- Article by: DAN WIEDERER
- Star Tribune
- December 19, 2012 - 8:02 PM
With the Vikings in the middle of a playoff push, quarterback Christian Ponder found a unique way to use his "Victory Monday." Ponder rolled into Hudson, Wis., popped in at the courthouse and married ESPN reporter Samantha Steele. It was an oddly timed union that has sparked plenty of gossip. Ponder insisted Wednesday that his marriage would not affect his usual preparation. He also said "a lot of personal reasons went into" the strange timing of things. And now that we've got that covered, here are a trio of other things you should know:
1. In an already splendid season, Chad Greenway might have had his most active game yet in St. Louis.
According to NFL stats, Greenway leads the league in tackles with 140. That means he might be on his way to the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season.
In Sunday's victory over the Rams, Greenway seemed to play with Red Bull in his veins, darting around to record a game-high 14 tackles, including a stop for loss in the second quarter and an 8-yard sack of Sam Bradford in the third.
Oh, he also recovered a fumble.
On the sack, Greenway blitzed, blew up Rams back Daryl Richardson, then quickly engulfed Bradford.
"He was just all over the place," coach Leslie Frazier said.
Greenway's presence has been huge for the defense this season. Frazier points to Greenway's elevated leadership as another symbol of this team's growth.
"He's much more vocal now than in the past," Frazier said. "In the past, he let other people take the lead when it came to encouraging a guy or really chastising a guy for whatever it may be. And he's not reluctant to do that anymore."
2. As Greenway has made leadership strides, defensive lineman Everson Griffen has sparked his growth with a deeper investment in learning the game.
Griffen always has been an athletic freak. It's not often a 273-pound defensive lineman also can double as an impact gunner on punt coverage. And Griffen's rare quickness and agility were on display again Sunday when he dropped into coverage, anticipated Bradford's pass to Lance Kendricks and picked it off. The slick 29-yard return to the end zone was impressive, too.
"Looked smooth," Greenway said. "We talk all the time about how he's up and coming and now starting to make a name for himself in the NFL."
It's been a promising season for Griffen, who has shown heightened dedication to his craft while also continuing to fight through the grief attached to the unexpected October death of his mother.
Said Frazier: "The way he responded, even in the midst of that tragedy, you take your hat off to him with how courageous he is. And I've told him, I know his mother would be extremely proud of him and the way he's handled himself."
Frazier said Griffen has been "a pillar of strength" and was incredibly receptive throughout the offseason in listening to directives on how to study, practice and play like a pro.
"He's one of the guys that, as we speak, has really bought into the right way of doing things," Frazier said.
3. Texans' Andre Johnson continues to post big numbers.
Johnson needs one catch to become the 25th player in league history with 800 receptions. Last week, he became the 28th player to surpass 11,000 receiving yards.
In his 10th season, the 6-3, 230-pound receiver has 93 catches for 1,360 yards and four touchdowns, rebounding splendidly after a nagging hamstring injury cost him nine games in 2011. In addition, a groin strain limited Johnson through the early parts of this year.
Johnson's sustained success has come in big part because of his football savvy and the Texans' ability to move him around to create favorable matchups.
With Arian Foster (1,493 yards from scrimmage this season) presenting a threat out of the backfield, defenses must balance the urge to load the box versus keeping their concentration on Johnson.
Said Vikings safety Mistral Raymond: "You'd like get your hands on him. He's a big guy. But the thing about him is he embraces that kind of game. He's used to seeing it. He's seen it forever. So you have to be cautious in how you attack him."
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