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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Tarvaris Jackson

Who needs a QB? A look at Adrian Peterson's five top rushing games

Posted by: Updated: October 29, 2011 - 10:05 AM

Last week, rookie Christian Ponder made his first NFL start and seemed to inject adrenaline into the Vikings’ offense. Adrian Peterson wound up rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Coincidence? We’ll find out more Sunday when the Vikings visit Carolina and attempt to torch a defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in points allowed (26.1 ppg) and 29th against the run (133.4 ypg).

On Sunday, we’ll bring you a much more in-depth look at “The Ponder Effect,” examining both the rookie’s impressive poise and the impact he had in freeing up Peterson last week.
For now, we take a snapshot look at Peterson’s top rushing performances, the five games in which he has rushed for at least 175 yards. Interestingly, in Peterson's five biggest days, five different quarterbacks have led the Vikings in passing.
Date: Nov. 4, 2007
Rushing numbers: 30 carries, 296 yards, three RDs
Surface: Field turf

Starting quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson (6-for-12, 63 yards, no TDs)

Notable: A passing of the torch? Peterson outrushed Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson by 256 yards and set a new NFL single-game record for rushing yards, breaking the previous mark of 295 set by Jamal Lewis in 2003. The Vikings rushed for 378 yards against a San Diego defense that came into the game allowing fewer than 90 rushing yards per game. Jackson started at quarterback but gave way to Brooks Bollinger (7-for-10, 95 yards, one TD) in after suffering a concussion.
Date: Oct. 14, 2007
Rushing numbers: 20 carries, 224 yards, three touchdowns
Surface: Natural grass
Starting quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson (9-for-23, 136 yards, one TD)
Notable: With Jackson struggling, Peterson had three long scoring runs – from 67, 73 and 35 yards. He also added a 53-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that set the Vikings up for their winning score, a 54-yard Ryan Longwell field goal as time expired.
Date: Nov. 9, 2008
Rushing numbers: 30 carries, 192 yards, one TD
Surface: Field turf
Starting quarterback: Gus Frerotte (15-for-28, 151 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions)
Notable: The Vikings survived when Mason Crosby’s 52-yard field goal attempt missed at the final gun. Peterson’s 29-yard scoring run with 2:22 left stood up as the game-winner. The Viking defense also contributed two safeties.
Date: Sept. 13, 2009
Rushing numbers: 25 carries, 180 yards, three TDs
Surface: Natural grass
Starting quarterback: Brett Favre (14-for-21, 110 yards, one TD)
Notable: In Favre’s debut as a Viking, Peterson stole the show, setting the tone for an exhilarating season that ended an eyelash short of the Super Bowl.
Date: Oct. 23, 2011
Rushing numbers: 24 carries, 175 yards, one TD
Surface: Field turf
Starting quarterback: Christian Ponder (13-for-32, 219 yards, two TDs, two interceptions)
Notable: Peterson’s 7.3 yard per carry average marked the eighth time in his career he had a single-game average above 7.0 yards. Last week's game also marked just the second time that Peterson had rushed for at least 150 yards yet the Vikings lost. The Vikings are 6-2 in such games.

Go Figure: Ponder a real longshot to win his rookie starting debut

Posted by: Updated: October 19, 2011 - 10:54 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s Week 7 game with Green Bay at Mall of America Field, here’s a look at a handful of eye-opening figures and facts. And yeah, they’re all Christian Ponder related this week.

