Staff Directory 10644686

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   


A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
As the league has “meetings about meetings,” ex-Viking end Jared Allen is hanging with his kids in Nashville.

Even without live sports, Jared Allen plans to dodge NFL draft

The NFL isn't doing anything wrong by conducting its business at a safe distance in our current low-speed world. Nor is it behaving admirably as some sort of heroic distraction.
Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce sacked Bills quarterback Josh Allen on Dec. 8.

New Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce: 'I'll be ready to roll'

The former Ravens lineman struggled with weight issues last season, but has a plan when — and if — the NFL season begins.
Former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Vikings star Alan Page told students, “You can choose what your future will be. Maybe you have to overpre

Black History Month comes alive as Vikings legends share personal memories

Vikings greats, including Alan Page, told their inspiring stories to a group of high school students recently.
Dom Capers fielded questions from the press during a news conference Tuesday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

With Capers, Vikings defensive minds don't lack for experience

Dom Capers, hired by the Vikings as a senior defensive consultant, is "another idea guy" for Mike Zimmer.
Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates his touchdown pass to Damien Williams in the the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 footb

Struggling to super: Mahomes directs stunning rally to lead Kansas City to victory

Patrick Mahomes turned what had been the worst game of his life into the greatest moment of his short career in the 31-20 victory over San Francisco.
Pat Mahomes, a Twins pitcher in the early 1990s, brought his son, Patrick, and his then-wife, Randi, to the Metrodome for a game.

Mahomes emerges from the deep end of the gene pool

Patrick Mahomes' precocious skills hinted at great things. At 24, he's a Super Bowl QB.
Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson’s first Super Bowl action included an attempted tackle of 49ers running back Tevin Coleman in the first half.

Former U linebacker Wilson's move to Kansas City pays off quite well

Damien Wilson had options, but he liked Kansas City's direction. Now he's a Super Bowl champion.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, behind the blocking of new Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson and the rest of the offensive line, slashed through th

Vikings' Hutchinson paved way for Peterson's record rushing day

The newly elected Hall of Famer's blocking led to Adrian Peterson's NFL single-game rushing record of 296 yards against the Chargers in 2007, Peterson's rookie season.
The 49ers and the Chiefs meet in Miami on Sunday.

Daring to be different: Chiefs, 49ers use bold moves to get to Super Bowl

Kansas City is back thanks to a veteran coach and a superstar quarterback it managed to snag in the draft; San Francisco stuck with its GM-coach tandem after a 4-12 season.
Relieved ex-Viking Steve Hutchinson, chosen to the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier in the day, waved at the NFL Honors show Saturday in Miami.

On third try, former Vikings guard Hutchinson elected to Hall of Fame

Steve Hutchinson was a guard so historically fierce and fundamentally sound that the Vikings created a "poison pill" scheme to pilfer him from the Seahawks in his prime.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, left, and Kansas City Chiefs corner Tyrann Mathieu chatted during Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday i

Richard Sherman tackles tough topics fearlessly at Super Bowl

The 49er continues to be one of the NFL's most thought-provoking, thoughtful players.
Hank Stram was carried off the field after Kansas City beat the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Vikings fans, look away: Kansas City rekindles your Super Bowl anguish

Coach Andy Reid has named one of his plays "Hank." It's for the late Hank Stram, the sideline maestro of Kansas City's 23-7 Super Bowl IV upset of the Bud Grant-coached Vikings.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid arrives for Opening Night for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, at Marlins Park in Mi

Reid's 'Beautiful Mind' always searching for next imaginative play

Creativity is a big reason Andy Reid is sixth in coaching wins in NFL history at 207-128-1. And that track record is partly why the 61-year-old is the sentimental choice in Sunday's Super Bowl LIV vs. San Francisco.
Terrell Suggs (94) is eighth on the NFL’s career sacks list.

Kansas City's Suggs: Doleman 'one of the reasons I started playing football'

The Chiefs linebacker, who will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, grew up in St. Paul watching Doleman in his Vikings' days.
Kyle Shanahan underestimated quarterback Patrick Mahomes when he first came on the scene. He was focused on someone else: Then-Washington Redskins qua

Shanahan says he missed on Mahomes because of ... Cousins?

