenum show, starring Case Keenum!

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Minnesota’s starting quarterback is still out with knee issues, so backup Case Keenum got all the practice reps with the first team this week, and it really showed to excellent effect in this game. I noted in my game report last week that Keenum didn’t seem to be able to release the ball as fast as Bradford, which allowed defensive pressure to get to him far too often. That issue was completely cleaned up in this game — although it should be noted that Tampa Bay was missing a number of their defensive starters and suffered a rash of injuries during the game on top of that. The final score of 31-17 makes the game appear closer on the scoreboard than it was on the playing field.

The difference a week of practice will make for an NFL quarterback: Keenum found out about an hour before the Steelers game that he’d be starting, and hadn’t had much chance to work with the starters, and the result was painful to watch. In contrast, having the full week of practice allowed Keenum to develop a good working relationship with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, both of whom had great games (Diggs – 8 receptions for 173 yards and 2 TDs, Thielen – 5 for 98 yards). Keenum finished with 25 of 33 completions for 369 yards (a career best) with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 142.1. Best supporting actor player for the offense was probably Dalvin Cook, who is playing at a very high level indeed (my favourite infographic during the game showed a comparison between Adrian Peterson’s first three games and Cook, showing Cook ahead on total yards and yards per carry on fewer carries … while the announcer said “nobody is comparing him to Peterson”). Cook’s numbers for the game were 27 rushes for 97 yards and a TD, with five receptions for 72 yards.


September 21, 2017

The Vikings’ “quarterback curse”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Star Tribune Jim Souhan recounts the long, sad saga of Minnesota’s quest for a franchise quarterback after Fran Tarkenton retired:

Vikings fans like to claim they are cursed by big-game losses, but losing in excruciating fashion isn’t a curse, it’s the nature of sport for all but a lucky few franchises.

If they want to claim a curse, they should cite their quarterback history, which features as many hospital gowns as game jerseys.

Sam Bradford’s knee isn’t just sore. It’s the aching juncture of an existential threat to this year’s team and the franchise’s near future.

Since Fran Tarkenton retired, the Vikings have been scrambling like Sir Francis to fill the position.

Some franchises can brag about multiple greats. Joe Montana and Steve Young. Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Vikings counter with Spergon Wynn and Christian Ponder.


The Vikings have won one playoff game in the past 13 seasons. And that came with a renegade Packer making a cameo.

The Vikings haven’t won a playoff game with a quarterback they drafted since Daunte Culpepper beat the Packers in the 2004 playoffs.

The past two quarterbacks drafted by the Vikings to play in a Super Bowl: Brad Johnson with the Buccaneers, and Rich Gannon with the Raiders.

Other than Culpepper, the Vikings haven’t won a playoff game with a quarterback they drafted since Wade Wilson beat the Saints in the 1987 playoffs.

And if greatness and Super Bowl championships are the goal, this may be the most damning piece of history of all for the Vikings:

They haven’t drafted a quarterback who would make the Hall of Fame since 1961.

The Vikings’ current roster features two potential franchise quarterbacks, Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Both have knee injuries that threaten the team’s season and possibly their careers.

Either could theoretically be the starting quarterback at the end of this season and the beginning of next. But the team has to fear that neither will be able to recover well enough to be the players they are capable of being.

The last true franchise quarterback the Vikings employed, Culpepper, also had his career path ruined by a knee injury.

September 18, 2017

Bradford-less Vikings fall to Steelers, 26-9

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

After being the toast of the NFL last week, Minnesota’s starting quarterback Sam Bradford missed several team practices with knee inflammation and was eventually declared unable to play in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This meant number two quarterback Case Keenum was the starter and freshly promoted-from-the-practice-squad Ryan Sloter was the backup. The oddsmakers were quick to drop the Vikings’ chances from being 5.5 point underdogs to 11 points, and as the game unfolded, you could certainly understand why.

Despite the final score, this game could have been much more competitive, except for Viking penalties (14, but only 12 accepted for 136 yards), particularly defensive pass interference and holding: both Steelers touchdowns were made possible by Viking infractions.

While it’s undeniable that the Vikings’ offensive line has been much improved from last season, they are still not good enough to keep the pocket clean for as long as Keenum needed (Bradford appears to have a faster release than Keenum, so some of the pressure that got to Keenum might not have gotten to Bradford on the same play call). Names that got called far too often by the TV crew were Nick Easton and Mike Remmers — good offensive linemen almost never get mentioned in the course of a game, but linemen who get beat or get penalized get their names called.


