Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Is Riley Reiff just like Adrian Peterson? In one way, perhaps

Posted by: under Vikings, Lions, Adrian Peterson Updated: November 8, 2012 - 1:04 PM

Let the record reflect that Thursday marked the first time that a public comparison was made between Adrian Peterson and Riley Reiff. The former is a perennial All-Pro currently leading the NFL in rushing yardage; the latter is a green and inexperienced rookie suddenly taking on a heightened role in Detroit.

But Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams insists Reiff’s recent contributions toward sparking the Lions’ offense has been similarly important as the juice Peterson consistently gives the Vikings attack.

“This may be a stretch in some sense,” Williams said. “But he’s a little bit like Adrian Peterson in that you can’t simulate him in practice. Everybody thinks with Adrian that, ‘Hey these are just designed plays for him and if we stop this, [we’re OK].’ But when you get into a live situation, Adrian Peterson is a different deal. That’s the same things with the extra lineman coming in. He does a great job. He’s athletic, he gets his pads down and he’s going to be a handful.”

Drafted with the 23rd overall pick in April, Reiff has been slowly brought along by the Lions. But now he’s settling into an expanded and unconventional role, getting an extended look as a sixth offensive lineman. For the most part, Reiff, a tackle during his college days at Iowa, is playing a tight end-type of role and providing extra power to the Lions’ run blocking.

While taking advantage of Reiff’s strength and athleticism, Detroit has breathed life into its ground game. Last week, the Lions rushed for a season-best 149 yards with running back Mikel Leshoure scoring three first-half touchdowns in a blowout win over Jacksonville.

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In winning three of their past four games, Detroit has become more efficient on offense. In consecutive wins over Seattle and Jacksonville, the Lions have scored touchdowns on all eight of their trips into the end zone. They’ve also been precise on third downs, converting 71 percent of their downs the past two weeks. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 23 of his 27 third-down passes the past two weeks.

Detroit might not be setting the highlight reels ablaze like it did in 2011. But they are playing winning offense with Stafford getting help across the board.

“They’re running the ball much more effectively than they had been in the past or in the beginning of this season,” Williams said. “And also, they’re throwing the ball more efficiently. Maybe not some of the big ‘Wow!’ plays – which are still coming. But the ball is thrown more efficiently.”

Reiff isn’t the only rookie suddenly excelling in a heightened role. Receiver Ryan Broyles has 12 catches for 140 yards the past three weeks, stepping up after veteran Nate Burleson was lost for the season in Week 7 with a broken leg.

Hustle lacking for defense

Having surrendered 663 rushing yards over the past four games, Williams continues to harp on the Vikings’ need to tighten up their gap control and tackling. But he insists the defensive scheme doesn’t need an overhaul due to the recent struggles.

“The analogy would be driving a car and not turning on the keys or not putting gas in the tank or not using the steering wheel,” Williams said. “The car still works. You can still use it. But you just have to use it correctly. And right now, that’s what we’re not doing. We’re not executing or using the defense correctly. It’s not broken by any means. We just have to use it correctly.”

The Vikings have only forced three turnovers in their past four games and none since Harrison Smith’s interception return touchdown early in the third quarter against Arizona. But most troubling in Sunday’s loss in Seattle, Williams said, was the occasional lack of hustle his unit showed.

“We want to make sure we continue running to the football,” Williams said. “And there were some loafs in the ballgame. And those loafs are turning down hits or not running full speed or not getting up off the ground. We saw some of those, which are uncharacteristic of the defense.”

Jefferson still starting

Williams said A.J. Jefferson will remain the Vikings’ second starter at cornerback with rookie Josh Robinson staying in the nickel role that he has settled into over the season’s first two months.

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Team Irvin 7:15 PM
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Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
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Cleveland 108
Dallas 66 3rd Qtr 7:34
New Orleans 73
Indiana 62 3rd Qtr 7:04
Orlando 65
LA Clippers 70 3rd Qtr 6:14
Phoenix 64
Minnesota 61 3rd Qtr 7:08
Atlanta 70
Detroit 25 2nd Qtr
Toronto 26
Milwaukee 24 2nd Qtr
San Antonio 21
Boston 7:00 PM
Golden State
Washington 7:00 PM
Denver
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
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Ohio State 82
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Binghamton 54
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UCF 46
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Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
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Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
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Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
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Siena 55
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UMass Lowell 50
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Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 38 2nd Half 18:08
NC State 45
Belmont 28 2nd Half
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Creighton 9 1st Half 6:23
Villanova 19
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Maryland
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Utah
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Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
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Stony Brook 67
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UNC-Wilmington 71
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(17) Florida State 110
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Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
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Iona 80 FINAL
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Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
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Xavier 54
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DePaul 90
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Elon 80
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Cincinnati 31
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Arizona 81
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Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
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Washington St 73
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South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
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(8) Texas 57
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(12) North Carolina 67
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(4) Louisville 68
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(25) Rutgers 66
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UCLA 40
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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