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.
Last Sunday, the Vikings ran their first fake punt in nearly a decade. It paid off with backup safety Andrew Sendejo, the right wing in the punt formation, running 48 yards before tackling himself at the Bears’ 7-yard line. The well-executed fake set up a Teddy Bridgewater touchdown pass.
Yesterday, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer explained why the play worked — and why it had been so long since the Vikings ran a fake punt.
Priefer, who is in his fourth season with the Vikings, said that head coach Mike Zimmer is more aggressive than this predecessor, Leslie Frazier, when it comes to trickery on special teams.
Back in the spring, as Zimmer was just settling in, he asked Priefer and his assistant, Ryan Ficken, to come up with some clever plays to exploit any weaknesses they would see on special teams.
“We’ve been more creative and Ryan Ficken, my assistant, does a great job because he’s got an offensive mind,” Priefer said. “He has an offensive background so he and I tinker with stuff and talk about things and look at what people are doing on punt return and what they’re doing on field goal block and get ideas every week.”
On the fake against the Bears, wide receiver Adam Thielen, who was lined up as the upback, caught a direct snap and handed it off to Sendejo, who ran right to left from his right wing spot. The trick play was executed to perfection. It was also designed to perfection, as Priefer kept Thielen and Sendejo in their normal spots to handle the ball to ensure the Bears weren’t tipped off.
“I think we’ve probably worked on it the past month,” Priefer said. “Wanted to run it earlier. It was just a great opportunity to run it — good time and area of the field. We have an aggressive head coach who wants to run those things and that’s great for me. It obviously turned out well for us.”
Priefer said the Vikings typically have two or three fakes in the special-teams game plan every week. And if their opponent shows the look they are hoping for, they will sometimes bust one out.
“I don’t think I have to sell [Zimmer]. Like I said, he’s been aggressive since he got here. He asked me back in the offseason about running fakes — field goal fakes, punt fakes, surprise onsides — and it has forced me to be more creative, which is good,” Priefer said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to get our guys excited about a big play like that, and obviously they were very excited to run it and succeed with it.”
Running back Matt Asiata and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd were not practicing during the open portion of practice today, and their statuses for Sunday against the Packers appears to be in doubt.
Asiata has not been cleared by the league’s concussion protocol and has not practiced at all this week. Fellow running back Jerick McKinnon, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a lower back injury, practiced today for the second straight day. Ben Tate was at practice today, too, of course.
Floyd, meanwhile, has missed two straight practices with a knee injury. He was listed as limited on Wednesday, but we have not seen him since. We have, however, seen crutches next to his locker.
Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright both practiced today. Jennings missed the previous two practices with a rib injury. Wright sat out only Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
There was one more absentee today, and it was a new one: left tackle Matt Kalil. He was at practice Wednesday and Thursday and was not listed on the injury report. But no sign of him this morning.
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.”
|Dallas||24||4th Qtr 6:22|
|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|
|Denver||69||3rd Qtr 2:34|
|Coll of Charleston||61||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||53|
|Central Conn St||60|
|Long Beach State||35||2nd Half 18:27|
|Montana||21||1st Half 8:00|
|(10) Michigan State||45|
|(7) Ohio State||42|
|(16) Eastern Ky||3||FINAL|
|(13) Arizona State||52|
|(21) Colorado State||58|
|(18) Ole Miss||0||FINAL|
|(1) Florida State||20|
|New Mexico St||17|
|(4) Miss State||51|
|(25) Boise State||63||FINAL|
|Ohio U||11/25/14 6:00 PM|
|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|
|Red Bull New York||1|
|Coll of Charleston||61||FINAL|
|William & Mary||80||FINAL|
|San Diego State||38||FINAL|
|(2) South Carolina||89|
|Mount St Marys||62||FINAL|
|(15) Michigan State||64|
|UC Santa Barbara||49||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||102|
|(3) Notre Dame||104|
|(11) North Carolina||76||FINAL|
|Yale||29||1st Half 3:33|