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.
For the Vikings’ Week 12 matchup against the Packers, we spoke once again to Tyler Dunne, Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked Dunne about the final regular season matchup between Packers-Vikings.
1. Last time we saw the Packers, they were relaxing. Now, they’re on fire. What has occurred over the last five games to make them one of the best teams in the NFC?
TD: Aaron Rodgers has been basically unstoppable for Green Bay with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions that really weren’t even his fault. His accuracy has been off the charts, and he continues to find the locate and attack the sore spot in any defense. The moment, Chicago’s secondary was on the wrong page two weeks ago — some in single-high, some in Cover 2 — he hit Jordy Nelson for a deep touchdown. Two other trends are also in his favor. A.) The offensive line has stayed in tact and shut down some pretty strong pass rushers. The Eagles didn’t even hit Rodgers once outside their one sack. And B.) Eddie Lacy has developed into a dangerous receiver. At 240, he’s a load to take down in the open field.
2. The running game struggled up until the Packers’ first meeting against the Vikings. Has Green Bay been able to sustain its running game success since?
TD: Lacy averaged 6.9 yards per carry last week, but only had 10 attempts. Until teams decide to take away the deep ball and keep two safeties back, Rodgers will go to the air. At some point, they expect defenses to go to Cover 2 looks — what gave them some problems in 2012. And then they’ll really be leaning on Lacy to be a workhorse. That Vikings win was really his breakout game. Since then, it seems like he’s been running without hesitation and with that tackle-breaking edge. As the weather worsens, everyone around here expects his role to grow to some degree.
3. What has led to the increase in turnovers created by Green Bay’s defense? The Packers have forced 12 turnovers over the last five games.
TD: Pressure up front. Specifically, Julius Peppers. They haven’t had a real threat other than Clay Matthews since Dom Capers arrived in 2009. Peppers is making one or two plays a win that change that game. Last week, he dropped into coverage — something the Eagles later said they never expected out of that particular look — and picked off Mark Sanchez for a touchdown. On another play, he clouded Sanchez’s vision and Tramon Williams picked off the quarterback. He’s getting pressure and allowing Capers to get creative with the X’s and O’s. This time last year, Capers was forced to get very vanilla.
4. How has linebacker Clay Matthews looked at inside linebacker and how has that helped Green Bay’s defense?
TD: He’s been a substantial upgrade over what they had. It’s been a major position of weakness and with the run defense dead last in the NFL over the bye week, the Packers needed to do something. Matthews gives the Packers about 20 more pounds at that position with more relentlessness. He’s still lining up outside on third-and-long’s and even as a fifth rusher on the line. Dom Capers is trying to keep him on the move to confuse defenses. But inside, he has helped shore up a hurting position. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to play with a three-touchdown lead. It’ll get interesting whenever the Packers are in a close game if Matthews continues to stuff the run.
5. What do the Packers need to do to win on Sunday?
TD: Keep Rodgers on the field. The Vikings’ best shot at an upset will be playing a game of keepaway with Rodgers — they’ll need to shorten the game and put long drives together. So if the Packers simply string together scoring drives as they did the last match-up, they’ll be OK. Still, it’s a road game against a hungry team. Anything can happen.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— So who is WR Charles Johnson and where did this guy come from?
— New RB Ben Tate was scrambling to get acclimated to the Vikings yesterday.
— WR Greg Jennings and RB Matt Asiata missed practice again yesterday.
— RB Adrian Peterson talked about his future in an interview with USA Today.
— Struggling WR Cordarrelle Patterson said he just wants to have fun again.
— Coordinator Nov Turner is pleased with QB Teddy Bridgewater’s development.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Thanks to all the Vikings fans that’s welcoming me I appreciate it!! I’m happy to be here and ready to help win games!
— Ben Tate (@BenTateRB) November 21, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— The Packers offense has gotten off to fast starts this season.
— Packers OLB Clay Matthews says his injury won’t slow him down.
— Rookies are playing major roles for the Packers again this season.
— The Packers are expected to keep WR Randall Cobb around.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings practice at 10:50 a.m. Afterward, head coach Mike Zimmer will chat with reporters.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Patterson said his receiving totals are nowhere near where he wanted them to be right now. So where exactly are his numbers? Patterson ranks 93rd in the NFL in receiving yards with 332 on 28 receptions. Among those ahead of him on the list are a receiver who was lost for the season in Week 6 (Victor Cruz), a backup running back (Roy Helu), a backup tight end (Niles Paul), an undrafted rookie (Allen Hurns) and literally some guy I had never heard of before today (Taylor Gabriel).
