September 29, 2014

Vikings beat Falcons 41-28 in Teddy Bridgewater’s first start

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:12

The Minnesota Vikings have had a carousel at quarterback for the last few years: at the most important position on the field, the team has been unable to find consistency. This year has already seen three quarterbacks playing all or part of a game, but yesterday’s first career start for rookie Teddy Bridgewater gave Vikings fans a glimpse of something potentially great. On Twitter, Rick Gosselin noted that Bridgewater is only the fourth quarterback to record 300 passing yards and win his first NFL start since 1980.

Despite the margin of win, yesterday’s game was much closer than it needed to be because the Vikings defence was unable to get off the field on third down far too often, and communication breakdowns in the defensive secondary led to big plays for Atlanta. After a good series to start the game, the Vikings seemed to lose focus and Atlanta’s receivers were open too easily — fortunately for the Vikings, several passes were dropped or the score might well have been reversed.

Dan Zinski posted his immediate reaction to the game at The Viking Age:

Nothing good can come the Vikings’ way without some kind of negative note sneaking in there. The Vikings beat up the Falcons on the scoreboard 41-28 Sunday, but there were plenty of negative notes.

The biggest, ugliest negative was the injury to Teddy Bridgewater. The rookie QB was having a very strong day when he hurt his ankle on a run and was forced to leave the field on a cart.

The good news is that x-rays came back negative and Bridgewater is reported to only be suffering from a sprain. Still, the sight of Christian Ponder finishing out the game at QB did not exactly do a lot to inspire happiness in fans.

Thankfully the Vikings were well in control of the game by the time Ponder was forced to come in. Things didn’t look so rosy earlier when the Falcons were tearing up the Vikings’ defense and scoring seemingly at will.

Huge defensive breakdowns plagued the Vikings throughout the first half and third quarter. Captain Munnerlyn and Robert Blanton were primary offenders as the Falcons rolled up 28 points on Mike Zimmer’s D.

Bridgewater’s favourite target in the passing game was Jarius Wright (who had his first 100-yard receiving game), while running back Jerick McKinnon (first 100-yard rushing game) did most of the damage on the ground: the three are familiar with one another from the time they spent working together on the second team. In general, the Vikings got very good results from their reserves in this game: not that the injured starters weren’t missed, but the team showed it still has good depth.

At the Daily Norseman, Christopher Gates heaves a sigh of relief:

As fans of the Minnesota Vikings, the last two or three weeks … well, it’s been pretty rough in the land of the purple and gold. Between having to keep up with the injury list and having to, seemingly, keep one eye on the police blotter, it has been a pretty big downer.

And I don’t know about you all, but starting at about 3:30 Central time on Sunday afternoon … I forgot all about all of that. Every damn bit of it. I forgot about Adrian Peterson’s ongoing situation. I forgot all about Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco and Matt Cassel being injured. I forgot about the fact that, in their previous seven quarters of football, this team had scored all of nine points.

The reason I forgot all about those things is because, early on in Minnesota’s game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon, I had the calming realization that this team is going to be just fine.

This team put together one of the most impressive offensive performances that we’ve seen around these parts in a while, and it was put together, largely, by guys who are barely old enough to have a drink after the game. We finally got to see some repetitions for running back Jerick McKinnon, and he responded by racking up 153 total yards on 18 touches, including a 55-yard run that was incredible to watch.

September 25, 2014

Vikings place two starters on injured reserve list

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

This season is starting to feel cursed, as news came out on Wednesday that Matt Cassel and Brandon Fusco are both being placed on season-ending injured reserve. Cassel isn’t a surprise, given the initial reports on his foot injury, but Fusco also being lost for the year is a very unpleasant surprise. Fusco has been one of the pillars of strength on the offensive line, and his replacement on Sunday was beaten badly on the first two plays he was in on. And it’s not just Viking fans who think he was becoming a great offensive guard:

Christian Ponder moves up the depth chart to be the backup quarterback behind Teddy Bridgewater. Vlad Ducasse may or may not replace Fusco, but the other choices are not great either: backup center Joe Berger can do the job at least in spot duty, rookie left guard David Yankey is still learning and may not be ready yet. Austin Wentworth has been activated from the practice squad, but I’m assuming he’s just there for depth at this point.

With Kyle Rudolph undergoing surgery this week, the depth at tight end was down to Rhett Ellison and recent free agent signing MarQueis Gray, so Chase Ford was signed from the practice squad. Ford is a good player and only ended up on the PS due to needs in other areas.

As far as I can tell, the team has placed seven players on the IR list (one of whom took an injury settlement and left the team), plus Kyle Rudolph who may need to go on IR for his recovery period. And that’s on top of losing the best running back in the NFL for some undetermined period that might well be permanent. And it’s only week four of the NFL season.

September 22, 2014

Vikings lose to Saints 20-9 in injury-filled game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

I posted yesterday that I thought the leash on quarterback Matt Cassel might be getting shorter, after the horrible outing last weekend at home against the Patriots. Sunday’s game in New Orleans was starting to look like we had another instance of “Bad Matt” on our hands, but head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t have the chance to decide whether to make a quarterback change, as Cassel left the game midway through the first half with what was originally termed “turf toe”, but was later re-defined as “fractures in his foot”. Teddy Bridgewater came in to play the rest of the game — the Vikings only had Cassel and Bridgewater active, so rather than Christian Ponder, the emergency quarterback would have been next man up … and we haven’t had a definite word on who the emergency quarterback would have been. Cassel is definitely out for a prolonged period (possibly the entire season, if the MRI verdict is bad), and Bridgewater has been designated the starting quarterback for next week.

