Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Posts about Vikings defense

Final gun report: Vikings, Packers tie at Lambeau

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: November 24, 2013 - 3:59 PM

GREEN BAY -- Neither team deserved to win.  And neither did.

The Vikings and Packers played to a 26-26 tie at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

The Vikings were in control of the game, leading 23-7 in the fourth quarter, before collapsing.

Mason Crosby’s 27-yard field goal with 50 seconds left in regulation capped the Green Bay comeback and sent the game into overtime.

Both teams kicked field goals on their first overtime possessions, and both went three-and-out on the second possessions. The Packers had the final chance, getting the ball at the Vikings’ 8 with two minutes left but got three penalties to kill their chances.

Green Bay is 5-5-1 and the Vikings are 2-8-1.

After the Packers kicked a field on the opening possession of overtime, the Vikings started at the 20, needing to at least kick a field goal to keep the game going.  They got a first down on an Adrian Peterson run, and another when Packers defensive back Morgan Burnett was flagged for defensive holding. John Carlson caught a pass for a first down, and Toby Gerhart ran up the middle for consecutive first-down runs, moving the ball to the Packers’ 13. On third down, Christian Ponder’s pass to Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone was on target, but was tipped and Patterson couldn’t haul it in.  Blair Walsh’s 35-yard field goal tied the score at 26.

The Packers won the toss in overtime and stayed alive on a defensive holding penalty on Robert Blanton after they appeared to go three-and-out.  Jordy Nelson caught a pass from Matt Flynn to set up a first down on the Packers’ 42, then James Jones did the same for a first down at the Vikings’ 41. On the following play, Jarrett Boykin beat Chris Cook on a 34-yard catch, putting the ball at the 7. Eddie Lacy carried to the 3, then to the 2, but Flynn threw incomplete to Nelson on third-and-goal. Crosby then kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 26-23 lead.

Lacy gained 110 yards on 25 carries.

Peterson had 146 rushing yards and Gerhart added 91 for the Vikings.

The Vikings, who led 23-7 with 12 minutes to play, blew that 16-point fourth quarter lead by failing both offensively and defensively.  They gained only one first down in three fourth quarter possessions, and allowed the Packers to gain 173 yards and march downfield three times for scores. Only a failed two-point conversion prevented Green Bay from winning in regulation.

Crosby tied the game at 23-23 with 50 seconds remaining in regulation with a 27-yard field goal.

Flynn led the Packers to a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, getting Green Bay within 23-20 with 3:30 remaining on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Boykin. The Vikings went three-and-out, and Flynn drove Green Bay down for the tying field goal.

Blair Walsh kicked field goals of 36, 27 and 49 yards for the Vikings, who also scored on a 1-yard run by Peterson and a 12-yard pass from Ponder to Rhett Ellison.

Audie Cole led the Vikings with 13 tackles, filling in at middle linebacker for Erin Henderson, who missed the game because of undisclosed personal reasons.

Halftime report: Vikings 13, Packers 7

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: November 24, 2013 - 1:31 PM

The Vikings have a 13-7 halftime lead over the Packers at Lambeau Field. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scored on a one-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left in the half to give the Vikings their first lead. He has 14 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown.

The good: Vikings linebacker Audie Cole made the most of his first career start during the first half. He recorded his first career sack on the first play of the game and led the team with five tackles (four solo).

The Vikings also didn’t commit a penalty in the first half. The Packers have two for 20 yards.

The bad: The Vikings defense didn’t tackle well again, particularly against Packers running back Eddie Lacy. He broke tackles on practically every carry, dragging defenders in the process. Lacy has 13 carries for 62 yards

Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil couldn’t handle Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who had two sacks in the first half. Kalil hardly made any contact with Matthews on his first sack. Ponder was sacked three times in the first half.

The ugly: Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien looked like Johnny Manziel on his six-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Vikings defensive end Brian Robison bit on Tolzien’s pump fake, then Vikings defensive tackle Letroy Guion whiffed at Tolizen’s video game spin move while he dived into the end zone.

Tolzien went 7 of 15 for 98 yards. He also had two carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.

Halftime report: Redskins 24, Vikings 14

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: November 7, 2013 - 8:53 PM

Washington has a 24-14 halftime lead over the Vikings at the Metrodome, scoring TDs on drives of 77, 78 and 80 yards.

The good:  Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson caught his first NFL TD pass, a 2-yarder from Christian Ponder.

The bad: The Vikings were unable to slow down Robert Griffin III (three touchdown passes) or RB Alfred Morris (88 rushing yards).

The ugly: The Vikings are so banged-up that they weren’t able to find 46 healthy players to dress. They were one short.

Griffin is 16-for-21 for 179 yards and has a 140.7 passer rating. Ponder is 10 of 13 for 85 yards, but had an interception on the opening drive, leading to a Washington field goal.

Adrian Peterson has 44 rushing yards on seven carries, including an 18-yard TD run.

