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: Filling In The Gaps

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: December 6, 2014 - 8:34 AM

When Mike Zimmer was hired to be the 9th head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, he looked each and every one of us media members in the eye and told us that after reviewing the roster he didn’t have all the players he would need to do exactly what he wanted. Some of the players fit the new coaches scheme and some of them didn’t. But he told us that it was his job, until they can get the players that he needs for the scheme, to “fill in the gaps” and make it work the best he can.

Some of that gap filling came in the form of free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft. With Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner getting their first chance and acquiring talent for this football team, the Vikings went out and turned some heads with the high-dollar signings of Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph and the drafting of an unknown commodity in Anthony Barr with the 8th overall selection. 13 games into the season, with hindsight set at 20/20, you can clearly see the vision that Zimmer has coming to fruition. Everson is likely on his way to the Pro Bowl and Anthony Barr, before injuries, was the front-runner for defensive rookie of the year.

But what about the rest of the roster? You couldn’t possibly fill all the gaps of a wholesale change in the course of one offseason.

While admittedly, some gaps do remain unfilled, others have been temporarily filled with the spackle that is the “willing” players on roster. I say “willing” because not all players are willing to sacrifice their numbers and their style of play for the betterment of the team. Those players are the ones that you see losing playing time and sticking out like a sore thumb while everybody else is doing their job.

For the willing, they bought in to what the new coaching staff was selling and many of them are running to the bank with it. For instance, look at Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes defensively. Harrison, the commander of the defensive secondary understands what former defensive backs coach Mike Zimmer expects out of his players. For Rhodes, it was the grasping of a subtle intricacy that puts Xavier’s physical play into the “legal” category as opposed to drawing pass interference and holding flags on a regular basis.

Flip over to the offensive side of the ball and let’s look at the way that Greg Jennings has filled the gap while one of his cohorts in the wide receivers room has done just the opposite. Jennings, always a professional, has visibly taken hold of Norv Turner’s offensive schemes and his hard work has aided the progression of younger wide receivers as well as rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The way that Greg Jennings executes his responsibilities so accurately, showcases the success this offense can have.

On the other hand, you have Cordarrelle Patterson. By his own admission, a guy who doesn’t work hard in practice and has skated by with his God-given talents up until now. His sloppiness on the field has landed him 3 snaps in last week’s win and a benching the week after.

Then there were the injuries.

Injuries are a big part of the NFL, but nobody can predict them. There’s no telling who they will affect, how long they will last or when they will come. But the one thing we know is they will come, to varying degrees. For the Vikings this season, that’s been a pretty heavy degree.

With Matt Cassel, Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco all missing a considerable amount of time this season, Zimmer and his staff along with the help of General Manager Rick Spielman, have had to come up with creative and effective ways to fill the gaps that the injury bug left on this roster over the season. That’s where Zimmer drafting “Zimmer guys” comes into effect again.

When Adrian went to be away from the team for most of the season, a Zimmer/Turner guy, Jerick McKinnon filled in with some success despite being a rookie in a vulnerable, physical position. The same can be said for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While most people expected Teddy to take over the starting role at some point in time, there weren’t too many who thought it would be this season and under these circumstances. Three weeks in and Teddy was thrust into action. It’s been a learning curve, but again, a player who fits the system and buys into the system at the same time is starting to find success on the field.

Here’s the point. As Mike Zimmer continues to fill the gaps and continues to develop the players that are currently on his roster, you can already see signs that he is the right guy for this job. Despite having his hands tied with the players already on roster, despite being bitten by the injury bug in a heavy way, Zimmer already has this team winning the same number of games that they did last year with Adrian Peterson and Matt Cassel...and there’s still four more games to play!

It may seem that his main responsibility in his first year as head coach has been that of a “gap filler”, the signs are already there that tell us once he has the ability to get out from under that umbrella, this team will flourish.

This offseason might be one of the more important ones in the history of the Minnesota Vikings. The blueprint is there and the framework has already been laid. With another crack at the market and another run through the draft, you should really start to see some of the vision coming together in 2015.

How Does Teddy Compare? - Version 2.0

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: December 4, 2014 - 8:47 AM

Last week we dove into the stats book and compared the first seven starts of Teddy Bridgewater’s career up against those of one of the most maligned Vikings quarterbacks in recent memory, Christian Ponder (CLICK HERE to read that article).

