Notebook: Vikings playmakers pretty underused

The Vikings didn't take advantage of a good first half from Adrian Peterson, couldn't get enough of Percy Harvin and didn't find their tight ends. A look at what happened and how the players responded. Plus, while the offense fizzled, a couple of defensive ends had productive days.

When it mattered most in their regular-season opener, the Minnesota Vikings weren't able to get to their playmakers involved effectively enough in a 24-17 loss in San Diego.

Receiver-returner Percy Harvin made an immediate difference in the game, even if his quarterback couldn't find much time to throw the ball. Harvin made his mark on the very first play of the game, before the Vikings offense even had a chance to take the field, taking back the opening kickoff 103 yards.

It was the second-longest kickoff return in franchise history and was the longest one on opening day. Interestingly, he didn't get another chance. On the next two kickoffs, Lorenzo Booker was inserted as the return man, taking one back 20 yards and watching another one sail through the end zone for a touchback.

When Harvin finally did return to the game, the Chargers squibbed a kickoff that Everson Griffen fielded at the 21-yard line and danced around with before gaining 7 yards – a play he could have taken straight up the field for more yards.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings didn't use Harvin more on kickoff returns because they didn't think San Diego would kick to him after returning the game-opener for a touchdown.

"We would have liked to have gotten him more touches. We tried to get him more in that second half and they wouldn't kick to him," Frazier said.

However, the simple threat of Harvin on kickoffs later in the game gave Minnesota the second-best field position following a kickoff.

Running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' new hundred-million dollar man, was also limited after an effective start. He rushed nine times for 74 yards – an 8.2-yard average in the first half – but they went away from Peterson after his best run of the day, a 46-yarder that put the Vikings three yards from paydirt (they gained a touchdown on the next play). The Chargers went on a 15-play drive after Minnesota took its 17-7 lead in the second quarter, so resting Peterson on the ensuing drive shouldn't have been an issue.

However, on their final full series of the first half, the Vikings inserted Toby Gerhart for two runs that gained 16 yards before punting the ball away without Peterson touching it again in the first half.

In the second half, Peterson carried the ball seven times for 24 yards despite Minnesota trying to hold onto a 10-point lead on the road.

"I feel like we ran the ball pretty good. I stick to my job, and that's whatever play-call is called do my best to go out and execute," Peterson said. "… I think we were running the ball pretty good [in the second half]. Got to get the passing game going a little more."

Peterson's final carry of the game was a 2-yard loss to put him back under 100 yards for the afternoon.

Harvin ended up as the Vikings' second-leading rusher with four carries and was also their second-leading receiver despite having only two receptions.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb also didn't target his tight ends as often as expected. The only time he threw Visanthe Shiancoe's way, the veteran tight end dropped the ball. The one time he went to rookie Kyle Rudolph, the play was blown up before McNabb had a chance to get away a decent pass.

"A couple times we had them on some deeper crosses and their linebackers were just getting deep. When that happens, you have to check the ball down," McNabb said. "There were a couple times where I scrambled and that was because they were playing man but they had some guys that were underneath our tight ends as well as on our checkdowns, which left running lanes for me. As this thing continues on, we'll get our tight ends more involved."

ALLEN IN COVERAGE

Defensive end Jared Allen is getting more accustomed to dropping into coverage. He did it several times Sunday as the Vikings used zone blitzes. One instance was particularly effective.

Allen slid away from his right end spot and covered running back Ryan Mathews step for step on a pattern down the left sideline. When Philip Rivers threw it Matthews' way anyways, Allen turned his head to locate the ball and made the third-quarter interception. He returned it 14 yards.

It was Allen's fifth career interception and his fourth as a Viking, tying him with Kevin Williams for interceptions by a Vikings defensive lineman.

Allen's receiving skills from his days with the Kansas City Chiefs – he was used as a tight end occasionally in goal-line situations – came into use.

BIG DAY FOR B-ROB

The Vikings' less experienced starting defensive end had just as big a day as Allen. Brian Robison, in first season as a full-time starter, shared a first-half sack with Allen and later hit Rivers' arm as he was throwing a pass inside the red zone in the third quarter. The ball sailed up in the air and Antoine Winfield came down with an important drive-killing interception on the Vikings' final defensive play of the first half.

Robison also had three tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed.

