Staff Directory 10644686

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   

A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins met San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after Saturday’s playoff game.

Vikings need to stay off the road to stay in the playoffs

Missteps during the regular season meant the No. 6 seed for the Vikings in the NFC playoffs, which led to a path that was too rough for them to handle.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the fourth quarter .

Five extra points: From going right in victory to going wrong in defeat

What went well for the Vikings against the Saints was reversed against San Francisco. Here's a look at what went wrong.
San Francisco 49ers players celebrate as a group after cornerback Richard Sherman (25), bottom center, intercepted a pass after Adam Thielen ran a bad

Thielen's botched pass route creates game-turning interception

Adam Thielen's route running on the backbreaking play in Saturday's loss to the 49ers couldn't have been any worse. And he knew it.
From left to right: Everson Griffen, sack specialist and potential disruptor; Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ main reason to run; Kirk Cousins, 1-for-1 in

Are Vikings and 49ers two underdogs in the same playoff game?

San Francisco is trying to claim that it is not the favorite, but in reality, it's the Vikings with the daunting task of trying to overcome being a road underdog of at least seven points for the second week in a row.
Stefon Diggs warmed up before Sunday's game at New Orleans.

Diggs misses second practice, Thielen gets stitches in ankle

Head coach Mike Zimmer said he isn't worried about receiver Stefon Diggs being gone from practice for two days. "He'll be fine."
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins looked over the field during the second quarter of Sunday's game at New Orleans.“It’s a tough environment, but yo

Training the brain: Cousins found 'sweet spot' to handle Saints' mayhem

Quarterback Kirk Cousins talked about some of the challenges quarterbacks face when they come up against the noise-fueled atmosphere they often face on the road.
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter sacked New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Undermanned Vikings defense steps up to limit Brees

Despite missing some players and shifting others around on defense, the Vikings made it work Sunday. Just as Mike Zimmer said they would.
Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes

Vikings lose Hughes to neck injury; re-sign Sherels

Vikings cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander (knee) and Mike Hughes (neck) will miss Sunday's playoff game in New Orleans.
Dolphins defensive end Trent Harris sacks New England quarterback Tom Brady in the regular season finale.

NFL playoff preview: It's a tough path for the defending champion Patriots

With the defending champion Patriots wobbling, a record-tying six teams boasting 12 or more victories and the winningest postseason field (.708) since 2005, it's shaping up to be a wild NFL playoffs.
Dennis Allen went 8-28 as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, but he's had a career rebound as the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, th

Saints' Allen rises after flopping as head coach

A woeful 8-28 with the Raiders, he has rebounded as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed against the Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte.

Will Brees be able to walk away from Vikings with a win this time?

Lost in the aftermath of the "Minneapolis Miracle" playoff victory over New Orleans was that Drew Brees had rallied the Saints from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion handed the ball to running back Mike Boone on his way to a 41-yard run in the second quarter.

Five Extra points: Vikings get what they paid for at backup QB

Mark Craig's five takeaways from Sunday's regular-season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Kirk Cousins congratulated Stefon Diggs after his TD catch in the second quarter vs. the Packers on Monday night, but that was the Vikings’ one high

So how much do you trust Kirk Cousins as playoffs approach?

Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback who's capable of being more. He's an excellent passer who can make all the throws with power and precision. But do you trust him?
Danielle Hunter struck a pose while Vikings portraits were being shot in August.

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter: 80 games, 4,226 snaps ... and only six penalties

The NFL's Mr. Clean and a candidate for AP Defensive Player of the Year, he piles up sacks while "playing the game the right way."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on pace to break his own record for completion percentage in a season.

Mark Craig goes beyond NFL Week 17

Once a week, Mark Craig will dissect stats from around the league. This week, he takes a look at completion percentage, QB win pace and a running back record.
Running back Derrick Henry and the Titans have the easiest path to the AFC's sixth seeded; if they fail, three other teams have a chance to slide into

Mark Craig's NFL Week 17 story lines

There are four teams in the running for the second AFC wild card.
Kirk Cousins had a quarterback rating of 58.8 vs. the Packers on Monday; his only worse performance this year was his 52.9 rating at Green Bay in Week

Cousins off his game vs. Packers, but Zimmer says 'it wasn't just Kirk'

The loss to Green Bay was less than an hour old when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he thought Kirk Cousins looked "shaky."
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, in a role reversal, dived for a pass thrown by receiver Stefon Diggs in the second quarter.

