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 promoting safety Dixon from practice squad

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 17th at 2:05pm 286118101

The Vikings are promoting safety Ahmad Dixon from the practice squad. He will fill the open roster spot created yesterday when the team waived offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb.

Dixon, a rookie, started the season with the Cowboys, who drafted him in the seventh round. He made the team out of training camp, but was waived in September, reportedly because he had been late for a couple of team activities.

He has since spent time with the Vikings, the Bears, the Dolphins and the Vikings again. He only played in an NFL game for the Bears, getting special-teams snaps in five games for them.

“I think he’s a talented guy,” head coach Mike Zimmer said today. “He’s been bouncing around on some different practice squads for a little bit. He’s a guy to look at for a possibility in the future. He played pretty good on special teams. We knew him coming out in the draft and then when he was with Dallas in the preseason, the couple games I watched he looked pretty good.”

Starting safety Robert Blanton missed Sunday’s game with an injury, and while cornerback Shaun Prater can potentially play safety, the Vikings have only three healthy safeties right now.

In other news, the Vikings added guard Jordan McCray to their practice squad. McCray, an undrafted rookie out of Central Florida, spent time on the Packers’ practice squad this season.

He was one of multiple players the team had in for tryouts today. That’s because in addition to promoting Dixon, the Vikings lost cornerback Chris Greenwood, who was signed by the Ravens.

Vikings Rewind: Reviewing the final drive vs. Lions

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 17th at 11:00am 286105791

The situation: Down 16-14 with 45 seconds left, the Vikings had the ball at their own 30 needing just a field goal to win.

The context: The Vikings were held scoreless the entire second half and missed an opportunity to score with 2:01 left in the game. The defense got the ball back after a three-and-out to set up one last chance to win.

The result: Kicker Blair Walsh missed a 68-yard field goal as time expired and seal the Lions win.

How it happened:

Instead of reviewing just one play, we’ll look at multiple plays and how the Vikings could’ve handled the situation better.

IMG_0189

We’ll start with the first play of the drive where the Vikings were lined up in trips left and wide receiver Jarius Wright was wide open on a nice route. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sailed a ball over Wright’s hands. If completed, it would’ve been a gain of over 20 yards and placed the Vikings in Lions territory. Instead, it’s a wasted down and a wasted five seconds.

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On the next play, Bridgewater was pressed and forced to dump it off to running back Matt Asiata, who cut inside to gain nine yards. The Vikings were out of timeouts and Asiata gave himself up a yard short of the first down.

“We talked to the guys about, if you don’t think you can get out of bounds, get as much as you can and get down,” Zimmer said. “Matt, he got down, but he should have got the first down before he did.”

Asiata had an opportunity to get out of bounds and gain maybe two yards but chose to do the opposite. The Vikings burned 14 seconds off the clock until Bridgewater spiked the ball on 3rd and 1 at their own 39.IMG_0191

Asiata’s decision put the Vikings in a 4th and 1 situation where they needed to gain the first down but also gain a good chunk of yardage or get out of bounds. They got the first down when Bridgewater dumped it off to tight end Kyle Rudolph (circled in yellow), but he only gained five yards and didn’t get out of bounds.

Another 10 seconds went off the clock before Bridgewater spiked the ball on first down with five seconds left in the game at their own 44.

The 4th and 1, we don’t need the first down; I mean, we need the first down, but we need yards at that point and time,” Zimmer said. “We had a guy open down the field that we should’ve tried to get the ball down in there.”

Zimmer was referring to Wright (circled in red) who was around the Lions’ 44 when Bridgewater hit Rudolph. Wright beat his defender and had an opportunity to race out of bounds before the safety chased him down or the clock expired. If Wright got the Vikings to the 40, it would’ve set up a 57-yard field goal. That’s still a difficult kick to make, especially after Walsh pulled a 53-yarder to the right on the Vikings’ first drive, but nobody has ever made a 68-yard field goal before.

We’re already at three glaring mistakes and haven’t even factored in the delay of game penalty yet after the Vikings converted on fourth down that pushed the Vikings back to their own 39.

Bridgewater connected with Rudolph for 11 yards after the delay of game. Rudolph ran out of bounds at midfield with one second left. Take away the delay of game penalty and Walsh would’ve attempted a 63-yard field goal, a yard shy of NFL record for longest field goal made.

We didn’t handle the fourth quarter well and as I’m trying to teach this team that when you play good, you still have to win the fourth quarter and the critical parts,” Zimmer said. “…There’s so many games in the NFL that come down to this kind of crunch time, and we didn’t do enough to win. We’re going to keep going forward, we’re going to keep pounding the message. My mentality has not changed, my mindset has not changed. As I told the team, we’re going to stick with it, keep working on getting better because we’ve got something to build for the future.”

Zimmer listed some of the late game situations the Vikings have faced where they’ve won (the Jets and Bucs in overtime) and lost (the Packers, Bills, Lions and Bears). We touched on those situations last week in Vikings Rewind and how this young roster, particularly Bridgewater, is gaining experience with how to handle these close games. Their last four losses against the Bills, Packers, Bears and Lions were by a combined 14 points.

