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

Week 16 Picks & Power Rankings: Broncos are the best (for now)

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: December 21, 2012 - 8:58 AM
What else would you rather do on a Friday morning than watch a poor man swing away at his weekly NFL Picks and Power Rankings? We’ll even throw in some extra purple with Three Reasons for Optimism and Three Reasons to Go `Uh-Oh.’
 
Power rankings
TOP THREE
 
1, Broncos (11-3)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Peyton definitely will lose his fifth MVP title to Adrian Peterson if the Vikings make the playoffs. But he’s already reclaimed his MVM crown: Most Valuable Manning. Eli: 84.0 passer rating, 20 TDs, 15 INTs, 60.4 completion percentage. Big Bro: 103.5 passer rating, 31 TDs, 10 INTs, 67.9 completion percentage.
 
2. Falcons (12-2)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Fourteen games, 12 wins and one 34-0 rout of the Giants and yet no one can definitively say the Falcons are for real. That’s what happens when you’re this good in the regular season and that bad in the post-season. Time for Matty Ice to stop being Matty Melt in January.
 
3. 49ers (10-3-1)
Last week: No. 6.
Comment: The 49ers got two pieces of good news last week. No. 1, they’re good enough with Colin Kaepernick to go to New England and win in prime time. No. 2, they won’t have to play the Rams in the playoffs, so that 0-1-1 record against 6-7-1 St. Louis won’t come into play in January. But that Week 3 beatdown at the Metrodome looms.
 
 
BOTTOM THREE
 
30. Jaguars (2-12)
Last week: No. 29.
Comment: You know your franchise has hit rock bottom when you’re 2-12 and have become the leading candidate to sign Tim Tebow when the Jets are done with him at the end of the season.
 
31. Lions (4-10)
Last week: No. 26.
Comment: If the Mayans are right and the world ends today, it’s only fitting that the Lions go out at the bottom of their division.
 
32. Chiefs (2-12)
Last week: No. 30.
Comment: Shut out by the Raiders? How does that possibly happen when it’s no longer 1976?
 
 
NFC NORTH
 
7. Packers (10-4)
Last week: No. 9.
Comment: Aaron Rodgers averages 9.1 yards per third down pass attempt. The next best total in the league is Peyton Manning’s 7.99. Third-and-long in GB? No problem.
 
11. Vikings (8-6)
Last week: No. 12.
Comment: Adrian Peterson’s 1,812 yards rushing is more than 24 entire NFL teams. His 1,313 yards the past eight games is more than the entire season total for six teams.
 
14. Bears (8-6)
Last week: No. 13.
Comment: The Bears had 28 takeaways when they were 7-1. They’ve had nine while going 1-5 in their past six games. Turnovers come in bunches. But they disappear in bunches, too.
 
31. Lions (4-10).
Last week: No. 26.
 
 
THE REST
 
4. Patriots (10-4); 5. Texans (12-2); 6. Redskins (8-6); 8. Seahawks (9-5); 9. Cowboys (8-6); 10. Colts (9-5); 12. Bengals (8-6); 13. Ravens (9-5); 15. Steelers (7-7); 16. Giants (8-6); 17. Panthers (5-9); 18. Saints (6-8); 19. Rams (6-7-1); 20. Titans (5-9); 21. Dolphins (6-8); 22. Browns (5-9); 23. Jets (6-8); 24. Chargers (5-9); 25. Bills (5-9);26. Cardinals (5-9); 27. Raiders (4-10); 28. Eagles (4-10); 29. Buccaneers (6-8).
 
VIKINGS
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, AP against anybody: It feels silly mentioning that the Texans are fifth in run defense. At this point, it seems that you could assemble the 11 best defenders in league history in their prime and they couldn’t stop Adrian Peterson from getting 150 yards. Peterson has tied Barry Sanders’ NFL mark with seven 50-yard runs this season. Anyone want to bet he goes eight quarters without getting another one?
 
2, Fewer penalties: Perhaps as amazing as Peterson’s seven 50-yard runs is the fact none of them has been negated by a yellow flag. The Vikings have been penalized only 75 times for 680 yards. That’s 20 fewer penalties for 166 fewer yards than their opponents.
 