In his first interview since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for at least the rest of the 2014 season, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson again expressed remorse for harming his 4-year-old son last May and said that he will never use a switch again to discipline his children.
“No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg,” Peterson said in an interview with USA Today. “No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn’t mean to do this to you and how sorry I was.
“I love my son. I love my kids, my family. Like I said after I took the misdemeanor plea, I take full responsibility for my actions. I regret the situation. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine.”
Peterson, who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault earlier this month, said that he has learned that there are other ways to discipline his children.
“I won’t ever use a switch again,” Peterson said. “There’s different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There’s so many different ways to discipline your kids.”
As for Peterson’s future in Minnesota, which is up in the air beyond this season in large part due to the large salary cap hit he is scheduled to carry, he said he would “love” to remain with the Vikings.
“I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there,” Peterson said. “But if there’s word out that hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I’ve given everything I had in me.”
Peterson also said he has given thought to the idea that “maybe it’s best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else.”
We’re experiencing some issues with post showing up relatively quickly. And by relatively quick, we’re still waiting for the final from Super Bowl IX to show up …
But here goes. The injury report from today’s practice:
Missing practice entirely: RB Matt Asiata (concussion), WR Greg Jennings (rib) and DT Sharrif Floyd (knee). In an earlier post that hadn’t shown up, coach Mike Zimmer said Asiata was still going through his league concussion protocol. Asked about Floyd, Zimmer said the big fella “has a bruise” and it’s “nothing serious.”
Limited in practice: WR Jarius Wright (hamstring), RB Jerick McKinnon (low back), OT Mike Harris (ankle) and LB Anthony Barr (knee). Wright and McKinnon didn’t practice Wednesday.
Full participation in practice: CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), DE Everson Griffen (neck), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) and DE Scott Crichton (hip).
Vikings running back Ben Tate arrived to the Twin Cities on Thursday morning after he was claimed off waivers from the Browns.
When asked if he was surprised that the Browns waived him on Tuesday, Tate said, “Yeah. Of course. A little bit.” Tate dealt with a 24 hour period of uncertainty on where he’d land before the Vikings won the rights to Tate on Wednesday.
“It was tough,” Tate said on the last two days. “After being claimed, I’ve got a girl and a little boy so it’s definitely tough trying to get situated with that. Just traveling, not much sleep and not much eating. I’m starving.”
Tate practiced with the team, mixing in every few plays during each period as he gets situated with offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense. He’s never played underneath Turner, nor a system similar to what Turner runs.
He’s not sure whether the Vikings will activate him on Sunday, and that likely depends on the status of running backs Matt Asiata (concussion) and Jerick McKinnon (low back).
“I really didn’t know what to know what to expect,” McKinnon said about Tate’s acquisition. “I knew about him. I’m a younger guy, so I watched him in college (Auburn) and a little bit in the pros before I came out. I know he brings a lot to the table. I don’t know what the role is going to be for me or any other back or him, but I know he’ll bring some good contributions to the team and I’ll be excited to see what he does.”
Tate said he understands the Vikings current situation at running back, with Adrian Peterson suspended for at least the remainder of this season, but taking over as the lead back this year and possibly into next season isn’t what he’s worried about at the moment.
“I’m just focused on here and now, trying to learn this playbook, trying to do everything to the best of my ability, 100 percent,” Tate said. Trying to fit in, trying to learn the guys and just trying to become a member of this team; that’s my only focus right now.”
