Notebook: Jenkins takes over third-down role
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Notebook: Jenkins takes over third-down role

With Percy Harvin out of action, Michael Jenkins took over the role of third-down go-to guy for at least one game. Plus, Adrian Peterson continues to amaze as he stacks up records and yards after contact, and Harrison Smith is starting to impress his veteran teammates.

Michael Jenkins is just about everything that Percy Harvin is not as a receiver. Harvin has the speed, explosion and elusive among his desirable receiver qualities. Jenkins has the height and sure hands, but he is not fast or sharp-cutting.

Still, with Harvin out for the rest of the season, Jenkins became the new preferred third-down target for quarterback Christian Ponder on Sunday. Ponder completed six of his seven third-down passes, and four of those went to Jenkins. Three of the four to Jenkins moved the chains.

On the first drive of the game, the Vikings likely wouldn't have gotten into the end zone if it wasn't for Jenkins catching an 11-yard pass on third-and-9 from the 28-yard line.

It would be three series later until the Vikings converted their next third down with a 16-yard pass to Jarius Wright. Those accounted for the only two third-conversions the Vikings successfully completed in the air in the first half.

"Anytime you can convert on third down, it's huge for the offense," Jenkins said. "It lets our defense rest, continue driving, a chance to score points, so I felt like we needed those."

On Minnesota's second drive of the second half, Jenkins caught another third-down pass, but came up well short on third-and-17. But twice he helped extend their third drive of the second half. The first time was with an 8-yard pass on third-and-7. Six plays later, he had his best catch of the day, a slant in which he had to use his 6-foot-3 frame to grab the ball high in traffic. The Vikings didn't score on that drive, but they received the ball on their own 1-yard line with a 21-7 lead and, after going 12 plays and 58 yards in 6:35, they had the Bears pinned on their own 5-yard line after a fourth-quarter punt.

The last of those third-down conversions for Jenkins ended with him showing about as much as emotion as ever, popping up and spinning the ball on the ground.

"I felt like it was a big play. Emotions run high during the course of a game, and you know I felt like it was a play that we needed," he said.

"(Third-down conversions are) huge. It just helps us have more opportunities for everybody else to make plays and continue to convert on third downs, so you want to be reliable and try to be that guy."

On Sunday, Jenkins ended up as the team's leading receiver with four catches for 36 yards on a day in which Ponder threw for only 91 yards. Jenkins was the only Viking to catch more than two passes. All four of his catches came on third down and three of them extended the drive.

PETERSON'S PRODUCTION

Adrian Peterson had success at several areas of attack on Sunday. His 51-yard run was officially credited as starting over right guard, but Peterson bounced it outside to the right, leading to ESPN Stats and Information to say Peterson had 72 yards rushing outside of the tackles after only five rushes.

That's significant considering the Vikings appeared to shy away from using Peterson outside the tackles earlier in the season, presumably so he wasn't forced to cut as sharply on his surgically repaired knee. However, Peterson's main fullback, Jerome Felton, said the rushing success outside the tackles on Sunday wasn't proof of him being fully healed from knee surgery on Dec. 30. It's more a testament to the diversity of the offense.

"I just think we roll with what works. It's all about having faith in our offensive coordinator to put us in good positions to be successful and whatever that dictates week-to-week is what we'll do," Felton said.

Peterson had only 42 total rushing yards outside the tackles in his first eight games, according to ESPN.

Peterson is also in rare company when it comes to the seven-game rush he is on. He has run for 1,101 yards over the last seven games, joining only one other player over the last 28 years to do that – Titans RB Chris Johnson with 1,112 yards – according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Peterson also had 94 yards after contact on Sunday, according to ESPN, giving him 832 yards after contact this season, the most in the four seasons ESPN has been reviewing film for data. In fact, Peterson has three of the top four entries in that department, added 649 yards after contact in 2010 and 729 in 2009. Maurice Jones-Drew is second with 832 in 2011.

Peterson is on pace to finish with 1,024 yards after contact on rushes this season.

SMART ROOKIE

Vikings veterans sometimes steer clear of giving rookies too much credit, but it's hard not to credit the rookies this year, especially after Sunday's performance when Josh Robinson intercepted one pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown and Harrison Smith gave them a 21-7 lead when he intercepted another pass and returned it for a touchdown.

"He's such a smart player. He really is a very intelligent player," veteran DE Brian Robison said of Smith. "You see that in the locker room – he's soft-spoken, he's kind of quiet. He gets out on the field, he flips a switch. He's a totally different person. If you come across the middle he's going to hit you, but he's smart also, he knows when to make plays on the ball and when to make plays on the guy."


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