3, The bionic kicker: At some point over the next two weeks, rookie kicker Blair Walsh will line up and make his ninth of nine field goal attempts from 50 yards or longer. That kick will set an NFL mark, breaking the mark of eight 50-yarders that he shares with Morten Andersen and Jason Hanson. This is an incredible weapon the Vikings could have for the next 20 years.
 
 
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, Houston’s turnover margin: Not only are the Texans fifth against the run and tremendously balanced on offense, they also rank second in turnover margin at plus-15. Only the Patriots (plus-22) are better. The Texans also have turned the ball over a league-low 13 times.
 
2, Tiebreaker scenarios: Five NFC teams are 8-6, including the Vikings. The other four – Washington, Dallas, the Giants and Chicago – have what would appear to be easier games this week. (I know, it’s the NFL and nothing is as it appears). The Redskins travel to lifeless Philly. The Cowboys are at home against New Orleans (although I smell the Cowboys’ chances getting Romoed). The Giants are in free-falling Baltimore. And the Bears are at Arizona. The Vikings can’t be eliminated this weekend, but they can be thrown into hole with no realistic chance of climbing out of based on tiebreakers.
 
3, Ponder and the passing game: Please, please, please do not attribute anything Christian Ponder does on Sunday to the strange timing of his marriage to ESPN reporter Samantha Steele on Monday. Ponder is far too inconsistent on his own to attach any blame or praise to a better half. He wasn’t brilliant in last week’s win at St. Louis, but I gave him a “winning” performance based on a turnover-free game and where this offense is without Percy Harvin. In my ledger, that sends him into Week 15 with seven games in which I’ve felt the Vikings can win with him and seven in which I’ve felt he didn’t prove he’s the long-term answer. Looking at what will become available at quarterback in the draft, free agency and via possible trade (Alex Smith), it’s pretty obvious that Ponder will get another season to develop as the Vikings’ QB of the future.  
 
 
THE PICKS
Texans 31, Vikings 21: Anything is possible with Adrian Peterson and a turnover-free game. But can Christian Ponder and the Vikings really play two clean road games in back to back weeks? Not if the second week is in Houston against a 12-2 Texans team that is plus-15 in turnover margin. The Texans have the fifth-ranked run defense and a balanced offensive attack that can control the game or break it wide open. The Vikings’ margin for error is too slim against quality teams on the road.
 
Record picking Vikings games: 8-4.
 
VIK plus-8 at HOU: Texans by 10.
TEN plus-12 ½ at GB: Packers by 14.
OAK plus-9 at CAR: Panthers by 21.
BUF plus-4 ½ at MIA: Dolphins by 7.
CIN plus-3 ½ at PIT: Steelers by 6.
NE minus-14 ½ at JAC: Patriots by 28.
IND minus-6 ½ at KC: Colts by 7.
NO plus-2 ½ at DAL: Saints by 7.
WAS minus-6 ½ at PHI: Redskins by 7.
STL plus-3 at TB: Buccaneers by 7.
NYG minus-2 ½ at BAL: Giants by 3.
CLE plus-13 at DEN: Broncos by 7.
SF pick at SEA: Seahawks by 3.
SD plus-2 at NYJ: Jets by 3.
 
Overall Record Last Week: 8-7. Vs. Spread: 7-8
 
Record Season: 117-70-1. Vs. Spread: 91-91-1.
 
 
UPSET SPECIAL
CHI minus-5 ½ at ARI
 
Cardinals 28, Bears 21: After nine straight losses, the Cardinals found two teams as disappointing as they are: Detroit last week and now the Bears, who in a 1-5 free-fall since a 7-1 start. Sorry, Denny, but right now, the Bears aren’t who we thought they were.
 
Last week: BUF plus-5 ½ vs. SEA at Toronto. Prediction: Bills 24, Seahawks 23.  Actual: Seahawks 50, Bills 17.
Record: 8-6.

What should have unfolded on Christian Ponder's improvised TD run

Posted by: Updated: December 19, 2012 - 1:27 PM

Believe it or not, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had more to talk about than just his marriage Wednesday. In revisiting Sunday’s 36-22 win in St. Louis, Ponder again noted the significance of the Vikings’ opening drive, a 45-yard touchdown march that set the tone for the day.

