Access Vikings

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.


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Vikings Rewind: Rodgers-to-Rodgers TD

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated November 26th at 10:27am 283973401

The situation: Tied at 7, the Packers face a 1st and goal at the 1 with 5:30 left in the first half.

The context: Vikings rookie quarterback had just thrown an interception on the previous drive to give Green Bay great field position. The Packers complied 53 yards on four plays in 2:19 to set up a scoring opportunity.

The result: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with tight end Richard Rodgers for a one-yard touchdown to take the lead.

How it happened:

IMG_0168

The Vikings were in their goal line package, countering a three-tight end, “I” formation look from the Packers. The Vikings had five down linemen, with nose tackle defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen lined up at the three-technique spots outside the offensive guards.

The Packers sent rookie tight end Justin Perillo (circled in red) in motion to the left side of the formation. Safety Harrison Smith (circled in blue) followed Perillo, which my seem insignificant now but played a part in the result.

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It was a play action pass, with Rodgers selling the run play with running back Eddie Lacy but instead rolled out to his right. The run, particularly with the down and distance and the formation, was the obviously call in this situation. But as Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said last week, the Packers’ playcalling can be unpredictable and difficult to stop. Note where Smith (circled in red) was positioned at this point of the play.

IMG_0171

Smith and linebacker Gerald Hodges both covered Perillo (circled in yellow) as he cut across to his right following Rodgers. There was miscommunication between Hodges and Smith that caused this situation, which given how the play appeared to be designed, the assumption would be that Rodgers will throw the ball either in the middle or right portion of the end zone.

IMG_0172

That breakdown led to this, a wide open Richard Rodgers on the other side of the field. There’s really nothing else to gain from this snapshot other than how ridiculously wide open he was on this play. It’s astonishing.

“It’s a tough play and a good design by them and sometimes you just get beat,” rookie linebacker Anthony Barr said.

IMG_0173

What’s even more impressive was the throw. Rodgers had pressure from defensive end Brian Robison and Barr, yet somehow threw a dime while fading away on the throw.

“I don’t know how he saw the guy in the corner of the end zone with pressure in his face,” Barr said. “He just kind of snuck out, unnoticed and was able to make a play.”

IMG_0174

It was a perfect, and incredible, throw to give the Packers the lead.

“To me, it was very impressive,” Zimmer said. “He was rolling out to his right, the play was designed to go to his right, the route was designed to go to his right and for him to be able to see the guy standing in the far corner of the end zone is pretty good vision and a heck of a throw — the way he threw it, too.”

My initial instinct during the game was to blame Hodges because Smith tracked Perillo while in motion, signaling man coverage. But Zimmer said on Monday, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a linebacker that messed up.”

That’s where it gets tricky trying to assess “blame” on a player for a blown assignment when there could be multiple dimensions of that assignment after Perillo went in motion. Perhaps Smith was supposed to play off Hodges, who appeared in good position prior to Smith jamming Perillo in the end zone.

Zimmer comment lead me to believe it wasn’t as simple as just blaming Hodges. However, it appeared both were at fault for allowing the easy touchdown and failing to communicate on the play.

Either way, kudos to Rodgers. And that other Rodgers.

Vikings announce J'Marcus Webb signing

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated November 26th at 8:43am 283962071

The Vikings officially announced the signing of offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, placing right tackle Phil Loadholt on injured reserve as a corresponding move

Webb tweeted out the news Tuesday night.

He made eight appearances and one start last season with the Vikings but was not re-signed during the offseason. The 7th round pick in 2010 by the Bears spent training camp with the Chiefs but hasn’t been on a 53-man roster this season.

Webb has made 45 starts and 54 appearances in four seasons.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Webb says he's a Viking, Bridgewater only a backup and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 26th at 7:10am 283952061

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Get to know the man who is behind the Vikings’ community efforts.

— Free-agent OT J’Marcus Webb says that he is joining the Vikings.

— If the NFL draft was today, the Vikings would have the ninth pick.

— An ESPN analyst thinks QB Teddy Bridgewater is a career backup.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Crazy as it sounds, the 3-7-1 Panthers control their destiny.