Aside from Cassel, other players who left the field due to injury included tight end Kyle Rudolph, right guard Brandon Fusco, linebacker Chad Greenway, and cornerback Josh Robinson. So if you’re keeping count, the Vikings are missing their starting QB (injury), starting RB (Adrian Peterson is on the Exempt list and away from the team indefinitely), starting RG (injury), starting TE (injury), backup WR (Jerome Simpson, who was cut this week for his continued legal issues), starting LB (injury), and backup CB (injury). That’s a full season’s worth of personnel changes in only three games.

While the game was hardly a thing of beauty, the team rallied around Bridgewater and the defence put in a much better performance in the second half and might have kept the Saints out of the endzone but for a badly timed penalty on Captain Munnerlyn which kept a scoring drive alive. When you don’t get a win, you look for positives, no matter how meaningless they might seem:

Of course, there were positives that were not meaningless, like the return of the intermediate-to-deep passing game:

Bridgewater’s debut wasn’t statistically eye-popping — 12 of 20 for 150 yards and a passer rating of 83.3, plus 27 yards rushing, but he made few mistakes and generally did everything you want your backup quarterback to do when inserted into a game part-way through. Cassel had not completed a pass longer than 15 yards in the first two games of the season (unless you count interceptions). It’s also interesting to note that Bridgewater didn’t play at Louisville until he replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie season, now he’s replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie professional season.

Despite the road loss, Ted Glover sees signs of life in the Vikings, particularly with Teddy at the helm:

When Matt Cassel was hurt early in the game, my Twitter timeline BLEW UP. Not because everyone was happy that Cassel got hurt (and seriously, if you did, you’re a terrible human being — get well soon Matt) but because it was Teddy Time, the moment we’d all been waiting for. And it was in about the most inopportune time one could ask a rookie quarterback to come in at — on the road in a very hostile environment, against a good team, down 10 points. His numbers weren’t sparkling (12/20 150 yards, 0/0…6 carries for 27 yards) but for a guy getting thrown into the fire, he looked good, and played well. He looked in command, and made some very good throws, including one to Greg Jennings on a frozen rope. It was a hell of an effort for a guy pretty much thrown to the wolves, and yeah, he missed some throws, especially a couple of easy swing passes to Jerick McKinnon that looked promising. And no, he didn’t engineer a touchdown, which was the first time since the Vikings didn’t score a TD in a game since 2010. But there was so much to like in the debut, that you can’t help but be encouraged that the Vikings maybe, finally, have stability at the quarterback position.

Update: A Final Dispatch From The Teddy Bridgewater Underground. ¡Viva la Revolución!

September 21, 2014

Getting closer to Teddy Time?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:46

Today’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints may be the point at which quarterback Matt Cassel has to defend his starting job against rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel did well in the season opener against the St. Louis Rams, but was flat out terrible last week playing the New England Patriots at the Vikings’ home for the next two years, TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. If Cassel can get back to his preseason-and-first-regular-season form, he’ll definitely keep the starting job. If he turns in another performance like last Sunday, the Teddy Bridgewater Underground may start active operations to install their preferred quarterback for next week.

A.J. Mansour explains just how Cassel fell short of expectations last week:

Could Cassel have had a solitary bad game? Sure. Could he have crumbled under the pressure of facing his former coach and old tutor? Of course. But it wasn’t just the statistics that raised a red flag when I watched the game last weekend. It was the body language, the fundamentals and the physical strength that Matt Cassel exhibited, or didn’t exhibit, that have me concerned and have me once again calling for Teddy Bridgewater to start under center.

While it was the four interceptions that stole the headlines after the game last weekend, it was what led to those four turnovers that should be a worry. Cassel, a ten-year veteran, was making rookie mistakes. You could see him throwing off his back foot, throwing across the field and throwing into double, even triple coverage situations.

All of those observations left me concerned, but the thing that left me most ready to call on the rookie was the lack of arm strength Cassel exhibited last Sunday. Really, it’s been a struggle all year for him.

To date, Cassel doesn’t have a single completed pass of more than 19 yards down the field. Despite seven attempts last week, the deep game has yet to click for Matt and his receivers, and the reason is staring us straight in the face: his arm is simply not strong enough to deliver a deep ball with enough velocity to get it past the defenders without the receiver having to pull up and slow down.

Throw into the mix the fact that the Vikings most dangerous deep threat from a year ago, Jerome Simpson, and their most dangerous backfield threat, Adrian Peterson, have either been cut or are indefinitely barred from the team and the Vikings offense has been left completely one dimensional and reliant on the short-to-intermediate passing game to score points.

In my mind, the solution is simple, and already on roster with the Vikings.

September 17, 2014

Adrian Peterson won’t play this week (or perhaps for the rest of the NFL season)

Filed under: Business, Football, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 15:44

I haven’t been posting much about the Adrian Peterson situation, partly because I was still waiting for the picture to clarify and partly because it just depressed the hell out of me to think about it. I agreed with the Vikings’ decision to deactivate Peterson for Sunday’s game against New England, even though it clearly distracted the team and disrupted the game planning: it was the right thing to do. I was shocked and dismayed when the team announced that Peterson would be returning to the team on Monday and would play this weekend in New Orleans.

I wasn’t alone in my reaction: the fans, the media, and even the team’s sponsors reacted very negatively to the announcement. The governor of Minnesota weighed in on the issue and his intervention had to be awkward, as he’d been a major supporter of the team’s campaign to get public funding for their new stadium now under construction. Some Viking players were happy to have Peterson back, but even there the support was not as widespread as it might have been … players from the south were much more vocal in their support than those from elsewhere in the nation.