Record of quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2006 when making their debut as starters during their rookie season. The winners: Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan in 2008 and Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman in ‘09. The losers: Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler (2006); JaMarcus Russell (’07); Matthew Stafford (’09); Tim Tebow (’10) and Sam Bradford (’10); Cam Newton (’11) and Blaine Gabbert (’11).
Passing yards per game allowed by the Packers this season, ranking them 31st overall in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 62.1 percent of their passes against Green Bay with 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Carolina’s Cam Newton had the biggest game against the Packers yardage wise, throwing for 432 yards and a score in a 30-23 Week 2 loss.
Ponder’s completion percentage last season at Florida State. In 12 games, Ponder threw for 2,044 yards (170.3 per game) with 20 touchdown tosses and eight interceptions. He also had 180 yards rushing. Billed as a Heisman Trophy hopeful, Ponder was not an All-ACC selection – first- or second-team -- during his final year in Tallahassee, Fla. Tyrod Taylor was the first team All-ACC selection; Russell Wilson was the second-team pick.
Number of different quarterbacks who have led the Vikings in passing yardage for a season in the past 25 years. Yep, long-term stability at the position has been a problem for the franchise. In fact, since 1983, the only quarterback to lead the Vikings in passing yards for four straight seasons is Daunte Culpepper, who did so from 2000-04. Other single-season passing leaders in the last quarter century: Tommy Kramer (1986), Wade Wilson (1987-89), Rich Gannon (1990-92), Jim McMahon (1993), Warren Moon (1994-95), Brad Johnson (1996-97, 2005-06), Randall Cunningham (1998), Jeff George (1999), Tarvaris Jackson (2007), Gus Frerotte (2008) and Brett Favre (2009-10).
Rushing total for Adrian Peterson in Sunday night’s 39-10 loss in Chicago. Sunday night marked Peterson’s 70th career game including the playoffs. But you can bet that film from the lopsided loss won’t make it into the A.P. highlight montage any time soon. Sunday’s 12-carry, 39-yard effort was the 10th least productive outing of Peterson’s career and the 15th time he had a per-carry average of less than 3.5 yards. Peterson did score a touchdown shortly after halftime, a 4-yard run that brought the Vikings within 26-10. But after Devin Hester returned the ensuing kickoff for a score to push Chicago’s lead back up to 23 points, Peterson only carried the ball once more. The shaky outing dropped him out of the top five on the NFL’s rushing list for this season. Peterson has 537 yards through six games, sixth overall behind Oakland’s Darren McFadden (610), Buffalo’s Fred Jackson (601), Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew (572), Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (569) and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (541).

Go Figure: Jared Allen on pace to shatter NFL sack record

Posted by: Updated: October 11, 2011 - 11:19 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s Week 6 game with Chicago at Soldier Field, here’s a look at five eye-opening numbers.

Since the NFL playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, five teams that have started the season 1-4 have rebounded to reach the playoffs. So we’re saying there’s a chance. Last week, we talked at length about the 1992 San Diego Chargers, the only team in history to lose its first four games and reach the postseason. Now the discussion shifts to also include the 1993 Oilers, the 2002 Jets, the 2002 Titans and the 2004 Packers. Anyone have contact numbers for Jack Pardee or Laveranues Coles?
44, 516, 3
Catches, receiving yards and touchdowns by the Vikings’ entire receiving quartet of Michael Jenkins, Percy Harvin, Devin Aromashodu and Bernard Berrian. Harvin is the team leader in receiving yards with 183. That ranks 86th in the NFL this season. For comparison sake, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson has 29 receptions, 451 yards and nine TDs all by himself through five games this season.
Plays of greater than 25 yards given up by the Bears this season, including nine the past two weeks in games against Carolina and Detroit. A once-vaunted Chicago defense is starting to look a bit old and slow. The Lions delivered two big-gain TDs Monday with Johnson scoring on a 73-yard catch and Jahvid Best busting off an 88-yard touchdown run. Panthers rookie Cam Newton torched the Bears for 409 total yards in Week 4, including five completions of at least 25 yards.
Quarterback rating this season for Tarvaris Jackson, who wasn’t re-signed by the Vikings after his contract expired last season. The team later traded for Donovan McNabb. This year Jackson is completing 63.1 percent of his passes, averaging 202.4 passing yards per game and has six touchdown tosses and five interceptions. McNabb has a .568 completion percentage and is averaging 169.8 passing yards per contest with four TD passes and two picks. His quarterback rating sits at 80.0.
Sack total Jared Allen will finish with this season if he continues on his current pace. Allen has seven sacks in the past three games and seems well positioned to make a run at breaking Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5 sacks set in 2001. Last season, Allen had only one sack through his first five games and finished with 11. The Vikings' single-season sack record is 21, set by Chris Doleman in 1989.

