Behind Enemy Lines Week 11: Minnesota Vikings
The Arizona Cardinals will make their first visit to brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings looked to be an NFC elite, as they went 5-0 going into their bye week. Since coming out of the bye though, the Vikings have crashed, going 0-4 and are trying to pick up the pieces to what looked like a promising season. They are still much alive in the convoluted NFC, as they are tied with the Detroit Lions for the NFC North lead and are in the thick of the Wild Card race.
Minnesota dropped its last game 26-20 to the Washington Redskins despite a solid performance from quarterback Sam Bradford, who threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns while completing 77.5 percent of his passes. The Vikings’ ground game struggled mightily however, as five players combined to have only 47 yards. The rushing offense has been the Achilles’ Heel all season long, as the Vikings rank last in the NFL in that category, averaging only 69.8 yards per game and have a total of 628 yards on the season.
All week, we will keep you updated on the Minnesota Vikings and their preparations for the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s Behind Enemy Lines…
Saturday, November 19
Munnerlyn could be the Minnesota defender spending the most time on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who will be looking to have a big game in his hometown.
“I like the challenge,” Munnerlyn said. “I like to face bigger guys. I get a chance to get underneath those guys and get my hands on some passes. I can’t play over the top of this guy.”
• Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson has passed technique to Xavier Rhodes (Twincities.com)
Vikings defensive back Xavier Rhodes has worked out with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson the past several offseasons.
Cardinals fans know Peterson isn’t shy when it comes to teaching, and Rhodes had plenty to say about what he’s learned from the Cardinals defensive back.
“I’ve learned a lot: Be a lot on your feet, stop being so aggressive, that was his main thing,” Rhodes said. “We work on our press technique, drills getting out of our breaks, speed turn.”
Friday, November 18
Three key defenders all practiced for the Minnesota Vikings once again on Friday, indicating they should be set to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (hip) and cornerbacks Terence Newman (illness) and Captain Munnerlyn (ankle) were all taking part in practice on at least a limited basis again on Friday after returning on Thursday. Each of them had missed practice on Wednesday but joined on Thursday on a limited basis.
• Adrian Peterson resumes light running (ProFootballTalk)
The Vikings have plenty of problems, 5-4 record notwithstanding. Among them is a rushing attack that is more like a rushing retreat.
They’re averaging 2.67 yards per attempt for the season, only 0.3 yards per try more than the lowest full-season average since the Giants churned out 2.64 yards per rush in 1954.
Bruce Arians did not hesitate when asked how he planned to deal with Stefon Diggs on Sunday.
“Put Patrick Peterson on him,” the Arizona Cardinals’ coach said.
The response befitted both Arians’ refreshing candor and the obviousness of what the Cardinals would do to control Diggs. The second-year receiver is tied for fourth in the league with 61 catches, and has caught 13 passes in each of the Minnesota Vikings’ last two games, as quarterback Sam Bradford has looked Diggs’ way to spark a sputtering offense.
Larry Fitzgerald saw some memorable moments in the Metrodome.
Some great, like sitting in the “rafters” for Kirby Puckett’s legendary catch against the glass barrier in center field during Game 1 of the 1991 World Series. And some heartbreaking, like when was standing on the sideline as a Minnesota Vikings’ ball boy during the 1999 NFC Championship Game when a missed field goal cost the Vikings a spot in Super Bowl XXXIII.
• Vikings give Kai Forbath a two-year deal with no guarantees (Star Tribune)
New Vikings kicker Kai Forbath said Wednesday that he will “hopefully be here for a long time.” But his contract gives him no such assurances.
Forbath signed a two-year deal worth up to $1.1 million, according to a league source. But the contract includes no guaranteed money.
There will be a few intriguing matchupswhen Sam Bradford and the Vikings offense lines up across from the Cardinals defense on Sunday.
Patrick Peterson following Stefon Diggsmight be the most talented. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden against the Vikings tackles could be the most critical. Though an under-the-radar one to watch will be Cordarrelle Patterson against Cardinals cornerback Marcus Cooper.
• Vikings tackles remain in constant shuffle (Star Tribune)
Jeremiah Sirles should not be able to call this week of practices “business as usual.”
But he can — and he is right — for an offensive line undergoing yet another rotation of their tackle carousel. The Vikings have started four different tackle combinations through nine games and, on Sunday against the Cardinals, they’re expected to go back to lineup No. 3, which had T.J. Clemmings at left tackle and Sirles at right tackle, following left tackle Jake Long’s torn Achilles’ tendon last week.
• Vikings: Seven games left and fresh out of scapegoats (Twincities.com)
Try as one might, it’s nearly impossible not to blame Blair Walsh for the Vikings’ 10-9 playoff loss on Jan. 10, even if he did account for all of Minnesota’s scoring. Adrian Peterson’s fumble comes to mind, but the fact remains: Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal in the waning seconds.
• Vikings’ Mike Priefer says change of scenery could benefit Blair Walsh (Twincities.com)
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer figures Blair Walsh will overcome his kicking problems. He just hopes it doesn’t happen against his team.
Minnesota released the struggling Walsh on Tuesday after 4 1/2 seasons, replacing him with Kai Forbath. Priefer said Thursday that Walsh might benefit from a change of scenery.