With one more start under his belt, let’s take another look at Teddy’s progression and how it shakes out against quarterbacks of Vikings past.

Through eight games started Teddy Bridgewater is sitting with a 61% completion percentage, 1,827 yards passing, 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. A quarterback rating of 79.0 was bumped up last weekend against the Panthers when Bridgewater passed for 138 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions for a career high 120.7 passer rating.

This week’s comparison quarterback manned the helm for six seasons as Vikings quarterback passing for a total of 20,162 yards, 135 touchdowns while rushing for another 2,470 yards and 29 touchdowns. The subject of “How Does Teddy Compare 2.0”, three time Pro Bowler and runner up in 2004 offensive MVP race, Daunte Culpepper.

Drafted out of Central Florida by the Minnesota Vikings with the 11th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Culpepper came to Minnesota to back up Jeff George and Randall Cunningham but his role as starter was expedited in 2000 when a 23 year-old second year player started all 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings.

Physically speaking, the pair couldn’t be much more opposite.  Standing at 6’4”, 264 lbs, Culpepper was a tank with a loaded cannon and the ability to run over the opponent if he decided to tuck and run. At 6’2” and weighing in a cool 50 lbs lighter, Teddy has a bit of a different skill set.

But how do the stats match up?

Looking specifically at his first 8 starts (again Teddy’s first 8 read 1,827 yards, 8 TDs and 7 INTs, 79.0 rating), Daunte passed for 1,984 yards, completed 61% of his passes while throwing for 15 TDs, 9 INTs and a passer rating of 91.6. Daunte also rushed for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns averaging 5.11 yards per carry.

Maybe the biggest thing to note, the team’s record through Daunte’s first 8 games was 7-1 on their way to an 11-5 season and two game run into the playoffs.

While the stats can speak for themselves, the record even more so, the biggest difference between 23 year old Daunte Culpepper and 22 year old Teddy Bridgewater was confidence. Daunte, already physically imposing himself, came into the league and was ready to rumble. He wasn’t afraid of defensive lineman, he wasn’t about to slide when running the ball, he was ready to run through the opponent on his way into the endzone.

Daunte’s tenure as Vikings quarterback ended prematurely after a knee injury stifled his mobility and cracked into his psyche. After 7 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Daunte was shipped off to Miami for a second round draft pick where he played for one season before trying his hand in Oakland and ending his career with two seasons in Detroit.

Still a revered figure in Minnesota sports history, the feeling of “what could have been “ for Daunte will never go away. In two seasons, Culpepper went from a near historic season (39 TDs in 2004) and a near MVP victory to a has-been retread getting shipped from team to team to end his career.

I think we all hope that Teddy avoids the injury bug that plagued Culpepper late in his career, but if he brings the same productivity, I think Vikings fans would be pleased.

VikesCentric: Vikings block the Panthers’ path to victory

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: December 1, 2014 - 8:20 AM

The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-13 at The (frozen) Bank on Sunday, putting Carolina’s season on ice, while the Vikings warmed the hearts of their fans with the win.

It was the 7th coldest Vikings home game in team history (which is saying quite a bit), but the Vikings dominated the Panthers early and did enough in the second half to salt away the victory. The offense, (thanks to a very efficient Teddy Bridgewater), the defense (with another solid performance) and special teams (with two touchdowns of their own) all contributed to the win.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said he was looking for a win all week and reiterated that to his players before the game, and they delivered. The Panthers are not world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination, despite still being eligible to win their division, but the Vikings needed a win to show some progress and that’s exactly what they did.

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The frigid temps at The Bank on Sunday (12 degrees at game time that felt like below zero), stirred memories of the good old days of dominant Vikings defense and specials teams. And the Vikings play reinforced those memories even more, as they blocked two punts against the Panthers and returned them both for touchdowns--overwhelmingly the key to the Vikings’ win.

It has been since 2006 that the Vikings blocked a punt and 1986 since they have returned one for a TD. (They blocked a punt for a safety in 1989.) In fact, only 11 players on the active roster were alive the last time the Vikings returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

What the Vikings special teams did on Sunday was pretty special. The last time the Vikings blocked two punts in a game was Dec. 11, 1983 versus Chicago--Rick Bell and Randy Holloway blocked the punts. The fact they returned both for touchdowns in one game is certainly unprecedented for the Vikings, but it was only the fourth time it has occurred in NFL history.

