Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Chad Greenway

Vikings are 9-6? Vikings are 9-6

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 23, 2012 - 6:24 PM

Win or lose next week, make the playoffs or not, the Vikings are overachivers this year, and the way they manhandled two of the league's best teams lends credence to Leslie Frazier's approach.

The Vikings manhandled the 49ers at home. They manhandled the Texans on the road.

When Christian Ponder doesn't lose the game for them, the Vikings tend to win.

They're 9-6 now, and one victory away from the playoffs, and winning with a style that seems sustainable and a  young roster that seems capable of growth.

Ponder and the defense should get much of the credit for the victory. I think the coaching staff should get a game ball for this one. Chad Greenway said the game plan was to choke off the Texans' running game, which woulid hamper their ability to use play action and bootlegs. It worked.

While Andre Johnson caught passes in the middle of the field, he didn't hurt the Vikings' deep.

Offensively, Bill Musgrave designed another game plan that set Ponder up to succeed. He scripted easy throws early, and obviously encouraged Ponder to use his legs when appropriate. Ponder has looked like a much more confident quarterback the last two weeks, especially when on the move.

I know the Pagano-Arians pairing in Indianapolis will receive most of the coach of the year votes, and they have a great and emotional case. I think Leslie Frazier deserves consideration, it not a slew of first-place votes. This team looked hopeless last year, and he has this gorup of players playing with fire and cohesiveness.

As I've noted before this season, Frazier has also helped make this a class organization. I can't remember the last time I covered a winning Vikings team that was this much fun to be around.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 on Monday with Patrick Reusse, and on WJON in St. Cloud with Jay Caldwell at 7:15 a.m.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Big weekend for Mn sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 17, 2012 - 9:12 AM
It was quite a weekend for Minnesota sports fans, a weekend made possible by perhaps the two most popular athletes in the Twin Cities these days.
One captivated because of accomplishment, the other because of promise. Both exceeded expectations while coming off of major knee surgery.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 212 yards, moving him within reasonable striking distance of Eric Dickerson’s rushing record of 2,105.
Ricky Rubio returned to Target Center and made the kind of deft, heady plays that have made him a national phenomenon.
That’s not an exaggeration. When you talk to national NBA writers and talk to people around the country, they find Rubio more interesting than any Wolves player since Kevin Garnett was a teenager.
Both have a chance, in the season following ACL surgery, to lead their teams to the playoffs. And both teams currently hold the sixth seed in their respective conferences.
We tend to speak of the local sports scene as if it’s one big organism, when actually it’s a collection of independent businesses. But if we want to toss all of local sports into the same category, things are looking up.
The Vikings have a chance to go to the playoffs in what I thought would be a rebuilding year.
The Wolves have a chance to go to the playoffs despite a stunning array of injuries and a recent history of awful personnel moves.
The Twins are building a future winner and could, with one more veteran pitcher, be more competitive this season.
The Wild will play again…someday.
The Gopher basketball team is the best of Tubby Smith’s tenure.
And Gopher football is in a bowl game, which, while it doesn’t impress me, is better than the alternative.
Other than Peterson’s long runs, the most interesting play of the Vikings’ victory, to me, was Everson Griffen’s interception return for a touchdown.
On the play, Chad Greenway faked a blitz from the left side of the defensive line. At the snap, he sprinted to the right flat to cover. Griffen dropped from defensive end into coverage as safety Harrison Smith dropped deep. Bradford saw Griffen but thought he could get the ball past him.
Griffen was an outstanding high school running back. He’s a remarkable athlete. Once the ball was in the air, the Rams were in trouble. Griffen intercepted and scooted down the right sideline to the end zone, shaking off a tackler.
Greenway put his hand in the air, the touchdown, when Griffen was still 20 yards from the end zone. Griffen’s teammates know how talented he is.
Tampa-2 defenses are known for predictability. That play was the latest example of Leslie Frazier and Alan Williams’ ability to mix up coverages and looks this year. And it was the latest of Griffen’s plays that justified the team’s patience with him when he was known for throwing wild parties and underachieving.
Another fascinating week awaits.
The Wolves face Miami and Oklahoma City. The Vikings travel to Houston to face the Texans, who allowed 105 yards to Colts running back Vick Ballard on Sunday.
I’ll be on 1500espn today, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 2:05 p.m., and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 each morning to talk sports. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Bullying the bullies

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 23, 2012 - 6:50 PM

The Vikings' 24-13 upset of San Francisco might have been their most impressive performance since they beat Dallas in the playoffs in 2009. Their upset of Philadelphia in Philadelphia in 2010 was surprising, but those Eagles turned out to be a very flawed team, and with the game being postponed by weather, it never felt like a normal game.

