The Vikings continue to try to find ways to get linebacker Ben Leber more snaps. That will involved changes in their rotation with the nickel defense.
The Vikings are taking steps to get starting strong-side linebacker Ben Leber
more playing time beginning with Sunday's game at Dallas.
The issue is that Leber has been the odd man out when the Vikings go to their nickel defense — something that has happened for good portions of the past two games.
In that situation, rookie Marcus McCauley
replaces Leber and plays the left corner. Veteran Antoine Winfield
then slides into the slot and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson
and weak-side starter Chad Greenway
remain in the game.
Leber got only about 30 snaps in the Vikings' 23-16 loss to Green Bay on Sept. 30 and was in for a similar amount of plays last Sunday in a 34-31 victory over Chicago. In Week 2 against the run-oriented Kansas City Chiefs, Leber's play total was at approximately 50.
But with the Vikings defense being one of the best in the NFL against the run and one of the worst against the pass, teams are likely to keep using multiple receiver sets.
As a result, coach Brad Childress said he plans to begin rotating Leber and Greenway in the nickel package. This shouldn't be a difficult transition because, according to Childress, the linebackers have "the same skill sets to be able to do that stuff."
Exactly how this will work is not yet clear but it's obvious the Vikings want Leber on the field. "There is a little disparity there between (Leber's) snaps and Greenway's snaps," Childress said. "I think you will see that change. We do some things playing big nickel and little nickel so (teams) can't completely legislate Pat Williams
out of the game either."
Williams, a Pro Bowl nose tackle, had more snaps against the Bears than he did versus the Packers.
QB Tarvaris Jackson returned Sunday against Chicago after a two-game absence because of a strained groin. Jackson completed only nine of 23 passes for 136 yards, but he did not have an interception and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson in a 34-31 victory. In his last start, Jackson had four interceptions and a terrible 26.4 rating.
RB Adrian Peterson had a day most players can only dream about against the Bears. He rushed for a Vikings single-game record 224 yards on 20 carries with touchdown runs of 67, 73 and 35 yards. He also added a 53-yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter to set up Ryan Longwell's winning 55-yard field goal. Peterson's 361 all-purpose yards were the third-highest single-game mark in NFL history, and his 607 rushing yards this season ranks as the second-highest five-game total for a rookie in league annals.
RB Chester Taylor actually had two more carries than Peterson against Chicago but gained 83 yards. That averaged out to 3.8 yards per carry; Peterson averaged 11.2 yards per touch. Nonetheless, coach Brad Childress continues to refer to Peterson as Taylor's backup.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe did not catch a pass for the second game this season. He was overthrown on at least one occasion. Shiancoe did throw some key blocks on Peterson's runs but the lack of passes directed his way has been curious considering the free agent investment the Vikings made in him during the offseason.
WR Bobby Wade caught a team-leading three passes for 30 yards against the Bears. Wade also had four fair catches on punt returns against his former teammates, falling one shy of the Vikings single-game record. His 18 catches for 203 yards leads the team but he has yet to catch a touchdown.
WR Troy Williamson caught his first touchdown pass Sunday since Oct. 2, 2005. Williamson dropped the first pass thrown his way — a problem that has plagued him during his career — but the Vikings went right back at him. He finished with two receptions for 69 yards.
S Dwight Smith had an interception in the fourth quarter at Chicago but was later victimized on the Bears' two late touchdowns to tie the score at 31. Smith missed a tackle on Muhsin Muhammad's 33-yard score and was beaten by Devin Hester on an 81-yard scoring pass. Smith has been playing despite a hamstring injury but he refused to blame that for his late-game struggles.
LB Vinny Ciurciu, who is a key member of the Vikings' special teams, suffered a high ankle sprain and is unlikely to play at Dallas on Sunday.
LB E.J. Henderson briefly had to come out of Sunday's game because of a shoulder stinger but still finished with a game-high 10 tackles and had a forced fumble. Henderson's hit on Jason McKie on the final play of the first half left the Bears fullback lying on the field until almost midway through halftime. McKie was all right.
FB Naufahu Tahi suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament against Chicago and won't play at Dallas. Tahi, like Vinny Ciurciu, has been a special-teams contributor.