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.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— With one throw, QB Teddy Bridgewater showed his potential.
— The Vikings signed RB Henry Josey away from the Jaguars.
— OLB Chad Greenway did not suit up for yesterday’s practice.
— DE Brian Robison won this year’s Korey Stringer Award.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Zach Line (@ZLINE48) December 25, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Bears QB Jay Cutler said he’s moving past his benching.
— Veteran Bears OLB Lance Briggs said goodbye to Chicago.
— Bears RB Matt Forte can make some history this weekend.
— Chicago’s gamble on OG Kyle Long is paying off big time.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
Due to the holiday, there is no Vikings media access today, which is a good thing because we are too busy opening presents this morning to go out to Winter Park anyway. Merry Christmas, folks.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Harrison Smith is the only NFL player with three or more interceptions and at least three sacks. Yet, after being snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting, he says he is not even the top alternate for the game. That distinction reportedly goes to Colts safety Mike Adams, who also has five interceptions but fewer tackles and no sacks. But then again, Adams is playing for a high-profile playoff team and Smith plays for a 6-9 team that has only played in one primetime game in 2014.
And the winner of the annual Korey Stringer Good Guy Award is…
… defensive end Brian Robison.
Robison is the 2014 winner of the annual award, an honor given to the player who was most cooperative, helpful and professional while interacting with the local media. There were many deserving candidates — a dozen players received votes from us — but Robison finished first in the voting to win the award for the first time.
“I’m very appreciative of this award,” Robison said. “It’s named after a great guy. I’ve heard a lot of stories about him. He seemed like an awesome guy to be around, no matter who you were. He just seemed like a great guy, and I want to be very appreciative of that.
“Secondly, I’ve always known that you guys have a job to do, and it’s hard for you guys to come into the locker room every day, especially after losses, and really interview us and try to get stories out of us, so I’m appreciative of the fact that I’m able to talk to you guys every week and get my face out there to the fans and things like that, because without you guys the fans wouldn’t know the type of person that I am, the sense of humor I have.”
Robison credited the University of Texas for teaching him how to deal with media, and he also learned by watching Vikings teammates over the years.
“Especially Jared [Allen], Kevin [Williams] and even Chad Greenway,” Robison said. “So having those guys around, not only on the team, but right there next to my locker, hearing those guys speak all the time to you guys, it kind of overflows to you and kind of gives you that same ability to be able to tell you guys kind of the same things.”
And in typical Robison fashion, he couldn’t help but poke fun at himself while accepting the award.
“This award will definitely go in the room with the rest of my NFL accolades,” Robison said, pausing. “So it will be in a room by itself.”
It’s a Christmas miracle! The Vikings are practicing outside for the first time since around Veteran’s Day. With this steamy weather over the past few days making sure the field is thawed out and with the season finale at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, Mike Zimmer has them outside.
Outside linebackers Chad Greenway and Brandon Watts were not spotted at practice. Both were injured in the loss to the Dolphins. Watts has another hamstring injury and Greenway, who was excused from the team on Monday and Tuesday to go back to South Dakota to be with his family after the death of his father, was knocked out of the game with a right knee injury.
Also missing practice were tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle and knee), outside linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and wide receiver Jarius Wright (undisclosed). Safety Robert Blanton (ankle and knee) was out there with a helmet during the open portion, but it looked as if he might be limited today.
Oh, and the new guy, Henry Josey, did not practice with the team, as he was in route to Minnesota while the team was on the field.
Left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle) returned to practice. He had sat out the previous two games.
Zimmer changed up the schedule this morning, presumably to allow his players to get home to their families and friends on Christmas Eve. They were supposed to practice at 12:50 p.m., but they took to the soggy outdoor field around 11 a.m.
After practice, we will have updates from Zimmer, and we will also reveal which Vikings player won the Korey Stringer Award (aka media good guy). A lot of deserving candidates this season.
The situation: Up 35-28 with 4:35 left, the Vikings defense went back out on the field on the Dolphins’ first play of the drive at their own 20.
The context: The Vikings just scored 15 points in 11 seconds to take the lead. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater put together a nice drive to tie the game on the successful two-point conversion, then rookie safety Antone Exum recovered a fumble on the following kickoff return that led to another touchdown.
The result: Dolphins tight end Charles Clay caught a 22-yard reception on the first play of what was a game-tying touchdown drive.
How it happened:
The Vikings were in a good position at the start of drive knowing the Dolphins had to drive 80 yards to tie. At this point in the game, they were without linebacker Chad Greenway, who suffered a knee injury in the third quarter. Jasper Brinkley replaced Greenway in the nickel, which was what the Vikings were in on the first play of the drive.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges (circled in yellow) showed a late blitz to the “B” gap to send five Vikings at Tannehill. The Dolphins were in an 11 personnel, with one tight end and one running back, while wide receiver Brian Hartline (circled in red) motioned into the slot before the snap.
