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.


Behind Enemy Lines: Peterson and Rodgers could provide thrilling MVP duel

Posted by: under Vikings, NFC, Packers, Adrian Peterson Updated: December 27, 2012 - 11:02 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game with Green Bay at Lambeau Field, we asked Tyler Dunne, who covers the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to give us his up-close-and-personal scouting report. Here are four things you need to know …

1) The Green Bay defense holds a healthy respect for Adrian Peterson.

It’s not just that Peterson ran for 210 yard in the teams’ last meeting four weeks ago. In his career, he also has rushing performances of 192, 175 and 131 against Green Bay. And there’s definitely an awareness that A.P. is now just 102 yards shy of 2,000 for the season and 208 away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season rushing record.

No wonder so many defensive players in Green Bay gush with admiration over Peterson’s ability.

“It’s pretty wild,” Dunne said. “Every time you bring up Peterson’s name, you see these guys shake their heads and proclaim him to be a beast. A lot of it is just familiarity. They see this guy twice a year. And they understand the power, the strength, the resilience Peterson plays with. They really hold a glowing respect for how he runs.”

Coach Mike McCarthy has tried to temper his team’s praise, hoping they don’t become so enamored with Peterson’s abilities that they forget how to bottle him up. Paramount this week for Green Bay will be tackling better to avoid the Peterson home run. In Week 13, the Vikings star had runs of 82, 48 and 23.

2) With all due respect to Peterson, Aaron Rodgers might be the NFL’s most dangerous player.

The Green Bay quarterback isn’t necessarily delivering the Xbox statistics he had in 2011 when his MVP run included 68.3 percent accuracy, 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and a rating of 122.5. But Rodgers has continued to carry the Packers’ offense.

Through 15 games, he’s completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,930 yards with 35 TDs and eight picks plus a 106.2 rating. Throughout the season, with opposing defenses often keeping both safeties deep to guard against the explosive play, Rodgers has been forced into a bit of small ball. But he’s remained patient and taken what’s there. He’s also been clutch when the Packers have needed him to be.

“Overall,” Dunne said, “it’s just seemed like this season unlike last year, he’s had to produce so much more in the fourth quarter. They’ve had so many close games. And when Rodgers has had to convert a third-and-long or make a play with his feet or lead a big drive late in the game, he’s stepped forward. Last season, they were so often ahead by double digits late that they didn’t need him to fight back.”

Rodgers’ savvy is particularly notable against division foes. It’s no wonder Green Bay hasn’t lost an NFC North game since Dec. 2010, a streak of 12 straight wins.

3) The Packers are in a groove right now.

Since early October, Green Bay is 9-1 and staking a claim to the title as the NFL’s hottest team. They provided significant supporting evidence last weekend with a 55-7 thrashing of Tennessee.

In total, Green Bay put up 460 yards of offense. Rodgers threw three TD passes and rushed for another score. And defensively, the Packers compiled seven sacks, two turnovers and didn’t allow a score until 1:39 remained.

“What surprised me most wasn’t there wasn’t a flood of fluky stuff in that game,” Dunne said. “There wasn’t a defensive touchdown or a special teams touchdown. All their points and all the production they had came in the way they’d want to put up points.”

Perhaps, most importantly, Green Bay has found a way to fortify its ground game. Sure, they rush for an average of only 108.7 yards per game, 20th in the NFL. And their leading rusher for the season is Alex Green, whose 464 yards trail Peterson by 1,434. But as the backfield merry-go’round spins, suddenly Ryan Grant and DuJuan have stepped forward. That duo rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns last weekend.

Said Dunne: “These are two ordinary midseason pickups. And yet their running game was terrific last week. And it’s kind of like, no matter who they’ve been plugging in there the past month and a half, they’ve been a top 10 rushing team. That’s big. Because with so many Cover 2 defenses sitting back in coverage, that can put Green Bay’s offense in a bit of a bind. But with a running game now, they’re able to stay patient. And McCarthy, who loves to pass and loves to push the envelope, has actually been very, very committed to running the ball.”

Defensively, the Packers are also seeing noticeable growth from a horde of young players in the secondary with Casey Hayward, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillan and Davon House on the rise.

“As those guys have come along, [defensive coordinator] Dom Capers has progressively added more and more and more to what they do,” Dunne said.

4) Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby has been given a second chance. And a third. And a fourth …

Patience in the kicker is quickly wearing thin amongst the Green Bay fan base. And understandably so. Crosby is 19-for-31 on field goals this season, his 61 percent accuracy ranking dead last in the NFL. He’s also missed seven of eight attempts from 50 yards or beyond.

But General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have resisted the temptation to yank the plug on Crosby.

“Those guys always stand behind their players,” Dunne said. “They draft, they develop, they hang onto guys.”

There are likely business elements to things too. Two years ago, Crosby signed a five-year extension worth $14.75 million. But the Packers also feel Crosby can fight through this out-of-nowhere slump.

“He’s been around since ’07 and has been reliable over the long haul,” Dunne said. “And he kicks well later in the season. Which is one of the reasons they really like him. And last year, he had a run where he hit 16 consecutive field goals.”

With wins in nine of their past 10 games, Green Bay is confident they can compensate for Crosby’s woes. Though it’s a dangerous thing to roll into January with an unreliable kicker.

Said Dune: “It could cost them in the playoffs. But I guess at this point, they’re determined to just ride it out. The Packers’ big thing is to never show signs of panic and this might be the prime example of it.”

