VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: Great defensive effort falls short in Buffalo

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: October 20, 2014 - 9:36 AM

A day later, the game doesn’t look any better than it did on Sunday. The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Buffalo Bills 17-16 on the road by giving up a final-second touchdown pass. After a decent defensive performance, the Vikings couldn’t make the one final play they needed to preserve a victory, and their record dropped to a disheartening 2-5.

“We just didn’t finish,” wide receiver Greg Jennings told KFAN radio after the game.

The game was in the balance right until the end, but it was actually lost earlier. The Vikings won the turnover battle, time of possession battle and even the field position battle, but they did not capitalize on it—getting into the endzone only once all day. So they lost the war.

Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the Vikings as they lost another winnable game. They wasted plenty of good performances, lost more starters to injury and dropped another game further behind in the division. It is beginning to get tougher to look out of the hole the team has dug for itself.

Trending

Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon got the second start of his young career, and his performance is likely to earn him the opportunity to keep it. McKinnon ground out tough yards up the middle and had a burst when the offensive line provided him with a decent hole.

McKinnon looked like a featured back, rushing 19 times in the game. (Backup Matt Asiata had the next most carries at just six.) With 103 yards on the ground, McKinnon earned the second 100-yard rushing game of his career. It was a great effort against a very tough defensive front, which is a good sign moving forward.

The Vikings defense once again was a bright spot for Minnesota. The Bills brought out the NFL’s number one defense against the run (and gave up 158 yards rushing) and the Vikings defense outshined them, giving up just 118 yards. The defense sacked Bills quarterback Kyle Orton six times and caused four turnovers, including three fumble recoveries (two by Anthony Barr and one by Robert Blanton)—the first fumble recoveries of the season for the Vikings.

Week in and week out, the Vikings defense has played well enough to keep them in the game, but the offense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. The defense is clearly better than last season and they are playing inspired ball for head coach Mike Zimmer.

“I am proud of how this team fought,” Zimmer told KFAN radio. “I am proud of how they came back this week and prepared and practiced. So maybe we will get to understand what we have to do to get ourselves in position to win.”

Linebacker Anthony Barr is growing up before our eyes. He has been improving each week and put another good game against the Bills. Barr had 10 tackles and one pass defense, but he recovered two fumbles and once again made plays all over the field. It is no secret that having Chad Greenway back from injury helped the entire linebackers corps, but Barr is making great decisions and great plays all on his own. He is truly going to be a huge part of this defense going forward.

Worth Defending

I very much wanted to defend the play of the offensive line. But with the team at first and goal on the Bills’ seven-yard line and then getting pushed back 16 yards on two consecutive plays for sacks (resulting in another field goal instead of a touchdown), I just couldn’t do it. The line allowed six sacks on the day, had penalties at crucial times and really couldn’t find a way to protect the quarterback.

Despite injuries to center John Sullivan and right guard Vladimir Ducasse and going against a very tough defense, the Vikings offensive line played better against the Bills than it had the previous two weeks. They opened holes for the running backs, but really came up short in pass protection. The offensive unit as a whole could not put up the points when it had the opportunity, and that ultimately cost them the game.

I really liked seeing the long pass to Cordarrelle Patterson late in the game that was slightly overthrown and incomplete. It was second and 14 at the Minnesota 45 and Bridgewater just missed connecting with Patterson on a play that might have yielded a first down at the Bills’ 15 yard line with just under four minutes remaining. It could have been a dagger. At the very least, a field goal puts the Vikings up by two scores, and the Bills don’t have the time to make a comeback.

The other side of it is to try something more conservative (a run) to try for the first down and keep the clock running. Both sides of the argument have merit, but if you never try something downfield, you won’t loosen things up underneath. Patterson had a step on single coverage, and Bridgewater just overthrew him. Perhaps if they try those deep shots more, they will get better at completing them.

I criticized punter Jeff Locke last week, so it is only fair that I take notice of an improved performance this week. He punted six times in the game for an average of 47.3 yards and a long punt of 54 yards. Often Locke kicked the Vikings out of trouble and helped (with assistance from the coverage team) them win the field position game. His one sub-par effort of note was his final kick of the day that the Vikings needed to be inside the 20. Instead he booted a 48 yarder that landed in the endzone and offered no chance to be downed close to the Bills’ goal line.

