Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook’s day ended abruptly in the third quarter when he made contact with an official.
Cook gave up an incredible 46-yard touchdown catch to Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery with 5:24 left in the third quarter to give the Bears a 20-10 lead. After the play, Cook made contact with an official, leading to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty and an ejection.
It was the second touchdown Cook allowed to Jeffery, who scored on a 80-yard touchdown on the second play of the second half.
Marcus Sherels replaced Cook as the right cornerback with Robert Blanton remaining as the nickel cornerback. The Vikings were thin at the position heading into the game with a fractured sternum injury to Josh Robinson.
Jeffery broke the Bears’ franchise record for receiving yards in the third quarter. He has 10 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns after three quarters.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was ruled out due to concussion symptoms. Matt Cassel will finish the game at quarterback.
Both Vikings defensive back Xavier Rhodes and wide receiever Joe Webb were full participants for the first time this week. With Rhodes playing Sunday, it helps solidify one of the Vikings’ corner spots in a depleted secondary facing Bears wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
“We’re pretty thin in the secondary and playing with a lot of guys that are out of position that you don’t really want to play as much as we’re having to play them because it does affect your special teams as well," Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. "To have Xavier back, that’s a big deal.”
Frazier said Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will also play on Sunday despite missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Fraizer said Peterson looked fine in his return to practice on Friday.
“Just trying to rest that groin a little bit and let him get treatment,” Frazier said. “Not 100 percent but not to the point where it’s worse than it was when we played Green Bay.”
Vikings safety Harrison Smith practiced for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury against the Panthers in Week 6. While he’s able to practice, Smith isn’t eligible to return off injured reserve until Dec. 15 against the Eagles.
“He really looked pretty good,” Frazier said. “I was telling [Vikings head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman a little bit ago that that rule is a good rule but man I wouldn’t mind if he could play this week, because he moved around well enough where you had no qualms putting him in the ballgame.”
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson was released by the Vikings this morning.
He was jailed this morning at the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility after being arrested on a domestic assault complaint in Eden Prairie.
The Eden Prairie police department released this statement:
At approximately 4:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 22, a 23-year-old female reported to Eden Prairie Police that she was a victim of domestic assault.
Police arrested Anthony Ray Jefferson, 25, at his residence in Eden Prairie and he is now being held in the Hennepin County Jail on probable cause for domestic assault.
The case is currently under investigation and no further details are available at this time.
Jefferson was in his fourth NFL season. He suffered a neck injury in yesterday's 26-26 tie at Green Bay.
The team announced Jefferson's release in a news release. Coach Leslie Frazier said "I can't really comment on his release or what happens from now on, but we did release him." Frazier also declined to comment when asked followup questions; the Vikings traditionally wait for the legal process to play out before cutting players.
It was the second arrest this month of a Vikings player. Receiver Jerome Simpson was arrested for drunken driving on Nov. 9. Simpson's case is still be kicked around by the NFL office, as he was suspended at the start of last season after a felony drug arrest.
Jefferson was acquired from Arizona last season and played in 15 games, starting seven. He struggled for most of this season with injuries and ineffective play.
The Vikings have a 13-7 halftime lead over the Packers at Lambeau Field. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scored on a one-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left in the half to give the Vikings their first lead. He has 14 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The good: Vikings linebacker Audie Cole made the most of his first career start during the first half. He recorded his first career sack on the first play of the game and led the team with five tackles (four solo).
The Vikings also didn’t commit a penalty in the first half. The Packers have two for 20 yards.
The bad: The Vikings defense didn’t tackle well again, particularly against Packers running back Eddie Lacy. He broke tackles on practically every carry, dragging defenders in the process. Lacy has 13 carries for 62 yards
Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil couldn’t handle Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who had two sacks in the first half. Kalil hardly made any contact with Matthews on his first sack. Ponder was sacked three times in the first half.
The ugly: Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien looked like Johnny Manziel on his six-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Vikings defensive end Brian Robison bit on Tolzien’s pump fake, then Vikings defensive tackle Letroy Guion whiffed at Tolizen’s video game spin move while he dived into the end zone.
