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.
While counting snaps and looking for the meaning of life, or at least Sunday’s game …
OFFENSIVE SNAPS: 68.
QUARTERBACKS: Teddy Bridgewater 68, Christian Ponder DNP.
Thoughts: It’s not a coincidence that Bridgewater played in the Packers game that was competitive and Ponder played in the game that was 42-0 en route to 42-10. Granted, Teddy B got the home game and Chistian P got Lambeau Field on a short week after having not taken a snap all year. Although Teddy B looked good in the second half, he continues to look not-so-good in the first half. One has to wonder when the Vikings will try a no-huddle outside of two-minute situations. Teddy is so much more comfortable running a no-huddle at this point. Teddy B also learned not to throw the ball to the other team, especially when it’s the Packers because the margin for error is basically zero. Ponder threw two second-quarter picks that led to 14 points back on Oct. 2. Bridgewater threw one pick that led to seven points. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
RUNNING BACKS: Jerick McKinnon 39, Joe Banyard 29, Ben Tate DNP, Matt Asiata INA, FB Jerome Felton 5, FB Zach Line INA.
Thoughts: In hindsight, it probably was silly to think Tate would play when he showed up on a Wednesday before kickoff. There’s more to the running back position that, well, running. And Norv Turner’s offense takes some time to adjust to. Plus, the Vikings liked Banyard enough to have him active before. Banyard looked like a young back with fresh legs making his first regular-season NFL carries. He showed a nice jump cut for a first down on third down. He averaged 5.2 yards on five carries in a solid debut. Assuming Asiata can return from a concussion this week, the running back position is a bit crowded. The Vikings don’t want to admit they’re out of the playoff picture, but you’d have to think they’d want to get a look at Tate, considering his age (26) and Adrian Peterson’s uncertain future with the team.
OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Matt Kalil 68, LG Charlie Johnson 68, C John Sullivan 68, RG Joe Berger 68, RT Phil Loadholt 59, RT Mike Harris 9, G David Yankey INA, G Austin Wentworth INA.
Thoughts: The initial thoughts? That offensive line is the No. 1 priority heading into the offseason. Does Kalil, who struggled again with three penalties, move to left guard, where Johnson won’t be returning? Does the team draft another left tackle? Does the team draft a guard higher than Day 3? At this point, everything should be on the table because, quite frankly, the offensive line isn’t performing well enough consistently enough for a quarterback and an offensive to function at a high level. Loadholt missed nine snaps and will be getting an MRI on his shoulder today. Harris has had no glaring errors in limited action at guard and right tackle. If Kalil’s knee is as bad as he told us a week ago, then it’s time to sit him and see what Harris can do. The guess here is Harris would make everyone realize that things could indeed be worse without Kalil. But that further enhances the point that maybe the team needs to study all options heading into next year’s draft.
RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS: WR Charles Johnson 66, WR Greg Jennings 61, TE Kyle Rudolph 60, WR Cordarrelle Patterson 32, TE Rhett Ellison 30, WR Jarius Wright 8, TE Chase Ford 6, WR Adam Thielen 4.
Thoughts: It’s hard to fathom that it has come to this for the receiving corps. A month after Johnson, a second-year player with no previous regular-season experience, was signed off the street, he led the Vikings in snaps with 97 percent against the Packers. And what’s more amazing is the kid deserved the reps. What in the world is going on at receiver? Patterson continues to be a poor route runner and was injured returning a kickoff. Jennings continues to go long stretches where you wonder if he has even played. Wright is the most underrated receiver on the team, but his hamstring wasn’t back to full speed. Bridgewater’s reliance on throwing the ball to Johnson also needs to be tempered some. Yeah, Johnson appears to be one of the few targets getting separation. But there was at least one play Sunday where Jennings was open to the outside and Bridgewater stayed locked onto Johnson before throwing high and incomplete. At tight end, Rudolph looked more like his old self with some nice catch and runs. It’s a shame Ford can’t see more time, but there are only so many reps for the tight ends. Then again, the way the receivers are producing, maybe an extra dose of Rudolph and Ford together wouldn’t be a bad idea. Ellison had 24 more reps than Ford. If Ford were a better blocker, that discrepancy could be closed.
DEFENSIVE SNAPS: 65
LINEBACKERS: OLB Anthony Barr 65, OLB Chad Greenway 65, MLB Jasper Brinkley 14, OLB Gerald Hodges 2, OLB Brandon Watts INA, MLB Michael Mauti INA.
Thoughts: Barr is still exceptional and deserving of being on the field for every snap. But there were more missed tackles on Sunday. That being said, don’t worry about this guy. He may be the face of the franchise before Teddy becomes the face of the franchise. Hodges played two defensive snaps and made a gigantic blunder on one of them. He’s the one who got confused and didn’t cover the tight end who was open by 15 yards in the corner of the end zone on Aaron Rodgers’ 1-yard touchdown pass. Interesting that Mauti was inactive. He seems too good a player to be sitting out. But the Vikings are working through some adjustments on special teams.