Should be Ending

Blame it on the offensive line (which is legit), but the Vikings quarterback had another tough outing this week and some of it is definitely on him. Bridgewater was 15 of 26 for 157 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown pass. His passer rating, which bottomed out at 0.0 after the second interception, finished at 56.1, which is not going to cut it.

Most disturbing are the interceptions—which total five in the past two games and dwarf the number of touchdown passes he’s thrown. Bridgewater did get the first TD pass of his career, but it was overshadowed by the two picks, which contributed to the loss. Both came on late passes by Bridgewater, and the rookie needs to clean that up.

Pardon the “older guy rant,” but sack dances, touchdown celebrations, chest pounding when you make a tackle and any other “look at me” antics that don’t end or decide a game need to stop. It just looks so foolish now in the middle of the game. The extent of the “chorography” has become outlandish and time consuming. We even saw Everson Griffen (who had three sacks) doing his dance to a Sharrif Floyd sack.

And there is nothing worse than watching a player trying to congratulate his teammate on a touchdown, yet he has to wait for the “I’m great” theatrics to end before he can do so. All the spontaneity of the moment is gone.

We constantly hear what a team game football is, and we know that few plays in a game are accomplished successfully without the help of others. So, at the very least (since these practices are not about to end soon), celebrate with your teammates first and interact with the fans afterward. Please, stay off my lawn if you can’t act like you have been there before.

And finally, one thing did end: the double-digit losses. After four of them, it was good to see the Vikings in the game, for the entire game. Can’t say a one-point loss with one second on the clock was much consolation, however.

Head over to VikingsJournal.com to check out Arif Hasan's comprehensive recap of the loss in Buffalo and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Anthony Barr--the Vikings' other number 1

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: October 18, 2014 - 8:34 AM

It is become increasingly difficult to find positives in the Minnesota Vikings performances of late. Four double-digit losses can overshadow any positive vibe. But Anthony Barr is quietly putting together a decent rookie season, and people are beginning to take notice.

“He’s doing well,” head coach Mike Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “He’s progressing, I think, as we expected him to. He’s a good kid. He’s still learning so much about the position that he’s playing right now, and I like him because he’s not only a good athlete – he’s physical and fast and powerful, But he’s also very conscientious and wants to be very good at his job.”

You won’t hear chants of “Anthony! Anthony!” before he takes the field at TCF Bank Stadium—like you have for the Vikings’ other first round draft selection. But the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, quiet and unassuming as he is, is making quite an impact on the Vikings’ defensive side of the ball.

“I’ve coached linebackers a long time in this league, Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards told the Star Tribune. “He has as much potential to [become a very good NFL linebacker as any], especially coming out here with the production that he’s had as a rookie.

“He’s ahead of the curve and with his professionalism, to be able to have that at such a young age, pay attention to details, being able to do it on the practice field, do it in the game. It’s just a matter of him continuing to get experience and keep working and keep getting the production that he has.”

Barr has started at outside linebacker since day one and rarely left the field. He is the team’s second-leading tackler (tied with Jasper Brinkley at 27) and is third in sacks (2.0).

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Barr’s overall rating has been on the positive side in five of the Vikings’ six games this season, with rushing the passer and stopping the run as his strengths and pass coverage his relative weakness.

In addition, he has taken on the role of calling the Vikings’ defensive alignments in the absence of injured linebacker Chad Greenway. That is plenty to take on for an NFL rookie who was a linebacker for only two years in college.

“It’s his third year of playing linebacker; I’m really impressed with the production and the things that he’s able to accomplish at the position,” Edwards said. “He gets the most out of his ability every day. He pays attention to detail. He can pick up things that we are trying to get accomplished. He’s a good match in coverage; he’s a good pass rusher. To wear as many hats as he does as a rookie, from that aspect of it, yeah, I’m pretty impressed with him.”

So, Barr is a precocious rookie, but where does he rank compared to others in his position. With an overall 3.1 average ranking by PFF, Barr ranks 11th (of 32) among NFL outside linebackers in a 4-3 defense. His strong suit (statistically) is covering the run with a 2.4 cumulative rating and rushing the passer with a 1.4 rating. He has struggled a bit in pass coverage with -1.3 cumulative rating.