Vikings: First look ahead to Washington

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: November 4, 2013 - 10:58 AM

It's a quick turnaround this week for the Vikings following a 27-23 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. They return home to face the Redskins on Thursday in attempt to snap a four-game losing streak and avoid the first 1-8 start in franchise history. Here's your first look at the week ahead:

1) Can the secondary perform an encore?

While Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for 337 yards, he had 90 yards on the game-winning drive when the Vikings opted not to send pressure. With that said, the unit had a solid performance despite injuries to defensive back Chris Cook and starting safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford before the game. 

The secondary even dealt with the loss of defensive back Xavier Rhodes in the game with a left leg injury and finished the game with just four corners.  A.J. Jefferson made a great play on the interception with 4:35 left in the game that the offense couldn't capitalize on, leading to the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive.

The Vikings have three days to prepare and recuperate for the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III. The health status of Cook, Rhodes and Sanford will likely be the biggest storyline leading up to the game behind the season-long debate. Griffin's going through a sophomore slump with the same amount of touchdowns, nine, as fumbles and interceptions, but he’s still a duel threat quarterback that’s capable of posting 350 yards of total offense alone.

2) Who will be the starting and backup quarterbacks?

Yes, the Cowboys have the worst total defense in the NFL, and yes, quarterback Christian Ponder didn’t move the chains on a 3-and-out with 2:51 left in the game that could’ve sealed the win, but he played well enough to start again Thursday. In a short week, it’s difficult to make a quarterback change when there aren’t as many days to prepare for the opponent.

It seems as if quarterback Matt Cassel isn’t an option to start now given how he won’t be a potential future quarterback for the organization. The other option, quarterback Josh Freeman, was inactive Sunday as he returned to the field last week following concussion-like symptoms in his first start against the Giants on Oct. 21. Do you make Freeman the starter, or even the backup, on a short week or go with the same look for the third consecutive week (Ponder starting, Cassel as the backup)?

3) Is the offensive line streak all but over?

The Vikings offensive line will likely see a starting lineup change for the first time in two seasons.  Right tackle Phil Loadholt left Sunday’s game because of a concussion, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he doesn’t expect him to play Thursday.

That would snap 25 consecutive games (including playoffs) without a lineup change for the offensive line that dates back to the start of last season. J’Marcus Webb replaced Loadholt in the third quarter and was beaten by Cowboys defensive end George Selvie, who stripped the ball out of Ponder’s hand in the end zone resulting in a defensive touchdown. Webb will be one of two options, along with backup center Joe Berger, to fill Loadholt’s void and end an impressive feat.

Best Quote From The Game

“I didn’t know it was a flag. The play was over with and I didn’t know it was a flag.” - Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on his 15-yard penalty for removing his helmet on the field.

It’s known as “The Emmitt Rule” because former Cowboys running back and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith constantly ripped off his helmet after scoring a touchdown. The rule was introduced in 1997.

Worth Noting:

  • Romo was the 17th quarterback this season to throw 50 or more passes this season but just the third to win the game.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh was 57-for-57 on extra point attempts in his two-year career before his first miss in the fourth quarter.
  • Running back Adrian Peterson tied his season-high 140 rushing yards Sunday on 25 carries. It’s the third time he’s had over 100 rushing yards this season (100 – Week 2 at Chicago; 140 – Week 4 vs. Pittsburgh in London). He nearly equaled his total rushing yards over the last three games (150) with 11 fewer carries

Despite issues, Vikings stick to defensive plan

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: October 31, 2013 - 2:46 PM

Right before Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams stepped to the podium to talk to reporters Thursday, he chatted with defensive end Brian Robison and safety Jamarca Sanford. Williams said he didn’t single them out before he spoke to the media, but his message to them was one for the entire defense: stick to the plan.

“We’re still building the foundation to win football games and we want this to be the model of the NFL,” Williams said in his opening statement. “To be that, you have to build a firm foundation. You have to go through, sometimes, some growing pains, which we are right now. You don’t want it, but to build something solid, sometimes you have to go with that.”

Williams stressed the defense has to continue practicing hard and focusing on details despite the lack of results. In his second year as the defensive coordinator, Williams’ defensive hasn’t had the same success as it did last season. The Vikings are 30th in the NFL in total defense this season, allowing 401.6 yards a game. Last year they were 17th in total defense (350).

The issue has particularly been with the 29th ranked secondary. The Vikings give up 287.9 passing yards a game. Williams said the secondary shouldn’t work outside of the defensive structure.

”Sometimes when you’re maybe not getting interceptions or playing as well as you think you should, you’re thinking, ‘I need to do more. I need to go over here and make up for someone else,’” Williams said. “My message is, don’t do that. Be more detailed and if we tackle better, if we run to the ball more, if we execute assignments better, the results will be better. That’s one thing that we continue to reinforce."

The unit has seven interceptions this season but none in three October games. The last interception the Vikings had was against the Steelers in their only win this season on Sept. 22 in London.

MASTER TESFATSION

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