DEFENSIVE LINE: DE Everson Griffen 59, NT Linval Joseph 52, DE Brian Robison 48, DT Tom Johnson 40, DT Shamar Stephen 39, DE Corey Wootton 23, DT Sharrif Floyd INA.
Thoughts: The defensive line didn’t make any glaring gaffes like the first Packers game. But it’s never a good thing for the D-Line when everyone knows the other team is going to run the ball straight ahead and yet they’re still able to do so successfully. The Packers did that with Eddie Lacy early, often and especially late. Stephen, a rookie, got his first start when Floyd was deactivated because of a knee injury.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: SS Robert Blanton 65, FS Harrison Smith 65, CB Xavier Rhodes 63, CB Captain Munnerlyn 62, CB Josh Robinson 52, S Andrew Sendejo 1.
Thoughts: The secondary played one of the best games that a Vikings secondary has played against Rodgers in recent memory. The longest reception by a receiver — Randall Cobb’s 29-yarder — was a ridiculously perfect throw (and one Rodgers makes routinely) against tight coverage by Munnerlyn. Blanton still has not missed a defensive snap this season. He’s the only defender that can say that. Robinson didn’t have a head-turning great game, but unlike last week in Chicago, he also didn’t have a head-turning horrendous game.
SPECIAL TEAMS SNAPS LEADER: Marcus Sherels 18.
OVERALL SNAPS LEADER: Blanton 73 (65 defense, 8 special teams).
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— There was simply too much Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy to handle yesterday.
— The Packers used Lacy and the running game to finish off the Vikings.
— Struggling LT Matt Kalil dodged reporters, but he couldn’t dodge controversy.
— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater said that nervous energy affected his play early.
— Head coach Mike Zimmer second-guessed his decision to not do an onside kick late.
— WR Cordarrelle Patterson and RT Phil Loadholt were injured in the loss.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
#Vikings LT Matt Kalil declined interview requests from several reporters near his locker; great technique pressing phone to his ear
— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) November 23, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— The Packers won a close game for the first time in a long while.
— The Packers used Lacy and the running game to secure the victory.
— Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has conquered the Vikings.
— Both Packers guards played through pain against the Vikings.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are back at Winter Park today to attend meetings and go through the Packers film. The locker room will be open to media and Zimmer will hold his usual press conference at 2 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The Packers have now scored 23 or more points in 17 straight games against the Vikings.
Joe Banyard. Charles Johnson. Shamar Stephen.
Three names the Vikings didn’t exactly think they’d rely on in a game but, nevertheless, played important roles in 24-21 loss to the Packers on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Johnson and Stephen both made their first career starts at wide receiver and defensive tackle. Johnson started over wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and had a team-high 11 targets. The Packers seventh round pick in 2013 finished with three receptions for 52 yards and his first career touchdown reception, a 22-yard pass from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“It was exciting,” Johnson said. “The team that drafted me I got my first catch on (in Week 5) and now I got my first touchdown on and my first start. It was pretty exciting for me but kind of overshadowed now that we lost.
“I know what type of player I can be, I know what type of player I am,” Johnson said. “It’s just all about opportunity. Hard work makes opportunity and creates your own success.”
Stephen replaced defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who was out with a knee injury, at the three-technique spot. The seventh rounder played a bigger role, rotating with defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson at the nose and three-technique positions.
“It was pretty good and exciting trying to come out trying to play my best,” Stephen said. “Just doing my job and just commit to our gameplan; keying in on my fundamentals and technique.”
Banyard didn’t start and really didn’t know what his role would be with the Vikings acquiring running back Ben Tate off waivers from the Browns on Wednesday. The second-year running back however served as rookie running back Jerick McKinnon’s backup over Tate, who did not play.
Banyard finished with five carries for 26 yards and three catches for 19 yards, flashing some of the potential he displayed during the preseason.
“Collectively, we see ourselves as one group,” Banyard said of the running backs. “So we don’t really see ourselves as individuals. When the next guy is called up, we just try to encourage each other and make sure we stay on par. It doesn’t really affect anything because we all practice together.”
You might have noticed that Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked very much like a jittery rookie quarterback in the first half of Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Packers at TCF Bank Stadium.
His throws were sailing or bouncing or, in once case, being picked off and used to set up a Packers touchdown and a 14-7 lead. For the first half, Bridgewater completed 11 of 22 passes for 122 yards, one touchdown and one interception. In the second half, he completed 10 of 15 passes for 88 yards, one touchdown, a two-point conversion and no interceptions.
So, what gives about the slow starts, Teddy?
“Coming into this game, I wasn’t able to play the first time we played the Green Bay Packers,” said Bridgewater, referring to the 42-10 debacle he missed because of a sprained ankle back on Oct. 2. “I was trying to get a feel for this rivalry. Now I know what it’s about.
“I was just very excited about being able to play the Green Bay Packers for the first time. I just have to settle down and remain poised and let the game come to me. We have a great group of guys here who will pull me to the side. Or [quarterbacks] Coach Scott Turner, who is on the sideline with me. He just tells me consistently throughout the game, ‘You’re going to have some ups and downs, but just keep fighting.’”
