Hartman: Allen, Vikings simply take it week to week

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2012 - 11:44 PM

The defensive end said the lack of outside pressure has enabled the team to have great focus on game days.

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Vikings defensive end Jared Allen rushed Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Jared Allen, who had another big day in rushing Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck while being double- and triple-teamed as the Vikings beat a terrible Tennessee team 30-7 on Sunday, afterward was trying to explain the big improvement in the defense over the past two years.

"If we get two more wins, we'll be better than 2010, right? We'll try to get Washington next week," Allen said.

"Guys are playing well. Like I said, from looking at the offseason to right now, I couldn't have told you we would be here. I thought one of the cool things was, it was really going to be a year that each game was truly going to mean something."

Allen said that once he arrived in Mankato for training camp, he had a better idea about what kind of team the Vikings had this season.

"You always say as a team that you want to win the division," he said. "But after I got to training camp, you could tell that guys were working. And young guys, credit to Coach [Leslie Frazier], he wasn't letting young guys be young. Does that make sense?

"There wasn't that excuse of, 'Oh we're young.' Then hats off to [Antoine Winfield] after the Colts game [which the Vikings lost 23-20], he recognized some things and he called it out the way it needed to be, talked about it. When a veteran like that stands up and kind of calls you to the carpet, to say that we need to pick it up, and then to have guys respond the way they have, it has been really good."

Regarding the media and fans' surprise at the Vikings' 4-1 record, Allen said: "Let them be surprised. There's no expectations for us except to go out and try to win one game at a time. As cliché as it is, it's almost better that way.

"We don't have the outside pressure, we don't have any of that. To be able to focus each week on your opponent and not focus on what's going on here or if we lose a game, home-field advantage might be out -- we're just trying to get enough wins to hopefully make the playoffs. We have a tough test on the road and we have to go perform."

Allen said that feeling of week-to-week expectations is what separates this squad from the great Vikings team of 2009, which went to the NFC Championship Game.

"In 2009, our front seven had been together for a while, I was the newcomer there. You had coach Frazier who was in his fourth or fifth year in the defense, so everything was really clicking. I guess [that year] you put in a game plan and you just expect guys will execute it. Now it's a thing where we have to work week in and week out, but the results are showing on the field."

Speaking about Percy Harvin, the Vikings receiver who scored two touchdowns Sunday, Allen said: "I think he's probably the best player, if not the best player in the NFL for what he does, minus the quarterback position -- I mean the dude, it's like watching 'Top Gun' out there, he's going to hit the brakes and watch them fly right by.

"You would think he's 260 pounds the way he runs the ball. It's just so much fun to watch him and Adrian [Peterson] play. I played with Dante Hall once and that's probably the closest comparison I can get to, only I think Percy is at a different level than that just as far as his ability and toughness to break tackles."

Yes, Allen is right, it's been a long time since a Vikings team surprised like this.

Improving every week

Christian Ponder wound up with a respectable 87.6 rating after throwing his first two interceptions on the year, but the second-year quarterback knows that compiling impressive statistics aren't the main objective.

"Obviously a win is a win against a team like the Titans," Ponder said. "We're trying to improve every week."

About the interceptions, Ponder said: "I threw two of them, so it's good to get that out of the way and now I don't have to worry about any streak. Interceptions can happen. The good thing is that they were bad throws and not poor decisions. I can get better at them and overcome them."

Ponder threw 10 passes at Harvin; he caught eight of them, for 108 yards and a touchdown.

"He's unbelievable, one of the best players in the league, and we're going to keep giving him the ball and he's going to keep making plays," Ponder said.

On the running game, Ponder said: "We ran the ball well. I think Adrian had a little under 90 yards [88] and the defense shut down Chris Johnson. This was a great team win. We're going to keep improving each week and take it one week at a time."

Praises rookie

Ponder also wanted to single out sixth-round draft choice Rhett Ellison, the tight end who made his first two NFL receptions Sunday, including one he broke off for a 29-yard gain, in addition to doing a great job on his blocking duties.

"He's a heck of a player, and he has really impressed us since he came in," said Ponder. "He's worked extremely hard. He played well at USC, and we're going to keep giving him the ball so he can make plays.

"He's a very good blocker. We usually use him in the run game, but he's athletic and can obviously make plays in the passing game as well."

Ponder also praised the offensive line, which once again kept the opposition from sacking him.

"They're playing extremely well right now. I think everyone can tell that they're a great group," he said. "They really jell together and I have all day back there to throw the ball. They're really helping me out, for sure."

Still Ponder didn't want to take credit for accomplishing anything to date, despite the Vikings 4-1 record.

"Our goal is to go to the Super Bowl, but it's the NFL," he said. "We have to take it one week at a time. We haven't accomplished anything yet. We're going to continue to try to string these wins together and take it week to week."

No alibis from Hutch

Someone you had to feel sorry for was former Vikings star Steve Hutchinson, who had to wind up on maybe the worst team in the NFL and face his old teammates when the Vikings defensive line is playing at a very high level.

"It was so tough out there," said the Titans guard, who exchanged greetings with former teammates before and after the game.

Hutchinson is a first-class football player and a first-class guy, but he is playing with an offensive line that simply could not compete against a dominant defensive line like the one the Vikings put out there Sunday. That much was apparent in the boxscore, with the Titans securing only five first downs through the first three quarters of the game.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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