FIZZLING ON EXPLOSIVE PLAYS

Peterson's 46-yard run was easily the Vikings' biggest gain of the day and a textbook example after of numerous players blocking it up. Guard Steve Hutchinson and Jim Kleinsasser created the initial hole at the line of scrimmage midway through the second quarter and Peterson broke a tackle attempt by safety Eric Weddle that momentarily halted his momentum. But when Peterson's foot broke away from Weddle's grasp, receiver Bernard Berrian added a second-level block on Quentin Jammer that helped spring Peterson.

Eventually Peterson was caught by safety Bob Sander at the 3-yard line, but McNabb capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown toss to Michael Jenkins on the next play.

However, as further proof of the failings in the passing game, the Vikings had runs of 46 and 14 yards by Peterson and a 23-yard scramble by McNabb, but the new Vikings quarterback didn't have a completion longer than 12 yards. His two longest passes – 12 and 11 yards – both went to Jenkins.

The next-longest completion? Eight yards to Harvin.

"This is one that you want to get out of your system early and kind feed off of it. There were opportunities early in that game that we should have taken full advantage of," McNabb said.

"It's frustrating. It's upsetting as an offense knowing the type of players that we have on our side. We look to changing it and getting back out next week against Tampa and doing what we need to do."

The Chargers weren't exactly explosive either, but they had 10 plays that went longer than 12 yards. The Vikings had only three such gains – all of them running plays.

Seven of the Vikings' 10 possessions in which they ran an offensive play lasted four plays or fewer. They had only one drive that lasted more than seven plays.

BLAZER BOLTED DOWN

According to FOX's TV coverage, when the Vikings use Joe Webb, they call it their "Blazer Package," named after Webb's University of Alabama-Birmingham's Blazers. They tried to get it going on consecutive plays in the third quarter, but quickly killed their drive.

After Peterson picked up one first down with runs of 5 and 7 yards, Webb entered the game at quarterback. He took the first snap and was stopped for a 2-yard loss on a run. Harvin gained back those two yards on the next play when Webb handed it to him. When McNabb re-entered the game and was pressured into an incompletion on third down, the Vikings punted it away.

Frazier said the timing of the Blazer package was dictated by the Vikings wanting to use Webb on some plays near midfield

"We had really believed it was going to be a good success rate for us," Frazier said. "We thought it was going to be a positive."