Having already passed on Patrick Mahomes in the draft, Kyle Shanahan's plans to swoop up Kirk Cousins were derailed when the Patriots called and offered Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick. The rest is history.
Back in the day, Chiefs linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs (shown sacking Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers) played whatever sport was in season

Mauer retired, while childhood teammate Suggs plays on with Chiefs

There was a time, long ago, when Terrell Suggs and Joe Mauer were just two St. Paul kids dominating whatever ballgame was in season.
Saleh

Quick hires of Stefanski, others mean 49ers coordinator Saleh stays put

The NFL's usual rush to hire head coaches in January meant that all jobs disappeared while Shanahan's defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, stays put for at least another year.
Plymouth native Ben Peterson, in what’s believed to be a unique title and job description among NFL teams, was hired last February by the 49ers as h

49ers' one-year turnaround has ties to Gophers

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Plymouth native Ben Peterson has unique position in health and performance and is innovative in training.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins met San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after Saturday’s playoff game.

Vikings need to stay off the road to stay in the playoffs

Missteps during the regular season meant the No. 6 seed for the Vikings in the NFC playoffs, which led to a path that was too rough for them to handle.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the fourth quarter .

Five extra points: From going right in victory to going wrong in defeat

What went well for the Vikings against the Saints was reversed against San Francisco. Here's a look at what went wrong.
San Francisco 49ers players celebrate as a group after cornerback Richard Sherman (25), bottom center, intercepted a pass after Adam Thielen ran a bad

Thielen's botched pass route creates game-turning interception

Adam Thielen's route running on the backbreaking play in Saturday's loss to the 49ers couldn't have been any worse. And he knew it.
From left to right: Everson Griffen, sack specialist and potential disruptor; Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ main reason to run; Kirk Cousins, 1-for-1 in

Are Vikings and 49ers two underdogs in the same playoff game?

San Francisco is trying to claim that it is not the favorite, but in reality, it's the Vikings with the daunting task of trying to overcome being a road underdog of at least seven points for the second week in a row.
Stefon Diggs warmed up before Sunday's game at New Orleans.

Diggs misses second practice, Thielen gets stitches in ankle

Head coach Mike Zimmer said he isn't worried about receiver Stefon Diggs being gone from practice for two days. "He'll be fine."
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins looked over the field during the second quarter of Sunday's game at New Orleans.“It’s a tough environment, but yo

Training the brain: Cousins found 'sweet spot' to handle Saints' mayhem

Quarterback Kirk Cousins talked about some of the challenges quarterbacks face when they come up against the noise-fueled atmosphere they often face on the road.
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter sacked New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Undermanned Vikings defense steps up to limit Brees

Despite missing some players and shifting others around on defense, the Vikings made it work Sunday. Just as Mike Zimmer said they would.
Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes

Vikings lose Hughes to neck injury; re-sign Sherels

Vikings cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander (knee) and Mike Hughes (neck) will miss Sunday's playoff game in New Orleans.
Dolphins defensive end Trent Harris sacks New England quarterback Tom Brady in the regular season finale.

NFL playoff preview: It's a tough path for the defending champion Patriots

With the defending champion Patriots wobbling, a record-tying six teams boasting 12 or more victories and the winningest postseason field (.708) since 2005, it's shaping up to be a wild NFL playoffs.
Dennis Allen went 8-28 as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, but he's had a career rebound as the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, th

Saints' Allen rises after flopping as head coach

A woeful 8-28 with the Raiders, he has rebounded as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed against the Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte.

Will Brees be able to walk away from Vikings with a win this time?

Lost in the aftermath of the "Minneapolis Miracle" playoff victory over New Orleans was that Drew Brees had rallied the Saints from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion handed the ball to running back Mike Boone on his way to a 41-yard run in the second quarter.

Five Extra points: Vikings get what they paid for at backup QB

Mark Craig's five takeaways from Sunday's regular-season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Kirk Cousins congratulated Stefon Diggs after his TD catch in the second quarter vs. the Packers on Monday night, but that was the Vikings’ one high

So how much do you trust Kirk Cousins as playoffs approach?

Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback who's capable of being more. He's an excellent passer who can make all the throws with power and precision. But do you trust him?
Danielle Hunter struck a pose while Vikings portraits were being shot in August.

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter: 80 games, 4,226 snaps ... and only six penalties

The NFL's Mr. Clean and a candidate for AP Defensive Player of the Year, he piles up sacks while "playing the game the right way."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on pace to break his own record for completion percentage in a season.

Mark Craig goes beyond NFL Week 17

Once a week, Mark Craig will dissect stats from around the league. This week, he takes a look at completion percentage, QB win pace and a running back record.
Running back Derrick Henry and the Titans have the easiest path to the AFC's sixth seeded; if they fail, three other teams have a chance to slide into

Mark Craig's NFL Week 17 story lines

There are four teams in the running for the second AFC wild card.
Kirk Cousins had a quarterback rating of 58.8 vs. the Packers on Monday; his only worse performance this year was his 52.9 rating at Green Bay in Week

Cousins off his game vs. Packers, but Zimmer says 'it wasn't just Kirk'

The loss to Green Bay was less than an hour old when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he thought Kirk Cousins looked "shaky."
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, in a role reversal, dived for a pass thrown by receiver Stefon Diggs in the second quarter.

Diggs-to-Cousins gadget play didn't pass the test

It shouldn't be a surprise that Stefon Diggs overthrew the ball. Or that Kirk Cousins didn't have the speed to run it down on a trick play that misfired.
Eric Kendricks (54) recovered a fumble on the game’s third snap, but the Vikings could only wring three points out of that turnover against the Pack

Five Extra Points: A hard day's night for Vikings defense

The defense has a right to be ticked off after Monday's game. It caused the Packers all kinds of problems until late in the third quarter.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (left) has thrown 265 consecutive passes without an interception; Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has a career-high

Rodgers has Packers in first entering game with Vikings, but fans keep grumbling

Aaron Rodgers, QB of a division leader, somehow is hearing more naysayers than his Purple peer, Kirk Cousins, this season.
Aaron Rodgers has not been intercepted in the past eight games.

Not losing their grip: Packers are huge on ball security

Green Bay enters Monday night's game against the Vikings with only nine turnovers in 14 games.
The Vikings defense ranks 14th in the NFL statistically, but coach Mike Zimmer is more concerned with points and wins. “These rankings can change in

Numbers deceptive when it comes to judging Vikings defense

Coach Mike Zimmer might not care about statistics. But he does care whenever someone uses them as a blunt instrument against him.
After a fake handoff, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found open room in front of him in the third quarter. He split two defenders for a 14-yard gain

Five Extra Points: Chargers' Ekeler shut down by Vikings

NFL writer Mark Craig offers his five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings game in Los Angeles.
Denver coach Vic Fangio wants the best teams in the playoffs and said divisions hinder that: “Everybody [in a conference] should play each other onc

Is it time for the NFL to scrap its divisional format?

Broncos coach Vic Fangio suggests a conference round-robin to decide playoff teams.
Raiders fans watched during a game against the Bengals in 2015.

Mark Craig's Week 15 story lines

The NFL says so long to Oakland for the second time.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer remains annoyed by what replay officials decide is or isn't pass interference this season.

Pass interference calls leave Vikings coach Zimmer baffled

Mike Zimmer sounds as if he's rooting for this to be a one-and-done season for the new rule.
The Vikings’ Bisi Johnson has 26 catches, ranking third among rookie receivers drafted in the fourth round or lower.

Vikings' unheralded Bisi Johnson zooms up among rookie receivers

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Johnson's 26 catches rank third among 15 receivers drafted on Day 3 (rounds 4-7) and eighth overall among drafted rookies.

Five Extra Points: A pass reception for ... Garrett Bradbury?

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings victory over the Lions.
With four games to go this season, coach Mike Zimmer has the Vikings pointed toward a third playoff appearance in the past five seasons.