On a series in which Adrian Peterson was stopped for minus-3 yards on five rushes, Ponder’s playmaking proved key in sparking the Vikings to an early 7-0 lead.

Included on the march: an 11-yard completion for a first down to Jerome Simpson and a key 13-yard connection to Stephen Burton on third-and-14.

The latter put the Vikings in position to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 7. Ponder converted that play with a frenetic 3-yard scramble.

“On fourth down, obviously we love coach going for it,” he said. “As players we love that. He took the risk and we converted, which was big.”

Moments later on third-and-goal from the 5, Ponder finished the drive with an improvised touchdown run. The designed play called for a pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph. But Rudolph was double-covered coming off the right side of the line. Ponder’s second option would have been to Michael Jenkins, running an out route against Bradley Fletcher on the outside to the right.

But once Robert Quinn blew by Charlie Johnson, penetrated the backfield and slapped Ponder in the face, the quarterback instinctively took off and dove in for the score.

“We knew that winning on the road is hard,” Ponder said. “And for us to do it, we have to start fast. And it was crucial to finish that first drive.”

Griffen’s maturation obvious

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had high praise for defensive lineman Everson Griffen on Wednesday. Griffen’s interception and 29-yard return for a touchdown was one of the key plays in Sunday’s win and it continued an encouraging season for Griffen. The third-year lineman has been active all year long when on the field and has continued to produce even after experiencing a significant emotional blow in October when his mother unexpectedly passed away while visiting.

Here’s what Frazier had to say of Griffen: “He’s come so far. I talk to him about it often. Just seeing the maturation, even through this last offseason, being able to manage his free time, understanding what it means to become a pro and to act like a pro both at practice and in games as well. And he’s one of the guys that as we speak has really bought into the right way of doing things. … He’s one of those guys who has paid attention and listened.”

Frazier said he is proud of Griffen’s continuing maturity and the emotional toughness he’s shown the past two months.

“The tragedy that he faced this season, losing his mother, that was hard,” Frazier said. “But the way he responded, even in the midst of that tragedy, you take your hat off to him with how courageous he is. And I’ve told him, I know his mother would be extremely proud of him and the way he’s handled himself. He’s come a long way”

Injury updates

  • Defensive end Brian Robison won’t practice this afternoon, sidelined by a Grade 3 sprain of his acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder. Frazier said Robison would be day-to-day and that Robison’s status for this weekend’s game would be up in the air until Friday afternoon.
  • Left tackle Matt Kalil is only sitting out Wednesday’s practice with an illness.
  • Cornerback Chris Cook, meanwhile, will be back on the field and will be eligible to rejoin the active roster on Thursday. Cook has missed the Vikings’ past six games with a broken bone in his right arm. But he is cleared to play and should be back on the field Sunday in Houston in some capacity.

Week 15 Picks & Power Rankings: Upset special now 8-5

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: December 14, 2012 - 10:16 AM
What else would you rather do on a Friday morning than watch a poor man swing away at his weekly NFL Picks and Power Rankings? We’ll even throw in some extra purple with Three Reasons for Optimism and Three Reasons to Go `Uh-Oh.’
 
Power rankings
TOP THREE
1, Patriots (10-3)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: The best offense, perhaps the best defensive coach in league history and a big-game swagger that pummeled the 11-win Texans 42-14 on Monday night. Cleary the best team in the league.
 
2. Broncos (10-3)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Peyton Manning has won eight straight and appears on course to meet up with the Patriots in the post-season. Feels like old times. Only now Manning has a much better defense helping him out.
 
3. Texans (11-2)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Took some heat for not dropping the Texans farther after their beatdown from the Patriots on Monday night. But I’ll take a broader look at Houston while reminding people that many good teams have felt the power of the Patriots in prime time in December in Foxboro. People seem surprised by Monday night’s score. But I thought that was one of the easier games to pick last week. I had the Patriots winning by double digits.
 
 
BOTTOM THREE
30. Chiefs (2-11)
Last week: No. 26.
Comment: After an emotional win two weeks ago, the Chiefs get blown out in Romeo Crennel and Brady Quinn’s return to Cleveland. Any time anyone talks about an expanded regular season, please try to remember seasons like this one. Can you imagine teams such as the Chiefs and Cardinals having five more games to play. Things like that, to me, would be worse for the league’s image than preseason football.   
 
