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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Mike Zimmer glad Teddy Bridgewater's learning by playing

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 15th at 3:42pm 285870871

Once quarterback Matt Cassel was placed on injured reserve three games into the year, the Vikings season was mainly about the growth of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and how he adjusted to the NFL.

He jumped into the mix faster than anticipated with Cassel’s foot injury, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is saying that Bridgewater’s on-the-job training will benefit the quarterback, the offense and the organization down the road.

“I really think you learn best from playing,” Zimmer said. “That’s what I believe, and I’m glad that he’s playing. …What I was nervous about at the beginning of the year was I didn’t want to get him beat up, I didn’t want to get him gun-shy, I didn’t want to get him a bunch of bad outings where he didn’t have the confidence and that attitude that he was going to do the things that he’s doing.”

Another concern Zimmer had with Bridgewater making his first start four games into his career was his health. The Vikings have gradually lost three starting offensive linemen and shuffled around at every position except left tackle Matt Kalil, who has been inconsistent, and center John Sullivan.

Bridgewater is tied with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the eighth most sacks taken in the NFL this season with 32. Zimmer believes the protection has improved as of late with Bridgewater sacked a combined six times against a good Jets and Lions defensive line.

“I’m glad that we’re keeping him upright,” Zimmer said. “You can think back, and I know it’s just my belief, you think back on some of the quarterbacks that have had to play as rookies or been playing as rookies and got the heck beat out of them and they haven’t made it. So that was the most important thing to me to start this season is that we take care of him and when it’s time, it’s time.”

It’s evident Bridgewater has made gradual strides over the course of this season, with many learning experiences along the way in 10 career starts. The latest occurred in a 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, when the Vikings offense couldn’t score in the second half and missed out on two opportunities in the final four minutes to take the lead.

“I think in the long run his playing and going through all these experiences and getting a chance to play against Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit will be a big factor for us in the future because he’s been through these things now,” Zimmer said. “It’s not new. If he wasn’t playing, that fourth quarter[against the Lions], the things that happened in the ballgame, maybe next year we’re in the same boat and he’s learning from it then as opposed to learning from it now.”

Matt Kalil fares better second time against Lions defense

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 15th at 1:55pm 285857671

Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil had one the worst games in his career the first time he faced Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah this season. His performance improved dramatically the second time around in the 16-14 loss at Ford Field on Sunday.

Ansah was held sackless for the first time in three games. Kalil held his own with the Vikings offense neutralizing the Lions pass rush by rolling rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of the pocket and incorporating quick passes.

Ansah had a career high 2.5 sacks on Kalil at TCF Bank Stadium in the first contest. He had just a tackle to his name in the stats sheet.

“That was his only stat, so I think I came out of there pretty well,” Kalil said. “He’s a pretty raw player, and he hasn’t even tapped his potential, so I’ll be seeing a lot of him. To play well against him, coming out on top like that, felt pretty good.”

The Vikings reduced their sack total in half in their second, and final, matchup against the Lions. They allowed four sacks with three backup offensive linemen at left guard, Vladimir Ducasse, right guard, Joe Berger, and right tackle, Mike Harris.

“They do a lot of stuff and sometimes they’ll stress the pocket,” Kalil said. “[Ndamukong] Suh was on his game too making some plays, but it’s just different things to help keep those guys off balance.”

Greenway a finalist for NFL Sportsmanship Award

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 7:03pm 285856091

Outside linebacker Chad Greenway is a finalist for the inaugural NFL Sportsmanship Award.

Each NFL team nominated one of its players for consideration for the award and a panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community, including Warrick Dunn and Curtis Martin, pared down the field from 32 players to eight. The winner will be determined by a vote from current players.

Competing with Greenway for the new award are Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Patriots receiver Matthew Slater, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and Broncos defense end Demarcus Ware.

The winner will be announced during the NFL Honors awards ceremony the night before the Super Bowl, and he will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of his choice.

