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.


Williams on Pack's receivers: `Biggest test we'll face all year'

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, Bears, Packers, Adrian Peterson, Chris Kluwe, Jared Allen, Sidney Rice Updated: November 29, 2012 - 3:17 PM

They've faced Brandon Marshall. They've faced Larry Fitzgerald. They've faced Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. They've faced Calvin Johnson not once, but twice.

But the Vikings haven't faced anything like they're going to face on Sunday against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers are one of only two teams that have four receivers with at least 35 catches and two touchdowns. Of those three teams, the Packers are the only one to have those four targets and their best receiver, Greg Jennings, returning this week after missing the past seven games because of a sports hernia surgery.

So, Alan Williams, how big a test are these Cheesehead receiving targets?

"The biggest test we'll face all year from a group standpoint," Williams said. "You have to defend everybody they have on the field. You can't just take away one guy. If you take away one guy, another one will hurt you. We'll have to be honest and play sound, fundamental football and everyone will have to stand up and do their job this week because they all can hurt you."

The Packers have Randall Cobb with 58 catches, 613 yards and seven TDs. they have Jordy Nelson with 45 catches, 648 yards and six TDs. They have James Jones with 42 catches, 495 yards and eight TDs. And they have tight end Jermichael Finley with 35 catches, 388 yards and two TDs.

The only other teams with four targets that have at least 35 catches and two TDs? Peyton Manning's Broncos and Drew Brees' Saints.

Williams defends Allen ... sort of:  Williams was asked what he thought of the block that defensive end Jared Allen threw on Sunday. The blind-side shot didn't draw a penalty, but it did blow out Lance Louis' knee and cost Allen a fine for 21 grand.

Said Williams, who hadn't read the league's report on the play: "[Allen] is trying to get a block to spring our guy through to get a touchdown. I'm not sure. It's a little bit, you can't see it great on the film. It is what it is. The NFL gets to make the final choice on that and we respect their decision."

Musgrave calls drops `uncharacteristic': Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave isn't worried that his receivers didn't receive very well last Sunday. There were at least six drops, including three by Jerome Simpson.

"That was uncharacteristic of our group of wide receivers and we expect them to bounce back," Musgrave said. "We had a good practice yesterday and we look forward to getting back on the field and making improvements."

Why no Adrian on third- and fourth-and-two?: Musgrave was asked what's up with not handing the ball to Adrian Peterson on third-and-two and then fourth-and-two from the Bears' 8-yard line on Sunday.

He said: "We anticipated blitz. We didn't do very well in any of the third- and fourth-and-shorts during the game. I think the first two third-and-shorts, we threw it for 25 yards each time [actually 25 and 13]. We anticipated blitz there."

Musgrave said the next two third-and-short plays were Peterson runs in which he was stuffed. But the plays he was likely referring to came after the two plays from the Bears' 8-yard line. Peterson and Christian Ponder botched a handoff exchange that resulted in a lost fumble on third-and-one. Later, Peterson was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one.

"That's an area where we need to improve, both conceptually and execution-wise," Musgrave said.

Walsh gets lesson from Peppers: Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had warned rookie kicker Blair Walsh about Julius Peppers' extra long arms and how they tend to get in the way of field goals. But Walsh had to find out the hard way when he mishit a 30-yard attempt that Peppers swatted away.

"Blair did not get under [the ball] enough," Priefer said. "It was great protection and they knocked it down. That's Peppers. He's done it to us before, he did it to us last year. He's done it his whole career. I think he's got 13 blocks. There was really, virtually no penetration. He just jumped straight up. He just timed it up and on a low kick, you're going to knock it down."

Priefer said Walsh typically hits the ball so high so quickly that he has negated the penetration that some teams have gotten this season. Walsh also corrected the problem on his next kick, a PAT.

"He's not rattled at all," Priefer said. "I've been around young kickers and punters and players who make excuses. He made no excuses. He went over the bench and said, `Great protection, fellas. It was my fault. We'll get it corrected.'"

Two-point conversion mishap won't deter Priefer's aggressiveness: Priefer pointed to the Vikings' four blocked kicks this season as the reason he won't back off aggressive blocking schemes. The Bears exploited one of those schemes -- and eight-man overload to the left -- when holder Adam Podlesh, the team's punter as well, took the snap, got up and scored a two-point conversion to give the Bears an 18-3 lead.

"I'm a pretty aggressive guy," Priefer said. "In fact, the next one, the field goal right before the half, we went to an eight-man overload again. That's who I am, and we ended up blocking that one. And we tipped another one early. We're going to continue to be aggressive. Coach Frazier wants us to be aggressive.

"Do I need to a better job in situational awareness? Probably. But it's nothing that they schemed. They got us on it and they got an extra point. Obviously, we lost by 18 and it didn't matter, but it could have mattered. So do I want it corrected? Absolutely. But we're still going to be aggressive, we're still going to go after people and we're still going to block kicks."

Frazier said the players executed the PAT block attempt the right way.

"In fact, Jamarca Sanford almost made the play," he said. "If that's a fake field goal, and they have fourth-and-four or more to go, we're going to stop them."

Priefer also questioned why the Bears would put Podlesh at harm over one point.

" You run the risk anytime you do [what they did]," he said. "If you're going to have your punter go in there and do that, well, good luck. You can [tear] an ACL. You can break a collarbone, you can do something bad. But if they want that extra point, that's up to them. Whatever. I'm cool with it."

Priefer said he had thought that someone might try what the Bears did.

"I've tried to mix [the schemes] up," Priefer said. "But I just didn't mix it up enough."

Priefer not buying wind as Kluwe's excuse: Punter Chris Kluwe has tweeted and talked about how the wind affected the drop on the punt that he shanked out of bounds for 23 yards on Sunday. Priefer isn't buying it. At least as an excuse for that kind of shank.

"I think the snap took him a little bit right and he rushed it a little bit," Priefer said. "He said the wind blew it. Whatever. I don't know. It shouldn't happen. It wasn't that windy. It was a beautiful day. Are you kidding me? For Chicago in late November? It was a gorgeous day.

"He had four punts. Three of the four were pretty good punts. The last one was fantastic. So he had just the one [bad punt]. We have to eliminate those at all costs." 

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