Diggs-to-Cousins gadget play didn't pass the test

It shouldn't be a surprise that Stefon Diggs overthrew the ball. Or that Kirk Cousins didn't have the speed to run it down on a trick play that misfired.
Eric Kendricks (54) recovered a fumble on the game’s third snap, but the Vikings could only wring three points out of that turnover against the Pack

Five Extra Points: A hard day's night for Vikings defense

The defense has a right to be ticked off after Monday's game. It caused the Packers all kinds of problems until late in the third quarter.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (left) has thrown 265 consecutive passes without an interception; Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has a career-high

Rodgers has Packers in first entering game with Vikings, but fans keep grumbling

Aaron Rodgers, QB of a division leader, somehow is hearing more naysayers than his Purple peer, Kirk Cousins, this season.
Aaron Rodgers has not been intercepted in the past eight games.

Not losing their grip: Packers are huge on ball security

Green Bay enters Monday night's game against the Vikings with only nine turnovers in 14 games.
The Vikings defense ranks 14th in the NFL statistically, but coach Mike Zimmer is more concerned with points and wins. “These rankings can change in

Numbers deceptive when it comes to judging Vikings defense

Coach Mike Zimmer might not care about statistics. But he does care whenever someone uses them as a blunt instrument against him.
After a fake handoff, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found open room in front of him in the third quarter. He split two defenders for a 14-yard gain

Five Extra Points: Chargers' Ekeler shut down by Vikings

NFL writer Mark Craig offers his five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings game in Los Angeles.
Denver coach Vic Fangio wants the best teams in the playoffs and said divisions hinder that: “Everybody [in a conference] should play each other onc

Is it time for the NFL to scrap its divisional format?

Broncos coach Vic Fangio suggests a conference round-robin to decide playoff teams.
Raiders fans watched during a game against the Bengals in 2015.

Mark Craig's Week 15 story lines

The NFL says so long to Oakland for the second time.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer remains annoyed by what replay officials decide is or isn't pass interference this season.

Pass interference calls leave Vikings coach Zimmer baffled

Mike Zimmer sounds as if he's rooting for this to be a one-and-done season for the new rule.
The Vikings’ Bisi Johnson has 26 catches, ranking third among rookie receivers drafted in the fourth round or lower.

Vikings' unheralded Bisi Johnson zooms up among rookie receivers

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Johnson's 26 catches rank third among 15 receivers drafted on Day 3 (rounds 4-7) and eighth overall among drafted rookies.

Five Extra Points: A pass reception for ... Garrett Bradbury?

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings victory over the Lions.
With four games to go this season, coach Mike Zimmer has the Vikings pointed toward a third playoff appearance in the past five seasons.

With six seasons as NFL head coach, Vikings' Zimmer has survival instincts

NFL head coaches come and go, but Mike Zimmer soldiers on. Among NFC coaches, Zimmer is now fourth in seniority. "That," he said, "is crazy."
When Dan Bailey missed an extra-point attempt following Kyle Rudolph’s fourth-quarter touchdown Monday night, it left the Vikings down four to the S

Despite missed extra point, Zimmer not concerned about kicker Bailey

Nothing sets Vikings Nation abuzz with Purple trepidation quite like a clutch kick curling wide left in a critical late-season loss to Seattle. Right?
Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny plowed by the Vikings’ Anthony Harris for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Seattle's extra lineman tips the balance in its favor all night

Seattle's offensive strategy included the use of an extra lineman on most of its running plays to wear down a defense that prides itself on stopping the run.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson rarely makes a mistake inside the 20-yard line, with a notable exception.

Inside red zone, Seahawks QB Wilson mostly red-hot

Russell Wilson, who last week became the first quarterback to open his career with eight consecutive winning seasons, has thrown 157 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in the red zone in 136 games.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s five touchdown passes Monday night against the Rams have elevated him to the top of the early MVP discussion.

