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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Five Vikings stats that stand out for Week 8

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 21st at 3:42pm 279905762

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

96 — win probability, in percentage, for the Vikings before fourth and 20 on Sunday.

The Vikings had a victory within their grasp on Sunday when the Bills got the football with just over three minutes left. And you can’t ask for a much better opportunity to seize it than the one they got after a pair of sacks pushed the Bills back to fourth and 20. At that point, the Vikings had a win probability of 96 percent, according to, and the Bills had just a 12 percent chance of converting for a first down. But they did, and the Vikings’ win probability plummeted to 68 percent. The odds were still in their favor, but they couldn’t recover from that play.

22 — total quarterback pressures for left defensive end Brian Robison this season.

Right defensive end Everson Griffen is getting a lot of attention for his play, and rightfully so. After recording three sacks against the Bills, he now has seven on the season, tied for second in the NFL behind only Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who has eight. But believe it or not, Robison has been more disruptive based on the numbers from Pro Football Focus. Robison has only one half of a sack this season, but he has generated 22 total pressures, which ranks 11th in the NFL. Griffen, meanwhile, is tied for 19th with 19, though his pressures have been much more impactful.

65 — yards after contact per carry for running back Jerick McKinnon against the Bills.

Last week, head coach Mike Zimmer challenged the Vikings running backs to get him an average of three yards after contact per carry against the Bills. His rookie running back obliged and then some. According to Pro Football Focus, 65 of McKinnon’s 103 rushing yards came after a Bills defender put a hand on him. That’s an average of 3.4 yards after contact per carry. McKinnon also forced four missed tackles against the Bills. He had that many on the season entering the game.

one — pressures allowed by offensive linemen Joe Berger and Mike Harris in relief.

Thirteen plays into the 17-16 loss to the Bills, the Vikings lost a pair of starting offensive linemen on the same running play. Center John Sullivan suffered a concussion and right guard Vlad Ducasse hurt his knee, forcing Berger and Harris into action. Against a formidable Bills front, and with Harris playing a position he hadn’t played since peewee, that duo combined to allow just one pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. McKinnon also had success running behind those two.

two — sacks of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that came in 2.5 seconds or fewer.

The Vikings offensive line has been under the microscope after three straight games with at least five sacks allowed. But one statistic suggests that the issues in pass protection aren’t all on the big guys. According to Pro Football Focus, only two of the sacks Bridgewater has taken this season came within 2.5 seconds of the snap. The other 13 came after 2.5 seconds, which is tied for the seventh most in the league (keep in mind that Bridgewater has only played three and a half games). So maybe there is something to the rookie holding the ball a split second too long in the pocket.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Vikings looking for long stops, new spot for Harris and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 21st at 6:04pm 279891502

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


— Mike Zimmer’s defense is still looking for a way to get off the field in key spots.

— Zimmer said he wishes that he had called a timeout before fourth and 20.

— There were no injury updates yesterday on C John Sullivan and G Vlad Ducasse.

— Before Sunday, OT Mike Harris hadn’t played guard since his peewee days.

— Will QB Teddy Bridgewater need a big brain to be successful in the NFL?



— Head coach Lovie Smith is optimistic that he can get the Buccaneers going.

— Buccaneers QB Josh McCown is back at practice, but will he start on Sunday?

— The Buccaneers aren’t getting much bang for the buck from their free agents.

— Would the Buccaneers really consider trading top WR Vincent Jackson?


Vikings players have the day off. They will report back to Winter Park tomorrow morning.


WR Adam Thielen has played 100 snaps this season, including penalties, according to Pro Football Focus. Of those 100 snaps, he has spent 55 of them run blocking, which is an abnormally high percentage for a wide receiver. For example, WR Greg Jennings has been asked to run block 148 times on his 424 snaps and Cordarrelle Patterson has been a run blocker on 136 of his 378 snaps. So when you see Thielen run out to the huddle, chances are it’s going to be a run.

Sullivan (concussion) not cleared, Ducasse (knee) to get MRI

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 21st at 7:24am 279828232

Vikings center John Sullivan will go through the concussion protocol this week, while guard Vladimir Ducasse will receive an MRI on his knee after both suffered injuries on the same play in the 17-16 loss to the Bills on Sunday.

Both left with less than four minutes left in the first quarter on a three-yard run by rookie running back Jerick McKinnon. They did not return, playing just 13 snaps. Joe Berger, who replaced Sullivan at center, and Mike Harris, who replaced Ducasse at right guard, each played 51 snaps.

“We’ll find out more as the week goes on,” Zimmer said on Sullivan. “And Vlad, he bumped his knee. So we’ll see.”