Everson Griffen’s 43-yard return (of a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley) for a touchdown was the longest in team history. Prior to that, the record belonged to Adam Thielen for his 30-yarder in the first quarter (the first ever touchdown scored in the NFL by MSU-Mankato Maverick). He didn’t hold the record very long.

Teddy Bridgewater was sick before the game with a temperature over 100, and there was no threat of him overheating at the Bank on Sunday. He had one of his best games as a pro, putting up decent stats, showing requisite poise and demonstrating good decision-making. He ran when he should have, most of his check downs were the right plays (and not habitual) and he hit his receivers in stride—including some deep throws. Bridgewater was 15 of 21 passing for 138 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating of 120.7 is the highest of his career. On top of that, his throws were void of the high passes that were becoming all too familiar this season.

Bridgewater wasn’t under pressure to score a lot of points, thanks to the incredible play of the Vikings special teams, but he had great command in the two scoring drives at the beginning and end of the first half, which led to him being serenaded once again with chants of “Teddy” for the rest of the game. It is the confidence builder that Bridgewater needed for the final month of his rookie season.

Wide receiver Charles Johnson is slowly becoming an integral (or even bigger) part of the of the Vikings offense. Week by week his role has been growing in the Vikings offense, and game by game he has delivered. Against Carolina, he was targeted four times (second to only Greg Jenning’s six targets) and he caught two passes—one of them for 24 yards that set up the Vikings first score. He nearly caught a deep pass from Bridgewater that was broken up by borderline pass interference. But the bottom line is that the longer Cordarrelle Patterson sits (see below), the bigger role Johnson will get. And he is making the most of it.

Worth Defending

We are going to give the offensive line decent marks in this game—particularly if you are grading on a scale of all their performances. They kept Bridgewater pretty clean in the first half (one sack), ultimately surrendering two quarterback hits and three sacks in the game. The offensive line’s performance is even more remarkable since they adjusted to new personnel, as Mike Harris got his first start for the Vikings, filling in for the injured Phil Loadholt. In addition, Matt Kalil had one of his better games of the season—perhaps he needed his older brother in the game to create some competition.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes—appears to be getting better every week and he stood out with his defense against the taller Panthers receivers—in particular, the 6 foot 5 Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a rookie, but is tough to cover, and Rhodes played very well against him—nearly picking off a pass in front of him on one play.

Rhodes is the Vikings tallest member of the secondary, and should expect this kind of assignment. Against the Chicago Bears, who have two tall receivers, the Vikings saw their opponents picking on the shorter Josh Robinson most of the game. The Panthers did not repeat that, and Rhodes made them pay by being in position all game long and recording three pass defenses. His increasingly good play bodes well for the Vikings defense going forward.

We would like to compliment the Vikings defense in general, as they shut down the Panthers in the first half and helped secure the win. But there were plenty of breakdowns in the second half, and the rushing defense is not were the team needs it to be. They average 118.9 yards per game, but gave 178 to the Panthers. Granted, 49 of those yards went to quarterback Cam Newton and usually occured after a play had been well defensed downfield, but running back Jonathan Stewart ran for 85 yards and had 25 yards receiving. The Vikings were missing Sharrif Floyd and Anthony Barr for parts of the game, but they need to do much better stopping the run.

Should be Ending

Cordarrelle Patterson—one target no catches. Something is amiss with him. He is either so deep in Zimmer’s doghouse or else he is injured and can’t do what it takes to get on the field. Charles Johnson is getting his snaps and making the most of the opportunity. Zimmer was asked about what Patterson has to do to get back on the field.

“He’s really starting to do a lot of better things in practice, so we just have to keep going there,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “I think Charles Johnson is doing a good job playing the same position; Charles is doing some good things. It’s just, continually, first off you have to be at practice, then you have to do stuff when you’re there.”

Zimmer told KFAN radio that Patterson missed practice this week because he had to attend a funeral, so he wasn’t able to get the practice reps he needed to get more snaps. You also don’t get the feeling he makes the most of his own opportunities and that he is not ingratiating himself to the head coach.

The Vikings running game has been sputtering recently. Matt Asiata returned from being out with a concussion and Jerick McKinnon didn’t play due to a lower back injury, so they are patching things together. But they have a Joe Banyard who has done well in a limited role, and we are still waiting to see more of Ben Tate. Tate had five carries for 15 yards, which isn’t a whole lot of to get excited about, but why not get him going even more. He does have to learn the offense to be fully involved, but the Vikings really need to see what they have in him before the season ends or Adrian Peterson gets back on the field. Give Tate the rock.