Ravens' Jackson dominates early MVP chatter, even among Vikings

On the NFL: Some of the Vikings players are biased toward their teammates, but the Baltimore quarterback's season is hard to ignore.
Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

Will Stefanski's good reputation lead to improving his station in the NFL?

What are the chances that another NFL team will come after Vikings' offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski for its head coaching job? "Kevin's got a bright future," Vikings assistant head coach Gary Kubiak said.
Dalvin Cook’s ability to gain extra yardage after being hit was limited by a swarming Broncos defense Sunday. Cook rushed for only 26 yards on 11 ca

Five Extra Points: Vikings find way to get by when Cook struggles

Dalvin Cook was held to 57 yards on 16 touches in Sunday's 27-23 win over Denver.
Jayron Kearse (27) was mobbed by his teammates after the final play Sunday in the Vikings’ victory over the Broncos.

'Big-Play Jay.' Kearse helps close the deal in Vikings' victory

A week after intercepting a Dak Prescott in the end zone to preserve a 28-24 victory, Jayron Kearse once again was in the right place for his team.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Dalvin Cook: “He’s been a tremendous leader, done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

Dalvin Cook has been a model back, model teammate for Vikings

The running back, troubled by off-the-field issues in college, has rewarded the Vikings for their faith in him.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur.

A closer look Packers coach at Matt LaFleur

Once a week, Mark Craig will dissect stats from around the league. This week, he tackles rookie head coaches and two stellar NFC running backs.
Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.

NFL Week 11 story lines

In what could be the most exciting matchup of the season, Houston's Deshaun Watson will trade magic acts with Baltimore's Lamar Jackson.
Vikings rookie running back Alexander Mattison, running vs. the Redskins on Oct. 24, has 389 yards rushing on 79 carries.

Vikings more than satisfied with 1-2 punch of Cook, Mattison

Mike Zimmer was asked whether there was much drop off between Dalvin Cook, the best back in football, and Alexander Mattison, who ran the ball for a game-high 6.5-yard average vs. the Cowboys. Answer? "No."
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) scored a touchdown in the third quarter.

Cook's fourth-down touchdown affirms dominant running game

Instead of settling for an easy field goal and a 23-21 lead entering the fourth quarter, coach Mike Zimmer made the hard decision and was rewarded with a Dalvin Cook touchdown
Above, Cowboys defenders Robert Quinn (58) and Michael Bennett had Kirk Cousins on the move in the third quarter. Below, Vikings linebackers Anthony B

Five extra points: Cousins withstands pressure, Vikings corral Elliott

Kirk Cousins was pressured on eight of his 22 first-half dropbacks (36.3%), but he managed to complete passes on five of them for 53 yards and a couple of first downs.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen held his right hamstring as he walked of the field at Detroit on Oct. 20

Hamstrings leave Vikings hamstrung at receiver; Doctson 'ready to go'

In Wednesday's tale of two Purple hamstrings, Adam Thielen spent practice resting while fellow receiver Josh Doctson continued testing -- and said he'll be ready for Sunday night in Dallas.
Vikings rookie wide receiver Bisi Johnson caught a first-quarter touchdown pass against the Chiefs on Sunday. The NFC has nine teams with a winning re

No cause for panic: Vikings well in the mix as playoff race gets exciting

The NFC has nine teams with a winning record, and any one of them -- including the Vikings -- could advance to the Super Bowl.
Vikings punter Britton Colquitt

Britton Colquitt's shanked punt leads to Chiefs' winning drive

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings loss in Kansas City from NFL writer Mark Craig.
Minnesota Vikings punter Britton Colquitt.

Are you ready for Sunday's Colquitt Bowl?

The punting Colquitt brothers face each other Sunday when the Vikings travel to face the Chiefs. "When people ask [their Mom] who she's rooting for, she'll just smile and say, 'I'm rooting for fourth down!'"
Mike Zimmer and Andy Reid.