As Monday wore on, a few more pebbles came loose from the PR dam, as the team learned from one sponsor after another that they were suspending or contemplating ending their promotional relationship with the team. Companies and organizations with a direct relationship to Peterson himself were even more direct: Nike, for example, ordered their retailers in Minnesota to stop selling any items branded with Peterson’s name or number.

The team’s ownership and management met late last night to hammer out a new answer to the PR disaster that had landed on them on Friday and had been made far worse by their Monday decision. Shortly before 1 a.m., the team announced that they’d made a mistake and that Peterson would not be active for the coming game. Instead, he’s being put on the NFL’s little-known exempt list, meaning that he’ll be paid his salary but will not be with the team until his legal issues are resolved. Although he’s being paid, he will not count against the team’s 53-man roster.

ESPN1500‘s Andrew Krammer has more:

Instead of Mike Zimmer and Matt Cassel commanding the podium on a typical Wednesday at Winter Park, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf issued a statement and Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and team attorney Kevin Warren took questions about getting “it right,” a mantra uttered nearly 30 times in the 17-minute press conference.

Running back Adrian Peterson has been placed on an exempt list, an order directed by the Vikings, agreed to by Peterson and made possible by NFL commissioner Roger Godell’s oversight. The Vikings’ decision comes two days after the team held a similar press conference at the same location announcing Peterson’s reinstatement.

Public outcry from fans, media, sponsors and even Governor Mark Dayton prompted the change, as Mark Wilf said: “We value our partners, sponsors and community, and especially our fans. In the end, it’s really about getting it right.”

Peterson will be paid his full salary while sorting out his legal matters, which assistant DA Phil Grant has reportedly said could take “nine to 12 months” to go to trial, though a judge can lengthen or shorten at his/her discretion.

The $12 million question for the Vikings is: Will Peterson play another game in 2014? If not, will he ever don the Vikings purple again?

“Until these legal matters are resolved, he will remain on this exemption list,” Spielman said.

September 15, 2014

Matt Cassel throws four interceptions in 30-7 loss to Patriots

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:43

It was no surprise to see the Vikings come out for Sunday’s game a bit distracted, after the bombshell of the Adrian Peterson situation. What was unexpected was for quarterback Matt Cassel to have one of his worst career games, matching his record of four interceptions in one game. When he wasn’t throwing to guys in the wrong coloured jerseys, or underthrowing passes to the guys in the purple jerseys, he was holding on to the ball far too long and inviting sacks … it was a bad game all around for Cassel. It’s probably too much to say that he lost the game single-handedly, but his performance was the key to everything else going wrong. A blocked field goal attempt made the score 24-7 instead of 17-10 at the half, and the Vikings never got closer in the second half.

Midway through the third quarter, after Cassel’s third pick of the day, the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium started to chant “Teddy”, hoping that Mike Zimmer would bench Cassel and send in Teddy Bridgewater. This inspired @Hiigashi to post this on Twitter:

The Teddy Sign

Like many Vikings fans, I’m looking forward to the debut of our new quarterback, but Zimmer is right not to send him in if he’s not ready yet. And no matter how badly Cassel played, it was still better than we saw in the dying moments of Donovan McNabb’s career (that forced Christian Ponder into the starting role before he was ready).

Offensive woes aside (and there were enough of them), the defence did not do well and the special teams performance was cover-your-eyes bad. The blocked field goal run back for a Patriots TD was the lowlight, but at one point, the Vikings only had nine players on the field for a punt return. The first task of returning special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer will be to fix the issues that hamstrung the team yesterday (Priefer’s three-game suspension was reduced to two, so he’ll be back in the team facility this week).

Update: Jim Souhan explains the two phases of Matt Cassel.

It took Matt Cassel just two games to deftly summarize his career.

In Game 1, DiploMatt, the nice-guy professional who makes everyone comfortable, eased the Vikings to a 34-6 victory over St. Louis while playing flawlessly.

In Game 2, facing a superior defensive coach and lacking a star running back, HazMatt, the toxic quarterback, threw four interceptions, dooming the Vikings in their 30-7 loss to the Patriots at TCF Bank Stadium.

DiploMatt can make the best of a good situation. DiploMatt won 11 games with an excellent Patriots team in 2008, and won 10 with a previously inept Kansas City team in 2010.

HazMatt has gone 13-27 in his other five seasons, dooming his stay with the Chiefs in 2012 by throwing 12 interceptions and fumbling eight times in nine games.

DiploMatt runs the offense with discipline.

HazMatt stares down receivers so long defensive backs have time to Xerox blocking schemes for their interception returns.

If the Vikings are using kid gloves with rookie Teddy Bridgewater, they need to wear yellow jumpsuits when they approach Cassel.

September 13, 2014

The latest NFL scandal

Filed under: Football, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

News broke yesterday that Minnesota Vikings star running back (and former NFL MVP) Adrian Peterson has been accused of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The team announced that Peterson would not play in this weekend’s home opener against the New England Patriots and that any inquiries should be directed to Peterson’s attorney rather than to the team.

Peterson has been the focus of charges before, and the team and the fans rallied around him and the charges were eventually dropped. This is different. This is not a confrontation with a rent-a-cop with delusions of authority. This is much more serious and, if true, shows Peterson in a very bad light indeed.

Jim Souhan expresses much the same feelings I have over the situation:

I hoped it wasn’t true. I hoped that if it turned out to be true, the child was uninjured.

Then I saw the alleged pictures.

I’ll use the words “alleged” and “if” a lot here, just in case Peterson is somehow being wrongly accused.

The pictures detail the wounds that Peterson allegedly inflicted on his 4-year-old son with a switch. The pictures are, allegedly, taken a week after the injuries. The pictures should turn the stomach of any human, and especially anyone who has worried over their child’s skinned knee with a Band-Aid and Neosporin.

