Vikings get mixed bag with special teams
There were both positives and some areas for concern for the Minnesota Vikings’ special teams in Saturday night’s 28-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Special teams have been a focus for the team every year in Minnesota and that seems to be continuing into the 2015 season.
For most of the game, special teams did a good job at putting the Vikings offense and defense in favorable field position, something head coach Mike Zimmer was happy to see.
“I thought we did some good things,” he said. “We continue to do a really nice job on special teams and flipping the field position, changing things during the course of the game and that’s always been a big priority for us with this football team.”
Another thing that Zimmer had to have been happy with was seeing the 107-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson. It was the first time since his rookie season in 2013 that he was able to break a return for a touchdown, and getting Patterson going this season is important for the Vikings.
“Well the good thing about Cordarrelle is he continues to work each and every week, and when he has the ball in his hands he can do a lot of things,” Zimmer said. “He’s a good weapon to have.”
But what has to be even better to see was the blocking on the kickoff return. Everyone did their job and all Patterson had to do was run through an open hole, make a move on the kicker and then outrun everyone else.
“Coach Prief told me just get it and go. It’s been a long time since a kick return and all that, just go out there,” Patterson said. “If you have to lose ground, lose ground, just get on the edge.”
Last year, a lot of the players responsible for blocking in front of Patterson were young and inexperienced and that played a big part in Patterson’s lack of returns, along with teams kicking away from him. If the players in front of him can continue to block that well, special teams should continue to do big things.
“Those 10 guys in front of me, they did a heck of a job,” Patterson said of his blockers. “They led me to the promised land. I couldn’t have done it without those 10 guys in front of me.
“I just seen the end zone, end zone and the kicker, and I was not letting him get me, so I seen him and making a move on him and then scoring.”
Along with the high points of special teams, there were also some low points. Punter Jeff Locke, who has been punting well so far this preseason, had a player roll up on his non-kicking leg and he left the game for a short time.
However, he was able to return to the game later and Zimmer said that he believes his punter is going to be “fine.”
The other area of concern continues to be kicker Blair Walsh. The Vikings played indoors at Dallas Stadium on Saturday, which meant it was perfect kicking conditions. But he still managed to miss a 43-yard field goal, pushing it wide left.
“I’m not really (concerned),” Zimmer said. “I wish he would have hit them all tonight. I thought he hit the ball good. He kicked off good. Like I told him after he missed the one, I said, ‘Quit thinking so much and just kick the dang ball.’ He said, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘You’re too good for that, so just kick it. Quit thinking.’ These kickers, they want to fade it to the right – Bubba Watson.”
Along with his miss, Walsh also made two other field goals, one from 44 yards and the other from 27 yards. He is now 4-for-9 in the preseason, and continues to miss one or two out of eight in practices, too.
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