31. Raiders (3-10)
Last week: No. 30.
Comment: Six straight losses have put coach Dennis Allen right where all Raiders coaches seem to end up immediately: on the hot seat. A loss at home against the Chiefs followed by season-ending road games to Carolina and San Diego could have the Raiders looking to start over – again.
 
32. Cardinals (4-9)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: Nine straight losses. Outscored 65-6 the past two weeks. Coming off a 58-0 loss at Seattle. Clearly the worst team in the league right now. Yet it’s still the team that won at New England in Week 2. That, folks, is the NFL.
 
 
NFC NORTH
9. Packers (9-4)
Last week: No. 10.
Comment: As long as Aaron Rodgers isn’t one of the injured Cheeseheads, the Packers are the best team in the division. Any other piece to the puzzle is replaceable. The same can’t be said for Troy Williamson and Erasmus James, wherever they are.
 
12. Vikings (7-6)
Last week: No. 18.
Comment: It’s already a successful season for the Vikings, considering where they were a year ago and the fact they’re 2-2 without Percy Harvin. With seven wins secured, Harvin out for the season and the next two games on the road, the Vikings are playing with house money from this point forward.  
 
13. Bears (8-5)
Last week: No. 12.
Comment: About the time Brian Urlacher made fun of critics for being wrong about the Bears’ defense getting old, the Bears defense got, well, old.
 
26. Lions (4-9).
Last week: No. 24.
Comment: A disappointing season, but Jim Schwartz is still the right guy for the job. He just needs more time to fill more holes and give this team the depth that it has lacked for most of the last half century.
 
 
THE REST
 
4. Falcons (11-2); 5. Redskins (7-6); 6. 49ers (9-3-1); 7. Ravens (9-4); 8. Giants (8-5); 10. Colts (9-4); 11. Seahawks (8-5); 14. Cowboys (7-6); 15. Bengals (8-6); 16. Rams (6-6-1); 17. Steelers (7-6); 18. Panthers (4-9); 19. Chargers (5-8); 20. Buccaneers (6-7); 21. Dolphins (5-8); 22. Saints (5-8); 23. Browns (5-8); 24. Jets (6-7); 25. Bills (5-8); 27. Titans (4-9); 28. Eagles (4-10); 29. Jaguars (2-11).
 
 
VIKINGS
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, The secondary: Think back to where the Vikings were in the secondary a year ago at this time. This is the week that Drew Brees and the Saints toyed with the Vikings in a 42-20 win at Mall of America Field. Playing only 43 minutes, Brees became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 yards (412), five touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 80 percent (32 of 40) of his passes in a game. This year, the Vikings are still in the playoff race in part because of two giant interceptions that helped beat the Bears a week ago.
 
2, Third-down catches: Christian Ponder has been in a slump for pretty much the past two months. He’s without his top receiver, Percy Harvin, and there’s no chance of the Vikings winning a shootout at any point this season. However, there was at least a glimmer of hope that Ponder can chip in a little. He had three big third-down conversions on throws to Michael Jenkins last week. The first one came in the red zone on the game-opening touchdown drive. The other two came with the outcome still in doubt in the fourth quarter. Those two completions – one of which came on third-and-seven at the Vikings’ 4-yard line – changed field position dramatically. Yeah, the Vikings still punted, but it’s still baby steps with Ponder at this point.
 
3, Adrian Peterson: Oh yeah, there’s that other positive. The guy bull-rushing his way toward Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards rushing. Set the DVRs, folks. You may never see another season like this in your lifetime.
 
 
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, Ponder: By the estimation here, we’ve reached the point where Ponder has had more games in which he hasn’t look like the long-term answer (seven) than games in which he has (six). He’ll get another chance next year because General Manager Rick Spielman trusts him and has a “three-year rule” when it comes to making a full evaluation on players. But right now, the Vikings’ margin for error is basically zero because the QB can’t save their bacon if things go awry.
 