If Peterson is guilty, this act would change everything.

I’ve always liked Peterson. I’ve never had reason not to.

For a star, Peterson is friendly and accessible. In terms of work ethic and on-field effort, he has never been anything less than admirable. His teammates like him. Vikings staffers like him.

None of that matters now. If Peterson took a piece of wood and whipped a 4-year-old until the child bled from large welts, he should never play for the Vikings again.

If the charges are true, Peterson will likely face a lengthy suspension. He is 29. By February, the Vikings were already due to begin asking themselves whether they could afford to pay an aging running back like a superstar.

If Peterson viciously beat a 4-year-old, the Vikings may have to consider cutting ties with a player who had a chance to be not only great but forever beloved.

If Peterson is guilty of child abuse, someone, somewhere in the NFL has to stop thinking about wins and losses and begin asking this question: “What kind of league do we want to be?’’

1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer and Phil Mackey have more, including quotations from the police report:

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, his attorney Rusty Hardin confirmed in a statement to 1500ESPN.com.

Per the statement, Hardin confirmed the charges involve Peterson using a “switch” (a flexible tree branch) to spank his son, adding that Peterson “has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours.”

KARE 11 TV has reported an arrest warrant is out, and Peterson plans to travel to Houston to turn himself into authorities.


Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

According to police reports, the child, however, had a slightly different story, telling authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”

Peterson, when contacted by police, admitted that he had “whooped” his son on the backside with a switch as a form of punishment, and then, in fact, produced a switch similar to the one with which he hit the child. Peterson also admitted that he administered two different “whoopings” to his son during the visit to Texas, the other being a punishment for the 4-year-old scratching the face of a 5-year-old.

Update: USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero explains the situation both for the NFL and for the Vikings.

September 11, 2014

Roger Goodell’s dilemma

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero updates the state of play in the Ray-Rice-is-a-terrible-human-being case:

The NFL has hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate the league’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case after a report Wednesday that a league executive received videotape evidence five months before it became public.

New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney will oversee the investigation, and the final report will be made public, according to league’s statement, which noted Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged the full cooperation of NFL personnel and access to all league records.

The announcement came hours after the Associated Press published a report citing an unnamed law enforcement official who said he sent a tape of Rice punching his then-fiancée to an NFL executive long before the video surfaced on TMZ.com on Monday, leading to Rice’s release from the Baltimore Ravens and his indefinite suspension by the league.

The law enforcement official — speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation — also played the AP a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

The NFL commissioner may have thought he’d put the Ray Rice issue behind him after the elevator video was released to the public, but now it’s being alleged that the league actually did get a copy of the video before Goodell suspended Rice for a token two-game stretch. Ace thinks this might have been Goodell’s reasoning for doing as he did:

Could that be Goodell’s spin? “I knew about it, but I had to protect a source”?

Although this spin won’t save Goodell, part of his thinking might have been this:

1. This punch is atrocious, a potentially lethal full-on boxer’s knockout punch.

2. However, the evidence of this is currently being withheld from the public by law.

3. Even though I know about this tape, I cannot use it as the basis for my decision, as it is in my hands illegally.

4. Further, I could not explain to the public, nor to the NFL Player’s union, the reasons for a severe punishment, because they would cry foul and cry “PC over-punishment!” unless they see this horror in real time, which I have seen, but they have not, and maybe never will.

I don’t know if that’s what they were thinking (assuming Goodell saw it, and frankly, I don’t know how he could not have seen it — This is his job; punishing a player for an infraction is not something you delegate to the branch office in Cincinnati like Lois Lerner did (wink, wink)), and I doubt this would cut much ice even it it were.

Even if Goodell didn’t think he could suspend Rice indefinitely absent the public unveiling of the tape — Two Game Suspension? When another guy just got a four game suspension for some minor substance abuse rap?

September 10, 2014

Katie Nolan – Why boycotting the NFL because of Ray Rice is not the answer

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:07

I haven’t watched the latest video of Ray Rice being an embarrassment to humankind, nor do I intend to. I think the NFL has made major errors in how they’ve handled the whole situation, and I don’t think it’s over yet, even with Rice out of football (because Rice is certainly not the only offender … he’s just the one we know the most about right now). Katie Nolan offers her insight into why the NFL still doesn’t understand how seriously they’ve fumbled this issue:

Update: USA Today‘s Christine Brennan reports on why the NFL did not act more strongly to the first video.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he never saw the elevator video of Ray Rice striking his then-fiancee until Monday morning, but when he did, he found it “sickening,” he told USA TODAY Sports in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

He also said that Rice and his representatives told him a different story about what happened in the Atlantic City elevator than what he saw on the video. While he would not reveal those details, he called them “ambiguous.”

“There was no ambiguity when you saw that tape (Monday),” he said. “It was sickening. It was appalling. It was clear that it was not consistent with what they presented to us in the hearing and we needed to take the right step which is to indefinitely suspend him.”

Goodell said he and his staff saw the first video in February, the one in which Rice is seen dragging Janay Palmer’s listless body out of the elevator. They “suspected” there was another, and tried to obtain it.

“We asked for it on multiple occasions,” Goodell said. “We asked law enforcement and they were not willing to provide it. I think they were under some legal requirements not to provide it, as I understand it.”

A spokesman for the New Jersey state attorney general addressed on Tuesday the issue of why the video was not released to the NFL.

“It’s grand jury material. It would have been improper — in fact, illegal — for the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to provide it to an outside/private/non law-enforcement entity,” Paul Loriquet said, according to ABC News.