Counting Snaps: Lions 16, Vikings 14

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated December 15th at 1:23pm 285854821

Thoughts while counting snaps from Sunday’s 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field …

OFFENSIVE SNAPS: 69.

QUARTERBACK: Teddy Bridgewater 69, Christian Ponder DNP.

Thoughts: Norv Turner’s game plan and Bridgewater’s execution was perfect for a loud road venue against a vicious pass rush that the Vikings’ rag-tag offensive line had no chance of matching up with physically. The heavy dose of five-wide sets out of the shotgun spread the Lions out and enabled Bridgewater to fire quick slants and screens to nullify the pass rush. Turner also threw in  the right amount of plays in which he moved the pocket and rolled Bridgewater away from the blind side. Things were going brilliantly when the Vikings led 14-0 on two long scoring drives before the Lions registered a first down. But then the inevitable rookie moment arrived when Bridgewater let the Lions back into the game by handing them 10 points on interceptions on back-to-back passes. But, overall, as a learning experience, this was a good game for Bridgewater’s development.

OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Matt Kalil 69, LG Vladimir Ducasse 69, C John Sullivan 69, RG Joe Berger, RT Mike Harris 69, Austin Wentworth 2, T Carter Bykowski INA, G David Yankey INA, G Charlie Johnson INA.

Thoughts: Turner did an outstanding job protecting a beat-up line that, even when healthy, can’t match up to the best D-line in football. There were leaks in the line and Bridgewater was sacked four times. But the line held together well enough to win the game with how well the defensive was playing. When the Vikings hold Detroit to 33 points in two games and go 0-2, it’s a pretty good indication of where the offseason priorities will be this year.

RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS: WR Greg Jennings 65, WR Charles Johnson 64, TE Kyle Rudolph 61, WR Jarius Wright 44, TE Rhett Ellison 24, WR Cordarrelle Patterson 8, TE Chase Ford 2.

Thoughts: The Vikings’ offensive roster seems discombobulated with a rookie guard (David Yankee) being essentially red-shirted, a backup fullback always being inactive behind a fullback who rarely sees the field, a receiver (Patterson) who has played only 11 offensive snaps the past three weeks and a tight end (Ford) who has played only two snaps in the past two weeks. Patterson was a surprise factor in a late fourth-quarter possession, catching back-to-back passes after a long kickoff return. That was nice to see.  Bridgewater also threw to him on a fourth-down incompletion that was tightly defended.

RUNNING BACKS: RB Matt Asiata 45, RB Ben Tate 13, RB Joe Banyard 11, FB Jerome Felton 3, Line INA.

Thoughts: Asiata gained only 36 yards on 11 carries, but he wasn’t tackled for a loss, which is essential to maintaining a semblance of balance against the Lions, which the Vikings did for three quarters. Tate got three fourth-quarter carries and lost yardage on two of them. One of them was a first-and-goal from the 7. One has to question why Asiata didn’t get that carry, since his strength gets stronger the closer he gets to the goal line. Felton playing only three snaps and continuing a trend of not playing much really raises the question of why the Vikings have two fullbacks, one of which (Line) has been inactive for 10 games, on the practice squad for three and not with the team for one.

DEFENSIVE SNAPS: 51.

LINEBACKERS: Gerald Hodges 51, Chad Greenway 51, Jasper Brinkley 17, Anthony Barr INA.

Thoughts: Playing every snap for the third straight week, Greenway had five tackles. If the game-book stats hold up, which they rarely do for tackles, Greenway’s team lead shrank by one. Safety Harrison Smith had six tackles, moving past the injured Robert Blanton into second with 107. Greenway has 110. Hodges played every snap for the second straight week as he filled in for the injured Barr. Also of note: Rookie Brandon Watts was active for the first time this season. That leaves Yankey as the only player to be inactive for every game day this season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: FS Harrison Smith 51, CB Captain Munnerlyn 51, CB Xavier Rhodes 48, SS Andrew Sendejo 43, CB Josh Robinson 35, S Antone Exum 8, CB Shaun Prater 1, SS Robert Blanton INA.

