Defenses are crowding the line of scrimmage and the starting running back has changed, but the Vikings' rushing efforts seem unaffected. The offensive is playing together and Anthony Herrera's insertion seems to have helped.
Whether it has been Adrian Peterson
or Chester Taylor
carrying the ball, one thing has been consistent about the Vikings' running game.
It has been among the best in the NFL this season. Taylor's 164-yard rushing performance — and the Vikings' 288-yard effort on the ground — in a 29-22 victory over Oakland on Sunday gave Minnesota a league-leading average of 177.9 yards per game.
Taylor was playing in place of Peterson, who continues to lead the NFL with 1,081 yards on the ground despite having missed Sunday's game after suffering a partially torn lateral collateral ligament in right knee on Nov. 11 at Green Bay.
The Vikings will get a tough test on Sunday when they play the Giants in New Jersey. New York has the seventh-ranked rushing defense in the league and also is No. 7 overall in defense.
"We're facing our share of eight and nine-man (fronts), which you saw all day (Sunday), but I think coaches are doing a nice job of developing schemes to account for extra people and our guys are doing a good job of looking at the defenses that they have been thrown up against," coach Brad Childress said.
"I just think you see guys playing together and the offensive line and tight ends playing very well off of each other and working with their combinations — at some point a running back has to make an extra guy miss. We're basically telling them who the unblocked player is going to be."
A part of the success is due to an offensive line that seems to have come together since Anthony Herrera
replaced Artis Hicks
at right guard.
Herrera took over the starting job in Week 6. Since that time the Vikings have rushed for 311 yards against Chicago; 131 yards against Dallas; 105 yards against Philadelphia; 378 yards against San Diego; 86 against Green Bay; and 228 yards against Oakland.
That comes out to an average of 207.5 yards per game. In the four games that Hicks started, the Vikings ran for an average of 135.0 yards.
QB Tarvaris Jackson returned to start his sixth game of the season Sunday against Oakland. Jackson completed 17 of 22 passes for 171 yards with an interception and no touchdowns. The Vikings want Jackson to start the final six games of the season because the team needs to determine whether he is its quarterback of the future. Jackson has missed time this season because of a strained groin, a broken finger and a concussion.
QB Brooks Bollinger served as the backup Sunday one game after getting his first start in the Vikings' 34-0 loss to Green Bay. Kelly Holcomb continues to recover from a neck injury suffered on Oct. 28 against Philadelphia.
RB Adrian Peterson continued rehabbing from a partially torn lateral collateral ligament by running on an underwater treadmill Monday. If all goes according to plan, he could be running on land as early as Wednesday. There is still no set timetable for when Peterson might return.
RB Chester Taylor took over for Peterson against Oakland and rushed for 164 yards on 22 carries and a career-high three touchdowns. Taylor, who rushed for 1,216 yards last season, had his first 100-yard game of the season. He also finished just five yards short of the single-game career high he set last October against Seattle.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe had two receptions for 94 yards against the Raiders, a season-high for a Vikings pass-catcher. Shiancoe opened the game by catching a 79-yard pass from receiver Sidney Rice that put the ball at the Raiders 10 — Shiancoe was hit with 5-yard delay of game penalty for spiking the ball — and set up an early touchdown run by Taylor. The veteran should have plenty of motivation Sunday playing his former team, the New York Giants. Shiancoe signed with the Vikings as a free agent during the offseason.
WR Bobby Wade had a team-high five receptions for 45 yards against the Raiders but also had one of the Vikings' five turnovers. Wade's came after a 5-yard reception in the first quarter and was one of four fumbles the Vikings lost on the day. Wade leads the Vikings with 31 receptions this season.
WR Troy Williamson had a season-high three receptions for 34 yards, including a nice catch of a 15-yarder from Rice that helped set up the Vikings' touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Williamson also ran the ball once for 26 yards. The Vikings continue to use him as their primary kickoff returner.
WR Sidney Rice completed two passes and also caught two passes for 18 yards. Rice, a high school quarterback, hit Shiancoe with a 79-yarder on the first play from scrimmage against the Raiders. Rice's second pass, one that went to Williamson, came with a linebacker bearing down on him. Rice's first pass was the longest thrown by a non-quarterback in Vikings history.
CB Antoine Winfield played the first half against Oakland after missing two games because of a hamstring injury but was held out for the second half after aggravating the problem. Winfield said he expects to be able to play Sunday against the New York Giants.
CB Marcus McCauley played the left corner in place of Winfield in the second half. The rookie had started the previous two games and could be in line for more time Sunday at Giants Stadium depending on how Winfield progresses this week.
NT Pat Williams was one reason the Vikings rebounded so strongly after a horrible showing in Green Bay. Williams not only provided the team with plenty of verbal motivation during the week but he backed it up by recording a team-high nine tackles against the Raiders.