Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
The situation: Up 19-15 with 1:27 left against the Ravens, the Vikings attempted to kick away from Jacoby Jones with a short kick (also known as a mortar kick).
The reason: The Vikings wanted to avoid a similar situation last week when they kicked to Devin Hester, who was contained all game but returned a kick to midfield with 20 seconds left in a tie game.
The kickoff cover unit did a good job bottling Jones all game, but Frazier and special teams coach Mike Priefer didn’t want to risk it again.
“So rather than have another very good returner, Jacoby Jones, a guy who's scored several touchdowns on returns, return the ball for a touchdown, we wanted to make sure we put it in someone else's hands, let someone else catch the ball, let's go down and cover it, similar to what we did with Hester,” Frazier said.
The result: Jones fielded the mortar kick and returned it 77 yards to give the Ravens a 22-19 lead with 1:16 left.
How it happened:
Jones (circled in yellow) and the Ravens' kickoff return unit (emphasis on the four circled in red) expect a mortar kick the entire time before Blair Walsh even kicks it and begin moving into place. The Vikings attempted the same kick to start overtime to Hester.
Jones begins the play from the end zone but by the time Walsh kicks the ball, he's already at the eight-yard line and still running.
Jones slows down to field the ball at the 23-yard line and his blockers are in place. The Vikings (in blue) only have five guys on that side compared to the six Ravens blockers (in red), and you can see the start of the seam Jones runs through between his blockers.
That small seam turns into a runway for Jones and his lead blocker, fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The Vikings can't break out of their blocks, and Juszczyk helps contain the right side so Jones can break off down the sideline.
Which leaves it all up to the kicker, a returner's dream knowing it's usually the last man to beat. Walsh's poor attempt to push Jones out of bounds becomes the last line of defense for the Vikings. Jones maintains his balance and stays inbounds (running on his own sideline, we should add, so there isn't an opposing coach in his way). Cornerback Shaun Prater tries to catch Jones from behind, but he's at least five yards behind Jones the entire way.
Reaction: “And lo and behold, Jacoby comes up, catches it, and scores,” Frazier said. “So, tough one. We were trying to keep the ball away from him, let someone else have a chance to field it and take some time off the clock. That didn't happen."
It's easy to see it was a bad decision after Jones blows past the kick cover unit. The decision to try and kick away from Jones was a smart idea, but the Ravens had film from the previous week of the same kick and seemed well prepared for the situation.
The Vikings jumped back into the top five with their loss to the Ravens, but their odds at the top overall keep continue to decrease.
They have a 3.1 percent chance of landing the top overall selection, down from 4.3 last week, according to Football Outsiders.
The Texans have by far the best odds to grab the top pick at 66.5 percent. They've lost 11 straight. The Redskins are second with 14.9 percent, which the pick will be sent to the Rams. The Falcons are third with a 10.8 percent chance at the top pick at the moment.
The Vikings have the fifth best chance at a top three pick at the moment at 34.3 percent. With Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota returning to school, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the only quarterback taken within the top five picks. Out of the three teams ahead of the Vikings at the moment, the Texans have a huge need at quarterback.
ESPN's Scouts Inc. has Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles ranked 14th and the second best quarterback prospect, followed by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel at 20th.
Only five months till the NFL Draft...
Every Tuesday morning, we take a look at where the Vikings would pick in the 2014 NFL Draft if the season ended today.
Note: The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule where the team with the worst strength of schedule percentage wins the tiebreaker and gets a better pick. Strength of schedule is based off the win percentage of a team’s opponents, so there’s two ways to calculate it during the season. One would be to factor in a team’s entire 16-game schedule, or the other method would be to tally the records of games already played (the method used in this blog). At the end of the year, both methods will result in the same SOS percentage.
The Vikings suffered a brutal 29-26 loss to the Ravens on Sunday, but their draft selection did improve over the weekend.