Tolzien went 7 of 15 for 98 yards. He also had two carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.
For this week's edition of "Behind Enemy Lines," we reached out to Tyler Dunne, Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here are five questions we posed to Tyler in advance of Sunday's Vikings-Packers game at Lambeau Field:
1.The Packers had 55 rushing yards against the Giants. How has quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ absence affected the run offense?
That’s been really a huge adjustment for this offense. This time last year, they were trying to get teams out of those two-deep looks. They wanted the safety to come into the box to help the passing game and now they can’t get that safety out of the box. They’re getting eight, nine guys in the box trying to stop [Packers running back] Eddie Lacy. The rookie hasn’t been able to find much running room these past couple weeks.
Without Rodgers in there, it makes a huge difference. And Aaron Rodgers is really good at audibling to certain run plays. [Packers quarterback] Scott Tolzien has got just so much on his plate. It’s really difficult for him to do that right now. I think that’s really what the team’s challenge is right now is trying to run the ball against teams that know they’re going to run.
2.Tolzien started calling audibles in the third quarter of the Giants game. Was there a noticeable difference that he started on Sunday compared to replacing quarterback Jason Campbell against the Eagles?
I think it was a big difference in that they definitely had a conservative game plan to run to set up the pass. They didn’t put too much on his plate in terms of changing plays and going no huddle, but he did more as the game progressed. A lot of those deep passes did open up. [Packers head coach] Mike McCarthy said that he’s never had a quarterback complete that many deep balls in the game, all his deep balls in the game. It worked.
It’s just the turnovers. That’s really been his issue right now. In both games, he had a huge interception that just changed the complexion of the game.
3.Do you recommend bringing earplugs for Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings’ reception when he returns to Lambeau Field?
I think Greg Jennings kind of benefits from all the other craziness going on in Green Bay right now with everything at quarterback, the injuries and the significance of this game. Nobody has really been talking about Greg Jennings, or at least as much as they were before the game going into Minneapolis. But Packers’ fans can be a pretty fickle bunch. They’re not going to forget the offseason. Personally, I don’t think Greg Jennings did anything to abrasive, but this team is a religion for fans. Anytime a player crosses the border to Minnesota or anytime a player speaks out against their team, they don’t forgive and they don’t forget. I imagine it’ll be pretty loud.
4.Linebacker Clay Matthews has played the last two games with a club after missing four weeks due to a broken right thumb. How has he looked while playing with a club?
He looked better this past game. He did have movement in his four fingers, but it was still difficult for him to grab, clutch and clutch. He had a sack, but he’s still not the Clay Matthews he wants to be. He has figured out a way to play with the cast as it gets smaller and smaller but a broken thumb, it’s not like you can just cut loose and do everything you want to do regardless of the cast.
It’s still an adjustment for him but really they need him out there. They don’t have a lot of better options. I’d understand if they had somebody else in there that can play, but Nick Perry has been injured. He was coming out before he broke his foot earlier this season. Mike Neal, a converted defensive end, was really good for a while but his body has kind of worn out a little bit. They’ve been given him rest at practice.
5.Four defensive backs on the injury report this week. Is there a concern of depth at the position for Sunday’s game?
I remember [Packers defensive back] Tramon Williams just a couple weeks ago telling me this was the deepest cornerback group he’s ever been around. This is a guy who played with Charles Woodson and Al Harris too. And so he kind of chuckled and said, ‘Yeah, I guess we’re going to find out exactly how deep we are.'
Sam Shields (hamstring) has really been shutting guys down this season. Casey Hayward (hamstring) might be done for the season. The injury list just keeps getting bigger and bigger and longer and longer [Packers defensive backs James Nixon (knee) and Micah Hyde (groin)]. It’ll be interesting to see who’s healthy out there.
I think luckily they play [Vikings quarterback] Christian Ponder instead of Drew Brees, but Ponder still might be able to take advantage of some things if he’s got a healthy receiving core.
Prediction: Packers 24, Vikings 16. They win, but I don’t think it’ll be a pretty game.
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