Speaking of Adrian Peterson, his appeal will be heard on Tuesday of this week. On the heels of the Ray Rice indefinite suspension being overturned, he may have some traction for things turning around for him. Of course, the Rice decision could cause Roger Goodell to dig in deeper himself and try for a win somewhere else. Whether you think Peterson should be reinstated (as at least one purple No. 28 jersey at today’s game read) or not, it will be worth watching the proceedings this week.

Head over to Vikings Journal and check out AJ Mansour's latest coverage on Teddy Bridgewater's progress 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: Vikings wish list

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: November 30, 2014 - 9:16 AM

With everyone out shopping this weekend, snapping up “Black Friday” door-buster mega deals, it got me wondering what – or more specifically who – should be on the Vikings’ wish list. They might want to make a run at some free agents in the spring just a year in advance of their new stadium opening. Who are the targets?

The Vikings should feel motivated to jump into free agency. They won’t have enough draft picks to plug every hole in this roster, Mike Zimmer is going to want to bring in more of “his guys” and, as mentioned above, there are season tickets and personal seat licenses to sell in the new stadium.

Also, there’s a chance that the Vikings could have some extra money to throw around should they make the business decision to release Adrian Peterson or at least restructure his deal. They’ll have some leverage in that regard.

Anyway, since it’s probably at least one week early to even attempt the earliest of “early” mock drafts, I decided to scan the horizon for some of the notable players set to hit the unrestricted free agency market in March.

We’ll start with the offense and make this a two-part series, with (you guessed it) defense in part two.

Should the Vikings pay what it might cost to land any of these guys?

Quarterback

There’s a chance the Vikings could dip into free agency to replace Christian Ponder, who is slated to leave via free agency. However, there’s probably a better chance they just roll with Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel and then find a third quarterback from among the free agency leftovers. Nonetheless, here are the top quarterbacks who are set to become free agents:

Brian Hoyer

Ryan Mallet

Michael Vick

Mark Sanchez

Jake Locker

Blaine Gabbert

Colt McCoy

Shaun Hill

Austin Davis

Christian Ponder

Of the above guys, my guess is the only one that seems like a fit for the Vikings is Shaun Hill – a veteran backup type of player. However, he would be a better fit if Cassel weren’t already with the team. His teammate Austin Davis might work as a second or third quarterback as well. Before you even ask, the answer is “no” on Michael Vick. Several of the other quarterbacks listed above are going to want a shot at starting, and that’s not happening in Minnesota. This is Teddy Bridgewater’s offense last I checked.

Running back

This one is worth exploring if, and only if, the Vikings decide to get rid of Peterson. Even then, with Jerick McKinnon, Ben Tate Matt Asiata and Joe Banyard around, it seems unlikely. It should be noted that Asiata will be a restricted free agent.

Mark Ingram

Justin Forsett

C.J. Spiller

DeMarco Murray

Ahmad Bradshaw

Knowshon Moreno

Stevan Ridley

Shane Vereen

Darren McFadden

Ryan Mathews

Frank Gore

Roy Helu

Jacquizz Rodgers

I’ll say this: it’s an interesting group of free agent running backs. Last offseason, Ben Tate and Toby Gerhart headlined the free agent running back class. Again, I don’t think the Vikings will make a run at any of the above unless things chance with Peterson, Tate isn’t brought back, Asiata leaves, etc.

Wide receiver

Here’s where things get interesting if you are the Vikings. They spent free agency money a few years ago at wide receiver when they inked Greg Jennings and they’ve made a run at free agent wide receivers in the recent past if reports regarding the likes of Vincent Jackson and Mike Wallace are accurate. Might one of the guys listed below be on the Vikings wish list in March? I think there’s a chance.