The Vikings had another opportunity to put it all together against a good Lions team and fell short late, just like they have in their three previous losses.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Offense needs upgrades, Bridgewater is accurate and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 17th at 7:05am 286073811

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— The Vikings should focus on improving their offense in the offseason.

— The Vikings have waived backup OT J’Marcus Webb.

— Teddy Bridgewater has been one of the league’s most accurate quarterbacks.

— OLB Chad Greenway is the team’s Community Man of the Year.

— The Vikings would have the 11th pick if the season ended today.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— The Dolphins seem to be going in the wrong direction under coach Joe Philbin.

— Important lessons were learned about the Dolphins in their lackluster season.

— The Dolphins have long odds of making the playoffs, but it’s possible.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are back at Winter Park today to get ready for this weekend’s trip to Miami. Practice is at 12:50 p.m. Beforehand, Bridgewater and coach Mike Zimmer will chat with reporters.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

As my colleague Michael Rand wrote yesterday, the Vikings reportedly had interest in trading for QB Jay Cutler back in 2009, but Cutler ultimately wound up with the Bears. Who knows how serious the Vikings were about Cutler, but it is fun to think about how differently history would have played out had the Vikings made a move for Cutler instead of luring Brett Favre out of retirement.

Vikings waive J'Marcus Webb

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated December 16th at 2:24pm 285993661

The Vikings put offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb on waivers Tuesday.

The five-year veteran was signed on Nov. 25 when the team put Phil Loadholt on season-ending injured reserve.

Earlier Tuesday, Webb tweeted that he was thankful for being on the team.

Webb missed a key block on Sunday that enabled Detroit’s Jason Jones to block Blair Walsh’s 26-yard field goal attempt in the Vikings 16-14 loss to the Lions.

Five Vikings stats that stand out for Week 16

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 1:17pm 285978781

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

339.9 — yards allowed per game by the Vikings in Mike Zimmer’s first season.

Considering how the Vikings fared defensively a year ago and all the new faces that forced them to bring in, it seemed unlikely that Zimmer, their first-year coach, would be able to take the Vikings from 31st in the NFL in total defense to a top-10 unit. But with a strong finish these final two games, he might just do it. The Vikings enter Week 16 tied for 11th in the league in total defense, allowing 339.9 yards per game (last season the Vikings allowed 397.6 yards per game). They are just 43 total yards behind the Chargers, who rank ninth. So that top-10 ranking is very much in reach.

17 — pass break-ups for cornerback Xavier Rhodes, tied for fourth in the NFL.

Rhodes played well against the Lions, particularly star wide-out Calvin Johnson, but for the first time in a while, the second-year corner didn’t get his hands on the ball. It was his first game without a pass break-up since October, snapping a streak of five straight games with at least one. Still, he has broken up at least one pass in nine of his last 11 games, giving him 17 total pass break-ups this season. That ranks fourth in the NFL behind Bradley Fletcher of the Eagles, Vontae Davis of the Colts and Buster Skrine of the Browns. And it’s more than double the next Vikings player on the list.

75.6 — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s accuracy percentage in his first season.

Accuracy was considered to be one of Bridgewater’s biggest assets coming out of college, and so far in the NFL, he has usually been on target, too. The rookie ranks seventh in accuracy percentage, a stat from Pro Football Focus that accounts for things such as dropped passes and throwaways, unlike raw completion percentage. They say Bridgewater has been accurate on 75.6 percent of his throws, just ahead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. And since Week 9, only Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have been more accurate.

seven — total sacks allowed by Vikings offensive linemen in the past five weeks.

Since the Week 10 bye week, the Vikings offensive line has allowed 52 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, which is tied for 18th in the NFL. That’s actually a significant improvement for that banged-up group. In the first 10 weeks of the season, they surrendered 118 total pressures, third most in the league. The difference is about three fewer pressures per game. Not all pressures are created equally, of course. In those first nine games, offensive linemen were responsible for 24 sacks, according to PFF. Over the past five, the linemen were at fault for only seven sacks.

minus-59 — the Vikings’ point differential in their five divisional games in 2014.

I wrote in today’s paper about the Vikings falling to 0-5 against their NFC North rivals. They kept things close in rematches against the Packers and Lions, but overall, they have been outscored, 120-61, in their five divisional games this season. That’s a point differential of minus-59 in the division. The Vikings, meanwhile, are 6-3 against teams not in their division, outscoring those teams by a combined 39 points. They play their final NFC North game in the season finale. Considering how the dysfunctional Bears are playing, the Vikings probably shouldn’t be 0-fer for much longer.