2, Road woes: The Rams and Vikings are similarly positioned as young teams in transition. But the Rams are at home, so a huge advantage belongs with them. The Vikings are 1-5 on the road. And even if they survive this Sunday’s likely elimination game, they have to travel to Houston the following week. The odds are slim that the Vikings can stay alive long enough to make the season finale against the Packers meaningful.
 
3, Rudolph’s disappearance: Tight end Kyle Rudolph is too good and too important to the offense to have games in which his only “touch” is catching the onside kick at the end of the game. Rudolph has had three games in which he hasn’t caught a ball this season. That should never happen in a run-oriented, ball-control scheme.
 
THE PICKS
Rams 24, Vikings 20: It’s hard to bet against Adrian Peterson. But the Rams have a respectable run defense and they’re at home. If this game were at the Metrodome, I’d take the Vikings. But it’s in St. Louis, so give me the Rams.
 
Record picking Vikings games: 8-3.
 
VIK plus-3 at STL: Rams by 4.
GB minus-3 at CHI: Packers by 4.
NYG plus-1 ½ at ATL: Falcons by 3.
WAS off at CLE: Browns by 6.
JAC plus-7 at MIA: Dolphins by 10.
DEN minus-2 ½ at BAL: Ravens by 3.
IND plus-8 ½ at HOU: Texans by 7.
CAR plus-3 at SD: Chargers by 7.
DET minus-6 at ARI: Cardinals by 3.
PIT minus-1 ½ at DAL: Steelers by 3.
KC plus-3 at OAK: Raiders by 6.
SF plus-5 ½ at NE: Patriots by 7.
NYJ plus-1 ½ at TEN: Titans by 7.
 
Overall Record Last Week: 10-5. Vs. Spread: 6-8-1.
 
Record Season: 109-63-1. Vs. Spread: 84-83-1.
 
 
UPSET SPECIAL
BUF plus-5 ½ vs. SEA at Toronto
 
 
Bills 24, Seahawks 23: Seattle is coming off a 58-0 win at home against Arizona. But they’re 2-5 on the road. Yeah, the game is in Toronto, so it’s not really a home game for the Bills either. But the Bills have been playing games in Toronto for a while now. You can take that explanation or go with this even less scientific philosophy that tends to work when trying to figure out the NFL: The Seahawks were really, really up last week, so they’ll be really, really down this week.
 
Last week: ATL minus-3 ½ at CAR. Prediction: Panthers 31, Falcons 28.  Actual: Panthers 30, Falcons 20.
Record: 8-5.

Leslie Frazier looking for 'clean' game to cure Vikings' road woes

Posted by: Updated: December 10, 2012 - 3:24 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier won’t demand perfection. But he is hoping his team can play “a clean football game” next Sunday when it heads to St. Louis. And by clean, Frazier means he wants to see the elimination of costly turnovers.

In five road losses this season, the Vikings have turned the ball over 10 times and are minus-6 in turnover differential.

In their six home wins? The Vikings have 12 takeaways and eight turnovers.

Said Frazier: “Finding a way to be plus in the turnover ratio would be a big deal to us, if we can execute the way we have. Even in some of our games on the road, we’ve executed well at times. But we haven’t done a good job when it comes to winning that turnover battle. And it’s cost us.”

Most notably, two weeks ago in Green Bay, the Vikings let a key division game slip away due to two costly Christian Ponder interceptions – one in the end zone and the other at the Packers 14. Those are exactly the miscues Frazier wants eliminated.

“Our margin for error is not very big,” said the Vikings coach. “So when that happens, it becomes problematic for our football team.”

Twice this year, the Vikings have gone without a turnover. Both times, they never trailed and scored convincing wins over Detroit.

Milestone watch

With three games left, here are the milestones Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is chasing. He’s currently at 1,600 rushing yards for the season needing 161 (an average of 53 per game) to set his own single-season record.

Peterson needs 400 yards (an average of 133 per contest) to reach 2,000. And he’d need 506 yards (an average of 169) to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.

Frazier, coincidentally, was a player during Dickerson’s peak. Dickerson set the single-season rushing mark in 1984. Here’s how Frazier compared the styles of Peterson and Dickerson:

I know Coach [John] Robinson gave it to [Dickerson] a lot [with the Rams] and we’re doing the same thing with Adrian. Both guys were extremely fast and very motivated to run the ball and run it well. I think the styles are somewhat similar, but the power that Adrian runs with combined with the speed is rare.