If we lump him in with all outside linebackers (meaning those playing in a 3-4 defense), there are 19 more linebackers with a better overall rating than his 3.1--putting him at 30th among 78 linebackers. Not bad for a rookie relatively new to the position.

But Barr wasn’t the only rookie linebacker taken in the first round of the draft. Oakland selected Khalil Mack ahead of him at No. 5, Pittsburgh took Ryan Shazier 15th and the Ravens picked C.J. Mosley at No. 17. Mack plays in a 3-4 defense and Shazier and Mosley are inside linebackers, so the comparisons aren’t apples to apples. But some of their names have been mentioned in defensive rookie of the year conversations, so it is worth looking where they stack up.

Mack, who was a sure-fire player coming into the draft, is killing it this season according to PFF. His overall rating of 14.3 puts him in fourth place for 3-4 outside linebackers and fifth place for all outside linebackers.

Meanwhile, Mosley anchors the inside for Baltimore and has an overall rating of 6.6, which ranks him as the fourth best inside linebacker in the league. Shazier came into the league as an OLB but has played three games for the Steelers inside, and he ranks 39th with an overall rating of -2.9.

While Barr still lags behind Mack and Mosley, it will be interesting to see where he comes in after a couple full seasons under his belt in the position. He could close the gap quickly.

For my money, it’s fun to watch Barr flying all over the field making plays—whether they are sacks in the opponents’ backfield or chasing down a receiver in coverage to prevent a 3rd-down conversion—like he did against the Lions.

In a short time, the Vikings have come to rely on the rookie heavily. And that will be the same going forward. Greenway returned to practice this week, and that will help the defense, but it likely won’t slow the ascent of Barr as a defensive leader of the future.

“I think he’ll continue to progress more and more and we’ll continue to find more things for him to do,” Zimmer said. “At some point in time, I expect him to be one of the better linebackers in this league. I don’t know when that will be, but I expect it to be sometime.”

For a team searching for bright spots and silver linings, Barr is definitely one. Zimmer (like Vikings fans) has high expectations for the team and is admittedly impatient, and the growth of the Vikings will take some time. But for those who want to see results right now, they should keep an eye on Barr each game day. He’s playing well right now and shows plenty of promise for even more in the future.

Head over to VikingsJournal.com to check out A.J. Mansour's story on an NFC North quarterback comparison and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Season over if road woes continue

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 17, 2014 - 8:12 AM

The Vikings are about to embark on a critical stretch – a quartet of games against beatable teams, none of which have winning records. The biggest complicating factor isn’t matchup-based or injury-based. It’s that three of the four games are on the road.

Home-field advantage can be a huge factor in any sport. Some NFL teams derive significant benefit on their home turf – the Seahawks and Chiefs with all the noise, the Falcons and Saints with the domes and the Broncos with the thin air all come to mind.

However, road teams do win their fair share of football games. In fact, 11 teams already have at least two road wins this season. Last week, NFL road teams went 11-4. It’s not unusual for teams to win at least half of their games away from home – 13 teams did so last year.

In other words, yeah, home teams win most of the time but probably not nearly as often as you imagine they do. The minds of Vikings fans have been skewed to think that winning away from home is more difficult than mapping the genome of non-human organisms.

It isn’t.

The Vikings just make it seem that way.

Last year, the Vikes went 0-7-1 away from Mall of America Field. Who will ever forget the scintillating 26-26 tie in Green Bay that saved them from a 0-8 road record?

This year, the Vikings won on the road in Week 1 against the Rams, snapping their eight-game winless streak away from home. Then they lost their next two road games, to the Saints and Packers. Thus, since the start of last season the Vikings are 1-9-1 on the road.

Care for a bigger sample size? Since the start of the 2010 season, the Vikings are 8-26-1 on the road.

That’s not good. And that’s what has to be worrisome for Vikings fans as their team gets set to play at Buffalo this week, at Tampa Bay next week and at Chicago in Week 11 (following a home game against Washington and the bye week).

The Vikings really should beat Washington (1-5) at home. That seems like the closest thing to a sure-thing on the rest of their schedule. The Bills (3-3), Buccaneers (1-5) and Bears (3-3) will be more problematic.

