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.


Peterson won't be the only top back on Sunday

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Vikings, NFC, Vikings defense, Vikings off the field, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Chris Kluwe, John Sullivan, Vikings rookies, Vikings special teams Updated: December 19, 2012 - 5:30 PM

Adrian Peterson’s quest for the NFL rushing record has taken center stage. But there is another pretty good running back to watch in this weekend’s Vikings game: Arian Foster.

Entering this week’s games Peterson has a league-best 1,812 rushing yards, and is within Eric Dickerson’s NFL-record 2,105. But Foster, who first came to the Texans as an undrafted free agent, has put up some strong numbers, too.

Foster is fourth in the league with 1,313 yards. Now, to show just how much Peterson has lapped the field this season, those 1,313 are precisely the same number Peterson has had since Week 7.

Still, Foster’s numbers are impressive. His 1,493 yards from scrimmage is fifth in the league – Peterson’s 2,023 is No. 1 – and if Foster scores a TD this week he will become the sixth player in NFL history to score 50 TDs in his first 50 NFL games.

“The scheme they run really fits what he does well,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said of Foster. "He’s really patient, good at finding cut-back lanes. They throw the ball well out of the play-action game and bootleg game, and that serves Foster well in the run game as well.”

The Vikings have seen their share of good running backs this season, going up against five of the top 10 NFL rushers this season in Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (second), Washington’s Alfred Morris (third), Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (fifth), Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (seventh) and Frank Gore of San Francisco (ninth).  Lynch ran for 124 yards, Morris had 57, Martin 135, Johnson 24 and Gore 63.

And now they get Foster.

Houston coach Gary Kubiak said he saw some similarities between Foster and Peterson.

“The thing about Adrian is that he has the home run speed,” Kubiak said. “Arian is one of those guys where it seems, the more he carries it, the stronger he gets. These are two guys who, the more they touch it, the more difficult it is to tackle them. Just two great players.”

 

(Almost) no comment

Christian Ponder’s marriage was not something many Vikings players wanted to discuss in the locker room.

Some, like center John Sullivan and guard Brandon Fusco, simply changed the subject.

“My focus right now is just going and grabbing some lunch and relaxing before practice,” safety Mistral Raymond said. “That should be dealt with somewhere else.”

Fullback Raymond Felton said he heard about it in the media like everybody else. Reaction? “I congratulated him,” Felton said. “Several people have congratulated him. So, obviously, whatever makes him happy we want that for him. It was a big day for him, and we’re happy for him.”

Of course, if anyone was going to have a little fun about the situation, it was punter Chris Kluwe, who wondered openly where he might find a gift registry. As for the present he planned on buying?

“Maybe a tea cozy,” he said.

 

Wins, not records

After winning NFC special teams player of the week honors for the second time this season, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh talked about winning, not records.

Specifically when he was asked whether he thought about making the Pro Bowl in this, his rookie season. “Yeah, it would be awesome, but that’s not my main goal right now.”

Walsh hit all five of his field goals last week, three in the 50-yards-plus range. He is now 8-for-8 from that distance, which ties him with Morten Andersen and Jason Hanson for most field goals of 50 or more yards in a season. He is one away from holding that record alone.

“I’m just wishing we win,” Walsh said. “I don’t’ care about the records. My whole deal with the records is that they’re meant to be broken. It would be nice to have, but I’d rather win.”

Walsh is 29-for-32 on field goals this season and is fourth in the NFC in scoring among kickers. He said the snap and hold has been perfect for every attempt this season, and that his three misses were entirely his fault.

So the question is, in a dome, in ideal circumstances, what does he think his limit is? “I think 65 (yards) and in I can at least give it a realistic shot,” he said.

 

Doing his part

Felton said he, along with the linemen and the rest of the team, are pulling for Peterson to break Dickerson’s record. But will he feel he earned a part of that record should it happen?

“A little bit,” he said. “I’ll be able to tell my grandkids about it. So, obviously, I think it’s important for our whole team. And the most important thing is getting wins. But when Adrian is successful that helps our team. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Meanwhile, it appears the work Felton has done has probably put to rest the question of whether Peterson prefers a fullback or running out of one-back sets. Felton said he’d seen a stat that indicated the Vikings gain better than 7 yards per rush with a fullback and 3-plus yards out of one-back sets. 

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