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 AFC

Vikings send 4 to Pro Bowl: Peterson, Allen, Felton, Walsh

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: December 26, 2012 - 6:43 PM

Adrian Peterson’s pursuit of the NFL rushing record made him an easy choice for the Pro Bowl.

And the man who paves the way for Peterson, fullback Jerome Felton, is headed to Honolulu as well.

Peterson and Felton were joined on the NFC Pro Bowl squad by teammates Blair Walsh, a rookie kicker, and defensive end Jared Allen.

The teams were named on Wednesday night. The game is Jan. 27 in Honolulu; players whose teams make the Super Bowl will not play in the Pro Bowl, meaning there will be several replacements before the game.

Here are the complete rosters.

Peterson is 208 yards away from the NFL record of 2,105, set by Eric Dickerson in 1984, entering the season finale Sunday against the Packers.

“It just goes to show when you put your faith in God and you put in the work, you can accomplish great things,” said Peterson, who made a remarkable comeback from major knee surgery.

Said Felton, who was signed as a free agent before the season: “I felt like it was something I could achieve if I was able to land in the right spot and Minnesota has been that place for me. When you have a back like Adrian Peterson, running the ball is going to be your identity.”

Peterson and Allen, who has an NFL-high 115 sacks since 2004, were both chosen for their fifth Pro Bowls.

“This time around it’s extra special because I’ve had to battle through some injuries,” Allen said.

Walsh set an NFL record with nine field goals of 50 yards or longer, and heard about his selection from special teams coach Mike Priefer.

“ I got the news this afternoon from Coach Priefer, which was appropriate because he put a lot on the line when the Vikings drafted me and I owe him so much for the season that we’ve had,” Walsh said. “It’s been an unbelievable year and I hope that it’s not done for a long while yet.”
 

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.

 

 

Vikings' 2013 opponents nearly set

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: December 24, 2012 - 1:55 PM

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 kicks 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.




 

Vikings-Packers start time changed; playoff update

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: December 24, 2012 - 11:54 AM

The Vikings-Packers game time Sunday has been changed to 3:25 p.m. by the NFL.  If the Vikings win, they will make the NFC playoffs as a wild-card. They can also make the playoffs, if they lose, if Chicago, Dallas and the N.Y. Giants also lose.

The NFL also flexed the Dallas-Washington game, which will decide the NFC East title, to 7:20 p.m. and moved the New England-Miami game to 3:25 as well.

Of course, if the Vikings beat the Packers, the teams could very well meet in the first round of the playoffs, at Lambeau.

Here is the updated look at the playoffs.

NFL playoff picture
 

NFC
• Atlanta (13-2) has clinched the South title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
• Green Bay (11-4) has clinched the North and can clinch a first-round bye with a victory over the Vikings or a loss by San Francisco.
• San Francisco (10-4-1) has clinched a playoff spot. Can clinch the West title with a victory over Arizona or a Seattle loss to St. Louis. Can clinch a first-round bye with a victory and a Green Bay loss to the Vikings.
• Washington (9-6) can win the East by beating Dallas.
• Seattle (10-5) has clinched a wild-card spot; can clinch the West with a victory over the Rams and a San Francisco loss.
• The Vikings (9-6) can clinch a wild-card spot by beating the Packers on Sunday. The Vikings also can make the playoffs, with a loss, if Dallas, Chicago and the N.Y. Giants lose.
• Chicago (9-6) can make the playoffs with a victory at Detroit and a Vikings loss.
• Dallas (8-7) can win the East by beating Washington.
• The New York Giants (8-7) can make the playoffs with a victory against Philadelphia and losses by the Vikings, Dallas and Chicago.


AFC
The six-team field is set but not the matchups.
• Houston (12-3) is the South champ and can clinch No. 1 seed with a victory over Indianapolis or a loss by Denver.
• Denver (12-3) is the West champ and can clinch first-round bye with a victory or a New England loss; can clinch No. 1 seed with a victory and a Houston loss.
• New England (11-4) is the East champ and can clinch a first-round bye with a victory and a Denver loss. New England also can clinch No. 1 seed with a victory and losses by both Houston and Denver.
• Baltimore (10-5) is the North champ.
• Indianapolis (10-5) will be the No. 5 seed as a wild card.
• Cincinnati (9-6) will be the No. 6 seed as a wild card.

Final gun report: Vikings 23, Texans 6

Posted by: Updated: December 23, 2012 - 2:53 PM

Postgame snapshot from Reliant Stadium, where the Vikings beat the Texans 23-6.

Good news: The Vikings delivered a complete game, playing well in all three phases. They scored on their opening possession with newly married quarterback Christian Ponder going 3-for-3 for 62 yards on the drive and capping things with a 3-yard touchdown toss to Kyle Rudolph. That put the Vikings ahead to stay with less than 9 minutes gone by. And a sturdy effort from the defense carried the day. The Vikings bottled up Arian Foster, the AFC’s leading rusher, to 15 yards on 10 carries before Foster left the game for good with an illness in the second half. Jasper Brinkley forced a first half fumble that A.J. Jefferson recovered. And the defense had two key stops in the third quarter, none more important than holding Houston to a field goal after the Texans had first-and-goal at the 1. The biggest play in that sequence was a Fred Evans sack. And now, at 9-6, the Vikings head to the final week of the season eyeing a wild card berth.

Bad news: Adrian Peterson came back down to earth – by his standards anyway. Peterson was corralled in the backfield throughout the day, stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage on many of his runs. He still managed to pile up 86 yards on 25 rushes. He is now 102 yards shy of 2,000 and 207 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.

Extra point: Rookie kicker Blair Walsh continued his assault on the record books Sunday. Walsh made three field goals, including a career long of 56 yards in the second quarter. That boot matched Paul Edinger’s team record for longest made field goal. It also gave Walsh his ninth made kick from 50 yards or beyond, a new single-season NFL record. Walsh’s 32 field goals for the season currently rank as the third most in team history. Gary Anderson made 35 field goals in 1998. Fuad Reveiz made 34 in 1994

Next up: The Vikings will wrap up the regular season next weekend with a home game against Green Bay. The Packers are dominating Tennessee in their home finale at Lambeau Field, up 48-0 and rolling to a blowout victory that will give them an 11-4 record.

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