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.
Vikings defense end Jared Allen could play his final game in purple on Sunday, but he’s more focused in taking part of the final game at the Metrodome at the moment.
“I'm trying to go out the way I want in this Metrodome and have this last game be something special,” Allen said. “Kevin [Williams] and I talked about it earlier this week, saying we just want to let loose and make it a game to remember, from a win standpoint, from our performances, the crowd, the energy level, all of that.”
Allen will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and did spend time discussing the uncertainty around his career. The 10th year veteran wants to play again next year, but the free agency process will be less stressful.
“When you’re younger you’re trying to figure out all this craziness, and when you look back you realize there’s a plan and it’s better than any kind I could’ve hatched,” Allen said. “So I’m just enjoying the ride, honestly. If this ends up being my last game here, then it’s been one of the greatest rides I’ve ever been on. It’s been a great six years.”
Allen has yet to play in a Super Bowl however, and he said that will play a big factor into what occurs in the offseason. He’s had four postseason appearances in his career, reaching the conference championship game once with the Vikings in 2009.
“Heck, everybody would love to retire like Ray [Lewis] and [Michael] Strahan, right?” Allen said. “Win a Super Bowl and call it quits. So that’ll be on my mind, and that’ll definitely be a place when you get older, like I said, the later you get in your career that becomes more the main focus of how do you get to a championship.”
Here's the injury update from both teams:
Vikings: LB Audie Cole (ankle), RB Toby Gerhart (hamstring), DT Letroy Guion (quadriceps) and CB Shaun Prater (ankle) and G Charlie Johnson (not injury related) did not practice Thursday. RB Adrian Peterson (groin/foot), RB Matt Asiata (ankle), LB Larry Dean (knee), DT Fred Evans (knee), CB Chris Cook (knee), S Harrison Smith (foot/groin) and CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) were limited participants. FB Jerome Felton (knee), G Brandon Fusco (knee), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (chest) and CB Marcus Sherels (shoulder) were full participants.
Lions: TE Dorin Dickerson (concussion) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) went on injured reserve. CB Bill Bentley (concussion), S Louis Delmas (knee), WR Calvin Johnson (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (foot), S John Wendling (ankle), CB Chris Houston (toe), G Dylan Gandy (illness) and T LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) did not practice. S Louis Delmas, RB Joique Bell (knee), CB Jonte Green (shoulder), DE Israel Idonije (neck) and CB Darius Slay (knee) were limited participants.
The emergence of Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles has become one of the NFL’s most surprising stories this season, but the Vikings say their primary focus lies with the Eagles running game.
Specifically LeSean McCoy, who leads the league in rushing with 1,305 yards.
“This dude is making moves,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “He’s like a human joystick right now."
The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing, largely due to McCoy, who set a franchise record with 217 yards rushing against Detroit in Sunday.
McCoy has rushed for 150-plus yards four times this season, the only player in the NFL to reach that mark more than once. He’s also tied for third in the NFL in 20-yard runs with eight.
“Dynamic in every phase,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “Dynamic out of the backfield, dynamic when you have him bottled up. He’s Houdini. You think you have him bottled up and he’s right there. You look away and the next thing you know you’re looking back at the film and he’s 30 yards down the field. He’s a fantastic football player. I don’t know if he gets the recognition really that he should.”
Several Vikings players compared McCoy to Detroit's Reggie Bush because of his versatility as a receiver.
“Yeah, that’s fun,” linebacker Chad Greenway joked about having to cover McCoy out of the backfield. “He’s unbelievable. Reggie Bush-like. I think he’s got different skills than Reggie. But just a matchup nightmare.”
A slippery field that hampered both teams early turned the game into a track meet late.
Marlon Brown caught a 9-yard pass from Joe Flacco with nine seconds left to give the Ravens a 29-26 victory over the Vikings on Sunday in Baltimore.
There were 36 points scored in the final 2:05.
Corderrelle Patterson turned a short pass from Matt Cassel into a 79-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left to give the Vikings a 26-22 lead. But the Ravens drove down for the winning score, thanks a questionable pass interference call on Chad Greenway that nullified an Andrew Sendejo interception.
