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.


Posts about On the road

Vikings schedule set, with three prime-time games

Posted by: Updated: April 18, 2013 - 9:06 PM
The Vikings are back in prime-time.
 
After playing only one regular season night game in 2012 – a mandatory Thursday nighter – the team is again registering as a strong draw for the under-the-lights TV slots. Last season’s surprising 10-6 surge into the playoffs and the presence of MVP Adrian Peterson helps. And with the full NFL schedule released Tuesday evening, the Vikings have been slotted to play three night games in a span of 18 days during the middle of the season. They’ll have an appearance on Monday Night Football (at the New York Giants in Week 7); a Sunday nighter (home vs. Green Bay in Week 8); and a Thursday night cameo against the Redskins at Mall of America Field in Week 10.
 
So just how does the 2013 campaign set up overall? Here’s your quick look at what’s ahead …
 
WEEK 1
Sunday, Sept. 8
at Detroit, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Highlight reel potential. Set the DVR. The NFL’s reigning rushing champ (Adrian Peterson) against the league’s current receiving king (Calvin Johnson).
 
WEEK 2
Sunday, Sept. 15
at Chicago, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The quest to halt the Soldier Field slump continues. The Vikings are 1-10 there since 2000 and have lost their past three in the Windy City by a combined 61 points.
 
WEEK 3
Sunday, Sept. 22
vs. Cleveland, Noon (CBS, KFAN)
A later-than-usual home opener appears favorable against the Browns, who have finished above .500 just twice in the 21st century.
 
WEEK 4
Sunday, Sept. 29
vs. Pittsburgh (in London), Noon (CBS, KFAN)
For fans and the media, this may be the most appealing road getaway of the year. For the Vikings, it’s a critical business trip with more attention devoted to Big Ben the quarterback than Big Ben the clock.
 
WEEK 5
BYE WEEK
In conjunction with the trip overseas, this will be an early week off just a quarter of the way into the season. Will it mark a good regrouping point or come too soon?
 
WEEK 6
Sunday, Oct. 13
vs. Carolina, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The Vikings bested Cam Newton during his rookie year but will have to be sharp again defensively to repeat that result. The Panthers, like the Vikings, rallied to win their final four regular season games last year.
 
WEEK 7
Monday, Oct. 21
at New York Giants, 7:40 p.m. (ESPN, KFAN)
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will play the role of host on the Vikings’ return to Monday Night Football.
 
WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 27
vs. Green Bay, 7:30 p.m. (NBC, KFAN)
We can only hope for a game as entertaining as the 2012 season finale when Peterson and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on quite the show during the Vikings’ 37-34 playoff-clinching win.
 
WEEK 9
Sunday, Nov. 3
at Dallas, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
A field trip to Jerry World should be a fun way to conclude the season’s first half. The Vikings have won the last two meetings against the Cowboys, including a 34-3 blowout in the 2009 playoffs.
 
WEEK 10
Thursday, Nov. 7
vs. Washington, 7:25 p.m. (NFLN, KFAN)
The Vikings may still be having nightmares over the game-sealing 76-yard touchdown run Robert Griffin III delivered last October. RG3’s recovery from major knee surgery will be worth monitoring in the lead up to this game.
 
WEEK 11
Sunday, Nov. 17
at Seattle, 3:25 p.m. (FOX, KFAN)
Should be a warm and fuzzy reunion with receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Antoine Winfield, no? The former Vikings have joined a loaded Seahawks team with its eyes on the Super Bowl.
 
WEEK 12
Sunday, Nov. 24
at Green Bay, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Christian Ponder’s Lambeau Field history: two starts, 28-for-59, 309 yards, one TD, three interceptions. In losses by a combined 68-21 count. Then came a DNP in a playoff game due to a severely bruised triceps.
 
WEEK 13
Sunday, Dec. 1
vs. Chicago, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
New Bears coach Marc Trestman (a St. Louis Park native) comes back to the Twin Cities. Trestman’s offensive intelligence is supposed to energize an attack led by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. By this point, we’ll know whether the anticipation was justified.
 
WEEK 14
Sunday, Dec. 8
at Baltimore, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The Ravens lost a ton of key cogs from last year’s Super Bowl run, most notably Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk and Paul Kruger. They still, however, have the league’s highest paid man in QB Joe Flacco.
 