Dez Bryant

Demaryius Thomas

Randall Cobb

Torrey Smith

Hakeem Nicks

Reggie Wayne

Wes Welker

Jeremy Maclin

Michael Crabtree

Kenny Britt

Cecil Shorts

Andre Holmes

Louis Murphy

Nate Washington

Now that’s a list with some star power! I’m pretty sure Jerry Jones will cough up whatever it takes to keep Dez Bryant in Dallas. Similarly, if Peyton Manning keeps playing he’ll probably restructure his deal if that’s what it takes to keep Demaryius Thomas with the Broncos. The Vikings could opt to make a run at a Packers free agent and at least drive up the price on Cobb. The most likely guys on this list that I could see the Vikings pursuing are Maclin, Crabtree or even Shorts. The Vikings need a way to stretch the field, assuming Bridgewater finds the radar on his deep passes. Shorts is an injury risk and he’s not exactly a household name outside of fantasy football leagues, but he can take the top off a defense. So can Torrey Smith, of course, but I’m guessing the Ravens will figure out a way to re-sign him. Regardless, there are some interesting free agents at this position of need for the Vikings.

Tight end

I think the Vikings are fairly set at tight end after signing Kyle Rudolph to a six-year contract in July. They aren’t about to throw big money at another tight end. Nevertheless, here are the top pending free agents at tight end.

Julius Thomas

Owen Daniels

Jordan Cameron

Charles Clay

Jermaine Gresham

Zach Miller

Jacob Tamme

Lance Kendricks

Rob Housler

Niles Paul

If the Vikings need tight end depth, it won’t be one of these guys. As with Demaryius Thomas, I think Julius Thomas will very likely be staying in Denver with a fat new contract, as long as Peyton Manning decides to keep playing.

Offensive Line

I think the Vikings simply have to get at least one offensive lineman in free agency. Clearly this is an area of need and they won’t be spending all their draft picks on linemen. I’d put offensive line even ahead of wide receiver as an area of need in free agency. Here are the big guys who are set to become available in March.

Tackles

Doug Free

Bryan Bulaga

Michael Roos

Joe Barksdale

Gabe Carimi

King Dunlap

Guards

Orlando Franklin

Mile Iupati

James Carpenter

Clint Boling

Fernando Velasco

Will Rackley

Centers

Brian De La Puente

A.Q. Shipley

Roberto Garza

Nick Hardwick

Stefen Wisniewski

Will Montgomery

The Vikings are set at center with John Sullivan, but guards and tackles should definitely be in their crosshairs. Current Vikings Joe Berger and Vladimir Ducasse are also set to become unrestricted free agents so they’ll need even more depth at guard if those two leave.

Would it be too much to ask for the Vikings to go after Iupati or Bulaga? If they intend to make a run at either, they will need to open Zygi’s wallet wide. There is speculation in San Francisco that Iupati won’t be re-signing with the 49ers, and could be headed toward the biggest contract for a guard in league history.

The Vikings need to go into next season having done more than add a rookie or two to the current group.

So there they are. That should be most of the notable pending unrestricted free agents on offense. What do you think? Who would you make a run at if you were the Vikings? Who is on your wish list?

We’ll take a look at the defensive players set to hit free agency in Part Two of this “wish list” next week at VikingsJournal.com.

Go to VikingsJournal.com to discuss the Panthers vs. Vikings game and to check out my Week 13 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: Packers put away the Vikings with ease

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: November 24, 2014 - 8:44 AM

The Minnesota Vikings stayed with the Green Bay Packers at TCF Bank Stadium, but ultimately the visitors, with their high-powered offense, proved too much. The Packers defense turned a Teddy Bridgewater interception into seven points to give them the lead and they never really looked back.

While few experts gave the Vikings much of a chance against the high-scoring Packers, the Vikings defense played tough enough to keep them around late into the fourth quarter. Head coach Mike Zimmer twice went for it on fourth down to keep a Vikings drive going and to keep Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers off the field, but in the end, the Packers, with the help of Eddie Lacy (125 rushing yards and a touchdown), put up the points they needed to win.

The Vikings played better than they had last week against Chicago, but in the end were just outgunned. Rodgers never appeared too concerned about the outcome. In the final analysis, the Vikings played with the Packers, but the Packers basically toyed with the Vikings.

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Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had another rough outing. He missed several open receivers, threw several high passes (some that were completed) to his receivers and floated a bad pick in the first half that turned into a Packers touchdown. Bridgewater looked good in the fourth quarter when the Vikings went into 4-minute drill (and the Packers went into prevent defense) and he had his first two-touchdown pass game as a pro, but his mistakes had already put the Vikings in a hole that they had little chance of escaping. But it was his inaccuracies and the unforced error of the pick that ultimately marred his performance.