September 12, 2017

MNF – Vikings beat New Orleans Saints 29-19 in season opener

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

One of the bigger story lines coming in to Monday night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings was the return of running back Adrian Peterson. After spending his entire career with the Vikings, he was clearly relishing the chance to play against his former team and provided lots of juicy quotes to the media about his plan to “stick it” to the Vikings. It didn’t quite work out the way he was hoping…

The Vikings’ expensively re-tooled offensive line — who didn’t play a single down together during the preseason — did a great job of protecting Sam Bradford. Right tackle Mike Remmers was responsible for one sack by Cameron Jordan, but otherwise the line largely kept the pressure away from Bradford. Without the need to constantly check down or run for his life (like most of the 2016 season), Bradford put in a very impressive performance, 27 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. The most impressive was a lightning-quick three play drive late in the first half that covered 74 yards and ended in a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.


September 4, 2017

After the waiver period, the Vikings sign players to their 10-man practice squad

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings only received one player off the waiver wire, former San Francisco tight end Blake Bell. Bell was coached by current Vikings OL coach Tony Sparano during his rookie year. The team freed up a roster spot for him by waiving/injured tight end Bucky Hodges.

Among the Vikings’ waivered players, offensive lineman Zac Kerin was claimed by the Detroit Lions, linebacker Edmond Robinson was claimed by the New York Jets, and (showing just how desperate teams are for offensive linemen) former starting tackle T.J. Clemmings was picked up by the Washington Redskins. Both Kerin and Robinson had standing invitations to the Vikings’ practice squad if they cleared waivers (Clemmings almost certainly did not).

The following players have been added to the practice squad:

  • LB Elijah Lee (drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round, initially claimed he didn’t want to join Minnesota’s PS and hoped to be picked up by another team instead)
  • QB Kyle Sloter (Played the preseason in Denver, going 31 of 43 for 413 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs … with Taylor Heinicke going to IR, the team definitely needed another quarterback for the scout team. The Vikings are paying him serious money for a PS player: $340,000 … NFL minimum for a rookie on the 53-man roster is $465,000.)
  • RB Bronson Hill (free agent who spent time with the Bengals and Jaguars in 2016)
  • DT Ifeadi Odenigbo (drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2017 draft)
  • CB Horace Richardson (undrafted free agent, spent the preseason with the Vikings)
  • DT Dylan Bradley (undrafted free agent, spent the preseason with the Vikings)
  • TE Kyle Carter (spent time on the Vikings PS in 2016, undrafted in 2016)
  • WR Cayleb Jones (free agent who was on the Eagles PS in 2016, then signed to the Vikings PS in December)

Two spots on the practice squad remained open, as of Sunday night.

Update: The Vikings signed two players to fill the remaining spots on the practice squad on Monday:

  • C Cornelius Edison (was on Chicago’s roster and appeared in six games and spent the preseason with Atlanta)
  • OT Cedrick Lang (spent the preseason with Denver)

September 3, 2017

Vikings cut down to “final” 53 players for 2017

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I put the quotes around the word “final” in the headline because every team in the league will be sifting through the nearly 2,000 players who were waived in the last 48 hours and a few may end up bumping someone off the roster as a result. Those veteran players who were released are eligible to sign with any team, but players with less than four years of NFL experience are subject to waiver claims, which are allocated based on the previous season’s finishing order. The team with the worst 2016 record has top priority for waiver claims and the current Super Bowl champs have lowest priority. So, for example, Cleveland could claim up to 53 players off the waiver wire, and would be awarded with every one of them. The Vikings are near the middle of the pack for waiver priority. At noon Eastern time on Sunday, teams are informed if their waiver claims have been granted and after 1:00pm, all teams can begin signing eligible players to their 10-man practice squads.

Most of the players who didn’t make the 53-man roster were not expected to, but one player not only was expected to, he was a starter: offensive guard Alex Boone was released only one year into his four-year contract. Boone had not been playing as well as hoped, but few people expected him to be cut. His release means the team takes a $3.4 million hit (the guaranteed portion of his salary), but also frees up another $3.3 million under the salary cap. Arif Hasan found the cut “baffling“.

Until the waiver wire results are announced, here is the Vikings roster for 2017:


August 28, 2017

Vikings edge 49ers 32-31 with last-second two-point conversion

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

For most teams, the third preseason game is a dress rehearsal for the regular season: they play their starters for the first half, getting in some good drives (ideally) and shutting down their opponents’ drives (also ideally). One of the teams playing in Minneapolis last night did both of those things, while the other team signally failed to do either. Unfortunately for the home fans, it was San Francisco’s starters who clearly outplayed the Vikings’ starters on both sides of the ball, and it wasn’t close.