WEEK 15
Sunday, Dec. 15
vs. Philadelphia, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
No one knows quite what to expect from the union of Eagles coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Michael Vick. If things click, the Philly offense – which also features LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson – could be scary.
 
WEEK 16
Sunday, Dec. 22
at Cincinnati, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Expect something lopsided. These teams’ past three meetings have been decided by an average of 23 points. The Vikings last trip to Cinci was a 37-8 loss in 2005 during which they were torched by Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson.
 
WEEK 17
Sunday, Dec. 29
vs. Detroit, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
In what could be the final game ever at Mall of America Field, the Vikings and Lions reunite 112 days after their first meeting.
 
FINAL THOUGHTS
  • The Vikings hit the skids last November, dropping three of four in a disconcerting slide that raised anxiety levels. This November seems equally imposing with road trips to Dallas, Seattle and Green Bay and the lone home game coming on Thursday night against the Redskins, the reigning champs of the NFC East.
  • The Vikings don’t face a team that made the 2012 playoffs until Oct. 27. That should provide an opening for another fast start.
  • The season’s tone may be set right out of the gates with back-to-back division games on the road. The Vikings took care of business in the NFC North last season, posting a 4-2 mark. They also regrouped late last season to salvage a 3-5 road record. Finding a way to stand strong against division rivals in Weeks 1 and 2 will be a must for a team looking to replicate last season’s superb September.
  • Starting with the return to Monday Night Football in Week 7, the Vikings will have three night games in a span of 18 days. They will also begin a critical stretch there of playing four out of six games on the road.
  • For the third straight year, the regular season finale comes at Mall of America Field. In 2011, that contest was meaningless. Last year, it meant everything. What will the ramifications be this time around, especially for a contest that could well be the Vikings’ last ever at the Metrodome?

Vikings 2013 look ahead: Quarterbacks

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: January 20, 2013 - 10:50 AM
The Vikings coaching staff and front office are in the process of fully evaluating their roster as they plan for the opening of free agency in March as well as April’s NFL Draft. As General Manager Rick Spielman, head coach Leslie Frazier and their respective staffs put their heads together, the Access Vikings team is doing the same. We are in the middle of delivering snapshot evaluations of every position group. Today, we look at the quarterbacks.
 
QUARTERBACKS
 
Get excited: The word “excited” is a little too strong a word to use while discussing starter Christian Ponder. But even the most stubborn anti-Ponders among us would – or should – admit privately that Ponder’s final month of the regular season was “encouraging.”
After literally throwing away the first Green Bay game with two ridiculous interceptions at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2, Ponder pulled it together in a way that had to surprise even his most blindly optimistic supporters. Needing to win their final four games – including two on the road and one at home against a Packers team that had won 12 straight division games – the Vikings went 4-0 because Ponder complemented Adrian Peterson’s greatness with exactly the kind of efficient, alert, ball-secure play the Vikings currently ask of him.
Ponder threw only one interception in the final four games and closed the regular season with his best game as a professional. Knowing it was a win-and-you’re-in-the-playoffs situation against the Packers, Ponder had a career-high 120.2 passer rating, tied a career high with three touchdown passes and didn’t turn the ball over. How is that not impressive?
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they’ll never know how much more shocking their 10-win season could have been had Ponder not injured the triceps/elbow on his throwing arm and missed the playoffs. But one thing became abundantly clear early on in that wild-card loss at Green Bay: Without Ponder, the 2012 Vikings had absolutely zero chance of beating a quality team.
Overall, this season was another pogo-stick ride with Ponder at the handlebars. But the good moments outnumbered the bad.
Remember the unthinkable comeback in Week 1 against the Jaguars? The 94.7 passer rating in the upset of the 49ers in Week 3? Starting the year with four interception-free games? The 114.2 passer rating in that Week 10 win over the Lions? The first drives down the stretch against Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston and the Packers?
There were bad moments, too. Bad enough that maybe Ponder won’t prove to be this team’s quarterback for the next decade. But he made enough progress to prove that he’s the answer in 2013.
Some critics will never buy that. And that’s fine. But Ponder did help this team win 10 games. And he did it with a thin receiving corps that lost its only playmaker (Percy Harvin) in Week 9.
 