The play developed and Hartline ran a crossing route underneath three Vikings defenders (circled in yellow) that were six yards away from the line of scrimmage. Clay ran a curl route about eight yards deep, squeezing right behind Brinkley and the wall of Vikings defenders.
Tannehill was flushed out of the pocket due to the pressure with both safety Harrison Smith and Brinkley (circled in yellow) accounting for either a quarterback scramble or a dump off to Hartline. Meanwhile, Clay wisely cut up-field down the same sideline as Tannehill without a Vikings player accounting his presence.
Tannehill completed the pass with Clay right around the Dolphins’ 38, and he picked up another four yards after the catch before safety Robert Blanton made the tackle.
“That was the worst we’ve played all year, maybe one of the worst defensive performances I’ve seen in a long time,” Zimmer said. “But definitely this year, for sure.”
The Dolphins gained 33 yards on the first two drives over the middle, prompting Zimmer to substitute Brinkley out for rookie linebacker Brandon Watts on the third play of the drive due to his coverage ability. Three plays later, Watts pulled his hamstring chasing down running back Damien Williams on an eight yard gain.
The drive lasted 11 plays, including a pass interference penalty on cornerback Xaiver Rhodes on 3rd and 14 at the Vikings’ 18, and concluded on a three-yard touchdown by Williams to tie the game with 1:11 left.
The Dolphins posted the most total yards, 493, against the Vikings this season as the defense took a step bac. Out of all the good quarterbacks the Vikings faced this season, Tannehill had the best performance with 396 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Not Aaron Rodgers. Not Tom Brady. Not Drew Brees. But Ryan Tannehill. You can see why Zimmer wasn’t pleased with the defensive performance.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve given up 400 yards passing or if there ever has been one,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t do anything right.”
During a portion of the season when you want to see progress made as Year 1 of the Zimmer era comes to an end, the defense — Zimmer’s baby as the former defensive coordinator referred it to at the start of the season — takes the biggest step back in Week 1. The same game that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took another step forward, no less. He completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that deflected off running back Matt Asiata’s hands.
“When I continue to watch Bridgewater, I’ll probably be an offensive coach this week; maybe, we’ll see,” said Zimmer, cracking a rare joke in his press conference on Monday . “I’m kind of an emotional guy and sometimes it just bothers me when people don’t do what you ask them to do. If we could understand as a group, as a team, as a unit, if we do what we’re supposed to do, good things will happen.
“Throughout most of the season, the defense has done that. They’ve done what they’re supposed to do, lined up and done this and done that, and for the most part good things have happened for them. So, those things bother me, mistakes bother me, penalties bother me, selfishness bothers me.”
And giving up 37 points to the Dolphins and nearly 400 passing yards to Tannehill bothered Zimmer, who has one game left to assess his team before the offseason.
The Vikings have signed running back Henry Josey off the Jaguars practice squad.
Josey, 23, signed with the Eagles this spring as a rookie free agent after going undrafted. The Eagles released him at the end of the preseason even though he ranked second among all players with 225 rushing yards. He would soon join the Jaguars practice squad.
Josey, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, had a productive college career at Missouri, though a severe knee injury ended his 2011 season early and prevented him from suiting up for the Tigers in 2012. He returned in 2013 to rush for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“We liked him coming out of college,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “We felt like he was one of the better running backs on a practice squad that we could [bring] in, take a look at, see his skill level and kind of go from there.”
The Vikings had an open roster spot and a need for a third back after waiving Ben Tate yesterday.
The Vikings have also signed rookie linebacker Justin Anderson to their practice squad.
|Buffalo||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Dallas||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Jets||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Chicago||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Detroit||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Oakland||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Arizona||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|St. Louis||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/28/14 7:30 PM|
|Oklahoma City||1:30 PM|
|LA Lakers||7:00 PM|
|Golden State||9:30 PM|
|George Washington||7:30 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|Texas A&M||12/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Oklahoma||12/29/14 4:30 PM|
|Arkansas||12/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Notre Dame||12/30/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Georgia||12/30/14 5:45 PM|
|Maryland||12/30/14 9:00 PM|
|(9) Ole Miss||12/31/14 11:30 AM|
|(21) Boise State||12/31/14 3:00 PM|
|(8) Miss State||12/31/14 7:00 PM|
|(10) Georgia Tech|
|(19) Auburn||1/1/15 11:00 AM|
|(7) Michigan State||1/1/15 11:30 AM|
|(16) Missouri||1/1/15 12:00 PM|
|(2) Florida State||1/1/15 4:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State||1/1/15 7:30 PM|