Vikes try to avoid rare back-to-back 0-2 starts

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: September 17, 2011 - 11:57 AM

The Vikings posted back-to-back 0-2 starts only once (2001 and 2002) in their first 50 seasons. Sunday, they'll try to avoid doing it a second time when they return to the Metrodome to face the Buccaneers in a game between two 0-1 teams.

Since 1990, only 12.5 percent of the teams to start 0-2 have reached the playoffs. The Vikings were one of them in 2008. And, of course, the best exception to the rule that 0-2 is a time to panic is the 2008 Giants, who not only made the playoffs but beat an undefeated Patriots team to win the Super Bowl.

The Vikings have started 0-2 just 10 times in their first 50 seasons, with half of them coming in the past 10 seasons: 1962, 1965, 1967, 1981, 1984, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2010. Brad Childress' 2008 team is the only one of those to go on and make the playoffs. He benched Tarvaris Jackson and went with Gus Frerotte after that 0-2 start.

Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant started 0-2 only twice in 18 seasons, scattering them 15 seasons apart. Bud lost his first four games as Vikings coach, but seemed to bounce back OK.

Prediction: Vikings 21-17. Although MLB E.J. Henderson's swollen left knee and questionable status makes me question this pick, I don't think the Bucs' offensive line will hold up well enough in the Metrodome for Tampa Bay to gain control of this game.

Frazier encouraged by Vikings' performance

Posted by: Updated: August 21, 2011 - 2:21 AM

SEATTLE -- Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was upbeat Saturday night following his team's 20-7 preseason victory over the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

"Although it's the preseason, it was really encouraging to see our guys come out and really play some good football," Frazier said. "[We] did some good things offensively. Our defense, our special teams ... [I] really challenged our guys going into the week to really work on certain areas that we felt we needed to improve on. It will be the same way this next week. Every week we're trying to improve in the preseason. If we can do that we'll be right where we need to be when we get to the regular season."

Among the things that Frazier pointed to:

  • A second-quarter goal-lilne stand by the Vikings second defense against the Seahawks top offense. Seattle had first down at the Minnesota 2-yard line and could not get in the end zone as Justin Forsett was stopped four times, including three times for no gain from the 1-yard line. "It was a great job by them being on the road, hostile environment, just standing up in that situation," Frazier said.
  • Cornerback Marcus Sherels' first quarter interception of a Tarvaris Jackson pass that he returned 64 yards for a touchdown. This came after Sherels fumbled a punt that Seattle recovered. "Those kind of plays are game changers," Frazier said. "We talk about getting turnovers, we talk about scoring on defense so to see that happen by a young guy who is fighting to make this team that was big for our team." Said Sherels: "I felt like I let my team down. Everyone was just saying, 'Just forget about it and play the next play.' I felt I had to make a play. Got a lucky bounce and happened to score."
  • Quarterback Donovan McNabb's play. McNabbwas six of eight for 81 yards with a 106.8 passer rating and led the Vikings on a 13-play drive that ended with a 36-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell. Frazier also liked the way running back Adrian Peterson ran the ball (16 yards on six carries) and rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph earned a mention as well. Rudolph led the Vikings with three receptions for 22 yards. "[I'm] just looking forward to watching this tape and just seeing where we have to work to improve for this next ballgame," Frazier said. "But a lot of encouraging things from this game."

For the first time this preseason, the Vikings are going to game-plan for their next opponent. That will be Dallas on Saturday night at Mall of America Field. That means that the team essentially will switch out of training camp mode. Frazier said no decision has been made yet on how long McNabb and the offensive starters will play against the Cowboys but it wouldn't be surprising if they play into early in the third quarter.

On the injury front, linebacker Mark Washington injured his shoulder on the opening kickoff of the second half but Frazier did not have any further details. Cornerback Brandon Burton and linebacker Ross Homan were shaken up. Frazier said Burton is fine but did not know about Homan yet.

The Vikings jumped on their charter immediately after the game and flew back to the Twin Cities. They will have Sunday off before resuming practice Monday at Winter Park.


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