Keep an eye on: If nothing else, the playoff loss proved Joe Webb as Ponder’s primary backup is a flawed plan for a contending team.
So now what?
McLeod Bethel-Thompson isn’t ready to step up from No. 3 QB. And fans need to let go of Sage Rosenfels. Folks, he’s not coming back. Let … it … go.
The Vikings will at least explore alternative options for a No. 2 QB in 2013. But THEY WON’T BE LOOKING FOR ANYONE TO COMPETE WITH CHRISTIAN PONDER. So that rules out acquiring Alex Smith, so let go of that one, too.
And, no, Joe Flacco isn’t a possibility. His contract is up after this season, but … he … isn’t … leaving … Baltimore.
Remember, the Vikings are looking at experienced veteran backups who will be available in free agency. They aren’t elite QBs. They’re guys like Derek Anderson, Matt Moore, David Carr, Matt Leinart, Byron Leftwich, Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Campbell and Rex Grossman.
We’ll assume the Vikings will pass on a T-Jack reunion.
 
Reason for worry: Granted, it’s asking a lot to have a guy start a playoff game at Lambeau Field after not attempting a pass all season. But the very nature of playing backup quarterback requires one to possess the ability to hold down the proverbial fort while knowing your opportunities are going to be few and far between.
Webb never has been an accurate passer. He’s a big, fast athlete who was drafted in the sixth round to play receiver. But his inability to throw with any shred of accuracy in the playoff game was alarming and added another bullet point to GM Rick Spielman’s offseason To-Do List.
If anything, Webb has regressed as a passer during his three years of NFL tutoring. And that has thrust the Vikings into an offseason predicament that they never expected to be facing when the left the Metrodome after clinching that unlikely playoff berth back on Dec. 30.
This decision has many layers and reasons to worry. Webb still has value as an athlete and someone with potential to run the read-option attack that’s spreading throughout the league. Finding a way to use him could really help an offense that needs more playmakers and unpredictability.
Therefore, the Vikings could go back to an earlier plan that positioned Webb as the No. 3 QB behind a more experienced veteran backup. In that spot, the risk of injury would be diminished, so Webb’s speed and athleticism could be used in some capacity other than holding a clipboard on game day.
Of course, going that route would mean the Vikings just wasted a year developing Bethel-Thompson. MBT is a player the coaches really like. He might have the best arm on the team and could work his way up to No. 2 with more seasoning.
So the Vikings head into 2013 with their starter set, but still have a lot of questions to answer behind him.

Behind Enemy Lines: After slow start, Aaron Rodgers carved Vikings up last week

Posted by: Updated: January 4, 2013 - 8:18 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Saturday’s playoff showdown 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 Packers will welcome two key contributors back to the field – one on offense, one on defense.

After missing last Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, receiver Randall Cobb has been back at practice all week and progressing nicely, likely to start Saturday night and eager to add some pop to the Packers offense.

On the other side of the ball, defensive back Charles Woodson, a 15th-year veteran, seems likely to return after a nine-game absence due to a broken collarbone.

So which return is more important?

Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top target during the regular season, registering 80 catches for 954 yards with eight TD catches.

“The Vikings had a little bit of success blitzing Rodgers last week,” Dunne said. “He wasn’t lights out like he usually is against that. But I’d have to think having Cobb back in the slot and on the same page, that’s a big cure for that. And it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Packers offense with both Cobb and Greg Jennings together, both at full strength, playing their best. That’s a big deal.”

As for Woodson, his last action came on Oct. 21 in St. Louis. With the Packers having significant confidence in a young secondary that includes Casey Hayward, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, Woodson’s veteran presence isn’t mandatory but should help. His versatility allows defensive coordinator Dom Capers to unleash his impressive creativity as well.

“As good as those young guys have been, they all had key errors in that game last week,” Dunne said. “So there’s definitely room for Woodson.”

Now it remains to be seen just how extensive a role Woodson will be able to take on, his conditioning certainly lessened due to his extended absence.

“They seem pretty confident that he can jump right in and be a difference maker,” Dunne said. “But you’d have to think there will be some type of transition.”

2) Green Bay’s defense still has no answers for Adrian Peterson.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. And if you don’t succeed then? Well, that’s the predicament the Packers seem to be in after allowing Peterson to run for 409 yards in two regular season games. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy continues to insist that his defensive players simply need to do a better job of tackling to slow Peterson. But that’s an easy request for a coach with a headset to make. For the guys absorbing Peterson’s shoulder blows and stiff arms and ridiculous power, the challenge is elevated.