With wins from the Jaguars and Bucs, the Vikings jumped two spots and back into the top five with three games remaining. Here’s how the draft order looks right now (records and strength of schedule, if necessary, in parentheses):
1. Texans (2-11)
2. Rams [via Redskins] (3-10) (.544)
3. Falcons (3-10) (.559)
4. Vikings (3-9-1)
5. Raiders (4-9) (.473)
(Raiders hold strength of schedule tiebreaker over the Jaguars, Bucs, Browns and Bills, who are all 4-9, at the moment)
There’s more separation now within the top five with the Texans remarkably losing 11 straight. After that, there’s two 3-10 teams, which could’ve been the Vikings’ record if they lost to the Packers in Week 12. So here’s our weekly hypothetical look at where the team would pick if they didn’t tie:
1. Texans (2-11)
2. Vikings (3-10) (.508)
3. Rams [via Redskins] (3-10) (.544)
4. Falcons (3-10) (.559)
5. Raiders (4-9)
The Vikings would have the second pick in the draft at the moment in this situation. The Raiders are the only team in the top five with a worse strength of schedule percentage, but it won’t matter for the Vikings unless another bottom feeding team gets a rare tie in the final three games.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier didn't have an update on the status of running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered a sprained right foot in Sunday's 29-26 loss to the Ravens.
Peterson will see a foot specialist on Monday as further evaluation along with more X-rays and a CT scan.
"Well, it’s a little painful," Peterson said. "Obviously it kept me out of the game. The MRI came back great so that’s good. Just got to get a CT scan to make sure the bone is OK."
Peterson said a Lisfranc injury has been ruled out. The foot was still sore in the locker room, but Peterson said it didn't swell up too much.
"Initially you don’t know exactly what’s going on when you’re feeling it," Peterson said. "That initial contact definitely didn’t feel good. I was kind of worried. But kind of cleared up a little bit after getting the MRI. I’ll see how things play out after the CT scan."
Peterson wants to play, but Frazier said the team’s record, 3-9-1, will factor into whether the running back returns this season.
“Depending on what we find out, it’ll factor in,” Frazier said. “We’ll find out more this afternoon and make a decision from there, but you can’t ignore that fact.”
Tight end Kyle Rudolph was placed on injured reserve, Frazer announced. He suffered a broken foot on Nov. 3 against the Cowboys and was expected to return in 4-6 weeks. The team hoped Rudolph would practice this week, but he wasn’t ready to make that step.
Quarterback Christian Ponder was cleared to practice on Monday after suffering a concussion last week against the Bears. Frazier didn’t announce a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
Running back Toby Gehart strained his hamstring at the end of Sunday’s loss, Frazier said, and will be day-to-day.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle), guard Brandon Fusco (knee) and tight end John Carlson (concussion) are all day-to-day. Rhodes was still walking around in crutches in the locker room, but he was not wearing a boot.
Wide receiver Greg Childs was placed on the physically unable to perform list.
The morning after a 29-26 loss to the Ravens, we take a look at the Vikings’ snap distribution on offense and defense.
Offense: 66 snaps
QB Matt Cassel – 66 snaps (played 100% on offense)
QB Josh Freeman – DNP
Despite the snow and freezing rain, the Vikings threw more (38 attempts) than they ran the ball (25). Cassel started with Christian Ponder inactive (concussion) and went 17 of 38 for 265 yards and two touchdowns with an 86 quarterback rating.
RB Toby Gerhart – 44 (67%)
FB Jerome Felton – 18 (27%)
RB Adrian Peterson – 16 (24%)
Peterson left the game in the second quarter due to a sprained right foot. Gerhart took over as the lead running back and broke off a 41-yard touchdown right up the middle with 1:27 left. Gerhart did lose the ball once that resulted in the only touchdown in the first half. He knee appeared down before the ball was loose, but the officials upheld the original call after review.
