Notebook: Vikings stressing a fast start

The Vikings haven't experienced much success on the road, but they believe they have been taken away from their strength when forced to pass. The numbers for Adrian Peterson in losses and wins support that theory. Plus, Matt Kalil talks about leading Pro Bowl voting among fans and the Vikings have to prepare for the Packers' version of Percy Harvin.

The Vikings had many mantras this week as they feel the pressure of a must-win game cascading onto them.

First, there was the part about a divisional win being almost like two wins. Then there was the fact about how a win against Green Bay would tie them with the Packers and give them the early tie-breaker advantage with a win in the head-to-head matchup. And there was the part about remaining in the playoff race – the Vikings are currently seeded eighth in the six-team NFC playoff format because of head-to-head losses against Tampa Bay and Green Bay, who each have the same record (6-5) as Minnesota.

But perhaps the most repeated phrase in the locker room and at press conference podiums this week was the one about getting an early lead.

The Vikings are built to run the ball on offense and have proven to struggle to come back and win once behind in the fourth quarter. Getting behind earlier than that has taken the ball out of the hands of their most effective weapon – Adrian Peterson – whether warranted that early in a game or not.

In the Vikings' five losses, Peterson has averaged just 17 carries a game. In their six wins, he is averaging 22 carries.

It happened again last Sunday in Chicago. The Vikings were trailing 25-3 by halftime and Peterson ended up with 18 carries for the game, tying for the most he has gotten in a loss this year.

"They just outplayed us pretty much. They got out to a great start. At halftime it was 25-3 and they pretty much did what they wanted to," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "We just need to start faster on the road, create turnovers and when we get a chance to get in the red zone on offense score touchdowns."

That might be even more important this Sunday in Green Bay, where the Vikings lost 45-7 last November and 31-3 in 2010. The last time Minnesota left Lambeau Field with a win was when Brett Favre was throwing passes – for the Vikings – in 2009.

"I think everyone knows what this game means and it's a rivalry game. These are the ones that you live for," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "These are the ones that when you're playing in pee-wee, you dream about, playing in the NFL against your rival. Vikings-Green Bay, that's a huge game and obviously what's at stake makes it even bigger."

It won't be easy. The Packers have won nine division games in a row and Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has won five straight against the Vikings. In eight starts against Minnesota, Rodgers has 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions to help shape his 116.5 rating against them. He leads the NFL with a 105.6 rating this season and has thrown a touchdown pass in 35 consecutive homes games, including the playoffs.

In fact, the Packers have 28 passing touchdowns this year – tied for most in NFL – and two rushing touchdowns, tied for the fewest.

Despite currently being out of the playoff picture, the Vikings still have a chance. They have both of their divisional games against Green Bay ahead of them, as well as hosting Chicago next week. With a schedule that is back-loaded with NFC North opponents, they at least have the opportunity to make up ground.

"I like it like this. It comes down to great finishes," Winfield said of the late loaded schedule. "Usually the division races are tight during the season so if you get the last four or five games late in the year like this, they're really good games."


Rookie left tackle Matt Kalil leads all NFC tackles in Pro Bowl voting among fans despite only being 11 games into his NFL career. In spite of the early success, he is staying focused on the next game.

"It's cool. I don't think it really means anything to me. It's cool to be on there, but my mindset has been week-by-week and not really looking to the future," Kalil said. "It's been working out for me so far so I'm not trying to look ahead on myself."

Kalil was the team's first pick in this year's draft – fourth overall – and his brother Ryan is a Pro Bowl center with the Carolina Panthers, so Matt's early success wasn't a big surprise.

"You always want to picture the best scenario and for me I want to be the best I can. I think I've done that so far, but continue to get better," he said. "There's still a lot of mistakes I make out there that I need to work on."


The Vikings likely won't have their leading receiver, Percy Harvin, Sunday at Green Bay after he was listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report with a sprained ankle, but the Packers have their own version of Harvin.

While Harvin has 62 catches for 677 yards, Green Bay's Randall Cobb has 58 catches for 613 yards to lead the Packers.

"They present a challenge because they run like running backs when they're in the backfield and they run routes like receivers when they're out wide," Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said of Harvin and Cobb. "Anytime a guy can do that, you have to decide whether to put a corner on him, put a linebacker on him, put a safety on him. You'd like a linebacker on him in the run game and you'd like a corner on him in the pass game and you can't do both so you have to pick your poison."

Cobb has six receiving touchdowns in his past five games, and three in his past two home games. He is the only player in the NFL with more than 700 yards on kickoff returns, 600 receiving yards, 200 punt-return yards and 100 rushing yards.

The last time the Vikings faced him, Cobb had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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