Buffalo has already defeated two NFC North teams (the Bears and Lions) away from home for two of their three wins. Given that, defeating the Vikings at home doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the Bills and their top-ranked run defense. If the Vikings do lose this Sunday, they will fall to 2-5 and then have another road game at Tampa Bay. Again, the Bucs have been terrible for the most part this season.

But the Vikings seldom find a road game they can’t find a way to lose.

Even if the Vikes take down the Bucs and defeat the team from Washington, it still puts them at 4-5 heading into a road game at Chicago, where they haven’t won since 2007 and where they are 2-12 since 2000. That Bears game looks a lot like a loss for the Vikings, which would drop them to 4-6 (assuming wins over Washington and Tampa Bay) or 3-7 (if they lose their next three road games).

In either scenario, the Vikings would probably need to run the table in their final six games to have a shot at the postseason. Doing so would get them to 10-6 or 9-7. However, their final six games include (you guessed it) two more road games: at Detroit in Week 15 and at Miami in Week 16.

The conclusion is that the Vikings need to make an immediate departure from their recent history of road woes. Maybe they’ll do so under the new leadership of Mike Zimmer.

This was supposed to be the soft part of the Vikings’ schedule following their tough opening five games. What has been conveniently overlooked by most (including yours truly) is the fact that three of the games in this “easy” stretch are road games.

Are the Vikings really all that much better than last year’s team that didn’t win a single game away from home? They’ve already won once on the road. Who’s to say they win any more?

Shake the road demons – or whatever it is that afflicts them away from home -- and the Vikings give themselves a chance heading into the holidays. Continue their road woes and it will be time to start looking ahead to free agency and the draft.

Head on over to VikingsJournal.com for a look at the Vikings offensive line problems, and while you are there, check out my Week 7 fantasy football rankings.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: No trade winds blowing as deadline approaches

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 15, 2014 - 10:30 AM

Fans waiting for the Vikings to make a significant deal prior to the NFL trade deadline are kindly asked to not hold their breath at the risk of (ahem) turning purple. Unlike the other major sports leagues, trades aren’t plentiful during the NFL season for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, you can expect to hear a lot of rumors and speculation the next few weeks.

The NFL trade deadline will arrive in less than two weeks, at precisely 3 p.m. CT on Oct. 28.

Last year there was considerable speculation around this time that the Vikings would trade away Jared Allen, who was in the final year of his contract for a Vikings team that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The thought was the Vikings might at least try to get something in return for him since everyone knew he would be leaving via free agency. There were trade discussions on Allen reported by various media outlets, but a deal was never struck. His salary was probably the major sticking point.

Money is usually one of the biggest issues when it comes to making in-season deals. Most teams are close to the salary cap so taking on new salaries requires a certain amount of budget gymnastics. Beyond the salary cap implications are scheme fits and getting a fair return for the player in question. Player-for-player trades are rare and draft picks are treated like gold so hammering out a deal is seldom easy.

There are exceptions, of course. Last year there weren’t any blockbuster trades made right at the deadline, but Trent Richardson, Eugene Monroe, Jon Beason and Bryant McKinnie were among those dealt in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Richardson was traded from the Browns to the Colts on Sept. 18, Monroe was dealt by the Jaguars to the Ravens Oct. 3, Beason was traded from the Panthers to the Giants Oct. 4 and McKinnie was sent from the Ravens to the Dolphins on Oct. 21.

The Buccaneers attempted in vain to deal away Josh Freeman before last year’s deadline, but every NFL team knew he would be released if the Bucs failed to find a dance partner. No trade was made, Freeman was released, the Vikings signed him as a free agent, and… well, we all know how that worked out.

Of course, this is also the 25-year anniversary of the mother of all trades – the Herschel Walker deal, in which the Vikings traded their future away for a 27-year-old running back who was deemed to be “the final piece of the puzzle.” That infamous deal went down on Oct. 12, 1989. And we all know how that one turned out as well.

But enough about the painful Freeman and Herschel memories.

The focus is on 2014, and as things stand there don’t seem to be a lot of scenarios in which the Vikings would make a deal. Certainly they aren’t “one puzzle piece away” from being a Super Bowl contender, so the notion of trading draft picks or some kind of player and picks package for an established player is extremely far-fetched.

