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.


Erin Henderson says he 'has a little surprise' for QBs who try to test him

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Vikings defense, Vikings offense, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Chad Greenway, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin Updated: September 17, 2012 - 4:42 PM

It was the play of dreams. Bad dreams.

Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson came to work Monday and admitted to linebackers coach Fred Pagac he’d had nightmares about Andrew Luck’s 30-yard TD pass to receiver Reggie Wayne in the final seconds of the first half in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Colts.

On the play Wayne lined up right, got bumped by cornerback Antoine Winfield and headed up the middle, scoring on a play that gave the Colts a 17-6 halftime lead.

“I told [Pagac] that I had nightmares about that play,” Henderson said. “He told me, good, I should.‘’

The defensive call had Winfield getting a bump on Wayne. Henderson is supposed to stay in the middle of the field, contesting the play. “Making it a difficult completion,” coach Leslie Frazier said, “if it’s going to be a completion. That’s the way it’s designed, for the middle linebacker and our safeties to converge and be factors as well. We got neither in that instance.”

Henderson said he was in decent position, but made a bad play on the ball.

“I misplayed the ball,” Henderson said. “I misjudged it a little bit. So, hopefully there are quarterbacks out there, watching it, and they think they can come in and try to get some on me, too. I got a little surprise for them if they want to present that to me.’’

Henderson said he was in good position, was where he was supposed to be. “I just tried to make a play on the ball too soon,” he said. “When I turned around to look at it, I misjudged it completely. I felt I had Wayne under control, I was where I was supposed to be. I was underneath him. When I tried to make a play on it, I just kind of lost it. You learn from it and move forward from there. ... You hate to have it happen, but you're glad it happens at this point in the season, where you can bounce back from it and grow from it, maybe come back and be put in that situation (later) this season and make the play that gets us into the playoffs or something like that.''

Henderson was rather direct in his interview, saying he was capable of winning the matchup with a wide receiver.

“I don’t know if you guys noticed or not, I had some time last year playing the same position,” he said. “And doing the same things. And I didn’t give up anything across the middle. So, it’s one of those things. I was trying to take the next step and get my head back there and I got nosy and he kept running. It is what it is.”

It was yet another big play allowed in the final moments of a half, a problem for the Vikings this season. The key to stopping that? “I don’t know if it’s the calls being made, or us just not going out there and executing," Henderson said. "It’s hard to put your finger on one thing. ... We just got to get it to that point where nobody’s to blame for anything because nothing bad is going wrong.”

Chad Greenway was asked to analyze the problem. Where are the breakdowns happening? “There’s been different things,” he said. “It’s everybody. It can never be on one person. It’s team defense. It’s been a different situation each time, and I think it’s important that we look at it that way, too. Just go to work, and we know this week things aren’t going to get any easier for us. So we’ve got to shore things up in a hurry.”

Going deep

The Vikings have one more game to go before big-play receiver Jerome Simpson returns from suspension. Until then, what can the Vikings to do get more plays downfield?

“We think Devin (Aromashodu) and Michael (Jenkins) can make some plays for us downfield,” Frazier said. “Stephen Burton has the capability of doing that as well.”

Said Ponder: “Obviously it’s great to make big plays and get the ball downfield. But with the offense we have right now, we’re taking what the defense gives us. We’re not going to force anything that’s not there.”

Henderson leading team in sacks

Meanwhile, Henderson will enter Sunday’s game with San Francisco as the team’s leader with two sacks; he’s had one in each of the first two games.

This shows two things. First that Henderson is taking advantage of the times his number is called on the blitz. And two, the defensive linemen – particularly defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison – aren’t getting home very often. Down linemen have just one sack so far this season.

Frazier said the team got around Luck consistently during the game, but allowed him out of the pocket too often, where he made plays on the run.

Working overtime

Percy Harvin said he wanted to be in for the kickoff return late in the second quarter that Marcus Sherels returned from deep in his end zone to the Minnesota 15.

With a two-minute situation coming up, Frazier said he went with Sherels because he wanted Harvin fresh for the coming drive.

In retrospect, Sherels would have better advised to take a touchback.

“We had a lot of good things going, the first couple (returns) we had,” said Harvin, who opened the game with a 28-yard return. Harvin had another return of 50 yards that he said was a block or broken tackle away from going all the way. “I just want to be back there because I know it’s a good opportunity to help this team go forward.”

ETC.

--Ponder said it was up to him to help get tight end John Carlson going. Both Frazier and Ponder said they thought Carlson was completely healthy. “I’ve got to get him the ball,” Ponder said. “There’s a couple play he probably was open and I can get the ball to him.”


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