As a unit, the Vikings pass defense had a decent game for Minnesota, holding Rodgers and the high-octane Packers passing game to only 207 yards—below their average of 275 yards per game. Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn, and particularly Josh Robinson (who struggled mightily last weekend with the taller Bears receivers), were constantly in position to break up passes and did so. With a quarterback such as Rodgers, who is going to get his, they kept him in check, which kept Minnesota in the game. If the Viking rush defense had had similar success, it might have been enough to win.

With all kinds of questions at the Vikings running back position (from Adrian Peterson to Matt Asiata out with a concussion and Jerick McKinnon with a sore lower back), the Vikings needed some good news and got it from Joe Banyard. Banyard, getting his first NFL carry and first reception, spelled McKinnon and took advantage of every opportunity (five rushes for 26 yards and three catches for 19 yards). It could have because he heard footsteps behind him when the Vikings signed Ben Tate earlier in the week. But Banyard’s production is what kept him on the field.

“I thought Joe did well when he was in there,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “He made some extra yards after contact a bunch of times. He looked like he had some juice running and carried his pads low. He deserved to keep playing.”

Zimmer (like most coaches) likes to reward good play, so expect to see more of Banyard the longer Asiata remains sidelined or until Tate gets up to speed with the offense.

Worth Defending

Zimmer may have made a coaching error, at least according to himself. After the Vikings’ final touchdown and two-point conversion, the Vikings were gifted with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that was tacked onto the kickoff. It presented a great opportunity to try an onside kick that Zimmer decided against. Zimmer chose to kick deep, which let to Lacy grinding away the rest of the clock. After the game, Zimmer said in retrospect, that he should have kicked it onside.

“I did,” Zimmer said when asked if he considered an onside kick. “I did and [in] hindsight I probably should have, but you’re trying to pop it up and keep it in play and try to pin them back down in there deep. But I assumed that we would stop them.”

Hindsight is 20-20, as they say, but Zimmer should have made the call at the outset. The only way to shutdown the Packers totally is to keep them off the field. Zimmer made that decision to do the same on fourth down twice in the first half. At 4-6 heading toward 4-7, the Vikings had nothing to lose going for the onside kick. If they don’t get it, Lacy can get a first down and ice the game at the 45 as well as the 20-yard line.

The Vikings offensive line had a better game this week, but not good enough to get the job done. Bridgewater was sacked twice and hurried six times in the game, and he had to sprint out of a collapsing pocket often to gain yardage (he had five rushes for 32 yards). Where the line really dropped the ball was not playing clean of penalties. The penalties shortened drives and affected offensive momentum. There was some improvement in general, but not enough to beat the Packers.

Before the game on Sunday a report from ESPN said that Mike Zimmer believes that Adrian Peterson will return to the Vikings after he is reinstated—despite reaction to a report by the USA Today in which Peterson said it might be best to try a fresh start somewhere else.

ESPN sources said that while there are some team personnel who are interested in Peterson returning, Vikings ownership--along with general manager Rick Spielman--“have been heavily involved in effort to have him play this season, an indication they may take him back when reinstated.”

Peterson will be back with the NFL sooner or later. Getting a second chance in Minnesota would be good for him and the team—even if not all the Vikings corporate sponsors agree. In my estimation, he would need to come back with a renegotiated salary (as he is due between $13-15 million next season), but his presence in the backfield would open things up for Bridgewater and help him to learn his position rather than fearing it on every pass play behind a struggling offensive line. Peterson should be able to continue to make a living, and I would like to see him do it as a Viking.

Should be Ending

Matt Kalil struggled once again on Sunday, and it was no more obvious than on the three penalties that he took that served to shorten two Vikings drives. His head coach didn’t call him out by name, but he did mention the infractions in his postgame news conference:

“We had a 15-yard run and get an offensive holding penalty late on that one,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. We get a hands to the face. We just have to quit doing these things. It’s not what good teams do. We’ll keep going, keep getting back to work and keep trying to pound the mindset and pound the fundamentals of we have to continue to do to win football games.”

The Vikings need to find the secret to Kalil to unlock the player who was on the field two years ago. The future success of the team depends on it.

On the Vikings final drive, Jarius Wright was confused with his assignment on the field twice and the second time it forced the use of a time out. One play Bridgewater had to direct him into position, and on the second he called a time out. When play resumed after the time out, Wright was nowhere to be seen on the field for the remainder of the drive. Patterson, who was questionable to return to the game with injury, came in for Wright. Not being ready in crunch time is not acceptable. It appears it is not acceptable to Zimmer either.