September 8, 2014

Vikings open season with big win over St. Louis

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:10

Flying into St. Louis, the Minnesota Vikings were three point underdogs — and that was after the Rams’ starting quarterback was lost for the season to an ACL tear in the preseason. With all the coaching changes, a weak draft, and the loss of key players like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Chris Cook, all the mainstream media have been predicting that the Vikings will end up with a worse record than the 5-10-1 of 2013. The defence that leaked touchdowns last year was predicted to be even worse this time around. The middle-of-the-pack offence (even with former league MVP Adrian Peterson) was going to be worse than last year as well, because … well, because.

Perhaps the Rams were taken in by the media reports, because they certainly didn’t seem to take the Vikings seriously. The Vikings long-standing woes on the road probably played into the Rams’ attitude: the Vikings have a terrible road record even in otherwise average years (they’d lost nine straight road games coming into Sunday’s game). Unfortunately for me, the game was not broadcast in the Toronto area, so I watched the Bills beat the Bears while obsessively checking my Twitter feed for game updates from St. Louis.

Daniel House sums up the game at Vikings Corner:

The Minnesota Vikings opened the season with a convincing 34-6 win on the road against the St. Louis Rams. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ran for 102 yards on three carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run off of a pitch out of the backfield. The Vikings defense shut down the Rams offensive attack, helping Mike Zimmer pick up his first win as an NFL head coach. The Rams were able to handle running back Adrian Peterson, allowing him to rush for just 75 yards on 21 carries. They couldn’t handle Cordarrelle Patterson out of the backfield and it proved deadly on multiple occasions in today’s game. The Vikings defense surrendered just 72 rushing yards and prevented the St. Louis offense from reaching the end zone. Safety Harrison Smith added a 83-yard interception return touchdown later in the 4th quarter, capping the Vikings 34-6 win. Most importantly, the team won their first game on the road since the end of the 2012 season.


Matt Cassel didn’t play at an elite level by any stretch of the imagination, but he managed the game and didn’t make any critical mistakes. That is all he needs to do for this team to be successful and today was the perfect example. There were several communication issues between the coaches and Cassel early in the game, but these problems were slowly resolved as the game progressed. Cassel finished the day 17-for-25 with 170 yards passing and two touchdowns. He connected with Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph for scores and continually spread the ball around the entire game. Cassel connected with seven different receivers and most importantly, didn’t make mistakes that have plagued this team in the past. If Matt Cassel can manage the game, make the throws when necessary, and continue to play mistake free, the Vikings can be a formidable offense in this league.

At Vikings Journal, Arif Hasan points out the good and not-so-good on the Vikings defence:

Linval Joseph ended the day with five tackles, ranked third on the team, and all of them were “good” tackles that resulted in an offensive loss. To that, he added a sack and a literal tackle for loss and more than one quarterback pressure (and a hit). His first live action after a shooting injury that saw a bullet hit his calf, Joseph dominated the Rams offensive line, who felt appropriate to sub out Rodger Saffold after his terrible day to put in Greg Robinson.

It was Greg Robinson who gave up the pressure late that led to the final interception.

On the other side was Sharrif Floyd, who wasn’t as good as Joseph, but still a powerful defensive tackle that influenced much of the game through hurries and a tackle for loss in the run game. For someone who had struggled so much as a rookie the year before, Floyd is on track to change things, and he may have put together the best game of his career so far.


The biggest worry was at safety, with most of the tight end receptions given up (with an exception of one to Lance Kendricks) a result of safety play, almost entirely because of Blanton. There were times that Blanton showed well — he bracketed Jared Cook on the corner route that Josh Robinson jumped for the interception, and he also broke down his tackle against Tavon Austin excellently — but he also gave up several easy yards to tight ends despite the bodybags the Rams were trotting out at quarterback.

Harrison Smith, on the other hand, has been as advertised. He was all over the field, recording a pass deflection, a sack, a hit, a hurry, a tackle for loss, a standard tackle and the game-ending interception that he ran in for a score. Smith couldn’t be stopped and was lights out throughout the game, and did all of this without being targeted very often at all.

The fact that the Vikings have multiple defensive players — one at every level of the defense — worthy of the game ball (Joseph, Barr and Smith) as well as an offensive player that stole the show (Patterson) feels nearly unprecedented in recent Vikings history. With all of the work that Barr did off camera and away from the Ball I would award it to him, but it could just as easily have been awarded to any of the other four.

September 1, 2014

Vikings sign players to practice squad

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

Yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings added nine players they’d released from the team to the practice squad. The practice squad are ten players who draw a weekly salary during the regular season, but who are not eligible to play in games without being formally added to the 53-man roster. They are still considered free agents — they can be signed to the roster of any NFL team (although I believe there is a right for the current team to promote a player to their own roster rather than allowing another team to sign that player). These players were listed in the formal announcement:

  • RB Joe Banyard
  • WR Kain Colter
  • DT Isame Faciane
  • TE Chase Ford
  • WR Donte Foster
  • CB Kendall James
  • C Zac Kerin
  • T Mike Remmers
  • DE Justin Trattou

In addition to the practice squad signings, the Vikings made waiver claims on Cleveland Browns tight end (and former Gophers QB) MarQueis Gray and San Diego Chargers tackle Mike Harris. To make room on the 53-man roster, the Vikings released linebacker Larry Dean and tackle Austin Wentworth. As an undrafted free agent, Wentworth is eligible to be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers (which would fill the last spot on the squad).

Tenure on the practice squad is by no means secure: teams sign and release players from PS frequently through the season.

August 31, 2014

Vikings cut down to 53 players

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

All NFL teams had to report their final rosters to the league office by Saturday afternoon. The Vikings were among the last teams to confirm their roster and list the players who were released. With so many players back on the market, the bottom few spots on each team’s “final” roster are subject to change. For example, it seems likely that the Vikings will look to pick up another tight end to back up Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison, and there were a couple of marginal players who made the squad, but who are still at risk of being released to make room for players at other positions of need.