Zimmer thought Harris, who is a backup tackle, did well filling in at guard. The Vikings were out of offensive linemen at that point with Austin Wentworth and David Yankey inactive.

Zimmer on fourth-and-20: 'I should've called timeout'

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 21st at 7:24am 279825742

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said after Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Bills that there would be some second guessing on his part. After watching the film, Zimmer said on Monday that he should’ve called a timeout prior to the Bills converting on a fourth-and-20 during the final drive.

The Vikings had all three timeouts prior to the play, which resulted in a 31-yard completion from quarterback Kyle Orton to Scott Chandler. Zimmer thought in hindsight the timeout would’ve settled the defense during a no-huddle situation.

“I think we miscalculated the down and distance they were in,” Zimmer said. “We all knew it was fourth down. I just don’t know they had the distance they had to go and we ended up being short on the route.

“Thinking on the plane last night and after the play, I should have done it. And we still had a chance to stop them there at the end.”

The fourth-and-20, though, stands out.  Zimmer said linebacker Chad Greenway was too shallow on the play. He also was still communicating with the secondary to make sure everyone was aligned as the ball was snapped. It’s part of Greenway’s job to correct the defense’s alignment, Zimmer said.

The Bills ran 34 seconds off the clock after defensive tackle Tom Johnson sacked Orton with 1:51 left in the game to snap the ball on 4th down. It was a fairly difficult distance with the game on the line that could cause a head coach not to call a timeout. Everything was going in the Vikings factor, and there’s that perception among some head coaches that don’t like to use timeouts on defense that Zimmer also holds.

“Right, wrong or indifferent, I’ve always worked for a lot of guys that don’t like calling timeouts on defense because you don’t like wasting them,” Zimmer said. “That is a little bit of my mentality too is, ‘Hey, let’s get lined up, do what we’re supposed to do and everything will be good.’ Whereas probably in that situation — the hecticness of everything that was going on — I probably should have used it and explained to them. We saw all their two-minute routes before, so the routes they ran were not any surprise.”

In a similar situation last season against Washington, the Vikings did the exact opposite under former head coach Leslie Frazier. Up 34-27, the Vikings burned two timeouts when the clock was running while Washington faced first-and-10 at the Vikings 25 with 1:20 left and a second-and-goal at the 4. Quarterback Robert Griffin III threw three incompletions on the final three plays to turn the ball over on downs and seal the Vikings win, but Frazier was criticized in the moment for burning two timeouts while the clock ran.

It somehow worked, while Zimmer’s approach didn’t. We’ll see in the future if the first-year head coach changes his mentality about timeouts if he’s faced with similar situation this season.

Backup Mike Harris hadn't played guard 'since Pop Warner, 10 years old'

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated October 20th at 2:03pm 279811732

To say Vikings backup tackle Mike Harris was unprepared to play right guard in a pinch in Sunday’s game at Buffalo is a bit of an understatement.

“I never played played guard,” he said. “Ever.”

Surely, Harris has gotten some practice reps at guard. You know, just in case. Right?

“Never,” he said. “I’ve never [played guard], probably since Pop Warner, 10 years old, that’s the last time I played guard.”

OK. So he had played guard. But there’s a bit of a leap from Pop Warner to standing on the sideline with about four minutes left in the first quarter of an NFL game. You look up and not one but two offensive linemen are injured and coming to the sideline for the rest of the game.

One is center John Sullivan (concussion), which doesn’t affect you because Joe Berger is the backup interior lineman who specializes in playing center. But the other is right guard Vladimir Ducasse (knee), which is a problem because the team has only seven linemen active and you’re the swing tackle.

“We didn’t even call timeout,” Harris said. “I had to run in and coach was like, `Play right guard.’  And I’m like, `What? I’ve never done it in my whole life.’”

“But I had fun. I haven’t played really since the preseason so it was cool being out there with my guys and just playing hard for the team. I had a great time.  I competed my butt off. ”

Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon had 14 of his 19 carries and 74 of his 103 yards rushing with Berger and Harris in the game. McKinnon ran the ball nine times for 60 yards behind those two.

“I just went in and did my job,” Harris said. “I kind of liked it. I liked being inside.”


San Diego 21 FINAL
Denver 35
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Indiana 88 FINAL
Charlotte 79
Philadelphia 103 FINAL
Detroit 109
Dallas 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
NY Islanders 3 FINAL
Boston 2
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 4
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Chicago 2 FINAL
Nashville 3
Arizona 0 FINAL
Minnesota 2
Carolina 0 FINAL
Calgary 5
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Columbus 5 FINAL
San Jose 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 6:00 PM
Troy 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Montreal 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM


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