|Cleveland||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/23/14 3:05 PM|
|St. Louis||11/23/14 3:05 PM|
|Miami||11/23/14 3:25 PM|
|Washington||11/23/14 3:25 PM|
|Dallas||11/23/14 7:30 PM|
|NY Jets||11/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Baltimore||11/24/14 7:30 PM|
|Chicago||11/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Philadelphia||11/27/14 3:30 PM|
|Seattle||11/27/14 7:30 PM|
|San Antonio||7:00 PM|
|LA Lakers||7:30 PM|
|New Orleans||8:00 PM|
|NY Islanders||6:00 PM|
|New Jersey||8:30 PM|
|Coll of Charleston||50|
|Dayton||37||1st Half 1:25|
|Seton Hall||3:00 PM|
|UNC Greensboro||3:30 PM|
|Central Conn St||4:00 PM|
|Boston College||4:00 PM|
|Alcorn State||4:30 PM|
|Prairie View||6:00 PM|
|Youngstown St||6:00 PM|
|New Mexico||6:00 PM|
|IUPU-Ft Wayne||6:00 PM|
|Stony Brook||6:00 PM|
|Boston Univ||6:00 PM|
|George Washington||6:00 PM|
|Florida Memorial||6:30 PM|
|Southern Ill||6:30 PM|
|Delaware State||7:00 PM|
|Austin Peay||7:00 PM|
|Morehead State||7:00 PM|
|Jarvis Christian||7:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||7:00 PM|
|Kennesaw St||7:00 PM|
|North Dakota St|
|North Dakota||7:00 PM|
|South Dakota St|
|Georgia State||8:00 PM|
|Penn State||8:00 PM|
|Oral Roberts||8:00 PM|
|UC Riverside||8:00 PM|
|Idaho State||8:00 PM|
|Illinois State||8:00 PM|
|Florida A&M||8:00 PM|
|Sam Houston St||8:00 PM|
|Kansas State||9:30 PM|
|Long Beach State|
|(12) Kansas State||26||FINAL|
|Texas-El Paso||7:00 PM|
|Air Force||8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|San Jose St||8:30 PM|
|Char Southern||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|South Alabama||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Rutgers||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(10) Michigan State|
|Minnesota||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Northwestern||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(18) Marshall||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Kansas||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Indiana||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) Ohio State|
|Penn State||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(14) Eastern Ky||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|TX-San Antonio||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|SMU||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Virginia Tech||11/22/14 11:30 AM|
|Washington St||11/22/14 12:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State|
|Louisiana Tech||11/22/14 12:00 PM|
|Western Mich||11/22/14 12:00 PM|
|New Mexico||11/22/14 12:30 PM|
|(22) Colorado State|
|Eastern Mich||11/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||11/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Tulsa||11/22/14 2:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|FIU||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|(8) Ole Miss||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Louisville||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Maryland||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Syracuse||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Boston College||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Georgia State||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Tulane||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Stanford||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|Western Carolina||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|ULM||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|So Florida||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|Colorado||11/22/14 3:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||11/22/14 6:00 PM|
|Samford||11/22/14 6:00 PM|
|Miami-Florida||11/22/14 6:00 PM|
|Vanderbilt||11/22/14 6:30 PM|
|(4) Miss State|
|(19) Missouri||11/22/14 6:30 PM|
|Oklahoma State||11/22/14 6:30 PM|
|(24) USC||11/22/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/22/14 7:00 PM|
|Boise State||11/22/14 9:15 PM|
|Oregon State||11/22/14 9:30 PM|
|Fresno State||11/22/14 9:30 PM|
|UNLV||11/22/14 10:00 PM|
|Ohio U||11/25/14 6:00 PM|
|LSU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(5) TCU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||11/28/14 10:00 AM|
|(21) Nebraska||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ky||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|UCF||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Houston||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Akron||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Ball State||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Buffalo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Toledo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Arkansas||11/28/14 1:30 PM|
|Navy||11/28/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Stanford||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) Colorado State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Virginia||11/28/14 7:00 PM|
|East Carolina||11/28/14 7:30 PM|
|BYU||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|(20) Utah||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|(3) Oregon||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Kentucky||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Notre Dame||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|So Carolina||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Florida||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Wake Forest||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Pittsburgh||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Montreal||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||11/23/14 3:30 PM|
|TBA||11/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Sam Houston St||48|
|St Francis-NY||3:00 PM|
|Eastern Kentucky||4:00 PM|
|(3) Notre Dame|
|UT Martin||5:00 PM|
|William & Mary||5:00 PM|
|Eastern Illinois||5:00 PM|
|Columbia College||5:30 PM|
|Jackson State||6:00 PM|
|High Point||6:00 PM|
|Cleveland State||6:00 PM|
|Alabama A&M||6:00 PM|
|Morehead St||6:00 PM|
|San Diego State||6:00 PM|
|East Tenn St||6:00 PM|
|Mount St Marys||6:00 PM|
|Long Beach St|
|Saint Louis||6:30 PM|
|SE Missouri St|
|Kent State||7:00 PM|
|North Florida||7:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin|
|(24) Gonzaga||8:00 PM|
|Boise State||8:00 PM|
|Cal Poly||9:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|(14) California||10:59 PM|