This is the Vikings roster as of yesterday evening:

Position Starter(s) Backup(s) Released Notes
OL LT-Matt Kalil 75
LG-Charlie Johnson 74
C-John Sullivan 65
RG-Brandon Fusco 63
RT-Phil Loadholt 71
LG-David Yankey 66 (R)
C-Joe Berger 61
RG-Vladimir Ducasse 62 (FA)
RT-Austin Wentworth 79 (UDFA)
RT-Mike Remmers (FA)
RG-Jeff Baca
C-Zac Kerin (UDFA)
C-Josh Samuda (FA) and LT-Antonio Richardson (UDFA) placed on injured reserve.
QB Matt Cassel 16 Teddy Bridgewater 5 (R)
Christian Ponder 7
TE Kyle Rudolph 82 Rhett Ellison 85 Alan Reisner (FA)
Chase Ford
RB Adrian Peterson 28 Matt Asiata 44
Jerick McKinnon 31 (R)
Joe Banyard
Dominique Williams (UDFA)
FB Jerome Felton 42 Zach Line 48    
WR Greg Jennings 15
Cordarrelle Patterson 84
(Jerome Simpson 81)
Jarius Wright 17
Adam Thielen 19
Rodney Smith 83
Kain Colter (UDFA)
Donte Foster (UDFA)
Jerome Simpson will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
DL DE-Everson Griffen 97
NT-Linval Joseph 98 (FA)
UT-Sharif Floyd 73
DE-Brian Robison 96
DE-Scott Chrichton 95 (R)
DE-Corey Wooton 99 (FA)
UT-Shamar Stephen 93 (R)
UT-Tom Johnson 92 (FA)
NT-Fred Evans
UT-Isame Faciane (UDFA)
DE-Justin Trattou
NT-Chase Baker
Linval Joseph slightly injured in shooting after 1st preseason game, expected back by early September.
LB WLB-Chad Greenway 52
MLB-Jasper Brinkley 54 (FA)
SLB-Anthony Barr 55 (R)
WLB-Brandon Watts 58 (R)
MLB-Audie Cole 57
SLB-Gerald Hodges 50
WLB-Michael Mauti 56
WLB-Larry Dean 51
MLB-Mike Zimmer (UDFA)
SLB Justin Jackson (UDFA)
SLB-Dom Decicco (UDFA) placed on IR.
CB Xavier Rhodes 29
Captain Munnerlyn 24 (FA)
Marcus Sherels 35
Jabari Price 39 (R)
Shaun Prater 27
Josh Robinson 21
Julian Posey (FA)
Kendall James (R)
S FS-Harrison Smith 22
SS-Robert Blanton 36
FS-Andrew Sendejo
SS-Anton Exum 32 (R)
SS-Kurt Coleman (FA)
Chris Crocker (FA)
SS-Mistral Raymond put on IR 26 August. SS-Jamarca Sanford put on short-term IR 30 August.
P Jeff Locke 18 N/A   Locke is also the holder for field goal attempts.
K Blair Walsh 3 N/A    
LS Cullen Loeffler 46 Audie Cole 57*, Michael Mauti 56*    
PR Marcus Sherels 35* Adam Thielen 19*, Jarius Wright 17*    
KR Cordarrelle Patterson 84* Marcus Sherels 35*, Adam Thielen 19*, Captain Munnerlyn 24* (FA)    

* Already listed on roster at main position.

Colour coding: Free agent signing, Drafted in 2014, Undrafted free agent in 2014, Waived, cut, or left team.

Practice squads can be assembled 24 hours after the final cuts are made (to allow waiver wire pickups and roster adjustments). Practice squads increase from 8 to 10 this year, and the two extra players do not have to meet the same strict criteria as the other 8. The Daily Norseman summarizes the practice squad eligibility rules here.

Generally speaking, any UDFA players are eligible for the practice squad. Likely signings include center Zac Kerin, cornerbacks Kendall James and Julian Posey, defensive tackles Isame Faciane and Chase Baker, running backs Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams, and wide receiver Kain Colter.

Arif Hasan analyzes the cuts here. The Vikings have done well with depth in the last three drafts:

August 29, 2014

Vikings defeat Titans 19-3 to finish preseason undefeated

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

Queue the “Detroit Lions 2008″ jokes (the Lions went undefeated in the preseason, then lost 16 games in a row to become the first NFL team to lose every game since the schedule expanded to 16). Last night, the Vikings visited Nashville to play the least meaningful of the four preseason games: almost all the starters sit this one out, so the teams are composed of second-, third-, and fourth-string players desperate to make a positive impression on the coaches before the final cut to 53 players is due on Saturday.

At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski reports on the injuries highlights:

Teddy Bridgewater got in some work in the first half and threw another touchdown, hitting Adam Thielen with a nice touch pass in the corner of the end zone. Bridgewater finishes the preseason with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

The defensive stars tonight, if there were any true defensive stars, were Shaun Prater and Corey Wootton, the latter of whom collected a strip sack against Tennessee’s Zach Mettenberger.

In extended action, Christian Ponder did very little of consequence. If his appearance represented a trade showcase, it wasn’t much of a showcase.


The negatives were all injury-related. Adam Thielen left with a bad hip, Zach Line was felled by an ankle injury and Antone Exum seemed to jar his shoulder when making a big hit. We await status reports on all three men.

It was also announced that Justin Trattou injured his shoulder during the game. Exum could have returned to the game.

