Minnesota Vikings: Player Watch 30 Sep 11

The Vikings are counting on Adrian Peterson’s bruised calf holding up for four quarters and helping the team avoid falling to 0-4 for the fourth time in franchise history when it travels to Kansas City on Sunday.

Peterson missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. But neither he, nor coach Leslie Frazier are concerned about the injury affecting Peterson on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

“It’s sore, but it’s not really bothering me,” Peterson said. “With a contusion, it’s all about trying to flush it out and keep the muscle loose. I have a high tolerance for pain. Pain is only temporary. … I’ll be ready to roll on Sunday.”

Peterson said he was kneed in the calf right before halftime of last week’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions. He said the calf didn’t stiffen up until after the game, so it played no role in him only getting five carries for five yards in the second half.

Peterson’s second-half carries have been a hot topic in Minnesota this week. He’s carried the ball only 22 times for 66 yards (3.0 average) in the second half as the Vikings have blown halftime leads of 10, 17 and 20 points.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave echoed Frazier’s comments earlier this week, saying the coaches need to stay committed to giving the ball to Peterson.

“We just need to do better,” Musgrave said. “And obviously the last three games, what we’ve been doing in the second half is not good enough, in any respect. We look forward to getting that corrected.”

–The Vikings aren’t panicking, but they’re definitely concerned about quarterback Donovan McNabb’s accuracy or, more specifically, his lack thereof.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson spent Monday and Tuesday reviewing film of McNabb and trying to figure out what can be done with his mechanics and fundamentals to help him improve on a completion percentage that’s stuck at 58.0 heading into Sunday’s game at Kansas City.

Coach Leslie Frazier said it’s standard procedure for coaches of all positions to analyze their players’ mechanics and look for ways to improve. And that even goes for 34-year-old quarterbacks who have been in the league for 13 years.

“It’s not a whole lot different than a guy who’s a Cy Young winner in baseball,” Frazier said. “You’re always trying to improve on what you have. You don’t want to ever stay the same. I just know from experience that if you can continue to work on technique, whether you’re a 10-year vet, an 11-year vet you want to always watch tape and try to improve on technique and fundamentals.

“If you ever get to the point where you think you are perfect, that’s exactly when you’ll see things start to get out of whack.”

Speaking of out of whack, the Vikings are 0-3 despite having trailed for only 6 minutes, 51 seconds this season. They’ve blown halftime leads of 10, 17 and 20 points while being outscored 67-6. But while the defense isn’t innocent, it’s the offense’s inability to make plays and stay on the field that has started the collapses each week.

McNabb has led the Vikings to only two field goals in 16 second-half possessions. He’s got a league-low 37.5 completion percentage on third downs. He’s also completed just 1 of 11 passes for eight yards and no first downs on third downs in the second half.

Frazier said the points of emphasis with McNabb in practice this week include footwook, launch points and drops.

McNabb said he self-evaluates weekly and is OK with the coaches offering input on what he can do to improve. But when asked if he needs to change anything, McNabb simply said, “No.

“I think the thing about it is when you’re critical of yourself and your play, you just look at your reads, how fast you get the ball out, obviously footwork and everything,” McNabb said. “But that’s not just my position. That’s everyone. As a quarterback, when you’re watching yourself, it’s everything. It’s not just mechanics. It’s ball placement, it’s the right read and things of that nature. That’s kind of how I evaluate myself each and every week as I’m watching.”

McNabb said some of this off-target throws have come because he’s anticipating throws. He still doesn’t have his timing down with the receivers in this new offense, and he’s also dealt with a lot of pressure from the pass rush.

“Sometimes you anticipate throws,” McNabb said. “If you have pressure in your face or whatever it may be, you try to anticipate throws, especially against man coverage. You want to have the ball out before the DB even turns his head around to give your guys an opportunity. Some throws you just miss.

“Again, for me it’s just evaluating myself and watching each and every week, if it’s overstriding on the throw, trying to put it outside when the receiver is taking a step inside, whatever it may be. Those things have to be corrected and I look forward to it being corrected.”

It certainly would go a long way toward helping him end his 1-8 slide as a starter in his last nine games.

SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 5-4. Kansas City is 3-1 at home. Most historic meeting between the teams was in Super Bowl IV, when the Chiefs beat the Vikings 23-7 in New Orleans.

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NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES

–The last time these teams met was 2007. Jared Allen played for the Chiefs and was coming off a two-game suspension to start the season. His fresh legs were bad news for LT Bryant McKinnie and QB Kelly Holcomb. Allen had two sacks, two batted passes, eight tackles and a forced fumble in a 13-10 Chiefs win.

–Jared Allen led the league in sacks with 15 1/2 in 2007. But he was traded to the Vikings after the season. The Vikings wanted a pass rusher and were considering trading both of their third-round picks that year to move up into the top 10 picks of the draft. Instead, the Vikings sent the 17th pick in the draft and both third-rounders to the Chiefs for Allen, who was 26 at the time. “In essence, it looks like you got Jared Allen as a top-10 pick,” Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said. Allen has 47 1/2 sacks, including postseason, since joining the Vikings.