The Vikings’ expensively retooled offensive line did not show well, and the 49er defence made them look almost as bad as last season’s collection of tackling dummies. Sam Bradford was under siege and that forced several check-down passes that failed to move the chains. Top wide receiver Stefon Diggs dropped two passes that would have secured first downs, and Dalvin Cook was not being given a lot of running room between the tackles. A few players did show up to play: Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell made some tough catches, but overall the starters made enough mistakes to ensure they were down 14 points at the end of the first half, and the starting defence seemed to be out-of-synch through two quarters as well. Defenders seemed to have a knack for getting in one anothers’ way, which created opportunities for 49er receivers and running backs. At one point two linebackers each ran the wrong way — almost colliding — effectively taking them both out of the play. The defensive backs also showed an inability to track receivers or to tackle them after the ball arrived. Safety Harrison Smith and corner Xavier Rhodes both made blatant mistakes in coverage, allowing key completions to San Francisco.

During the second half, backup quarterback Case Keenum was able to get the offence moving, eventually scoring two touchdowns (one to tight end Kyle Carter and the other to receiver Stacy Coley). Running back Jerick McKinnon helped shift momentum back to the Vikings after a terrible defensive breakdown led to a long San Francisco touchdown by returning the ensuing kickoff for a Vikings touchdown.

Finally, reportedly playing with a rib injury, third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke put together the final drive of the game, finishing with a short rushing touchdown by Terrell Newby and then sealing the win with a quarterback scramble to score the two-point conversion right at the pylon. He certainly showed grit and determination, although his passes were not as accurate as usual (probably also due to his injury). The NBC announcers were quite impressed with Heinicke’s effort and even if he doesn’t make the Vikings roster, he certainly boosted his chances of making another team’s roster after cut-down.

August 26, 2017

Hot takes are easy, if you’re Andy Benoit

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At the Daily Norseman, taking shots at “pro” sports personalities comes as second nature. Ted Glover and Eric Thompson have developed a particular joy in sharing the … gems … from Andy Benoit’s Twitter feed, and have taken it one step further:


August 22, 2017

Vikings preseason game 2 good and bad performances

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I was all set to watch last Friday’s preseason game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, only to discover that my local cable provider had, at some point since last season, changed out the NFL Network channel for something like “Memories of NFL Network” instead. Where the real NFL Network channel was showing the Seahawks and Vikings, my local “equivalent” was showing endless episodes of something like “A Football Life”. I’d tell you more, but I turned it off quite quickly.

This is why, among other reasons, I didn’t do any kind of post about the game over the weekend. To make up for that, I’ll just roundup the winners and losers in the race for the 53-man roster from game in Seattle.


August 11, 2017

Vikings beat Bills 17-10 in (predictably ugly) preseason action

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings broke training camp earlier this week and flew to Buffalo to face the Bills in the first preseason game for both teams on Thursday night. Neither team’s starters were expected to see more than perhaps a quarter of action before yielding to second and third stringers, hoping to solidify their chances at a roster spot after the mandatory cuts at the end of the preseason.

The first quarter was filled with vaguely football-like activities, with both teams’ starters knocking off some of the rust in full-contact play. Minnesota’s retooled offensive line didn’t look great: Sam Bradford was sacked twice before Case Keenum came in at quarterback. Disturbingly, each of the offensive tackles gave up a sack. The backups on the offensive line seemed to do better protecting Keenum than the starters had done for Bradford, but Keenum’s faster release (and the play-calling) probably had a lot to do with that. Other than that, it was the Dalvin Cook show, with the rookie running back seeming to be the only Viking player allowed to touch the ball while the starters were on the field. He ended up with five carries for 13 yards and four catches for 30 yards. Neither team set the scoreboard on fire, with the first half ending in a 3-3 tie. The bad news in the first half was starting cornerback Trae Waynes leaving during the first defensive series with a shoulder injury. Joining him early in the second half on the injured list was running back Bishop Sankey, who suffered a non-contact knee injury at the end of a 10-yard run.

Third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke didn’t look as strong in this game as he did in the 2015 preseason, prompting this jab:

A few other players who stood out during the course of the game were WR Stacy Coley (three receptions for 67 yards), DE Tashawn Bower (a sack, three QB pressures and a batted pass), FB C.J. Ham (a short rushing TD), and LB Eric Wilson (six tackles).

The next Vikings preseason game will be in Seattle on Friday, 18 August.

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