The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson also reported:

In honor of our very own Ted Glover, I’ll address his favorite Twitter question first: #HowDidTeddyLook? Teddy Bridgewater got the start on Thursday and led the Vikings to the game’s only touchdown on the first drive of the game. The Vikings traveled 80 yards in 12 plays thanks to a healthy dose of runs from Jerick McKinnon and Joe Banyard. The drive culminated with a gorgeous corner fade route pass from Bridgewater to Adam Thielen. Unfortunately Thielen went out later in the game with an apparent hip injury; let’s hope it isn’t anything major because Thielen has truly been a breakout player this preseason.


Holding your opponents to one meaningless fourth quarter field goal usually means your defense had a good day. The D looked good in a lot of areas, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered as the team takes on the St. Louis Rams next week.

For instance, who the heck is going to be playing linebacker? With a lot of injuries to the LB corps the Vikings fielded some weird personnel packages. At one time there were three middle linebackers on the field at once: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, and Mike Zimmer. After tonight’s up-and-down, mix-and-match performance from that unit, not many people outside of the Vikings coaching staff have much of a clue what the team is going to do with that part of the depth chart after Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway.

Deadspin – “Why Your Team Sucks 2014: Minnesota Vikings”

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

Deadspin‘s Drew Magary doesn’t have to troll very far at all to find unpleasant things to say about last year’s team. Three games into last season, I was making noises about how “creatively” the Vikings managed to lose their games, and they were looking as if they didn’t want to be in any of the games they played by midseason. A shift from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel meant that at least the team looked semi-respectable for the second half, but the end result was a 5-10-1 record and a high draft pick this year.

The standard narrative on Norv Turner is that he’s a shitty head coach and a great coordinator. Well, it turns out that’s a lie, and that Norv sucks at EVERYTHING! Be still my heart! Norv is still riding the coattails of the 1990s Cowboys, who could have flourished with Andy Dick calling the plays. It’s 2014. The offensive strategy of “run the ball 45 times and have Michael Irvin push off everyone” is now somewhat dated.

Your quarterback: Matt Cassel, who was clearly the best quarterback over Christian Ponder and Freeman last season, which is like being the tastiest option on a Guy Fieri menu. In the past three years, Cassel has thrown 27 TDs and 30 INTs. Oh yay. To make an inevitable 4-12 season look like the foundation of something better (it never is), the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round. Bridgewater has already openly worried that he’s overthinking every fucking play. You know who else worried about that? The last asshole QB we drafted in the first round. Great. Fucking great. Beautiful. Why can’t we draft an IDIOT? Is it really that hard? Johnny Manziel was there for the taking and he can’t even read unless you write stuff out in lines of coke. I want THAT guy. I want all balls and no brain, thank you.


What has always sucked: This is the shitty team and criminal organization that Vikings fans like me deserve. These people never get excited about anything except when they have a chance to whisper “I hear it’s very Jewish” under their breath to other people. They can’t get enough of that. Minnesotans are as fickle as Sun Belt-area fans, without the justifiable excuse of having better things to do. They hate everything and everyone, and if you aren’t from Minnesota they’ll treat you as if you aren’t even there. You may as well be a fucking ghost. It’s like you speak a whole other language if you didn’t grow up six blocks from the Hansenjohnsons in White Bear Lake. The most exciting thing about Minnesota is when people get shot there in various iterations of Fargo.

We are a fake people. That includes me, too. Imagine a state populated entirely by real estate agents. That’s Minnesota. If I see a Packers fan in a bar, I’m courteous and jokey, and then I run to my computer five minutes later to be like I JUST SAW THE BIGGEST DIPSHIT AT THE BAR. That’s me. Fake as shit. Minnesota did this to me. And now you know.

August 26, 2014

Vikings announce first round of roster cuts

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:57

All NFL teams begin their training camps with up to 90 players, but begin the regular season with only 53 players on the roster (and up to 10 players on their practice squads). Yesterday, the Vikings announced 14 of the required 15 cuts, including a couple of surprising moves. Inline update: today, the team announced they’d released tight end Mike Higgins, leaving 75 players on the roster. The final cut-down is due by Saturday afternoon.

Safety Mistral Raymond and cornerback Derek Cox had both been starters in earlier seasons, but Raymond had struggled to stay healthy, while Cox was unable to regain his earlier high standard of play. Raymond was waived with an injury settlement, but Cox was just released. Here is the current roster (pending one final move), with rough first, second, and third team designations (this isn’t official, but it’s based on the unofficial roster from the team).

Colour coding: Free agent signing, Drafted in 2014, Undrafted free agent in 2014, Waived, cut, or left team.