–In the Vikings’ only win in Kansas City, career backup Bob Berry had a career day in a 35-15 win at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 14, 1974. Berry completed 11 of 12 passes for 111 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

–People forget that Super Bowl IV was every bit the upset that Super Bowl III was with Joe Namath and the Jets beating the Colts. The Vikings went into Super Bowl IV as 13-point favorites. They led the league in scoring (379) and points allowed (133). They had scored 50 or more points three times. But the Chiefs’ defense held the Vikings to 67 yards rushing while forcing five turnovers. It was the last Super Bowl before the AFL-NFL merger.

–WR Percy Harvin got his cliches confused when he told reporters the Vikings control their own “destination.” As for destiny, who knows? But as far as destination, they’ll be in Kansas City this weekend.

–People also forget that C John Sullivan was part of the Jared Allen trade in 2007. In addition to giving the Chiefs their first-round pick and two third-round picks, the Vikings also swapped sixth-round picks. The Vikings used their sixth-rounder on Sullivan, who has started 17 games the past two years.

–CB Cedric Griffin doesn’t see the big deal, but everyone else does. So he’s constantly asked about his knees and how they feel. He blew out one ACL at the end of the 2009 season. Then he blew out the other one early last season. So far in 2011, he’s played well. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do, which is rehab and come back and play,” Griffin said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 — Number of third-down conversions by the offense in the second half this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s just not being disciplined. Penalties will kill you. Personal fouls will kill you. Holding, jumping offsides, all that stuff kills you. If the offense is first-and-20, it kills you. If the other team starts at your 48-yard line because of a penalty, it kills you.” — NT Remi Ayodele, when asked about the team’s 27 penalties, 17 of which have come in second-half meltdowns that have seen the team blow leads of 10, 17 and 20 points.

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NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Last year, the Vikings lined up in a four-man front on 96 percent of their defensive snaps. And while they’re still loyal to the four-man front, they have begun to sprinkle in a three-man front that uses DE Everson Griffen as linebacker.

“It’s a good changeup for us,” coach Leslie Frazier said.

Griffen had two QB pressures in Sunday’s game against the Lions. Griffen is suited for the position because he’s an athletic 273-pounder who can run a 4.6 40.

Another bit of a change in the lineup has SS Jamarca Sanford playing more than he did the first two weeks. He won the starting job over Tyrell Johnson, but was rotating more with Johnson the first two weeks. But against the Lions, Sanford played all but eight snaps at SS. Sanford is better in run support, but needs work in coverage.

PLAYER NOTES

–LB E.J. Henderson’s bothersome left knee is acting up earlier this season than it did a year ago. Henderson has to rest the knee occasionally because it swells in the area where he had a metal rod inserted during surgery to repair a broken femur in 2009. Henderson missed practice Wednesday and was limited and still tender on Thursday as the team went through the season’s first indoor practice on artificial turf.

–SS Jamarca Sanford tweaked a thigh in practice on Wednesday and was added to the injury report, even though he had full participation in practice. Sanford has slowly but surely gained control of the strong safety position, although his competition (Tyrell Johnson) has been weak.

–SS Tyrell Johnson (hip) was limited in practice for a second consecutive day. He’s still helping on multiple special teams, but saw only eight snaps on defense last Sunday.

–TE Jim Kleinsasser (elbow) was limited in practice for a second consecutive day. The Vikings can’t afford to have him miss any playing time. He’s a vital blocker in the running game, both on the edge and as a fullback.

–DT Kevin Williams is still on the injury report with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. But he hasn’t missed any practice time because of the injury and came through a heavy workload in last week’s game. He’ll get better as his conditioning level increases after missing the first two games because of his two-game StarCaps suspension.

GAME PLAN: The Vikings need to lean on their fourth-ranked run defense to put the game into Chiefs’ QB Matt Cassel’s slumping hands. The Chiefs rank ninth in rushing and average 4.6 yards per carry. Dexter McCluster averages 6.6 a carry. Cassel, however, directs the 31st-ranked passing attack. His 65.5 passer rating is 31st in the league, and his 53.6 rating on third down is 29th.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who was held to 5 yards on five carries in the second half of last week’s loss to the Lions, vs. Chiefs ILB Derrick Johnson, who has a team-high 22 tackles — Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the team will recommit to feeding the ball more to Peterson, who has 14 fewer second-half carries despite halftime leads of 10, 17 and 20 points. Peterson has struggled historically against 3-4 defenses, which the Chiefs play. Gap integrity is a must against Peterson, who only needs a little crease to break a long run.

Vikings DE Jared Allen, who is second in the league in sacks with 4 1/2, vs. Chiefs LT Branden Albert — Despite the record, Allen has been a force all season. His speed rush is as good as it’s ever been. He’s also got a quick move back to the inside. Albert is the first-round draft pick the Chiefs ended up with when they traded Allen before the 2008 draft. The Chiefs got the 17th overall pick and used it to move up two spots and take Albert, who was a guard coming out of college.