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Philadelphia 21 4th Qtr 8:11
Washington 24
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 6:00 PM
New Orleans
Utah 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Atlanta 7:00 PM
Houston
San Antonio 7:30 PM
Dallas
Indiana 8:00 PM
Denver
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Arizona 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Philadelphia 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Montreal
Washington 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Florida 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Carolina
Chicago 6:00 PM
Columbus
Nashville 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Calgary 9:00 PM
Vancouver
St. Louis 9:30 PM
San Jose
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
SMU 62 FINAL
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Duquesne 79
South Alabama 65 FINAL
IUPUI 71
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 76
South Florida 62 FINAL
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 FINAL
Illinois 62
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 71 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 64
Drexel 68 FINAL
Penn State 73
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Indiana 82 FINAL
Butler 73
Marshall 58 FINAL
Arkansas State 67
Lafayette 69 FINAL
Kansas 96
Oral Roberts 63 FINAL
Memphis 78
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Delaware State 70 FINAL
Oregon 83
Fla Atlantic 56 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
Arkansas Tech 57 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 94
Howard Payne 50 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 89
UMBC 66 FINAL
Kennesaw St 53
St Josephs (IN) 54 FINAL
Chicago State 77
Eastern Mich 77 FINAL
Missouri State 65
UCLA 42 FINAL
Kentucky 83
UC Davis 81 FINAL
Air Force 75
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
UC Riverside 78
Davidson 80 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 68
USC Upstate 53 FINAL
Miss State 51
NC Central 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 60
Illinois State 77 FINAL
Murray State 89
Louisiana 85 FINAL
Northwestern St 89
Oakland 77 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
Detroit 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 69
Presbyterian 60 FINAL
UT Martin 77
Monmouth 74 FINAL
Wagner 66
Southern U 39 FINAL
Wyoming 57
Iowa State 83 FINAL
Drake 54
Wake Forest 49 2nd Half 1:00
Florida 61
High Point 80 FINAL
James Madison 71
Texas Southern 57 1st OT 4:13
Michigan State 55
New Hampshire 60 FINAL
Sacred Heart 73
Northeastern 78 FINAL
Santa Clara 72
Huston-Tillotson 56 FINAL
Texas State 90
Purdue 51 2nd Half 7:11
Notre Dame 74
Prairie View 31 2nd Half 7:57
Sam Houston St 51
Xavier 38 2nd Half 18:58
Auburn 28
Bluffton 6:00 PM
Akron
NJIT 2 1st Half 18:05
Central Conn St 7
Hofstra 6:00 PM
Columbia
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Dayton
Iona 6:00 PM
George Mason
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Texas A&M 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Morgan State 2 1st Half 19:22
Manhattan 2
Saint Josephs 6:00 PM
Marist
East Carolina 6:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Richmond 6:00 PM
Pepperdine
La Salle 6:00 PM
Towson
Incarnate Word 6:05 PM
UMKC
CS-Bakersfield 6:30 PM
Idaho State
Iowa 6:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Long Beach State 7:00 PM
Texas
TX-San Antonio 7:00 PM
TCU
SE Missouri St 7:30 PM
Arkansas
Lehigh 8:00 PM
Arizona State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Washington
Utah Valley U 8:00 PM
Weber State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
St Edwards 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
NC State 8:30 PM
West Virginia
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
Fresno State 9:00 PM
Pacific
Montana State 9:00 PM
Portland
Ball State 9:00 PM
San Diego St
South Dakota St 9:05 PM
Utah State
Stanford 10:00 PM
BYU
Utah 10:30 PM
UNLV
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 4th Qtr 0:00
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 10 2nd Qtr 2:32
Air Force 19
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
Gardner-Webb 47 FINAL
Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
Alabama A&M 47 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
Creighton 67
FIU 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Missouri 79 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 68
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Vermont 40 FINAL
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 80
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Indiana State 64 FINAL
SMU 55
Denver 51 FINAL
Purdue 65
TX-San Antonio 48 FINAL
Texas Tech 64
UCF 57 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Campbell 66 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 55
Florida A&M 67 FINAL
SE Louisiana 69
Northwestern St 61 FINAL
Jackson State 62
Lehigh 61 FINAL
Arizona State 81
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 77
Liberty 60 FINAL
Minnesota 74
Wofford 60 FINAL
North Florida 68
Montana State 61 FINAL
Washington St 82
Marshall 56 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 69
Morgan State 40 FINAL
Chattanooga 55
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Harvard 67
Furman 51 FINAL
(15) Georgia 58
(18) Michigan State 65 FINAL
(9) Baylor 84
Ohio U 52 FINAL
Massachusetts 59
Prairie View 48 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 86
Toledo 64 FINAL
Southern Ill 48
High Point 57 FINAL
(12) Nebraska 83
Winthrop 20 FINAL
Wichita State 66
William Jewell 59 FINAL
UMKC 51
Louisiana Tech 52 FINAL
Utah 67
Southern Utah 51 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 76
San Jose St 62 FINAL
San Francisco 77
Norfolk State 36 FINAL
East Carolina 65
Saint Peters 49 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 59
CS-Northridge 61 2nd Half 1:07
San Diego State 51
Northwestern 44 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 92
Arizona 40 2nd Half 8:19
Stephen F Austin 48
Oral Roberts 29 2nd Half 18:47
Wisconsin 40
Florida Atlantic 28 2nd Half 15:56
New Mexico St 40
La Salle 37 1st Half 5:49
Georgia State 28
(16) Oregon State 26 1st Half 7:50
Nevada 15
Sacred Heart 6:00 PM
Villanova
Delaware 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 4 1st Half 18:14
Tennessee St 2
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Washington 7:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Pacific 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Old Dominion 7:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Austin Peay 9:00 PM
Montana
Lewis-Clark State 9:00 PM
Idaho
(21) Miss State 9:30 PM
Illinois-Chicago

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