Bridgewater needs to figure out why he is throwing his passes so high to receivers. It has happened throughout the season and showed up with great frequency against Green Bay (he came into the game tied for sixth most overthrows in the league with five per game). If it is mechanics, work on it. If he is too short to see over his line, then try rolling him out more. If he doesn’t grip the ball correctly, he might need to change things up. His overthrows hurt the Vikings on several drives and more accurate passing could have made difference in the game.

Head over to Vikings Journal and check out AJ Mansour's take on who to blame for the disheartening loss to the Packers 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: Preparing For Life Without Adrian Peterson

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: November 22, 2014 - 8:01 AM

Since he entered the league in 2007, the Minnesota Vikings have formed their offensive game plan around the talents of running back Adrian Peterson. Some years, depending on the rest of the personnel, Adrian is a focal point but the offense can find other ways to be effective. Other years, Peterson has been the entirety of the Vikings offense.

But as we sit here, Saturday morning, There’s a very real possibility that the Vikings, Vikings fans and Vikings players will have to start getting used to the idea of playing without Adrian Peterson.

We all know that he’ll most likely be suspended for the remainder of the season awaiting his appeal to be heard. Now, after Peterson broke his silence with a phone interview with the USA Today.

While Peterson used the forum to address his issues with corporal punishment and admitting that there are better ways to punish his kids, he also used it to float out an interesting idea.

Buried within the context of Adrian exclaiming how sorry he is and how many different forms of punishment he will now use instead of a switch were a few little nuggets that shouldn’t leave Vikings fans feeling super comfortable about his future with the team.

Primarily this quote,

"I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there," Peterson said. "But if there's word out that hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."

In my opinion, this is Adrian Peterson testing the waters to see what sort of reaction the thought of him being released will get.  In reality, it might be a win-win for both sides of this situation. Adrian gets a new start, with a new fan base that may have been a little more understanding of this whole situation and the Vikings get out from underneath a contract that would have hamstrung them for $13-$15 million a year over the next few seasons.

But what would a Vikings team without Adrian Peterson look like heading into the future? It will be different that’s for sure, but is different necessarily a bad thing?

We’ve been hearing for year that the NFL has transformed into a passing league and the Minnesota Vikings are stuck with an archaic offensive attack focusing on running the football first. Sure it’s gotten them to the playoffs a few times, but the one season they went deep, Brett Favre came to town and single handedly transformed the bland attack into a viable aerial threat.

The Vikings haven’t exactly been planning for a time this close where they would have to part ways with their star running back, but thankfully, they may have stumbled upon a diamond in the rough with third round running back Jerick McKinnon.

Drafted to add a new element to the Vikings offense, pass catching, and to serve as a change of pace for Adrian’s hard-nosed running style, McKinnon has impressed during his fill-in opportunity this season. His patience is that of a crafty veteran and his shiftiness is something that you simply cannot teach a football player. They either have it, or they don’t.

With McKinnon filling in, and Norv Turner still at the offensive helm, the Vikings offense then shifts to more of a passing, maybe call it West Coast offense attack. Short passes, allowing your players to make a defender miss a tackle and gain yards after the catch. McKinnon fits that bill well, so do Kyle Rudolph and Cordarrelle Patterson. There’s your young core of weapons. Still, the success of this football team will live and die with the progression of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

There is a mindset that Adrian Peterson’s presence on the field would have helped Teddy’s progress in his first season as a starter. While that very well may be true, it could have also served as a detriment for this team.

Sure, having Adrian out there would have taken the focus off of the young QB and it would have opened up the field, but then what would have happened to Teddy’s progress if and when Adrian were to be cut? He no longer has his noookie-blankey to rely on and all the attention shifts back to him, the quarterback who was christened into the league within a run-first offensive attack.

Throwing Teddy into the fire feet first this season without Adrian should help him prepare better for the type of offense that the Vikings will run with or without Adrian Peterson into the future. It’s teaching him how to read pressures, how to adjust formations and how to find the open receiver better than handing the ball off to 28 would have done.

The writing appears to be on the wall spelling the end of Adrian’s time here in Minnesota. If it’s not this offseason, it will likely be next, but there is a time coming in the not-so-distant future where this football team will play without Peterson in the backfield. As painful as this season has been, with all of the changes and adjustments, it’s setting them up to bounce back from this loss faster.

How about we call it a blessing in disguise and start looking towards 2015 already?

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