A clash of offensive and defensive masterminds: Reid vs. Zimmer

Mike Zimmer, 63, is the old-school but innovative defensive guy whose aggressive style impresses 61-year-old Andy Reid, who has built a reputation for the way his teams play on offense.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries and scored the only touchdown against Washington.

Versatile Cook playing better now than Peterson

Dalvin Cook continues to shine in all facets of the game. After Thursday he has a league-leading 823 rushing yards and 1,116 yards from scrimmage.
Adrian Peterson at age 34 still is productive, gaining 307 yards rushing in 83 attempts for a 3.7yard average.

At 34, ex-Viking Peterson doesn't run like an old man

Adrian Peterson, who said Tuesday he is "for sure" playing Thursday on his nicked-up ankle when Washington visits the Vikings, is "looking like the same old Adrian that we all know," Redskins coach Bill Callahan said.
Former tight end Steve Jordan will enter the Vikings Ring of Honor on Thursday. The organization has put an emphasis on alumni relations.

Ex-Vikings say Wilfs' emphasis on alumni has changed franchise

Team alumni feel more welcome, more appreciated and more involved since Zygi and Mark Wilf bought the team in 2005. "I hadn't been back in 20 years," one former player said.
Vikings wide receiver Bisi Johnson celebrated his second quarter touchdown at Ford Field against the Lions.

Vikings' Five Extra Points: Vikings display plaground-style football

Five takeaways from Sunday's game from Vikings writer Mark Craig.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph talked with NFL official Clete Blakeman during a minicamp session in June.

Crisis of confidence: Culture of NFL officiating is the problem, ex-official says

Detroit, the Vikings' next opponent, is the latest victim of scrutinized officiating that has the league in turmoil.
Big plays are driving the Vikings offense when it has success this season.

A new shade of Moss: Vikings' average gain is looking SuperFreaky

The Vikings are averaging 6.3 yards per play through six games in 2019, good for third in the NFL and a reminder of the Randy Moss era of big plays.
Vikings rookie Alexander Mattison hurdled Eagles safety Rodney McLeod in the fourth quarter during a 35-yard run, his longest of the season.

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings-Eagles game

Here's what stood out Sunday afternoon to Star Tribune NFL and Vikings writer Mark Craig.
Dan Bailey (5), the creature of routine that he is despite a few hiccups as a Viking, occasionally gives a place-kick an extra long look through the u

Trusting the process: Bailey remains unfazed by hits or misses

Through highs and lows as Vikings kicker, Dan Bailey is still all about the routine. "There's nothing really too complicated about it," he said.
Two versatile NFL star running backs -- the Vikings' Dalvin Cook, left, and the Panthers' Christian McCaffrey -- have legitimate MVP dreams that stand

Vikings' Cook, Panthers' McCaffrey setting the pace for MVP seasons

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Workhorse running backs Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey are on pace to easily exceed 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ran out of the pocket in the first quarter.

Five takeaways from Vikings-Giants game: Cousins cruises, Zimmer loses challenge

The Vikings got back to form with Sunday's win. Here's what stood out to reporter Mark Craig.
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter sacked New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones in the third quarter.

Vikings defense channels pent-up anger to smother Giants

Danielle Hunter tied Eric Kendricks with a team-high seven tackles while posting two key red-zone sacks that broke the Giants' will during a clock-grinding third quarter that yielded just three points.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has faced plenty of scrutiny through Week 4, but for NFL players and coaches, the only game that matters is the next

What's wrong with Cousins? Vikings have to find out fast

Kirk Cousins, the Vikings' $84 million quarterback, is getting nowhere trying to please everybody. "I would say he's scared of making a mistake," ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky said.
Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs

Vikings punish Diggs, playing status for Sunday is undetermined

Stefon Diggs practices Friday, but coach Mike Zimmer wouldn't commit to playing him against the Giants in New Jersey on Sunday. "We'll see," Zimmer said.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins reacted as he looked to the scoreboard from the sidelines late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field.