“The Packers can say all the right things around here,” Dunne said. “But you’d have to think that Adrian Peterson, to some degree, has gotten in their heads a little bit. How in the heck do you stop this guy? And what’s even more confusing is that their tackling has been better this season. They did shutdown Arian Foster [29 yards on 17 carries] and Chris Johnson [11 for 28]. They did a pretty good job with Marshawn Lynch [25-98]. Yet, for whatever reason, Peterson owns them.”

Peterson’s 199 yards Sunday came with the Packers devising a decent game plan designed to keep the star running back inside. Still, the yards just kept coming.

“He was chipping away, chipping away,” Dunne said. “That has to be a concern. It seemed like the Packers had a good game plan and guys in position to make stops all game long. And still, they couldn’t do it. So now what?”

3) As good as Peterson is, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was at the top of his game last Sunday as well.

During one break in the action, Peterson and Rodgers stopped to talk with one another, both offering sincere praise of the other as the best in the game at their position. So, see, it’s not just the fans who recognized the legendary qualities of Peterson and Rodgers last weekend.

Troubling for Rodgers in last week’s loss: Green Bay’s slow start. The Packers punted on their first three possessions, allowing the Vikings to build confidence and a 13-0 lead.

“Some of that is an offensive line getting comfortable and being able to make calls in a tough environment on the road,” Dunne said. “Similar things happened at Detroit, at Seattle. Sometimes on the road, it’s been a little rocky at the start of games just getting assignments down and knowing who blocks who and getting into a rhythm for everybody. But once they figured that out, they got on a roll.”

Not troubling for Rodgers: he found his groove eventually leading six scoring drives on the Packers’ final seven possessions. Green Bay probably would have won last week’s game had they had the ball last, especially with Rodgers in a zone and picking apart a Vikings’ secondary that lost Antoine Winfield to a hand injury late in the first half. Rodgers threw for 318 of his 365 yards after Winfield’s exit.

“That was as good as they’ve looked in a really long time,” Dunne said. “And after Winfield went out, the Packers went after [Marcus] Sherels. They were just attacking him for big chunks.”

The Packers offense also got a notable boost last week from 24-year-old running back DuJuan Harris, who had 70 yards on 14 carries. Signed to the practice squad in October and later promoted, the diminutive Harris didn’t see his first action until Week 14 as he became the next man up in an injury-ravaged Green Bay backfield. His effort last Sunday was impressive.

“The Packers have a lot more trust and confidence in the guy,” Dunne said. “And his running style is just a little different than everybody else. Ryan Grant is so good on those stretch plays where he can press the hole and cut upfield when something’s there. Alex Green is more of a spread offense kind of back. Harris just gets it and goes. He’s a north-south tough runner.”

4) It’s not just the Vikings trying to vanquish the bad memories of their last playoff game.

For the Vikings, a 31-28 overtime loss to New Orleans in the 2009 NFC Championship game doesn’t require revisiting. It was 236 different kinds of painful. And Saturday will be their first playoff game since.

Green Bay’s last playoff game? A 37-20 home loss last January to the Giants, filled with uncharacteristic errors and providing a galling conclusion to a season in which the Pack went 15-1 during the regular season.

“That was a strange game, especially for the offense,” Dunne said. “They had three fumbles all year and then three fumbles in that game. They rarely dropped passes all year then dropped a ton of passes in that game. With the season on the line and so much at stake, everybody just fell apart, crumbled, played bad. That’s where the sting remains. They just weren’t themselves when it mattered most.”

The emotional scars of that loss won’t impact Saturday’s game with the Vikings much if at all. But certainly it provides motivation and a reminder of capitalizing on postseason opportunities as much as possible.

“You have to think they have that feeling of needing to play their best when it matters,” Dunne said. “Without a doubt, that’s in the back of your head – that feeling of having left something on the table and wanting to make things right.”

Winfield's status uncertain for Vikings playoff game

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: December 31, 2012 - 2:30 PM

The Vikings won’t know until later in the week whether cornerback Antoine Winfield will be available for the Packers game on Saturday.

Winfield broke his right hand in the Vikings’ victory at Houston Dec. 23. He returned to play in Sunday’s game against Green Bay before pain forced him to leave the game. The Packers passing game heated up quickly after that.

During his press conference Monday, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said was simply pain – not further injury – that forced Winfield out of the game. As for his availability for Saturday’s rematch with the Packers in Green Bay?

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with Antoine,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how he does throughout the week. He was in quite a bit of pain [Sunday], so we’ll have to see how he does throughout the week and make a decision, maybe, later on.”