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"When it mattered most in their regular-season opener, the Minnesota Vikings weren't able to get to their playmakers involved effectively enough in a 24-17 loss in San Diego. Receiver-returner Percy Harvin made an immediate difference in the game, even if his quarterback couldn't find much time to throw the ball. Harvin made his mark on the very first play of the game, before the Vikings offense even had a chance to take the field, taking back the opening kickoff 103 yards. It was the second-longest kickoff return in franchise history and was the longest one on opening day. Interestingly, he didn't get another chance. On the next two kickoffs, Lorenzo Booker was inserted as the return man, taking one back 20 yards and watching another one sail through the end zone for a touchback. When Harvin finally did return to the game, the Chargers squibbed a kickoff that Everson Griffen fielded at the 21-yard line and danced around with before gaining 7 yards – a play he could have taken straight up the field for more yards. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings didn't use Harvin more on kickoff returns because they didn't think San Diego would kick to him after returning the game-opener for a touchdown. \"We would have liked to have gotten him more touches. We tried to get him more in that second half and they wouldn't kick to him,\" Frazier said. However, the simple threat of Harvin on kickoffs later in the game gave Minnesota the second-best field position following a kickoff. Running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' new hundred-million dollar man, was also limited after an effective start. He rushed nine times for 74 yards – an 8.2-yard average in the first half – but they went away from Peterson after his best run of the day, a 46-yarder that put the Vikings three yards from paydirt (they gained a touchdown on the next play). The Chargers went on a 15-play drive after Minnesota took its 17-7 lead in the second quarter, so resting Peterson on the ensuing drive shouldn't have been an issue. However, on their final full series of the first half, the Vikings inserted Toby Gerhart for two runs that gained 16 yards before punting the ball away without Peterson touching it again in the first half. In the second half, Peterson carried the ball seven times for 24 yards despite Minnesota trying to hold onto a 10-point lead on the road. \"I feel like we ran the ball pretty good. I stick to my job, and that's whatever play-call is called do my best to go out and execute,\" Peterson said. \"… I think we were running the ball pretty good [in the second half]. Got to get the passing game going a little more.\" Peterson's final carry of the game was a 2-yard loss to put him back under 100 yards for the afternoon. Harvin ended up as the Vikings' second-leading rusher with four carries and was also their second-leading receiver despite having only two receptions. Quarterback Donovan McNabb also didn't target his tight ends as often as expected. The only time he threw Visanthe Shiancoe's way, the veteran tight end dropped the ball. The one time he went to rookie Kyle Rudolph, the play was blown up before McNabb had a chance to get away a decent pass. \"A couple times we had them on some deeper crosses and their linebackers were just getting deep. When that happens, you have to check the ball down,\" McNabb said. \"There were a couple times where I scrambled and that was because they were playing man but they had some guys that were underneath our tight ends as well as on our checkdowns, which left running lanes for me. As this thing continues on, we'll get our tight ends more involved.\" Defensive end Jared Allen is getting more accustomed to dropping into coverage. He did it several times Sunday as the Vikings used zone blitzes. One instance was particularly effective. Allen slid away from his right end spot and covered running back Ryan Mathews step for step on a pattern down the left sideline. When Philip Rivers threw it Matthews' way anyways, Allen turned his head to locate the ball and made the third-quarter interception. He returned it 14 yards. It was Allen's fifth career interception and his fourth as a Viking, tying him with Kevin Williams for interceptions by a Vikings defensive lineman. Allen's receiving skills from his days with the Kansas City Chiefs – he was used as a tight end occasionally in goal-line situations – came into use. The Vikings' less experienced starting defensive end had just as big a day as Allen. Brian Robison, in first season as a full-time starter, shared a first-half sack with Allen and later hit Rivers' arm as he was throwing a pass inside the red zone in the third quarter. The ball sailed up in the air and Antoine Winfield came down with an important drive-killing interception on the Vikings' final defensive play of the first half. Robison also had three tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed. Peterson's 46-yard run was easily the Vikings' biggest gain of the day and a textbook example after of numerous players blocking it up. Guard Steve Hutchinson and Jim Kleinsasser created the initial hole at the line of scrimmage midway through the second quarter and Peterson broke a tackle attempt by safety Eric Weddle that momentarily halted his momentum. But when Peterson's foot broke away from Weddle's grasp, receiver Bernard Berrian added a second-level block on Quentin Jammer that helped spring Peterson. Eventually Peterson was caught by safety Bob Sander at the 3-yard line, but McNabb capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown toss to Michael Jenkins on the next play. However, as further proof of the failings in the passing game, the Vikings had runs of 46 and 14 yards by Peterson and a 23-yard scramble by McNabb, but the new Vikings quarterback didn't have a completion longer than 12 yards. His two longest passes – 12 and 11 yards – both went to Jenkins. The next-longest completion? Eight yards to Harvin. \"This is one that you want to get out of your system early and kind feed off of it. There were opportunities early in that game that we should have taken full advantage of,\" McNabb said. \"It's frustrating. It's upsetting as an offense knowing the type of players that we have on our side. We look to changing it and getting back out next week against Tampa and doing what we need to do.\" The Chargers weren't exactly explosive either, but they had 10 plays that went longer than 12 yards. The Vikings had only three such gains – all of them running plays. Seven of the Vikings' 10 possessions in which they ran an offensive play lasted four plays or fewer. They had only one drive that lasted more than seven plays. According to FOX's TV coverage, when the Vikings use Joe Webb, they call it their \"Blazer Package,\" named after Webb's University of Alabama-Birmingham's Blazers. They tried to get it going on consecutive plays in the third quarter, but quickly killed their drive. After Peterson picked up one first down with runs of 5 and 7 yards, Webb entered the game at quarterback. He took the first snap and was stopped for a 2-yard loss on a run. Harvin gained back those two yards on the next play when Webb handed it to him. When McNabb re-entered the game and was pressured into an incompletion on third down, the Vikings punted it away. Frazier said the timing of the Blazer package was dictated by the Vikings wanting to use Webb on some plays near midfield \"We had really believed it was going to be a good success rate for us,\" Frazier said. \"We thought it was going to be a positive.\" ","skipOnMobile":false,"media":[],"dateOverride":"2011-09-11T20:32:00","authorOverride":"Tim Yotter","role":"VikingUpdate.com","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:972007]","mainImage":{},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:972007]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"[MEDIA:474354]","tags":[{"id":"9850","name":"Texas - Football"},{"id":"592","name":"Florida"},{"id":"376","name":"Texas"},{"id":"10026","name":"Florida - Football"},{"id":"9844","name":"Oklahoma - Football"},{"id":"373","name":"Oklahoma"},{"id":"202","name":"Minnesota 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