Thoughts: Rhodes played well in his debut as a corner assigned to cover one particular receiver out wide on both the left and right sides of the defense. Really well considering it was Calvin Johnson. Munnerlyn no doubt played a role in holding the Lions without a first down until midway through the second quarter. But the veteran corner didn’t appear on the stat sheet. Prater came in one one particularly interesting third-and-long defensive call. The alignment and extra DBs took away QB Matthew Stafford’s deep to intermediate options and led to a receiver being tackled short of the first down. Blanton missed his first game of the season. He had played all but four snaps all season.

DEFENSIVE LINE: DE Everson Griffen 46, DE Brian Robison 46, NT Linval Joseph 40, NT Shamar Stephen 29, DT Tom Johnson, DE Corey Wootton 12, DE Justin Trattou 6, DT Sharrif Floyd INA.

Thoughts: Griffen continues to play a lot of snaps at a high level. Johnson got a start in place of Floyd, who was finally held out because of the lingering knee bruise he’s had. Trattou played only six snaps but had one of the team’s four quarterback hurries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Most snaps: 16, Trattou.

MOST SNAPS: 74. Kalil, Ducasse, Sullivan, Berger, Harris (69 offense, 5 special teams).

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Vikings can't hold on, Teddy's lesson, Rhodes vs. Megatron, more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 15th at 7:07am 285806531

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— The Vikings couldn’t hold on yesterday in a late loss to the first-place Lions.

— QB Teddy Bridgewater learned the slim margin between victory and defeat.

— K Blair Walsh missed all three field goal attempts, but he remains confident.

— CB Xavier Rhodes did a good job against Lions star WR Calvin Johnson.

— DE Brian Robison injured his ankle but he hopes to practice this week.

— Little-used WR Cordarrelle Patterson got opportunities late in the loss.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Lions G Rob Sims said his team got lucky against the Vikings.

— The real season now starts for the playoff-minded Lions.

— A showdown with the Packers looms for the Lions in two weeks.

— The Lions will go as far as their defense can take them.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

Vikings players will report to Winter Park this morning for meetings and film review. The locker room will be open to media at 12:30 p.m. and coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference is at 2 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Vikings’ last four losses have been by a combined 14 points, and three of them were decided by three points or less. Yesterday’s two-point loss had players lamenting another incomplete finish, but the Vikings have won some close games the past couple of months, too. Three of their last four victories were decided by six points or less, including a pair of walk-off wins in overtime.

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Tennessee 10 4th Qtr 12:45
Jacksonville 14
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 87 4th Qtr 4:05
Houston 79
Milwaukee 25 2nd Qtr 11:21
Sacramento 32
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Golden State
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 3rd Prd 5:58
Montreal 1
St. Louis 0 1st Prd 19:34
Los Angeles 0
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 20:00
San Jose 0
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 71 2nd Half 2:52
UAB 65
Ohio 57 2nd Half 6:13
Evansville 59
CS-Dominguez 15 1st Half 4:28
Cal State Fullerton 21
Walla Walla 16 1st Half 4:00
Idaho 38
DePaul 17 1st Half 7:20
Oregon State 28
Nevada 15 1st Half 4:20
Pacific 28
Portland State 15 1st Half 3:30
San Francisco 33
CS-Bakersfield 8 1st Half 11:25
Utah State 12
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 69 2nd Half 2:43
Oregon 61
(19) Oklahoma St 47 2nd Half 4:01
Weber State 43
Washington 62 2nd Half 2:50
San Diego State 44
Cal Poly 54 2nd Half 7:24
New Mexico 62
(10) Louisville 56 2nd Half 7:56
Grand Canyon 35

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