Marcus Sherels was inserted as Winfield’s replacement as the slot cornerback in passing situations. Frazier said the team went with – and stayed with – Sherels for the rest of the game because he has gotten more reps in the slot than rookie Josh Robinson, and that Robinson was best suited to play on the outside. That said, Frazier hinted that, should Winfield be unavailable, the Vikings might re-think their nickel defense.

“There are some things we’ll have to look at for this ball game that we might do a little bit different,” Frazier said. “But it goes back to who is an inside corner and who is an outside corner.”
 

Injury updates

Frazier said defensive end Brian Robison, who returned from a sprained shoulder to play Sunday, came out of the game OK.

Running back Adrian Peterson told Frazier that he felt better coming out of Sunday’s 199-yard performance than he did a week ago, when he finished the Houston game feeling a bit banged up.

Frazier said safety Harrison Smith – who left Sunday’s game for a spell with a shoulder issue – should be able to practice this week, though perhaps in a limited way. He is expected to play in Green Bay. The same goes for tackle Phil Loadholt. Frazier said there were some other players who were “nicked up.”

Peaking at the right time?

Recent history suggests that it is sometimes the hottest team – rather than the team with the best record overall – that has an edge as the playoffs begin. So does that mean the Vikings. Who won their last four regular season games, are in a good spot?

Frazier wouldn’t go that far. But it can’t hurt.

“We’ve played some games, in this last month, where we pretty much had our back against the wall, where we needed to get a win each week,” Frazier said. “Particularly these last four weeks. And our guys have risen to the challenge, played extremely well, and got us those wins. Now we’re into a whole new season. We hope we can continue that and improve, ‘cause we’re going to need to improve to go play on the road. It’s a big challenge for us, but we need to keep improving.”

Searching for lost yards?

Given that Peterson finished just nine yards short of setting the NFL’s all-time rushing record, Frazier was asked Monday if he was going to have somebody review the season to see if a few extra yards could be found.

“If we could find those hidden yards, we would do it,” Frazier joked. “They have different people who will be doing that. But we’ll be doing our own homework as well. If we can find nine yards, we’re going to find them.”

Seriously, though, Frazier said he expected another run at Eric Dickerson’s record next season.

“As you know, it doesn’t take much to get him going when he sets a goal,” Frazier said. “I wouldn’t put it past Adrian Peterson to shoot for that record next year and even attain it. He is one of those guys you never bet against. If that’s in his sights, it’s possible. Anything’s possible with Adrian.”

A familiar opponent

Saturday will mark the third game between the Vikings and Packers in five weeks. So, it will probably be difficult for either side to do anything to fool the other.

“We’ll look as hard as we can to see if there is anything we can do differently to help us,” Frazier said. “And for how we can improve across the board as a team. But we’re so familiar with one another, there aren’t a whole lot of new things you can do. But you can try to improve on what you have been doing. And what’s what we’ll try to get done.”

Upon further review…

Frazier said linebacker Erin Henderson should have stayed with Packers receiver Greg Jennings on the third-quarter Packers touchdown. Henderson let Jennings go, and Jennings was all alone in the left corner of the end zone for his five-yard TD reception .

Running argument

Are the Vikings really out of step in a pass-happy NFL? Six of the eight top rushing teams in the league are in the playoffs, including the second-ranked Vikings.

And the ability to run could become even more important in a game where weather could inhibit a passing attack.

“I would think so,” Frazier said. “I don’t know what the conditions are going to be at Lambeau yet, but I’m still going back to what I think is best for us. It’s a formula I think that can work no matter the conditions.”

Etc.

  • Frazier hasn’t decided whether the team will do any practicing outside, given the expected cold weather in Green Bay.
  • Frazier said he knows the Packers will be eager – and more able – to implement their no-huddle offense this week, which will give the Vikings defense that much more of a challenge; the noisy fans in the Dome Sunday made it more difficult for the Packers to go no-huddle. “We expect them to try to get the tempo where they want it in their home field,” Frazier said. “It will be something we’ll have to work on.”

Packers game a turning point; Winfield has broken hand

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: December 24, 2012 - 3:07 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier can point to the moment he felt his team coming together, the game in which he felt everybody arriving on the same page, the day he felt the Vikings were becoming a cohesive team.

Interestingly, it did not come in a victory.