Cousins says 'ignorance is bliss' as confidence called into question

If the Vikings are frustrated with what they're seeing and hearing in the media about Kirk Cousins' quarterback play, they'd be wise to avoid his standing in social media.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacted as he looked to the scoreboard from the sidelines late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 16-6 l

For the Vikings, embarrassing loss to the Bears is a thing of the past

Of the many rules in the NFL, the smartest and toughest one to obey might be the so-called "24-hour rule" of forgetting about your last game, no matter how good or bad you played.
Danielle Hunter of the Vikings tackled Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the first quarter Sunday. Trubisky left the game after injuring his left sh

Vikings forced early turnover, then 'I looked up and saw the flag'

Welcome to 2019. The Year of the Yellow Flag. Make a play, hold your breath and scan the field for laundry.
There was no end to Chase Daniel’s contribution on Sunday. In the first quarter the Bears quarterback prevented Harrison Smith from snagging a fumbl

Yes, that Chase Daniel: Bears backup QB has 22-for-30 day vs. Vikings

Five takeaways from Sunday's game at Soldier Field.
Dakota Dozier got to spike the ball after a preseason game touchdown for the Vikings.

With Kline out, Dakota Dozier takes over as Vikings right guard

This will be Dozier's second start in three games. He stepped in for injured left guard Pat Elflein in the Week 2 loss at Green Bay.
The Vikings brought back Marcus Sherels primarily as a punt returner, after now-injured Chad Beebe muffed three punts in the past two games.

Right where they left off: Sherels, Treadwell embrace return to Vikings

The return of Marcus Sherels and Laquon Treadwell created quite the juxtaposition of Purple-clad reunions at TCO Performance Center on Wednesday.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) threw under pressure from Oakland Raiders linebacker Kyle Wilber (58) in the third quarter.

Five extra points: Cousins' long throws were key to Vikings offense

Kirk Cousins threw only four passes for more than 20 yards, but three of them were important.
The 1969 Vikings defensive line -- Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Carl Eller -- was known as the Purple People Eaters. This photo was taken

Defensive line pays tribute to 'Purple People Eaters' with its play

Sunday's halftime celebration was nice, but the best tribute to the 1969 Vikings came early in the second quarter when a visiting quarterback got spooked by their 2019 counterparts.
The goal posts at Metropolitan Stadium were tipped at precarious angle as happy Vikings fans worked to bring them down following their 27-7 victory ov

Vikings won 1969 NFL Championship Game but never clutched hardware

The Ed Thorp Trophy never quite made it to Minnesota, the last NFL champion before the merger with the AFL.
Daniel Carlson missed a 35-yard field goal attempt in overtime as the Vikings tied the Packers on Sept. 16, 2018 in Green Bay.

After boot from Vikings, kicker Carlson rock solid for Raiders

After the bad day in Green Bay that led to his release last season, kicker Daniel Carlson returns to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday having done very well with his new team.
Some longtime football followers are suggesting the NFL is in danger of becoming unwatchable through its tsunami of yellow flags thrown and added upon

NFL in black and white: Game officials under the microscope

It's hard to imagine NFL officiating getting more frustrating than it was in Week 2, lending more credence to football followers who suggest the league is in danger of becoming unwatchable.
The Vikings’ Adam Thielen caught a 30-yard pass from Kirk Cousins while being defended by Jaire Alexander in the third quarter.

Five extra points: Vikings display clean - and messy - flashes vs. Packers

Mark Craig weighs in with his five takeaways from Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.
Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs caught a pass in the end zone for what looked to be a touchdown, but the play was nullified by an offensive pass interfe

'Can you tell me why we're stopping the game?' League call negates Vikings TD

After an apparent Stefon Diggs touchdown, Dalvin Cook was called for offensive pass interference following a long look at the replay.
Vikings special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf’s intensity occasionally gets dialed back by Mike Zimmer.

Maalouf's special-team style developed from many mentors

Vikings special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf has mixed lessons learned at five NFL stops — some of them hard.
New Packers coach Matt LaFleur, renowned for his offensive mind, had to rely on his defense to beat the Bears.

New Packers coach retools offense, will get first taste of border battle

The Vikings and Packers head into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field well aware they'll need other ways to win besides what got them through Week 1 unscathed.