Gerhart finished with 15 carries for 89 yards. Peterson had seven carries for 13 yards before the injury.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
WR Greg Jennings – 56 (85%)
WR Cordarrelle Patterson – 50 (76%)
WR Jerome Simpson – 40 (71%)
TE John Carlson – 39 (59%)
TE Rhett Ellison – 32 (48%)
WR Joe Webb – 10 (15%)
WR Jarius Wright – 7 (11%)
TE Chase Ford – 6 (9%)
Patterson reached 50 snaps in a game for the first time this season. He scored on a 79-yard screen pass on third down with 45 seconds left that was the longest play of the game.
Jennings led the unit with 10 targets, but he finished with five catches for 53 yards. Simpson caught his first touchdown pass during his two seasons with the Vikings for eight yards with 14:22 left in the game. He finished with four catches for 48 yards.
Tight end John Carlson was evaluated for a concussion after taking a big hit in the third quarter.
G Charlie Johnson – 86 (100%)
C John Sullivan – 86 (100%)
T Matt Kalil – 86 (100%)
T Phil Loadholt – 64 (97%)
C Joe Berger – 61 (92%)
G Brandon Fusco – 5 (8%)
Fusco left the game due to a knee injury in the first quarter and played just five snaps. Berger filled in at right guard for the rest of the game and was called for a personal foul penalty on an 18-yard run by Patterson that had the Vikings at the 2-yard line. They settled for a field goal on the drive.
The unit didn’t give up a sack after allowing 11 in the last two games. Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil did not play due to an ankle injury.
The offensive line also had some nice blocks on Patterson’s 79-yard screen pass for a touchdown. The Vikings averaged 4.6 yards per carry and finished with 114 yards.
QB Christian Ponder, G Jeff Baca, T Mike Remmers, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR Rodney Smith
Defense: 85 snaps
DE Jared Allen – 78 (92%)
DE Brian Robison – 64 (75%)
DE Everson Griffen – 59 (69%)
DT Kevin Williams – 53 (62%)
DT Sharrif Floyd – 34 (40%)
NT Letroy Guion – 34 (40%)
NT Fred Evans – 28 (33%)
Allen and Robison each recorded a sack in the first half, bringing both of their season totals up to seven each (tied for team-high). The front line had five quarterback hits, including two from Floyd, who had a solid game in 34 snaps.
Ravens running back Ray Rice was bottled up as he’s been for most of the season. He had 17 carries for 67 yards. Surprisingly, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had team’s longest run for 22 yards.
LB Audie Cole – 85 (100%)
LB Chad Greenway – 85 (100%)
LB Erin Henderson – 7 (5%)
LB Marvin Mitchell – 5 (6%)
Henderson was expected to play more as the outside linebacker, but the Vikings hardly used an outside linebacker. Henderson and Mitchell combined for 12 snaps as the defense remained in the nickel for most of the game.
Cole lead the team with 12 tackles, followed by Greenway’s 11 tackles. Greenway played well with an interception, a tackle for loss and a pass defended.
Greenway was called for pass interference on the final drive that led to the game-winning touchdown with four seconds left. Players and head coach Leslie Frazier complained about some of the calls in the game, including Greenway’s pass interference.
SS Jamarca Sanford – 85 (100%)
CB Chris Cook – 84 (99%)
FS Andrew Sendejo – 80 (94%)
SS Robert Blanton – 74 (87%)
CB Xavier Rhodes – 60 (71%)
CB Marcus Sherels – 21 (25%)
Sendejo and Sherels each had an interception, matching the secondary’s total for the season (both previous interceptions by Harrison Smith). Sherels filled in for Rhodes, who left in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. Rhodes said after the game he “rolled” his ankle.
The secondary contained Flacco up until the final minutes of the fourth quarter when he recorded two of the Ravens’ three longest plays in the game. Their offense scored two touchdowns in the final 2:05 on drives of 64 and 80 yards.
CB Josh Robinson, DT Chase Baker
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