Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
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.
INDIANAPOLIS - Maybe this is where the projected Hall of Fame journey gathers momentum — in the final minute of a tie game with the No. 1 pick of the 2012 draft doing what the Colts expect him to do for a decade or longer.
Game-winning drive? Hey, Andrew Luck just wanted to give it a try, handling the moment with such tranquility you’d have thought he was out walking his dog.
Luck sure didn’t seem fazed by the pressure. Not the figurative kind that had heightened after Indianapolis blew a 20-6 lead in the final 10 minutes Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. And not the literal kind either, the heat coming from the Vikings’ defense as they tried to steal yet another improbable victory.
Instead, in the final half-minute, Luck delivered two consecutive 20-yard completions to Donnie Avery and Reggie Wayne. Just like that, in 19 seconds, Luck propelled Indianapolis from its own 20 into position for Adam Vinatieri to kick his game-winning 53-yard field goal.
Final score: Colts 23, Vikings 20.
This is the easy story, the one about the promising rookie who stepped up in the clutch and made sure his encouraging afternoon didn’t sour.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” said his coach Chuck Pagano. “He sees the field. He understands the offense extremely well. He knows exactly what he’s getting because he puts the time in … There’s no panic to the kid.”
Yes, Luck showed all sorts of calm, savvy and athleticism, especially on his first throw of that final drive when he spun, rolled left and put a dart into Avery’s sternum. But to truly understand how Luck recorded his first NFL victory, it’s only proper to contextualize the day by documenting all the costly mistakes the Vikings made, a grab bag of blunders so deep that the classroom sessions at Winter Park promise to be intense this week.
Above all else, there were those 11 penalties committed by nine different Vikings for 105 yards.
Few proved more costly than the 15-yarders committed by Andrew Sendejo and Jared Allen in the third quarter, gifts which allowed the Colts to prolong a 14-play field goal drive. That produced a 20-6 Indianapolis lead.
Sendejo was flagged for roughing Colts punter Pat McAfee, even though replays show the contact may have been minimal or non-existent.
Three plays later, Allen dived and tackled Luck as he crossed the sideline on a meaningless 1-yard run on third-and-16.
“I still don’t think it’s a penalty,” Allen said. “They can say what they want … I didn’t even hit him with my shoulder pads. I hit him with my arm. This is football I thought.”
Three times Sunday, the Colts put together scoring drives of nine plays or longer, including a 13-play, 80-yard stampede on their opening drive. There was also the touchdown they scored with 7 seconds before halftime when, on third-and-3, Wayne easily steered through the Vikings’ Cover 2 zone to snag a 30-yard touchdown pass.
The postgame fingers pointed at linebacker Erin Henderson for failing to drop deep enough in the coverage.
“That’s something we’ve talked about and something we’ve worked on,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier explained. “We put him in that spot, and we’ve just got to execute our assignments. We didn’t on that play.”
But expecting Henderson to hang with Wayne by himself is risky business. Plus, the Colts might never have had the ball for that score if Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had not badly missed on a third-and-6 throw to a wide-open Percy Harvin on the previous series.
Yep, the Vikings were left to recap Sunday’s failure with so many of the neatly packaged explanations they ran into the ground a year ago.
“We did some things today that really hurt us, where we hurt ourselves,” Frazier said.
“That’s the NFL,” cornerback Antoine Winfield added. “Like last year, we lost a lot of close games. We have to tighten it up.”
Sure, there were a few bright signs. Harvin, for example, delivered 12 catches for 104 yards. Ponder (27-for-35, 245 yards, two TDs) also hung tough, producing two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that again displayed his ability to rally after adversity.
If you’re big on silver linings, maybe that was encouraging.
“I’m not into silver linings,” Allen said. “It’s like taking your sister to the prom. We have to win football games. It doesn’t matter how you win them, where you win 'em, we’ve got to win. And this is a game we should have won.”
MANKATO -- Who says there's no pressure on the Vikings to win this season?
Coach Leslie Frazier made it a mere eight minutes into his first press conference of training camp before being confronted with the "P" word ... as in playoffs ... for a team that went 3-13 and is riding an 11-game losing streak within its division.
Asked if it's realistic for him to project a goal of making the playoffs when he talks to the team on the eve of Friday's first day of training camp, Frazier didn't back away (or say, Playoffs!?) . He stood behind the players -- including quarterback Christian Ponder -- who said this offseason that making the playoffs is a realistic goal. (Then again, what are they going to say when asked if they think they can make the playoffs?)