The more likely scenario is that the Vikings would trade a player or players for draft picks; however, that would first require a few things: the Vikings having at least a modicum of excess at a certain position and/or valuable trade chips.

An interrogation of the Vikings’ depth chart yields little in the way of excess at any particular position so in the make-believe scenario in which the Vikings deal away a player for a draft pick or picks, they would be left even more short-handed down the stretch.

Having said all that, there are two names on the Vikings’ roster that immediately spring to mind when conjuring up trade possibilities: Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson.

I’d put the chances of either being dealt in the next two weeks at about five percent, and that’s probably being generous.

If Ponder had done something, anything, in his prime-time opportunity at Lambeau Field a few weeks ago to enhance his trade value, I might be listening to trade rumors a little more closely. As it stands, Ponder didn’t add to his resume that night – at least not in a good way. I’m guessing Rick Spielman’s phone isn’t lighting up with offers.

I frankly don’t know what the Vikings could get for Ponder in a deal – maybe a late-rounder at best. And any team that deals for him would either need to sign him to an extension or merely view him as a half-season rental. Half-season rentals for star players makes some sense. Half-season rentals for backup quarterbacks does not. I don’t view the Ponder situation in the same way as the Freeman situation with the Buccaneers last year. Yeah, Ponder is in the final year of his deal and is a former starter serving in a backup capacity, but the Vikings’ brass still considers Ponder to be a viable NFL quarterback (at least outwardly) and Christian is not a malcontent like Freeman was in Tampa. Thus, there are no reports or rumors of the Vikings making him available for trade like the Bucs did last season with Freeman.

Vikings fans likely don’t see the drop-off from Ponder to Chandler Harnish – who has never played even a preseason snap for the Vikings – as being significant. Perhaps the front office shares that view. Therefore, I suppose nothing should be ruled out, especially if a playoff contender suffers injuries at the quarterback position this weekend.

As for Peterson, I hardly know where to begin. His trade value has never been lower, and anyone who knows anything about trading anything knows that you should never sell low. The “addition by subtraction” theory is the only rationalization worth attempting in any proposed Peterson deal. Even so, I remain skeptical. Most teams probably have zero interest based on everything that’s happened. Peterson almost assuredly won’t play again this season so he offers nothing of value for teams in the playoff chase this season. And beyond this season… he’ll be the highest-paid running back in the NFL, 30 years old, and likely facing a suspension at minimum, pending the outcome of his trial. The upside for a few years is obvious, but the salary cap hit would be substantial and the baggage incredible. I just don’t see it. Jerry Jones seems crazy enough to do just about anything, but he’s got a playoff contender already and the hottest running back in the game at the moment.

If not Ponder or Peterson, who? Who do you think the Vikings could realistically consider dealing and for what?

There are teams with salary cap room so you can never say never. The website overthecap.com does a good job of tracking each team’s current situation. Currently, they show eight teams with at least $10 million of available cap room, including playoff contenders like the Broncos, Patriots, Eagles and Bengals.

My very un-bold prediction is that the Vikings will not make any trades between now and the deadline. However, I’ll have my ear to the ground listening to rumors just like everyone else.

Head on over to VikingsJournal.com for a look at the Vikings offensive line problems and more on the development of Teddy Bridgewater.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Mike Zimmer--life in the meat grinder

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: October 10, 2014 - 9:53 AM

Recently, I spoke with a Green Bay fan, one still giddy about the Packers’ victory over the Vikings. After corralling her joy, her smile turned to concern and she recounted everything the Vikings have gone through this season. But then she brightened and told me she thought Mike Zimmer was a good coach—had his head on straight. I had to agree.

These are not joyous days at Winter Park. The Vikings are trying to rebound from a dismantling by divisional rival Green Bay, and that task has not been assisted by the fact that the Vikings head coach must constantly deal with another incident of one of his players in trouble.

As we have seen over the years, doing so is apparently part of the job when you become the head coach of the Vikings—a team with the most arrests in the NFL since the year 2000 (a number that continues to rise). In fact, just ask previous coach Leslie Frazier, who after his stint as Vikings head coach could be qualified to teach a 400-level college course on crisis management. Frazier endured a partial season as interim coach when the roof literally (and figuratively) fell in on his team, and he managed to somehow ford his way though it to the actual head coaching job.