With six seasons as NFL head coach, Vikings' Zimmer has survival instincts

NFL head coaches come and go, but Mike Zimmer soldiers on. Among NFC coaches, Zimmer is now fourth in seniority. "That," he said, "is crazy."
When Dan Bailey missed an extra-point attempt following Kyle Rudolph’s fourth-quarter touchdown Monday night, it left the Vikings down four to the S

Despite missed extra point, Zimmer not concerned about kicker Bailey

Nothing sets Vikings Nation abuzz with Purple trepidation quite like a clutch kick curling wide left in a critical late-season loss to Seattle. Right?
Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny plowed by the Vikings’ Anthony Harris for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Seattle's extra lineman tips the balance in its favor all night

Seattle's offensive strategy included the use of an extra lineman on most of its running plays to wear down a defense that prides itself on stopping the run.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson rarely makes a mistake inside the 20-yard line, with a notable exception.

Inside red zone, Seahawks QB Wilson mostly red-hot

Russell Wilson, who last week became the first quarterback to open his career with eight consecutive winning seasons, has thrown 157 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in the red zone in 136 games.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s five touchdown passes Monday night against the Rams have elevated him to the top of the early MVP discussion.

Ravens' Jackson dominates early MVP chatter, even among Vikings

On the NFL: Some of the Vikings players are biased toward their teammates, but the Baltimore quarterback's season is hard to ignore.
Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

Will Stefanski's good reputation lead to improving his station in the NFL?

What are the chances that another NFL team will come after Vikings' offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski for its head coaching job? "Kevin's got a bright future," Vikings assistant head coach Gary Kubiak said.
Dalvin Cook’s ability to gain extra yardage after being hit was limited by a swarming Broncos defense Sunday. Cook rushed for only 26 yards on 11 ca

Five Extra Points: Vikings find way to get by when Cook struggles

Dalvin Cook was held to 57 yards on 16 touches in Sunday's 27-23 win over Denver.
Jayron Kearse (27) was mobbed by his teammates after the final play Sunday in the Vikings’ victory over the Broncos.

'Big-Play Jay.' Kearse helps close the deal in Vikings' victory

A week after intercepting a Dak Prescott in the end zone to preserve a 28-24 victory, Jayron Kearse once again was in the right place for his team.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Dalvin Cook: “He’s been a tremendous leader, done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

Dalvin Cook has been a model back, model teammate for Vikings

The running back, troubled by off-the-field issues in college, has rewarded the Vikings for their faith in him.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur.

A closer look Packers coach at Matt LaFleur

Once a week, Mark Craig will dissect stats from around the league. This week, he tackles rookie head coaches and two stellar NFC running backs.
Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.

NFL Week 11 story lines

In what could be the most exciting matchup of the season, Houston's Deshaun Watson will trade magic acts with Baltimore's Lamar Jackson.
Vikings rookie running back Alexander Mattison, running vs. the Redskins on Oct. 24, has 389 yards rushing on 79 carries.

Vikings more than satisfied with 1-2 punch of Cook, Mattison

Mike Zimmer was asked whether there was much drop off between Dalvin Cook, the best back in football, and Alexander Mattison, who ran the ball for a game-high 6.5-yard average vs. the Cowboys. Answer? "No."
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) scored a touchdown in the third quarter.

Cook's fourth-down touchdown affirms dominant running game

Instead of settling for an easy field goal and a 23-21 lead entering the fourth quarter, coach Mike Zimmer made the hard decision and was rewarded with a Dalvin Cook touchdown
Above, Cowboys defenders Robert Quinn (58) and Michael Bennett had Kirk Cousins on the move in the third quarter. Below, Vikings linebackers Anthony B

Five extra points: Cousins withstands pressure, Vikings corral Elliott

Kirk Cousins was pressured on eight of his 22 first-half dropbacks (36.3%), but he managed to complete passes on five of them for 53 yards and a couple of first downs.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen held his right hamstring as he walked of the field at Detroit on Oct. 20

Hamstrings leave Vikings hamstrung at receiver; Doctson 'ready to go'