Position Starter(s) Backup(s) Third/Fourth string: On the bubble Notes
OL LT-Matt Kalil 75
LG-Charlie Johnson 74
C-John Sullivan 65
RG-Brandon Fusco 63
RT-Phil Loadholt 71
LT-Antonio Richardson 78 (UDFA)
LG-David Yankey 66 (R)
C-Joe Berger 61
RG-Vladimir Ducasse 62 (FA)
RT-Mike Remmers 67 (FA)
RT-Austin Wentworth 79 (UDFA)
RG-Jeff Baca 60
C-Zac Kerin 59 (UDFA)
C-Josh Samuda (FA) was waived due to injury in an organized team activity and then placed on injured reserve.
RT-Matt Hall (UDFA), waived 25 July.
LT-Kevin Murphy, LG-Pierce Burton (UDFA) cut 25 August.
QB Matt Cassel 16 Teddy Bridgewater 5 (R) Christian Ponder 7  
TE Kyle Rudolph 82 Rhett Ellison 85, Alan Reisner 87 (FA), Chase Ford 86   Chase Ford activated off PUP, 25 August.
A.C. Leonard (UDFA) waived 6 August.
Kory Sperry (FA) cut 25 August.
Mike Higgins (FA) cut 26 August.
RB Adrian Peterson 28 Matt Asiata 44
Jerick McKinnon 31 (R)
Joe Banyard 23, Dominique Williams 43 (UDFA)  
FB Jerome Felton 42   Zach Line 48 Line and even Felton may be on the bubble, as Norv Turner’s offence usually doesn’t have much role for traditional fullbacks.
WR Greg Jennings 15
Cordarrelle Patterson 84
Jerome Simpson 81
Jarius Wright 17
Adam Thielen 19
Rodney Smith 83
Kain Colter 13 (UDFA), Donte Foster 2 (UDFA), Jerome Simpson may be facing a multi-game suspension from the league.
Lestar Jean (FA) waived (injured) 12 June. Waived from IR, 5 August.
Kamar Jorden (FA), Eric Lora (UDFA), Ty Walker (FA), Andy Cruse (FA) cut 25 August.
DL DE-Everson Griffen 97
NT-Linval Joseph 98 (FA)
UT-Sharif Floyd 73
DE-Brian Robison 96
DE-Scott Chrichton 95 (R)
NT-Fred Evans 90
UT-Isame Faciane 76 (UDFA)
DE-Corey Wooton 99 (FA)UT-Shamar Stephen 93 (R)
UT-Tom Johnson 92 (FA), DE-Justin Trattou 94,
NT-Chase Baker 91
DE-Spencer Nealy waived 23 July.
DE-Rakim Cox (UDFA) waived 4 August.
Linval Joseph slightly injured in shooting after 1st preseason game, expected back by early September.
UT-Kheeston Randall (FA), DE-Jake Snyder (UDFA), DE-Tyler Scott (UDFA) cut 25 August.
LB WLB-Chad Greenway 52
MLB-Jasper Brinkley 54 (FA)
SLB-Anthony Barr 55 (R)
WLB-Brandon Watts 58 (R)
MLB-Audie Cole 57
SLB-Gerald Hodges 50
WLB-Michael Mauti 56, WLB-Larry Dean 51,
MLB-Mike Zimmer 59 (UDFA)
SLB-Dom Decicco (UDFA) placed on IR and SLB Justin Jackson claimed off waivers from Detroit.
CB Xavier Rhodes 29
Captain Munnerlyn 24 (FA)
Marcus Sherels 35
Jabari Price 39 (R)

Shaun Prater 27

Josh Robinson 21, Kendall James 40 (R), Julian Posey 38 (FA) Kip Edwards waived 2 June.
Derek Cox (FA), Robert Steeples cut 25 August.
S FS-Harrison Smith 22
SS-Robert Blanton 36
SS-Kurt Coleman 20 (FA)
SS-Jamarca Sanford 33
FS-Andrew Sendejo, Chris Crocker 25 (FA), SS-Anton Exum 32 (R) Chris Crocker signed 4 August. SS-Mistral Raymond waived/injured 25 August. FS-Brandan Bishop (FA) cut 25 August.
P Jeff Locke 18 N/A    
K Blair Walsh 3 N/A    
PR Marcus Sherels 35* Adam Thielen 19*, Jarius Wright 17*, Kain Colter 13* (UDFA)    
KR Cordarrelle Patterson 84* Marcus Sherels 35*, Adam Thielen 19*, Captain Munnerlyn 24* (FA)    
LS Cullen Loeffler 46 Audie Cole 57*, Michael Mauti 56*    
Practice Squad        

Cut-down dates are 26 August (to 75) and 30 August (to 53). Practice squads can be assembled 24 hours after the final cuts are made (to allow waiver wire pickups and roster adjustments). Practice squad increases from 8 to 10 this year.

* Already listed on the roster at main position.

Coach Mike Zimmer also confirmed that Matt Cassel had won the quarterback competition and would be the starter in the regular season. This was pretty clearly the way the coaching staff expected it to be, as Cassel had taken almost all the first-team snaps through training camp and had started each of the first three preseason games. Teddy Bridgewater did well, but not well enough to unseat the veteran.

The Bridgewater Underground reacts to the setback:

It was a fitful sleep, the kind where you fall asleep and then awaken; 20 minutes here, 45 minutes there. There was a feeling of uneasiness across the land, and plans were in motion should the Thing We Feared Most come to pass. At times like this, when a man is alone with his thoughts, it’s tough to not play events in your mind again, over and over. Am I doing the right thing? How will history remember us? Can I make it until morning before I have to get out of bed to pee?

Just as I was falling back to sleep, the phone rang. A phone call this late at night/early in the morning was rarely good news, and as the phone reached five…six…now seven rings, I knew that there was nothing left to do but answer it.

“Please, let this not be what I think”, I thought to myself as the word hello passed my lips.

For a moment, just enough time to make me think that this was a wrong number, or even a butt dial, there was silence on the other end. But then, just as hope began to rise in me, it was dashed. Dashed like a Brett Favre pass over the middle in the NFC Championship game.

“The long sobs of Spergeon Wynn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.”

Click. I didn’t even get a chance to acknowledge.

No. It’s happened. They did it, didn’t they?

I waited for a second to let the phrase that would key the revolution sink in.

The long sobs of Spergeon Wynn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.

No. Please, no.

It happened. Matt Cassel is the starter, and Teddy Bridgewater will ride the pine. The great thing about the Teddy Bridgewater Underground is that no underground cell can be traced back to another. My phone, as were all of the phones in The Underground, was encrypted to the point that even the NSA would have problems locating and tracing it. As long as calls were kept under a minute, and code words were used, messages could be passed freely, almost defiantly, to the rest of The Underground.

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