—It could be Amini Silatolu’s turn at tackle for the Panthers.

— Panthers C Ryan Kalil stood up for his brother, LT Matt Kalil.

— Sunday’s game could be one of the coldest in Panthers history.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings get back to work with morning meetings and the walkthrough then practice at 12:50 p.m. Bridgewater and head coach Mike Zimmer will be at the podium before the practice.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

At 4-7, the Vikings are in last place in the NFC North and trail the first-place Packers by four games. If they were in the NFC South, they would be tied with the Falcons and Saints for the division lead.

Free-agent OT Webb says he is rejoining Vikings

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 25th at 8:48pm 283907311

Offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, who spent time with the Vikings last season, announced on Twitter that he is rejoining the Vikings, who need another tackle with Phil Loadholt out for the season.

Webb, 26, played eight games for the Vikings last season. He was a backup swing tackle, but he did make one start at right tackle while Loadholt was sidelined in a Week 10 win against the Redskins.

Webb signed with the Chiefs this spring but did not survive final cuts at the end of the preseason.

Webb, who was a seventh-round pick of the Bears in 2010, is listed at 6-foot-7 and 333 pounds. He started 44 games in three seasons with the Bears before signing with the Vikings last season.

Head coach Mike Zimmer on Monday said that Loadholt, arguably the team’s best run-blocking offensive lineman, was out for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral. Backup offensive tackle Mike Harris, who filled in for Loadholt in Sunday’s loss to the Packers, is likely the next man up.

The Vikings have not announced the Webb signing, nor have they officially put Loadholt on injured reserve. The team is expected to make those moves tomorrow morning so Webb can practice.

Here’s that tweet from Webb:

Five Vikings stats that stand out for Week 13

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 25th at 11:39am 283850121

Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.

69 — number of Eddie Lacy’s rushing yards that came after contact on Sunday.

The bruising Packers running back did a lot of his damage against the Vikings after contact. Again. According to Pro Football Focus, 69 of Lacy’s 125 rushing yards Sunday came after contact. Lacy forced the Vikings to miss five tackles. Back in Week 5, 52 of Lacy’s 105 rushing yards came after contact. He forced three more missed tackles in that game. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Lacy has now rushed for 229 total yards after contact in his four career games against the Vikings.

four — Packers punts on Sunday, as many as their past three games combined.

The Packers were 6-for-11 on third down, averaged 5.8 yards per play and were 3-for-3 in the red zone. But there is a stat that proves the Vikings defense made it difficult at times for them, at least more difficult than previous opponents had. The Packers had punted just four times in their previous three games. The Vikings convinced them to bring out punter Tim Masthay four times, including on the first drive of the game. The Packers hadn’t punted in the first quarter since Week 6.

zero — sacks or quarterback hits allowed by Kalil in the loss to the Packers.

For the first time all season, Kalil didn’t allow his quarterback to hit the ground. The embattled left tackle allowed three hurries against the Packers, but no sacks or quarterback knockdowns. With Kalil stabilizing the left side, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked just twice. But, as has always seemed to be the case with Kalil this season, there was some bad. Kalil was flagged three times for 35 yards. He has now been penalized eight times this season, according to ESPN.

54 — yards allowed in coverage by Josh Robinson against Green Bay’s wide-outs.

Robinson got picked on by the Bears in Week 11, but he responded with a solid performance against the Packers and their talented receivers. The cornerback was targeted 10 times by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and allowed six of the throws to be completed, but they were usually underneath the coverage. Jordy Nelson had five catches for 44 yards against him and Davante Adams had one for 10. It should be noted that fellow cornerback Xavier Rhodes was even better.

five — consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass for Bridgewater.

It took four games for the rookie quarterback to throw his first NFL touchdown pass. But after he hit wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for his first back in the Bills game, Bridgewater has made a habit of throwing the ball into the end zone for scores. Bridgewater has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in five straight games and the two he threw against the Packers were a career high. His TD-INT differential was 6-4 in those games, but he is still a negative in that stat on the season.

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