In Wednesday's tale of two Purple hamstrings, Adam Thielen spent practice resting while fellow receiver Josh Doctson continued testing -- and said he'll be ready for Sunday night in Dallas.
Vikings rookie wide receiver Bisi Johnson caught a first-quarter touchdown pass against the Chiefs on Sunday. The NFC has nine teams with a winning re

No cause for panic: Vikings well in the mix as playoff race gets exciting

The NFC has nine teams with a winning record, and any one of them -- including the Vikings -- could advance to the Super Bowl.
Vikings punter Britton Colquitt

Britton Colquitt's shanked punt leads to Chiefs' winning drive

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings loss in Kansas City from NFL writer Mark Craig.
Minnesota Vikings punter Britton Colquitt.

Are you ready for Sunday's Colquitt Bowl?

The punting Colquitt brothers face each other Sunday when the Vikings travel to face the Chiefs. "When people ask [their Mom] who she's rooting for, she'll just smile and say, 'I'm rooting for fourth down!'"
Mike Zimmer and Andy Reid.

A clash of offensive and defensive masterminds: Reid vs. Zimmer

Mike Zimmer, 63, is the old-school but innovative defensive guy whose aggressive style impresses 61-year-old Andy Reid, who has built a reputation for the way his teams play on offense.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries and scored the only touchdown against Washington.

Versatile Cook playing better now than Peterson

Dalvin Cook continues to shine in all facets of the game. After Thursday he has a league-leading 823 rushing yards and 1,116 yards from scrimmage.
Adrian Peterson at age 34 still is productive, gaining 307 yards rushing in 83 attempts for a 3.7yard average.

At 34, ex-Viking Peterson doesn't run like an old man

Adrian Peterson, who said Tuesday he is "for sure" playing Thursday on his nicked-up ankle when Washington visits the Vikings, is "looking like the same old Adrian that we all know," Redskins coach Bill Callahan said.
Former tight end Steve Jordan will enter the Vikings Ring of Honor on Thursday. The organization has put an emphasis on alumni relations.

Ex-Vikings say Wilfs' emphasis on alumni has changed franchise

Team alumni feel more welcome, more appreciated and more involved since Zygi and Mark Wilf bought the team in 2005. "I hadn't been back in 20 years," one former player said.
Vikings wide receiver Bisi Johnson celebrated his second quarter touchdown at Ford Field against the Lions.

Vikings' Five Extra Points: Vikings display plaground-style football

Five takeaways from Sunday's game from Vikings writer Mark Craig.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph talked with NFL official Clete Blakeman during a minicamp session in June.

Crisis of confidence: Culture of NFL officiating is the problem, ex-official says

Detroit, the Vikings' next opponent, is the latest victim of scrutinized officiating that has the league in turmoil.
Big plays are driving the Vikings offense when it has success this season.

A new shade of Moss: Vikings' average gain is looking SuperFreaky

The Vikings are averaging 6.3 yards per play through six games in 2019, good for third in the NFL and a reminder of the Randy Moss era of big plays.
Vikings rookie Alexander Mattison hurdled Eagles safety Rodney McLeod in the fourth quarter during a 35-yard run, his longest of the season.

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings-Eagles game

Here's what stood out Sunday afternoon to Star Tribune NFL and Vikings writer Mark Craig.
Dan Bailey (5), the creature of routine that he is despite a few hiccups as a Viking, occasionally gives a place-kick an extra long look through the u

Trusting the process: Bailey remains unfazed by hits or misses

Through highs and lows as Vikings kicker, Dan Bailey is still all about the routine. "There's nothing really too complicated about it," he said.
Two versatile NFL star running backs -- the Vikings' Dalvin Cook, left, and the Panthers' Christian McCaffrey -- have legitimate MVP dreams that stand

Vikings' Cook, Panthers' McCaffrey setting the pace for MVP seasons

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Workhorse running backs Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey are on pace to easily exceed 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ran out of the pocket in the first quarter.

Five takeaways from Vikings-Giants game: Cousins cruises, Zimmer loses challenge

The Vikings got back to form with Sunday's win. Here's what stood out to reporter Mark Craig.