That’s a long way around saying he was nervous to start the game.
Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson both dealt with injuries in the 24-21 loss to the Packers on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Loadholt will have an MRI on his left shoulder after suffering the injury with six minutes left on the Vikings’ final offensive possession. He kept moving around his shoulder, attempting to loosen it up, before he was replaced by Mike Harris at right tackle.
Loadholt declined to comment after the game about the injury.
Patterson suffered a knee and ankle injury after a 42-yard kickoff return with 2:41 left in the third quarter. It was his longest return of the season, but Patterson was tackled from behind by safety Morgan Burnett.
The wide receiver was listed as questionable but returned on the team’s final drive.
“It was the fourth quarter and the trainer told me if I could go, then go,” Patterson said. “Just go out there and finish the game, and we’ll talk about it later. I felt like I needed to be out there to try and help the team out, so I got back out there.”
|Chicago||11/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Philadelphia||11/27/14 3:30 PM|
|Seattle||11/27/14 7:30 PM|
|Cleveland||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Washington||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Oakland||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/30/14 3:05 PM|
|New England||11/30/14 3:25 PM|
|Denver||11/30/14 7:30 PM|
|Miami||12/1/14 7:30 PM|
|Golden State||6:00 PM|
|LA Clippers||6:30 PM|
|New York||6:30 PM|
|NY Rangers||6:30 PM|
|Los Angeles||7:00 PM|
|Robert Morris||11:00 AM|
|Rochester College||11:00 AM|
|American Univ||1:00 PM|
|Sacred Heart||1:00 PM|
|North Florida||3:00 PM|
|Oral Roberts||3:00 PM|
|Chicago State||3:30 PM|
|San Francisco||5:00 PM|
|Delaware State||6:00 PM|
|Trinity Baptist||6:00 PM|
|Cleveland State||6:00 PM|
|St Johns||6:00 PM|
|Grambling St||6:00 PM|
|Georgia State||6:00 PM|
|Mount St Marys||6:00 PM|
|Kansas State||6:30 PM|
|Va Military||6:30 PM|
|UC Riverside||7:00 PM|
|Morehead State||7:00 PM|
|Miss Valley St||7:00 PM|
|Tenn Tech||7:00 PM|
|Texas Southern||7:00 PM|
|TX-Pan American||7:00 PM|
|Wayne St-NE||7:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||7:30 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||7:30 PM|
|Carroll (MT)||8:00 PM|
|Florida A&M||8:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|Eastern Ky||8:00 PM|
|Northern Ky||8:05 PM|
|Utah Valley U||8:05 PM|
|Cal Poly||9:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Utah State||9:00 PM|
|Alabama State||9:30 PM|
|Portland State||10:00 PM|
|Missouri State||11/27/14 1:00 AM|
|LSU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(6) TCU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||11/28/14 10:00 AM|
|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|
|(21) Colorado State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Virginia||11/28/14 7:00 PM|
|East Carolina||11/28/14 7:30 PM|
|North Texas||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Old Dominion||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|(16) Georgia Tech||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Kentucky||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|So Carolina||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|West Virginia||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Rice||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Michigan||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) Ohio State|
|Purdue||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Illinois||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Cincinnati||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|NC State||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Syracuse||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Louisiana||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Utah||11/29/14 12:00 PM|
|Texas State||11/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Idaho||11/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Wyoming||11/29/14 2:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||11/29/14 2:00 PM|
|UAB||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(4) Miss State||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss|
|Notre Dame||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(10) Michigan State||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) Minnesota||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(5) Baylor||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|Florida||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Rutgers||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|San Jose St||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Tennessee||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|Kansas||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Connecticut||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|BYU||11/29/14 3:30 PM|
|ULM||11/29/14 5:00 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Hawaii||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Wake Forest||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(15) Auburn||11/29/14 6:45 PM|
|(3) Oregon||11/29/14 7:00 PM|
|Utah State||11/29/14 9:15 PM|
|(25) Boise State|
|Washington||11/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Nevada||11/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Hamilton||11/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Kennesaw St||11:00 AM|
|Northern Ill||12:00 PM|
|UT Martin||12:30 PM|
|East Tenn St||1:00 PM|
|North Dakota||2:00 PM|
|Kansas State||5:00 PM|
|Oral Roberts||5:00 PM|
|Boise State||5:30 PM|
|(22) West Virginia|
|(4) Tennessee||6:00 PM|
|Delaware State||6:00 PM|
|Mount St Marys|
|VA Commonwealth||6:00 PM|
|William & Mary|
|Alabama A&M||6:00 PM|
|(16) Michigan State|
|Utah Valley U||6:45 PM|
|TX-Pan American||7:00 PM|
|McNeese State||7:00 PM|
|(7) Texas A&M|
|Northern Ariz||7:00 PM|
|Jackson State||7:05 PM|
|Indiana State||7:05 PM|
|Long Beach St||8:00 PM|
|Fresno Pacific||9:00 PM|
Poll: Which NFL game do you most want to sneak away to watch on Thanksgiving?