It is a cautionary tale for Zimmer, however, that Frazier (one of the true gentlemen of the game) did not last any longer than three years as the head coach of the Vikings. Near the end, he looked worn down and ready to throw his arms up in the air in dismay, as the constant upheaval had gotten to him. He never lost it publically, but you could sense the Vikings ship sinking with his hand on the prow, and even he knew he couldn’t keep it afloat.

Zimmer looked a bit dismayed at his post-game press conference following the Packer game. What appeared to be weariness, was later revealed to be disgust at the performance of his defense against the run. We learned that Zimmer takes pride in a disciplined defensive performance, and he wasn’t tolerating what he saw at Lambeau Field.

“There’s nothing more disheartening as a coach than for you to get manhandled up-front,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “To be in the wrong gaps, to have people running the ball at you, it’s just disheartening. I think when I was in Dallas, my first year as a coordinator, we were like 30th or something in the league in rush defense and I said, ‘Never again.’”

Currently, Zimmer’s defense is ranked 19th against the run, giving up 121.8 yards on the ground per game. But it’s not the numbers or rankings that are important here. It’s more about the line in the sand that Zimmer has drawn. Clearly he is a pride-filled coach, and poor performance by his defense is not tolerable.

He has had to tolerate plenty of poor performances this year, and we’re not just talking about the ones on the field. Since he became the Vikings coach, the list of troubles, distractions, injuries and unexpected incidents has continued to grow.

Here is a list, most of which my Packer acquaintance was happy to recount:

* Nose tackle Linval Joseph, one of Zimmer’s prized free agent acquisitions, was shot in the leg while at a local nightclub.

* Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He was ultimately put on the NFL exempt list while the case is pending. He has added to the misery by admitting to have “smoked a little weed” before a urinalysis test.

* Suspended wide receiver Jerome Simpson was released after knowledge of a subsequent run-in with law enforcement.

* Defensive lineman Tom Johnson was arrested at local club and charged with trespassing -- premises of another and refusing to depart and disorderly conduct.

* News of alleged mismanagement of Peterson’s foundation

* Injuries to his top two quarterbacks in the first four games—a season ending injury to his opening day starter

* Season-ending injury to his starting right guard, Brandon Fusco, who had recently been signed to a contract extension.

* Loss of his starting tight end Kyle Rudolph to injury for 6-8 weeks, not too long after signing a big contract extension.

* Losing the leader of his defense, Chad Greenway, to broken ribs and a broken hand—with defensive playing calling falling on the rookie linebacker Anthony Barr.

All of this, and the season is only five weeks old. It’s enough to make even Frazier start counting his blessings down in Tampa.

Through it all, Zimmer has kept a stiff upper lip. He looked a little shaky at the first Peterson scandal press conference when the Vikings decided, ill-advisedly, to reinstate Peterson for a game after suspending him. (They quickly did an about face.) But since that time he has persevered and seems to be taking it in stride:

“Well, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, things that have happened throughout the course of this time,” Zimmer said. “But no one’s feeling sorry for me. No one’s worried about that. It is what it is.”

Zimmer came to Minnesota from the Cincinnati Bengals, which was second on the NFL list of teams with the most arrests since 2000. So he should have some experience in dealing with these kinds of issues. Before getting the job, he had been passed over many times for a head coaching position, so it is doubtful that he is going to wilt at the first sign of adversity.

On the contrary, he appears to be succeeding despite of it. While the wins and losses this season have all been with double-digit margins, the Vikings might appear at first glance to be a team that is out of control. But a 2-3 record at this point is about where many expected the team to be before the season started. To think that Zimmer has achieved that in the face of myriad personnel problems is at the very least commendable, and in my eyes a very good sign. Perhaps his experience in crisis management in Cincinnati has hardened him for tackling the problems with one of most dysfunctional teams in professional sports.

To put it succinctly, he may just be the right person for the job. He wanted the job. He got the job, and just maybe he will want to see it through.