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Minnesota 17 3rd Qtr
Miami 7
Baltimore 0 3rd Qtr
Houston 16
Detroit 7 3rd Qtr 13:11
Chicago 7
Cleveland 3 3rd Qtr 13:33
Carolina 10
Atlanta 13 3rd Qtr 14:02
New Orleans 7
Green Bay 10 3rd Qtr 13:05
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 6 3rd Qtr 12:04
Pittsburgh 10
New England 7 3rd Qtr 10:54
NY Jets 10
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 2:30 PM
Toronto
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 50 2nd Half 7:21
Army 48
Ferris State 68 2nd Half 6:55
Bowling Green 55
San Francisco 57 2nd Half 4:56
Cleveland State 56
Oregon State 50 2nd Half 0:27
Quinnipiac 56
Coastal Carolina 40 2nd Half 13:10
Central Arkansas 34
Holy Cross 18 1st Half 2:34
Canisius 19
Southern Miss 29 2nd Half
Georgia State 38
Western Carolina 23 1st Half 4:52
UNC-Asheville 26
Creighton 16 1st Half 1:27
North Texas 29
Maryland 29 1st Half 2:02
Oklahoma State 22
Cornell 32 1st Half 3:41
Radford 26
Vermont 17 1st Half 2:47
Saint Louis 18
Loyola-Maryland 22 1st Half 2:11
Stony Brook 21
Reinhardt 26 1st Half 3:50
Winthrop 36
Ark-Little Rock 29 2nd Half
Green Bay 33
TX-Pan American 30 1st Half 3:09
Nebraska Omaha 35
Alabama State 33 1st Half 3:51
Evansville 38
FIU 13 1st Half 11:27
Hartford 21
Goshen 0 1st Half 15:11
Valparaiso 17
Bryant 2:00 PM
Denver
Austin Peay 2:00 PM
Lipscomb
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
South Dakota 2:00 PM
Montana
ULM 2:00 PM
Samford
Coker 2:30 PM
South Carolina
USC 3:00 PM
Boston College
Northern Ariz 3:00 PM
Hampton
SD Christian 3:00 PM
San Diego
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
Troy 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
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
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Fairleigh Dickinson 63 2nd Half 0:24
Brown 66
Buffalo 60 2nd Half 5:31
Long Island 64
Bucknell 64 2nd Half 3:54
Mount St Marys 44
Stony Brook 65 2nd Half 1:31
Wagner 73
FIU 72 2nd Half 3:28
Wofford 63
Duquesne 35 2nd Half 5:51
Providence 52
Maine 54 2nd Half 0:02
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 38 2nd Half 2:46
Samford 49
TX-Pan American 38 2nd Half 3:40
VA Commonwealth 59
South Dakota St 62 2nd Half 0:31
Marist 79
Radford 49 2nd Half 4:24
Virginia Tech 57
(3) Texas 34 2nd Half 17:12
(4) Texas A&M 41
Rhode Island 42 2nd Half 12:53
Bryant 38
South Florida 25 1st Half 5:07
Penn State 22
Sam Houston St 25 1st Half 1:51
TCU 34
Evansville 17 1st Half 3:12
IUPUI 21
(14) Maryland 53 1st Half 1:58
Coppin State 20
Mercer 30 2nd Half
Coll of Charleston 34
NC A&T 10 1st Half 7:13
Chattanooga 21
Princeton 38 1st Half 2:32
Monmouth 20
Eastern Illinois 37 2nd Half
Lehigh 41
Rider 31 1st Half 0:44
Binghamton 30
SC State 13 1st Half 2:23
Clemson 24
Fairfield 27 1st Half 2:45
Iowa State 36
Richmond 42 2nd Half
Eastern Kentucky 26
Cleveland State 42 2nd Half
Morehead St 34
Kent State 29 1st Half 1:07
Colgate 25
South Alabama 9 2nd Half
UAB 46
Saint Peters 13 1st Half 1:02
Navy 35
Youngstown St 21 2nd Half
Pittsburgh 38
NJIT 23 1st Half 3:51
Lafayette 21
Davidson 10 1st Half 1:41
Charlotte 39
Indiana State 4 1st Half 17:16
St Johns 6
Southern U 5 1st Half 15:59
Florida 6
Wright State 6 1st Half 12:06
Purdue 12
(19) Oklahoma St 2:00 PM
USC
Houston 2:00 PM
Texas Tech
Ark-Little Rock 2:00 PM
Tulsa
Dayton 2:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Northern Ariz 2:00 PM
New Mexico
UNC-Asheville 2:00 PM
USC Upstate
North Dakota 2:00 PM
South Dakota
Western Ill 2:00 PM
Marquette
Elon 2:00 PM
(6) North Carolina
Ball State 2:00 PM
Western Ky
(8) Kentucky 2:00 PM
(13) Duke
New Orleans 2:00 PM
Alabama
Chicago State 2:00 PM
Milwaukee
Bowling Green 2:00 PM
Bradley
Ill-Springfield 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Northern Ill 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
(23) Iowa 2:05 PM
Drake
Central Michigan 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Western Carolina 2:30 PM
North Florida
Wyoming 3:00 PM
Colorado
Portland 3:00 PM
Boise State
Cal Poly 3:00 PM
Colorado State
No Dakota State 3:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Albany 3:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Oklahoma 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Idaho State 3:00 PM
Seattle
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(19) Syracuse
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion

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