With a win-and-in game with Green Bay at Mall of America Field fast approaching, Frazier pointed to the Vikings loss in Green Bay Dec. 2 as that vital moment.

Really? A game in which the Vikings lost in large part because of two Red Zone interceptions by quarterback Christian Ponder?

Yes.

“That game helped us in some ways,” Frazier said at his Monday press conference. “We found out a lot about ourselves on the road and I told our players after that game that I thought that, more than any point in our season, we had played as a team. I really felt like we were coming together at the right time. I’m sure when they heard me say that they were like, ‘What’s he talking about? We just lost to our rivals on the road.’ But I saw something in our team in that game that made me believe we had a chance to really take off.”

The Vikings have not list since that day, winning three straight, including road wins at St. Louis Dec. 16 and the big upset in Houston Sunday.

“Green Bay the first time was sort of like, ‘Wow, we’re really good, we’ve just got to figure out how to navigate those last two quarters and find a way to get a tough win,’ ‘’ linebacker Chad Greenway said. “I think these last two road games for us have been an indication that maybe we’re starting to figure out how to play together for four quarters and put it all out there. That doesn’t mean we’re going to get a win this weekend just because that happens. It just means that, hopefully, we can remain consistent, keep doing that. And realize that when we play our kind of football and don’t make mistakes, that we’re pretty good.”

That Green Bay game was also the point at which it became clear what had to happen over the final quarter of the season for the Vikings to make the playoffs.  Namely, win. That was the week that both defensive end Jared Allen and owner Zygi Wilf talked with the team. Their message was simple: The team had to win the final four games.

“We kind of knew where things were and how important this final month of the season would be,” Frazier said. “But then you’ve still got to go out and play well. You have to prepare properly. And to our players’ credit and our coaches, they’ve done a great job of doing just that.”

 Injury update

A magnetic resonance imaging test done Monday morning showed that cornerback Antoine Winfield finished Sunday’s game with a small hand fracture. He was able to finish the game and is expected to play Sunday with a soft cast on the hand.

The Vikings hope defensive end Brian Robison, who missed Sunday’s game with a sprained right shoulder, will be available this week. “We’ll have to take it day-to-day with him,” Frazier said, “just to see what he’s able to do when he gets back to practice Wednesday.”  Robison did some things in practice Friday, but was still in too much pain to play against Houston.  “We weren’t sure if he’d be able to go out and protect himself,” Frazier said of the decision to sit Robison. “He needs to be able to tackle someone or, if someone is pushing up against him, he can protect himself. If he can do that, then he’ll be ready to go.”

Meanwhile, running back Adrian Peterson is still experiencing soreness with his abdominal issue and could be limited this week.

 

Stepping up

For the first nine games, rookie receiver Jarius Wright was inactive. In the last six games he has caught 19 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Sunday in Houston he had five catches. Three of those plays resulted in first downs for the Vikings. Monday Frazier talked about the strides Wright has taken.

“He’s just taken off as he’s gotten more confident with what he’s doing and what we’re asking him to do,” Frazier said. “The game he had yesterday was a big-time game. He ran good routes, got yards after the catch for us. He’s a young guy we have high hopes for.”

 

 Schedule almost set

The Vikings’ final two opponents for 2013 will be set following Sunday’s game.

They will play each team in the NFC East and AFC North next season.

The Vikings’ home games will be against Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, the NFC South team that finishes in the same position as the Vikings (currently New Orleans), Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago.  The Sept. 29 game in London against Pittsburgh also counts as a home game.

Road games will be at Dallas, the N.Y Giants, Baltimore, Cincinnati, the NFC West team that finishes in the same position as the Vikings (currently Seattle), Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago.

 

Longwell logs in

Former Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell broke his Twitter silence Sunday afternoon to laud his replacement, Blair Walsh. Longwell, who was bothered by never making the Pro Bowl, clearly thinks Walsh should be the NFC kicker as a rookie.  His series of tweets read: "I've purposely not commented on any football stuff this entire year so let me make my first one now. I've seen many great seasons go unrewarded by not getting voted to Pro Bowl. But if @BlairWalsh3 does not get voted in this year it will prove system is broke! What more can the guy do?? Accuracy, 9-9 50+ yarders, Kickoff touchbacks and a game winner in his first career game!!"

Walsh is third in the NFC with 128 points, second in field goal percentage (behind Dallas’ Dan Bailey) and set an NFL record with his ninth field goal of 50 yards or more on Sunday.

 

 

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