This was different. This was the Vikings beating the 49ers at their own game. Here's what stood out to me:

1. A young Vikings roster that I don't think is talented enough yet to play with the league's big boys took it to the 49ers. They ran the ball. Percy Harvin, as usual, took it to defensive backs. Christian Ponder played with poise. The defense stifled the 49ers' power running game and pressured Alex Smith.

This is the way Leslie Frazier wants to win, and Sunday marked the first time you could see his vision played out on an NFL field against a superior team.

2. Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season. I know, I know, he's had a few dropped, and the 49ers could have changed the game by holding onto Ponder's one terrible throw in the fourth quarter,

Good quarterbacks thrown interceptions, too, though, and good quarterbacks have apparent interceptions dropped. The numbers, in this case, are accurate. Ponder has been careful with the ball and has completed 70 percent of his passes. After 13 NFL starts, he looks about as good as the Vikings could have hoped at this stage of his career.

3. Randy Moss looked like he didn't want to get hit. He short-armed a high throw and didn't appear interested in another pass that whistled by his head. He played sparingly in the fourth quarter of a game where the 49ers were desperate for a deep threat.

After all this time, Moss is pretty much everything everybody has ever said he is. He's a great receiver. He's one of the most unique talents in NFL history. He's a pain in the butt. And he is untrustworthy.

4. Ponder held a weird postgame press conference. He sounded like he wanted to pretend to be mad at everyone who didn't pick the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. But he's such a nice, reasonable guy, that he couldn't maintain the fake anger and kept making jokes.

He did keep bringing up the Super Bowl. Make of that what you will. I do think that Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan, Matt Kalil and the other young offensive players believe they're building something here. The question, for me, is whether they will be ready to win big while Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin are still healthy and in their prime.

Even in a game we all know if violent, Peterson and Harvin are exceptions. They run with exceptional effort.

5. Chad Greenway is having an outstanding season. He's shown up in the pass rush and in pass coverage. He's been a strong performer against the running game for years, but the man does work at his craft and you can see improvement across the board this year.

6. Sportswriters and radio hosts pick games because picking games can make for interesting copy and fodder. But we really shouldn't. We don't know who's going to win. If we did, we'd all live in Vegas. In penthouses in Vegas.

We don't. I proved that again today. I thought the 49ers would win by about 10.

Please don't ever take the advice of a sportswriter when betting. Nothing good will come of it.

Other stuff:

-Restaurant recommendation of the day: Lola's Pizzeria in Southwest Minneapolis, on Xerxes. Great food and atmosphere.

-Tailgated outside TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Nice atmosphere. Not as rowdy as some college campuses, but I think that's a good thing. People were friendly and calm, and the band sounded great.

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m.

-Luckily for me, I'll be covering the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week. It's one of the few things I haven't done as a writer that I had always wanted to do. Next wish: The British Open at St. Andrews one of these years.

 

Minnesota: The State of Football

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 9, 2012 - 6:29 PM

The Gophers and Vikings are a combined 3-0.

Of course, they should be, given the level of competition.

I'm not sure exactly what to make of the Vikings' 26-23 victory. They had awful lapses and struggled to beat a lousy team at home, but there were these high points:

-Adrian Peterson, the subject of my Monday morning column, carried 17 times. That's 17 times more than I would have given it to him and about five more than the coaches wanted to, but he looked remarkably healthy and spry. Without him, the Vikings lose this game.

I hope for his sake he doesn't spend the rest of his career on bad teams. He is a rare competitor and deserves to play for championships.

-Christian Ponder looked shaky early, but got better as the game went on. I thought the best thing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave did was call a few quick passes to Percy Harvin late in the first half. That loosened up the Jaguars' defense, and calmed Ponder, who was at his best in clutch situations late in the game and in overtime.

-The defense was lucky that Blaine Gabbert missed a wide-open receiver for a touchdown and that Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't at full speed. Chris Cook should have played the Jags' go-ahead touchdown pass much better, but how can a receiver get that much space in that situation?

-Chad Greenway made a couple of key plays in pass defense, a good sign from a player who has to be more than just a solid run-stopper for this defense to thrive.