Jacoby Jones returned a pooch kick 77 yards for a touchdown with 1:16 remaining to give the Ravens a 22-19 lead as the teams combined for 29 points in a 1:20 span very late in the game.
The Vikings took a 19-15 advantage on Toby Gerhart’s 41-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left.
But Jones returned Blair Walsh’s short kick down the left sideline for a score as Walsh failed to push him out of bounds at the 35.
The Vikings then scored quickly as Patterson shocked the Ravens defense with his catch and run. As it turned out, 45 was too much time to leave the Ravens.
Snow hampered both teams for most of the game, and the Vikings lost star running back Adrian Peterson to a foot sprain in the first half. Backup Gerhart’s scoring run gave him 89 yards rushing.
The Ravens took a 15-12 lead by scoring on a 64-yard drive late in the fourth quarter.
Flacco threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta with 2:05 remaining in the game to give the Ravens a 13-12 lead, and Flacco hit Torrey Smith for the two-point conversion and a 15-12 lead. The conversion was an eight-yarder after the Ravens were penalized. Pitta’s touchdown, which came on a fourth-down play, was set up by a 36-yard pass interference penalty on Robert Blanton.
The Vikings claimed their first lead at 12-7 on an 8-yard scoring pass from Cassel to Jerome Simpson early in the fourth quarter, but Cassel’s conversion pass to Greg Jennings was off target.
The Vikings had three interceptions in a game for the first time since the opening game of the season. Greenway, Sendejo and Marcus Sherels had the picks.
GREEN BAY -- Neither team deserved to win. And neither did.
The Vikings and Packers played to a 26-26 tie at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The Vikings were in control of the game, leading 23-7 in the fourth quarter, before collapsing.
Mason Crosby’s 27-yard field goal with 50 seconds left in regulation capped the Green Bay comeback and sent the game into overtime.
Both teams kicked field goals on their first overtime possessions, and both went three-and-out on the second possessions. The Packers had the final chance, getting the ball at the Vikings’ 8 with two minutes left but got three penalties to kill their chances.
Green Bay is 5-5-1 and the Vikings are 2-8-1.
After the Packers kicked a field on the opening possession of overtime, the Vikings started at the 20, needing to at least kick a field goal to keep the game going. They got a first down on an Adrian Peterson run, and another when Packers defensive back Morgan Burnett was flagged for defensive holding. John Carlson caught a pass for a first down, and Toby Gerhart ran up the middle for consecutive first-down runs, moving the ball to the Packers’ 13. On third down, Christian Ponder’s pass to Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone was on target, but was tipped and Patterson couldn’t haul it in. Blair Walsh’s 35-yard field goal tied the score at 26.
The Packers won the toss in overtime and stayed alive on a defensive holding penalty on Robert Blanton after they appeared to go three-and-out. Jordy Nelson caught a pass from Matt Flynn to set up a first down on the Packers’ 42, then James Jones did the same for a first down at the Vikings’ 41. On the following play, Jarrett Boykin beat Chris Cook on a 34-yard catch, putting the ball at the 7. Eddie Lacy carried to the 3, then to the 2, but Flynn threw incomplete to Nelson on third-and-goal. Crosby then kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 26-23 lead.
Lacy gained 110 yards on 25 carries.
Peterson had 146 rushing yards and Gerhart added 91 for the Vikings.
The Vikings, who led 23-7 with 12 minutes to play, blew that 16-point fourth quarter lead by failing both offensively and defensively. They gained only one first down in three fourth quarter possessions, and allowed the Packers to gain 173 yards and march downfield three times for scores. Only a failed two-point conversion prevented Green Bay from winning in regulation.
Crosby tied the game at 23-23 with 50 seconds remaining in regulation with a 27-yard field goal.
Flynn led the Packers to a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, getting Green Bay within 23-20 with 3:30 remaining on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Boykin. The Vikings went three-and-out, and Flynn drove Green Bay down for the tying field goal.
Blair Walsh kicked field goals of 36, 27 and 49 yards for the Vikings, who also scored on a 1-yard run by Peterson and a 12-yard pass from Ponder to Rhett Ellison.
Audie Cole led the Vikings with 13 tackles, filling in at middle linebacker for Erin Henderson, who missed the game because of undisclosed personal reasons.
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.
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