• Vikings: T.J. Clemmings expects to return to left tackle (Twincities.com)
T.J. Clemmings expects to move back to left tackle for the Vikings.
Clemmings started four games at left tackle before being replacing by Jake Long in Week 8. But in his third start, Long suffered a torn Achilles tendon, ending his season. Now Clemmings expects to be on the left side when the Vikings play Arizona on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Thursday, November 17
The Minnesota Vikings started preparations for the Arizona Cardinals and their receiving corps without the Vikings’ two most experienced cornerbacks sitting out of practice and another one limited.
• Mike Zimmer vows to get back to doing things “my way,” which implies plenty (ProFootballTalk)
It appears that the old Zimmer may soon be returning. During a Monday press conference, Zimmer suggested that perhaps some aspects of the defense were changed “too much.”
The Minnesota Vikings got some good news on Thursday as they look for a return to form for their top-ranked defense
As Blair Walsh’s season spiraled downward in recent weeks, toward his eventual release from the Minnesota Vikings, the popular theory that developed around the kicker was that he’d eventually need a change of scenery.
The Minnesota Vikings have had a revival on their offense, despite their recent drop in the standings overall. While it may get lost in the noise of the consecutive losses, fans should take heart in how well the offense has performed despite the limitations imposed upon them by injury and talent.
• For Kai Forbath, a friend’s misfortune opens Vikings opportunity (Star Tribune)
This spring, as Blair Walsh was trying to get his groove back and Kai Forbath was gearing up for an offseason kicking competition in New Orleans, the two took turns booting balls at UCLA during their now-annual workouts with Jeff Locke and Kevin McDermott.
• Cardinals sure start slow, but when they get going, look out (Star Tribune)
Last Sunday, the Vikings gave up 10 first downs and trailed 14-0 at the completion of Washington’s 18th offensive snap of the game. But there’s good news should the Vikings decide to sleep in again when Arizona visits U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Wednesday, November 16
• Vikings hope Captain Munnerlyn can return from sprained ankle this week (Twincities.com)
Munnerlyn was hurt Nov. 6 against Detroit, and Sunday ended his streak of playing in 72 straight games. He is optimistic, though, of being back Sunday against Arizona at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Minnesota Vikings were presented with several opportunities on Sunday at FedEx Field to seize control of their game against the Washington Redskins, had they been able to gain a yard to earn a first down and extend one of their drives.
• Vikings sign a new offensive lineman, officially put Jake Long on IR (1500ESPN.com)
After losing LT Jake Long for the season to an Achilles tear, the team has signed former Jaguars practice squad OL Rashod Hill, NFL agent Brett Tessler tweeted Tuesday.
• Vikings seeking to avoid another historic collapse (Twincities.com)
Since 1990, only five NFL teams have started 5-0 or better and not made the playoffs. They were Atlanta in 2015, Denver and the New York Giants in 2009, New Orleans in 1993 and Minnesota in 2003, which began 6-0 and stumbled to a 9-7 mark.
• Vikings sign K Kai Forbath (Min.247sports.com)
Forbath’s arrival comes amidst a kicking crisis for the Vikings, as the departed Blair Walsh had struggled mightily since missing a crucial kick a year ago against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 NFL Playoffs.
• Vikings WR Stefon Diggs makes NFL history vs. Redskins (Vikingswire.com)
The headliner is that wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught 13 passes, becoming the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back games with 13 or more catches.
The expected timetable on Peterson’s recovery was set at three to four months. Pro Football Talk reported in late October that the best guess from Winter Park was that Peterson would be back in December and thus could be the one player Minnesota would bring off its IR.
Tuesday, November 15
• Reports: Vikings moving on from kicker Blair Walsh (1500ESPN.com)
Walsh has struggled at bad times for the Vikings since signing his 4-year, $14 million contract extension last offseason. The final straw, apparently, was missing an extra point in Minnesota’s 26-20 loss to Washington this Sunday.
Mike Zimmer said Monday he would meet with General Manager Rick Spielman to decide on the direction of two critical positions for the reeling Vikings.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Vikings are averaging just 1.44 yards before contact on runs this season. That’s the lowest figure in the league by more than one-third of a yard, In fact, it’s so low that no team has come within a quarter-yard of it since ESPN began tracking the statistic in 2009.
• Injured Vikings left tackle Jake Long likely out for the season (Twincities.com)
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said after Sunday’s 26-20 loss to Washington at FedExField that left tackle Jake Long is likely out for the season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon on the next-to-last play of the game.
• Pending free agent Matt Kalil wants to re-sign with Vikings (Twincities.com)
The left tackle, who underwent surgery for a torn right labrum following Week 2, is due to become a free agent in March. The five-year veteran said Monday his top priority is to return to Minnesota.
• Vikings playoff and Super Bowl odds slide from best to mediocre (Star Tribune)
The Vikings had a 93.9 and 82.1 percent chance, respectively, of making the playoffs based on projections by Football Outsiders and MakeNFLPlayoffs.com. Those numbers have dropped significantly after four straight losses.
• Terence Newman: Vikings Defense Needs To Stop Pressing (Vikings.com)
At 38 years old, cornerback Terence Newman is the elder statesman of the Vikings locker room.
Now in his 14th season, Newman knows as well as anyone that a 16-game season is a marathon and not a sprint.