Sid Hartman: Vikings draft choices step into key roles

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2009 - 11:13 PM

Injuries to others have provided opportunities to play for Jasper Brinkley, Jamarca Sanford and Asher Allen.

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Vikings rookie linebacker Jasper Brinkley (54) made a tackle in the second quarter of Minnesota's 30-10 victory over Cincinnati.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The average fan might have thought the Vikings would have trouble beating the Bengals with standout middle linebacker E.J. Henderson sidelined because of a broken leg and starting safety Tyrell Johnson also out because of a concussion.

The versatile Percy Harvin, a leading candidate for the offensive rookie of the year, didn't dress for the game, either, because of migraines.

In addition, the Vikings had as many as 13 on this week's injury report, including four who had very limited practice time -- Johnson, Harvin, running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt.

The Vikings also were starting two rookies on defense -- fifth-round draft choice Jasper Brinkley in place of Henderson and seventh-round pick Jamarca Sanford in place of Johnson -- and seeing a lot of action at defensive back was their third-round selection, cornerback Asher Allen.

But coach Brad Childress said he expected all of the 2009 draft choices to produce because they had experience on special teams, and this was just another spot they were playing.

"It's a good football team, and you know what, those guys have all contributed a little bit all the way through," Childress said after the 30-10 victory over the Bengals (9-4) at the Metrodome. "Sanford has been on the special teams, Brinkley's been on special teams, so it's not like they haven't been out there. ... We coach them all the way along. We expect them to play well."

Better attitude

Childress said the team had a lot different attitude going into this game than it did a week ago in the 30-17 loss to the Cardinals.

"I didn't think our minds were quite right last week at Phoenix, and you could see the resolve, whether it was running the ball or stopping the run, our guys had a little different prance in their step coming back in here and playing. That was important," Childress said.

"It was complete; we did good things in all areas. The numbers may not have been off the charts, but I just thought it was very solid."

Peterson was a featured performer on Sunday, rushing 26 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns and catching three passes for 40 yards.

"We wanted to get him going, but Adrian doesn't do anything without those offensive linemen," Childress said. "So I thought those guys did a nice job of knocking around a pretty good front and really being intentional about it, and we were more intentional about the runs we called as well."

The Vikings had 142 yards rushing and only 180 yards passing, a lower total than in most games for quarterback Brett Favre.

"It's hard to serve two masters," Childress said. "We wanted to establish the run and mix in the pass. Every game is a little bit different, but that's something we wanted to do because we want to get back on track.

"It's important to run the ball in playoff football, through December and as you get in the playoffs. You can say only 97 yards running the football, but he [Peterson] can contribute in a lot of different ways."

Now that the Vikings (11-2) have clinched a playoff spot, does Childress plan to rest any of the players?

"No, we've still got goals," Childress said. "We want one of those two playoff byes.

"Yeah, and if New Orleans [13-0] would stumble for us, we'd love to be playing them all at home."

Valuable Longwell

Ryan Longwell has one more year on his contract, and the Vikings better sign the best kicker they have ever had, and no doubt one of the best ones in the league.

Longwell might have won the game with his 44-yard kick on the final play of the first half after the Bengals fumbled.

"You know when you get a turnover and there's enough time to try the kick, you certainly want to take advantage of it," said Longwell, one of the classiest guys ever to wear a Vikings uniform. "It put us up 16-7, which was huge going into halftime."

Longwell said it was great how the team came back after not playing well in a losing cause to the Cardinals last week.

"That's a good team we played [the Bengals], and bouncing back from last week when we all, to a man, didn't play our best, it says something that we're resilient, we're willing to work hard to come back from a game like last week and I think we played well," Long-well said.

This is Longwell's 13th year in the NFL and he sang the praises of Peterson.

"He's the best I've seen," Longwell said. "The thing is, he's just going to get better as he learns the game and learns how to be a pro and learns the subtleties of the game. He's just going to continue to get better."

Big day for Leber

With Henderson out, linebacker Ben Leber, who normally sits in passing situation, played more snaps Sunday than he had played all year.

"It felt great to get in there and contribute, making the calls and just making some plays; I mean it felt good to contribute to this win," Leber said.

"I think the coaches understand what the situation is and I think they understand I'm a good player. But it's unfortunate I got my snaps because one of our guys went down, but that's the way it is and I stepped up and I'm ready."

Leber said the Vikings were ready for the strong Bengals running game.

"We came out and we wanted to set the attitude that they weren't going to run on us, and for the most part we stepped up and played well," he said. "We got them in some third-and-long, manageable situations for us, and we capitalized. We got some turnovers here and there, so we played good solid defense."

Brewster extension?

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi made it clear on Sunday that he is considering some type of extension for football coach Tim Brewster, who has two more years left on his contract.

Maturi didn't know when the extension would be presented, but he said he was working on it.

Maturi also made it clear that Brewster is his football coach and he doesn't plan any changes.

"We've had several defensive and offensive coordinators in the past, so I believe that Brewster deserves to see if his recruits and coaching staff can do the job," Maturi said.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

 

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