1 With Peterson down, Gerhart provides some insurance
There's no question Adrian Peterson's ACL tear is devastating news, for the Vikings the kind of development that could dramatically alter the direction of the franchise. But at the very least, backup running back Toby Gerhart deserves credit for his continued patience and toughness. Saturday's 11-carry, 109-yard game was the latest encouraging effort from the second-year back, who has rushed for 364 yards on 77 attempts since Peterson first went down because of an ankle injury in Week 11. Gerhart struggled in his first start in Atlanta (17 carries, 44 yards) but has ran with power and authority since, averaging 5.7 yards per carry over the past four games. He has 464 yards in 94 attempts, good for a 4.9-yard average this season. "Particularly after that first start, you could really see the momentum really began to come for him," coach Leslie Frazier said. "And he's just continued that." That doesn't eliminate the blow of losing Peterson. But at least Gerhart is showing he can have an impact.
2 How low can the Vikings go?
Remember all that hypothetical chatter last week revolving around the possibility of Andrew Luck coming to the Twin Cities? Well, Saturday's victory killed the Vikings' chances of landing the No. 1 pick for April's draft. And that leads to a new conversation. With one week left in the season, what is the range for where the Vikings can fall on the draft board? The best-case scenario: with a home loss next week to Chicago, a victory by St. Louis over the 49ers and a little bit of additional help, the Vikings can still draft No. 2 overall. Their worst-case scenario: a victory over the Bears accompanied by losses by Cleveland, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay could drop the Vikings as low as No. 6. The Browns, Jaguars and Buccaneers are all 4-11 and currently have weaker schedule strengths than the Vikings. Strength of schedule is the first tiebreaker used to determine draft order. Head-to-head results are not taken into account.
3Frazier relived "The Streak" has ended
When Rex Grossman's poorly thrown pass sailed way over the head of Santana Moss midway through the fourth quarter Saturday, Frazier prayed rookie safety Mistral Raymond would haul it in. Raymond did, recording the Vikings' first interception since Oct. 9. That allowed Frazier to breathe an enormous sigh of relief, finally free from the persistent badgering from local reporters about when the Vikings' next pick would come. "It felt so good," Frazier said after Saturday's victory. "I told the coaches on the headset, 'Hey, thank you. I don't have to deal with the interception questions going forward.'" For the record, between Jamarca Sanford's fourth-quarter interception in Week 5 against Arizona and Raymond's pick Saturday, the Vikings played 593 minutes and 37 seconds of football. Opponents attempted 296 passes in that span, completing 209 for 2,640 yards and 27 touchdowns. Now the drought is finally over.
4Webb continues to impress with his presence
Who knows how long backup quarterback Joe Webb would be able to sustain his recent success if he were the Vikings' regular starter and opponents had an opportunity to game plan for him? Perhaps Webb's improvisational skills would be countered and his accuracy issues would limit the Vikings' offense. Still, what's been apparent in Webb's recent efforts against Detroit and Washington is that he has a way of enlivening everyone around him when he gets on the field.
Said Gerhart: "Joe is always fired up, always yelling 'Let's go.' He has a confidence and excitement that's contagious. Everybody catches it."
Added Frazier: "If you're ever around Joe, his personality is so outgoing and infectious. He's always smiling. He's always in a good mood. And guys like being around him. They expect something to happen with Joe."
5What's left for Jared Allen this season?
Allen got to Grossman once Saturday, raising his season sack total to 18 1/2. That's already a career high. Now Allen has three other sack marks to chase in the Vikings' finale against Chicago. First and foremost, he currently holds a 18 1/2-18 lead over both Philadelphia's Jason Babin and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware in the chase for the 2011 sack title. Allen last led the league in sacks in 2007 when he had 15 1/2 during his final season in Kansas City.
As far as records go, Allen needs 2 1/2 sacks to tie Chris Doleman's team mark and four sacks to match Michael Strahan's NFL record. For what it's worth, Allen has five career games with at least three sacks.