-Jared Allen spent a lot of time on the sideline in the first half looking very angry. He's done that before, but it's ominous this early in the season.

-Kyle Rudolph is going to have an excellent career if he stays healthy and Ponder remains the quarterback.

-Second-guess time: Peterson had two rushing touchdowns on which he was barely slowed as he got to the end zone. Vikings have the ball inside the Jacksonville 5 in the fourth quarter. Twice, Peterson is sent left as a decoy. Both times, the Vikings wound up with a muddled-looking pass play and no open receivers.

Don't over-think it. Give it to Peterson.

-Blair Walsh was awfully impressive. He nailed all four of his field goals, including the 55-yard that sent the game to overtime, and he boomed his kickoffs.

I don't know anybody who doesn't like and respect Ryan Longwell, but Walsh is making Rick Spielman look pretty smart today.

-Only six of Ponder's 20 completions went to wideouts. That's probably wise, but it also indicates that this offense is going to be very limited.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Wrapping up the weekend in sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 25, 2011 - 6:35 PM
BLOG…
Congratulations to the Lynx for winning the Western Conference Finals. This sets up a big basketball week for me despite the lockout – I’ll be covering the Lynx in the WNBA finals, and Rick Adelman’s introductory press conference.
It’s nice to be able to say this about Glen Taylor’s operation without a hint of sarcasm: This is a great time to be a basketball fan in Minneapolis, even with a lockout.
On to the Vikings’ latest collapse. My column in the Monday paper will deal with the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Right now I’ll deal with the decision to try for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings led, 20-17, at that point. They hadn’t scored in the second half. The field goal unit ran onto the field, then was waved off. Donovan McNabb handed the ball to Toby Gerhart, who was lined up as a fullback ahead of Adrian Peterson, and Gerhart was stopped.
There are a number of problems with this sequence. Wouldn’t you rather give the ball to the NFL’s best running back? Yes. Of course.
But the first second-guess is the best second-guess in this case. The Vikings should have kicked the field goal. (And, by the way, I believe in first-guessing. So you can go back and see on my Twitter timeline that I said, before the play, that I’d kick the field goal.)
Even with Peterson carrying the ball, here’s the problem with going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17: Even if you make the first down, you aren’t guaranteed an eventual touchdown. Odds are, you’d just wind up kicking a field goal, anyway. And you could turn the ball over, or take a sack, or get penalized, and wind up farther back than you started.
Kick the field goal, and the Lions have to score a touchdown to beat you. The Lions didn’t score a touchdown the rest of the way, winning the game with two field goals in regulation and one in overtime.
But if you’re going to go for it on fourth down, wouldn’t you want Jimmy Kleinsasser leading Adrian Peterson? Don’t you want your best player making the deciding play?
Lost in the loss is the outstanding play of the Vikings’ defensive ends, Jared Allen and Brian Robison. They dominated the line of scrimmage.
Both came into the season facing questions. Allen started slowly last year. Robison is considered undersized, and I wondered whether he’d hold up over the course of a game. Both have been excellent and relentless.
That’s the troublesome part of the Vikings’ struggles: They have a lot of admirable veterans who are seeing their last good year(s) wasted because the Vikings can’t get decent play out of the quarterback position.
I don’t doubt the effort or will of many of the Vikings’ veterans - Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Allen, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Steve Hutchinson. But the NFL is not about willpower; it’s about coaching, design, and offensive skill players. Discovered this stat as I was researching my Monday column: As offenses explode all around the NFL, the Vikings and McNabb have produced just one pass play longer than 24 yards. It was a screen pass that Toby Gerhart carried 42 yards.
That’s pathetic.               
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is having more health problems.
I mean this seriously: He should take off the rest of the season. He needs to get control of his health. He also needs to understand that nobody ever wants to see him writhing on the sideline again.
His health issues aside, the Gophers have lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State at home. Kill and his staff deserve blame, especially for their handling of the quarterback position. I’ll also blame Tim Brewster. He was supposed to be a great recruiter, yet the Gophers do not have better athletes than New Mexico State and North Dakota State. And their best athlete, MarQueis Gray, is playing out of position.
Max Shortell hasn’t won the starting quarterback job, but Gray has lost it. Start Shortell, start developing him, and put Gray at a position where he can help this team – slot receiver. You’d be improving two positions at once.
 
 
 

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