Zimmer announced before the extended time off period between the Packers and Lions games that it was a chance to self-scout his team, his coaching staff and even himself, to make sure they are doing the right things and doing them the right way to move the team forward. Given what his team has gone through thus far, one might think that such an endeavor was warranted.

“I’ve been in situations before that needed to be corrected,” Zimmer said. “And like I told the coaches a little bit the other day, ‘You bust your rear end for five weeks [in camp] trying to get them exactly where you want them to be and then for the next five weeks you start worrying so much about the opponents that you forget about worrying about a lot of the things about yourself.’”

“It was just good to go back and look at ourselves, kind of go back and refocus on ourselves and you understand you have to play other people but at the end of the day it’s still about what you can do and how you can do it and how good you do it. There are teams that play one defense and one coverage and they are pretty damn good at what they do. We’ll just figure out what’s good for us.”

To be sure, Zimmer is just five games into his tenure as a head coach, he has lost some games by lopsided margins and his roster of players could be seen as a train wreck—whether you view it through a Packer perspective or through Purple-colored glasses. Zimmer has a long way to go to prove that he can handle the team both on and off the field, but so far, I would say he is the team’s best bet to pull this franchise out of the quagmire in which it currently finds itself.

Head over to VikingsJournal.com to check out Bo Mitchell's story on the latest developments in Adrian Peterson's off-field issues and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Opposition Outlook - Dynamic Weapons Questionable for Lions

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: October 9, 2014 - 6:43 AM

The Minnesota Vikings welcome the first place Detroit Lions to TCF Bank stadium this weekend for a week six matchup against a division foe. While Minnesota owns the all-time series against the Lions (69-34-2), Detroit has played the series even (4-4) over the past four seasons and has returned to some scale of relevance within the NFC North Division.

Armed with the NFL’s top ranked defense and an always potent offensive attack, the Lions will look to hand the Vikings their fourth loss of the 2014 season. But, it’s looking increasingly like they will have to do it without two of their most dangerous offensive weapons?

Both running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) left last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills early and have been held OUT of Lions practice so far this week.

Bush, 29, remains one of the league’s most dangerous multi-faceted threats. On the ground or through the air, Bush attacks opposing defenses in a variety of ways. While Bush has had some impact against the Vikings, including a 90 yard rushing day in his first game against the Vikings with Detroit, his major impact comes within the passing game. 

Since entering the league in 2006, the best course of action for using Reggie has been to get him the ball in open space and let him make defenders miss.  In four career games versus the Vikings, Bush has averaged only 3.5 yards per carry on the ground but has accounted for nearly 9 yards per reception through the air and both of his scores against the Vikings have come through the air.

While missing Reggie Bush will have some sort of impact on the Lions offense, it’s nothing compared to what missing wide receiver Calvin Johnson will have if his high ankle sprain leaves him unable to play Sunday.

With ten 150-yard receiving games since 2011, five career 200-yard receiving games and an average of 111.7 yards per game the past three seasons, Johnson has continued to be one of the league’s most dangerous receiving threats. That said, in two weeks playing on an injured ankle, Johnson has averaged only 9.5 yards per game.

Standing at 6’5” tall, Johnson is no stranger to dominating the opposition. The Vikings were reminded of this all too well in 2012 when Johnson went off for 12 catches, 207 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings in the Metrodome.

Team’s understandably notice Calvin when he’s on the field and Lions quarterback says this is nothing new.

The NFL’s leader in receiving yards per game (minimum of 100 games), Johnson has in essence underperformed historically against the Vikings.  While his career average is up at 87.2 receiving yards per game, against the Vikings Johnson averaged only 72.75 yards per game. I say only, with a bit of my tongue firmly implanted in cheek, but comparatively speaking the Vikings have at least contained Johnson. That said, he’s so dominant that each and every week is a potential breakout game for Calvin.

While the presence, or lack thereof, of Johnson on the field will change their approach, head coach Mike Zimmer is not taking the Lions passing attack lightly.

The Lions have lost 2 of 3 games against the Vikings where Johnson has been sidelined on game day.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said earlier this week that he would consider sitting Johnson to rest him against the Vikings to get him healthy for the rest of the season. We’ll continue to follow the situation throughout the week but I wouldn’t expect to see Calvin practice at all this week and will become a coaches decision on this week or next.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT