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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Behind Enemy Lines: Peterson and Rodgers could provide thrilling MVP duel

Posted by: under Vikings, NFC, Packers, Adrian Peterson Updated: December 27, 2012 - 11:02 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game with Green Bay at Lambeau Field, we asked Tyler Dunne, who covers the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to give us his up-close-and-personal scouting report. Here are four things you need to know …

1) The Green Bay defense holds a healthy respect for Adrian Peterson.

It’s not just that Peterson ran for 210 yard in the teams’ last meeting four weeks ago. In his career, he also has rushing performances of 192, 175 and 131 against Green Bay. And there’s definitely an awareness that A.P. is now just 102 yards shy of 2,000 for the season and 208 away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season rushing record.

No wonder so many defensive players in Green Bay gush with admiration over Peterson’s ability.

“It’s pretty wild,” Dunne said. “Every time you bring up Peterson’s name, you see these guys shake their heads and proclaim him to be a beast. A lot of it is just familiarity. They see this guy twice a year. And they understand the power, the strength, the resilience Peterson plays with. They really hold a glowing respect for how he runs.”

Coach Mike McCarthy has tried to temper his team’s praise, hoping they don’t become so enamored with Peterson’s abilities that they forget how to bottle him up. Paramount this week for Green Bay will be tackling better to avoid the Peterson home run. In Week 13, the Vikings star had runs of 82, 48 and 23.

2) With all due respect to Peterson, Aaron Rodgers might be the NFL’s most dangerous player.

The Green Bay quarterback isn’t necessarily delivering the Xbox statistics he had in 2011 when his MVP run included 68.3 percent accuracy, 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and a rating of 122.5. But Rodgers has continued to carry the Packers’ offense.

Through 15 games, he’s completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,930 yards with 35 TDs and eight picks plus a 106.2 rating. Throughout the season, with opposing defenses often keeping both safeties deep to guard against the explosive play, Rodgers has been forced into a bit of small ball. But he’s remained patient and taken what’s there. He’s also been clutch when the Packers have needed him to be.

“Overall,” Dunne said, “it’s just seemed like this season unlike last year, he’s had to produce so much more in the fourth quarter. They’ve had so many close games. And when Rodgers has had to convert a third-and-long or make a play with his feet or lead a big drive late in the game, he’s stepped forward. Last season, they were so often ahead by double digits late that they didn’t need him to fight back.”

Rodgers’ savvy is particularly notable against division foes. It’s no wonder Green Bay hasn’t lost an NFC North game since Dec. 2010, a streak of 12 straight wins.

3) The Packers are in a groove right now.

Since early October, Green Bay is 9-1 and staking a claim to the title as the NFL’s hottest team. They provided significant supporting evidence last weekend with a 55-7 thrashing of Tennessee.

In total, Green Bay put up 460 yards of offense. Rodgers threw three TD passes and rushed for another score. And defensively, the Packers compiled seven sacks, two turnovers and didn’t allow a score until 1:39 remained.

“What surprised me most wasn’t there wasn’t a flood of fluky stuff in that game,” Dunne said. “There wasn’t a defensive touchdown or a special teams touchdown. All their points and all the production they had came in the way they’d want to put up points.”

Perhaps, most importantly, Green Bay has found a way to fortify its ground game. Sure, they rush for an average of only 108.7 yards per game, 20th in the NFL. And their leading rusher for the season is Alex Green, whose 464 yards trail Peterson by 1,434. But as the backfield merry-go’round spins, suddenly Ryan Grant and DuJuan have stepped forward. That duo rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns last weekend.

Said Dunne: “These are two ordinary midseason pickups. And yet their running game was terrific last week. And it’s kind of like, no matter who they’ve been plugging in there the past month and a half, they’ve been a top 10 rushing team. That’s big. Because with so many Cover 2 defenses sitting back in coverage, that can put Green Bay’s offense in a bit of a bind. But with a running game now, they’re able to stay patient. And McCarthy, who loves to pass and loves to push the envelope, has actually been very, very committed to running the ball.”

Defensively, the Packers are also seeing noticeable growth from a horde of young players in the secondary with Casey Hayward, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillan and Davon House on the rise.

“As those guys have come along, [defensive coordinator] Dom Capers has progressively added more and more and more to what they do,” Dunne said.

4) Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby has been given a second chance. And a third. And a fourth …

Patience in the kicker is quickly wearing thin amongst the Green Bay fan base. And understandably so. Crosby is 19-for-31 on field goals this season, his 61 percent accuracy ranking dead last in the NFL. He’s also missed seven of eight attempts from 50 yards or beyond.

But General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have resisted the temptation to yank the plug on Crosby.

“Those guys always stand behind their players,” Dunne said. “They draft, they develop, they hang onto guys.”

There are likely business elements to things too. Two years ago, Crosby signed a five-year extension worth $14.75 million. But the Packers also feel Crosby can fight through this out-of-nowhere slump.

“He’s been around since ’07 and has been reliable over the long haul,” Dunne said. “And he kicks well later in the season. Which is one of the reasons they really like him. And last year, he had a run where he hit 16 consecutive field goals.”

With wins in nine of their past 10 games, Green Bay is confident they can compensate for Crosby’s woes. Though it’s a dangerous thing to roll into January with an unreliable kicker.

Said Dune: “It could cost them in the playoffs. But I guess at this point, they’re determined to just ride it out. The Packers’ big thing is to never show signs of panic and this might be the prime example of it.”