"In the NFL today, I don't know that you want to count yourself out of any situation," Frazier said after checking in at Gage Hall on the campus of Minnesota State University this morning. "This is a very fluid league in the way things are. I mean the teams that are sometimes favorites don't always end up being the favorite at the end of the year. Or the teams that are counted out are sometimes the teams that flip the script a little bit or end up in places that most people didn't expect at the beginning of the season.
"That's not to say that's going to be us. Our goal is to come down here to Mankato and try to continue to improve across the board. If we make the necessary improvements and come together as a team, we feel our chances are as good as anybody's."
Some other highlights from the reporting day ...
And, in the latest installment of the Percy Harvin saga, it appears the talented wide receiver will be on the field for practice today.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, on the radio with Paul Allen on KFAN (1130 AM) this morning, said Harvin was on site and set to practice today.
By now you know each chapter of the Harvin story this week. On Tuesday he said he was unhappy, though he wouldn't say what he was unhappy about. On Wednesday came new that Harvin had requested a trade. By midday Vikings GM Rick Spielman said the Vikings were not interested in trading Harvin.
And then Harvin did not practice Wednesday afternoon. Later Wednesday evening Harvin tweeted that his contract wasn't the issue, that he had talked with Frazier.
And now this.
We'll see if Harvin actually practices today or if he just walks onto the field and observes.
I'll get back to you after practice has ended.
All players were present and accounted for at Vikings minicamp today, but there was at least one unhappy camper.
Percy Harvin, the Vikings Pro Bowl receiver and kick returner, made it pretty clear that he is unhappy with his contract. Without directly saying so, he said "issues" are involved and unless they are resolved he won't report to the team's training camp in Mankato in late July.
Asked several different times about the contract, Harvin never mentioned that word directly. Harvin has two years left on a five-year deal he got as a rookie in 2009.
"I’m just not happy, I won’t go into how unhappy I’m not, I’m just not overall happy with a couple of situations, and hopefully they get worked out," he said.
Coach Leslie Frazier said he had spoken with Harvin. Frazier also wouldn't say what the "issue" was, but added, "It's not something we can't handle. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be at (training) camp. It's something we will talk through."
Harvin, 24, participated in some of the team's optional workouts during the past month. His rookie contract was worth a little more than $12 million. The final two years of his contract call for base salaries of 915,000 and $1.55 million. With potential bonuses, those two years could be worth slightly more than $2.5 million.
Harvin had 87 catches and 1,312 total offensive yards last season – he was not on the field for about 40 percent of the team’s snaps, however.
In other news ...
Jared Allen, who did not participate in the team's Organized Team Activities, said he was happy with his offseason routine and that was why he didn't show up at practice until the minicamp, which is mandatory. There were no OTAs or mini-camps last season because of the NFL lockout, and Allen had a near-record 22 sacks during the season.
Chad Greenway, who missed OTAs because his father has leukemia, was present this morning and spoke optimistically about his father's battle. Greenway said his father's cancer is in remission, but that he was undergoing treatment at Rochester's Mayo Clinic.
Eric Frampton (illness) did not practice.
Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was held out of practice with a hip issue connected to the surgery that kept him out of last season. Brinkley said the issue was not a major one and that he expected to take part in practice before the mini-camp ended. Tyrone McKenzie played with the first unit in Brinkley's place.
With their lone Friday night pick, the Vikings have drafted cornerback Josh Robinson out of the University of Central Florida. Robinson is an athletic defensive back with strong instincts. He had 46 passes defended in his three years at UCF.
Robinson is often praised for his speed, ball skills, tackling ability and his ability to flourish in zone coverage.
General Manager Rick Spielman addressed the media to talk about Robinson just a few minutes ago. Spielman called Robinson "an extremely talented athlete" with unique cover skills. Robinson entered the draft a year early out of Central Florida and needs some polish. But overall the Vikings were intrigued by his upside and raw athleticism. Robinson ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine in February and also posted a vertical leap of 38.5 inches.
"The kid's an outstanding character kid, fitting the bill for what we're trying to do," Spielman said. "Excellent work habits. Everything you're looking for in a young player who's going to continue to have tremendous upside."
Robinson's athletic skill set and cover ability will give him a boost as he transitions to the next level. He will need to clean up his technique significantly but should get an opportunity to do so working with three Vikings coaches -- head coach Leslie Frazier, defensive coordinator Alan Williams and defensive backs coach Joe Woods -- all having defensive backs expertise.
Robinson, the Vikings believe, has the versatility to flourish both in man coverage and in zone and is a decent tackler.
"He has that unique trait as far as anticipating when a receiver's going to break and his ability to get out of his transition and close to the ball," Spielman said. "Sometimes, like all DBs, you'll see him maybe bite on a double move. But watching his recovery speed, if they do get a step on him, how quickly he can recover -- those are some of the unique traits he does have."
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