Hot topics: Tebowmania, Leslie Frazier's job security and a new long snapper

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  • November 30, 2011 - 8:47 AM

A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Broncos at Mall of America Field.

Player in the spotlight
Tim Tebow. Heard of him? Yep, the Broncos quarterback is headed for the Twin Cities this weekend riding the high of a four-game winning streak. It’s hard to know how much to make of Tebow’s much-publicized success. He’s certainly been clutch in the closing minutes, helping Denver score comeback wins over the Dolphins, Jets and Chargers. In fact, he’s led more fourth-quarter touchdown drives this season (nine) than he’s had in the first three quarters combined (five).
That seems to be convincing evidence that Tebow is a spirited leader with a contagious will to win. But he’s far from unstoppable. And the Vikings’ injury-ravaged secondary should get a bit of a breather in pass coverage this weekend. After all, Tebow is completing only 45.5 percent of his passes this season and averaged just 7.5 completions and 110 passing yards per game during Denver’s undefeated November surge. Still, Vikings defensive backs will be relied on heavily in run support against a unique Broncos ground attack that relies heavily on the spread option. Denver has averaged 208 rushing yards per game since Tebow took over as the starter in Week 7.
Most pressing question
Just how much security does Leslie Frazier have?
Boy, this is a tough one. At this stage, there’s little to indicate the temperature of the seat in Frazier’s Winter Park office is elevating. Overall, even with the Vikings’ 2-9 record and obvious struggles, Frazier still seems to be well-liked by his players and handles himself with an admirable combination of grace and honesty. Yet through 11 games, he’s shown little to indicate he is a long-term answer with the ability to turn things around quickly.
The Vikings are not only winless since the bye week, they’ve been outscored 58-7 in the first halves of their past three losses, an apparent sign of an unprepared team lacking a spark. In Frazier’s defense, it’s hard to imagine many coaches would be in the playoff hunt with the Vikings’ current assembly of talent.
Also don’t forget, the Vikings are still in the midst of paying Brad Childress in excess of $6 million in buyout money through the end of 2012 after cutting him loose last November. With all that’s on Zygi Wilf’s plate, it’s hard to imagine him wanting to have two former head coaches on his payroll next year.
Keep an eye on …
The Vikings struggle to generate takeaways. But when they have forced turnovers this season, they sure have been good at capitalizing. On Sunday, they turned a Ryan D’Imperio fumble recovery on a punt into a touchdown. Overall, the Vikings have scored touchdowns after their last seven takeaways dating all the way back to Week 6. Overall they have turned 14 takeaways into 66 points this season.
Scouting the Broncos
Lost in Tebowmania is the spirited effort of the Denver defense, which has allowed only five touchdowns during the team’s current winning streak. In that span, defensive end Elvis Dumervil has re-emerged as a major force off the edge, notching 5.5 sacks in November. Meanwhile, linebacker Von Miller has established himself as an obvious frontrunner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He has 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Plus, he had a game-saving tackle of San Diego’s Mike Tolbert late in overtime Sunday, stopping Tolbert for a 4-yard loss immediately before Chargers kicker Nick Novak missed a 53-yard field goal.
True or false
Jared Allen will continue on as the Vikings’ long snapper: False.
Cullen Loeffler’s back injury is severe enough that the team placed him on injured reserve Tuesday, then signed Matt Katula as a replacement. Katula, who played in college at Wisconsin, spent five seasons in Baltimore and part of last season with New England.
And why didn’t the Vikings stick with Allen handling added special teams responsibilities? Simple. He’s being paid incredible sums of cash to be a menace to opposing quarterbacks. And as Loeffler found out Sunday, all it takes is one blindside hit in punt coverage and you've got a broken bone in your lower back. Imagine the outcry that would erupt if Allen suffered a serious injury while playing the role of long snapper.

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