Philadelphia 3:30 PM
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Phoenix 12:00 PM
New York
Portland 6:00 PM
New Orleans
Utah 6:00 PM
Atlanta 7:00 PM
San Antonio 7:30 PM
Indiana 8:00 PM
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Arizona 3:00 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 6:00 PM
Philadelphia 6:00 PM
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Washington 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Florida 6:00 PM
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Chicago 6:00 PM
Nashville 7:00 PM
Calgary 9:00 PM
St. Louis 9:30 PM
San Jose
VA Commonwealth 29 1st Half 1:45
Cincinnati 17
Charlotte 22 1st Half 4:51
Georgetown 34
SMU 26 1st Half 3:31
Michigan 21
Louisville 28 1st Half 3:47
Western Ky 18
Mount St Marys 12:00 PM
American Univ
Abilene Christian 12:00 PM
Boise State
UMass Lowell 12:00 PM
South Alabama 12:00 PM
Ohio State 12:00 PM
North Carolina
Massachusetts 12:00 PM
Syracuse 12:00 PM
Citadel 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Belmont 12:30 PM
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
Montreat 1:00 PM
Delaware 1:00 PM
South Florida 1:00 PM
Florida State
Vanderbilt 1:00 PM
Georgia Tech
SC State 1:00 PM
Missouri 1:00 PM
Truett-McConnell 1:00 PM
Toledo 1:00 PM
McNeese State
Elon 1:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Drexel 1:00 PM
Penn State
St Francis-PA 1:00 PM
Albany 1:00 PM
PSU-Beaver 1:00 PM
Eastern Ill 1:05 PM
Indiana State
Indiana 1:30 PM
Marshall 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
Lafayette 2:00 PM
Oral Roberts 2:00 PM
Western Mich 2:00 PM
Delaware State 2:00 PM
Fla Atlantic 2:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Arkansas Tech 2:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Howard Payne 2:00 PM
UMBC 2:00 PM
Kennesaw St
St Josephs (IN) 2:05 PM
Chicago State
Eastern Mich 2:05 PM
Missouri State
UCLA 2:30 PM
UC Davis 3:00 PM
Air Force
Houston Baptist 3:00 PM
UC Riverside
Davidson 3:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
USC Upstate 3:00 PM
Miss State
NC Central 3:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Illinois State 3:00 PM
Murray State
Louisiana 3:00 PM
Northwestern St
Oakland 3:00 PM
Detroit 3:00 PM
Rhode Island
Presbyterian 3:00 PM
UT Martin
Monmouth 3:00 PM
Southern U 3:00 PM
Iowa State 4:00 PM
Wake Forest 4:00 PM
High Point 4:00 PM
James Madison
Texas Southern 4:00 PM
Michigan State
New Hampshire 4:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Northeastern 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Huston-Tillotson 4:00 PM
Texas State
Purdue 4:15 PM
Notre Dame
Prairie View 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Xavier 5:00 PM
Bluffton 6:00 PM
NJIT 6:00 PM
Central Conn St
Hofstra 6:00 PM
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Iona 6:00 PM
George Mason
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Texas A&M 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Morgan State 6:00 PM
Saint Josephs 6:00 PM
East Carolina 6:00 PM
Richmond 6:00 PM
La Salle 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word 6:05 PM
CS-Bakersfield 6:30 PM
Idaho State
Iowa 6:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Long Beach State 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio 7:00 PM
SE Missouri St 7:30 PM
Lehigh 8:00 PM
Arizona State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Utah Valley U 8:00 PM
Weber State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
St Edwards 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
NC State 8:30 PM
West Virginia
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
Fresno State 9:00 PM
Montana State 9:00 PM
Ball State 9:00 PM
San Diego St
South Dakota St 9:05 PM
Utah State
Stanford 10:00 PM
Utah 10:30 PM
Nevada 3 3rd Qtr 15:00
Louisiana 10
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Livingstone 22 1st Half 6:05
UNC Greensboro 32
Loyola-Chicago 24 1st Half 5:06
Dartmouth 21
Georgia Tech 17 1st Half 3:30
St Francis-NY 23
Auburn 18 1st Half 3:49
St Johns 31
East Tenn St 20 1st Half 5:11
Jacksonville St 13
Western Mich 26 1st Half 5:13
Detroit 21
Cal-Irvine 20 1st Half 3:33
Wright State 32
Gardner-Webb 21 1st Half 3:33
Kennesaw St 19
(7) Stanford 12:00 PM
(11) Tennessee
Alabama A&M 12:00 PM
Ole Miss
Central Michigan 12:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
Nebraska Omaha 12:00 PM
FIU 12:00 PM
Western Carolina
Houston 12:00 PM
St Thomas Aquinas 12:00 PM
St Bonaventure 12:00 PM
Texas State 12:00 PM
George Mason 12:05 PM
Grambling 1:00 PM
Kansas State
Missouri 1:00 PM
Wake Forest
Robert Morris 1:00 PM
Air Force 1:00 PM
Abilene Christian
Hampton 1:00 PM
James Madison
American Univ 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Texas Southern 1:00 PM
Tenn Tech 1:00 PM
Presbyterian 1:00 PM
NC Central
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Lipscomb 1:00 PM
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Green Bay
Charleston Southern 1:00 PM
Ohio Christian 1:00 PM
Jacksonville 1:00 PM
Murray State
(17) Rutgers 1:00 PM
Indiana 1:00 PM
Indiana State 1:30 PM
Denver 1:30 PM
TX-San Antonio 2:00 PM
Texas Tech
UCF 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Campbell 2:00 PM
Florida A&M 2:00 PM
SE Louisiana
Northwestern St 2:00 PM
Jackson State
Lehigh 2:00 PM
Arizona State
Valparaiso 2:00 PM
Toledo 2:00 PM
Southern Ill
Liberty 2:30 PM
Wofford 2:30 PM
North Florida
Montana State 3:00 PM
Washington St
Marshall 3:00 PM
(22) West Virginia
Morgan State 3:00 PM
Northeastern 3:00 PM
Furman 3:00 PM
(15) Georgia
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(9) Baylor
Ohio U 3:00 PM
Prairie View 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
High Point 3:00 PM
(12) Nebraska
Winthrop 3:05 PM
Wichita State
William Jewell 3:30 PM
Louisiana Tech 4:00 PM
Southern Utah 4:00 PM
Hawaii 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Jose St 4:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Northridge 4:00 PM
San Diego State
Norfolk State 4:00 PM
East Carolina
Saint Peters 4:00 PM
Arizona 4:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Northwestern 4:30 PM
Eastern Illinois
Oral Roberts 5:00 PM
Florida Atlantic 5:00 PM
New Mexico St
La Salle 5:00 PM
Georgia State
(16) Oregon State 5:30 PM
Sacred Heart 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
Troy 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Washington 7:00 PM
Pacific 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Old Dominion 7:00 PM
Austin Peay 9:00 PM
Lewis-Clark State 9:00 PM
(21) Miss State 9:30 PM
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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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




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