"When I think of Eric, I think of more of a guy who was so graceful and getting on the edge and outrunning people. But you see Adrian running through tacklers, stiff-arming guys, running around guys, juking guys. He’s so rare. Eric was a great runner, a Hall of Famer. And Adrian is on his way to being a Hall of Famer as well.”\

Roster move

The Vikings added tight end LaMark Brown to their practice squad Monday. The team had an opening on the practice squad after promoting offensive lineman Troy Kropog to the active roster Friday.

Sherels could replace Jefferson

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: December 10, 2012 - 3:24 PM

The concussion sustained by cornerback A.J. Jefferson against the Chicago Bears could test the team’s depth at the position this week.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the team will have to wait and see if Jefferson is able to pass the tests necessary to play in St. Louis Sunday. Veteran Chris Cook is not going to be available to come back from his broken arm until the Dec. 23 game at Houston at the earliest. So who plays?

“It would be Marcus,” Frazier said of Marcus Sherels, the backup who has been a punt- and kickoff-returner this season. “And then, of course, we have Brandon Burton as well. So between those two, they’d get the bulk of the reps. And we’d define that as the week goes on.”

Sherels has started three games in his career, all coming last season. Burton has appeared in 14 games the past two seasons, starting one.

 

Praising the kids

One big reason for the improved Vikings record is the play of rookie cornerback Josh Robinson and rookie safety Harrison Smith. Both intercepted passes Sunday. Smith returned his for a score, his second pick six of the season. Robinson returned his pick to the Chicago 5-yard line, setting up the team’s second score.

“We’re making such improvement, and we’re doing it with a lot of young, young guys,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “Normally it takes two, three years before you start seeing results like that. Guys like Harrison and Josh Robinson, the plays they made {Sunday}? And you look at the improvement {safety} Jamarca Sanford has made this year? He looks nothing like he did last year. Guys are making improvements and it’s helping out the whole team.”

 

Road woes

With two consecutive road games coming up, and with the Vikings believing they have to win out to earn a playoff berth, the job is simple. The Vikings have to learn to win on the road.

This season Minnesota is 6-1 at home, 1-5 on the road, with the only victory coming at Detroit Sept. 30. Over the past two seasons the Vikings are a combined 3-11 on the road.

So what will it take to win on the road?

“I think if we can play a clean football game, where we are – for a change – plus when it comes to turnovers,” Frazier said. “Even in some of our games on the road we’ve executed well at times, but we haven’t done a good job when it comes to winning that turnover battle and it has cost us. Our margin for error is not very big, and when it happens it become very problematic for our team. So I’d love to go on the road, play some clean football, and see what the results would be.”

Said receiver Michael Jenkins: “We’ve got to find a way to play better on the road. I don’t know, {maybe} we could take the Metrodome name wherever we go and put it on other peoples’ stadiums.”

 

An important moment?

Frazier again emphasized the positive with quarterback Christian Ponder, pointing to what he called a key drive that began late in the third quarter.

The Vikings, leading by 14 points, got the ball at their 1-yard line with 48 seconds left in the third quarter. On the drive Ponder had two third-down throws to Jenkins on third downs, both of which resulted in first downs. The first was an 8-down completion on third-and-7 from the 4-yard line. Six plays later Ponder hit Jenkins for 10 yards on third-and-6.

The Vikings drive ended on the Chicago 41, resulting in no points. But it did have a big impact on field position. Chris Kluwe’s ensuing punt was downed at the Chicago 5.

“What he did in that fourth quarter, when we had those third-down conversions, that was big for our football team,” Frazier said. “It allowed us to possess the football. We were in a backed-up situation. … It was a major part of our being able to win that game.”

 

Etc.

One of Robison’s most enjoyable moments Sunday came when he led Harrison Smith into the end zone after Smith’s third-quarter interception. The fact that he got to engage Bears QB Jay Cutler in the process made it even better. “Any time you can throw a block you feel like an offensive player,” Robison said. “A fullback-type. So I got to see what Jerome Felton feels like."

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