Vikings dress to impress: Beat Pack T-shirt

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer isn't afraid to bring a little swagger into the biggest Vikings-Green Bay Packers showdown since 2009, when Brett Favre joined the Vikings with the intent to stick it to his former General Manager Ted Thompson.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer isn't afraid to bring a little swagger into the biggest Vikings-Green Bay Packers showdown since 2009, when Brett Favre joined the Vikings with the intent to stick it to his former General Manager Ted Thompson.

On Monday, a day after the Vikings took a one-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North, Zimmer's players strutted through the locker room with black t-shirts that had the NFC logo and the word "North" on the front and the words "Beat the Packers!" on the back.

So who was behind the t-shirt idea?

"Me," Zimmer said.

After a few unrelated questions, Zimmer was asked what prompted him to pass out the t-shirts.


"I don't know," he said. "We're making way too big a deal out of it. It's just a t-shirt. A t-shirt. You can go down to the store and print them up. It's not a big deal."

The Vikings and Packers will meet for the first time this season when Green Bay visits TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. The Vikings are 7-2, 4-0 at home and winners of five straight overall for the first time since Favre and the Vikings opened the 2009 season 6-0 en route to winning the division.

The Packers, meanwhile, are 6-3 and going the other direction, having lost three straight, including Sunday's embarrassing 18-16 home lost to a Lions team sporting the league's worst record.

"I think our players will know this is a big game," said Zimmer, whose team beat the Raiders 30-14 in Oakland on Sunday. "I don't think I'll have to pull out any magic wands or anything like that. I think they'll understand. But, to me, it's all about preparation. How you prepare. Make sure you focus. Like I told the team today, 'One day, one week, one game.' That's all we worry about."

Of course, this is the first game for which the head coach has had t-shirts made.

"Just walked in this morning and saw it, so it's a nice shirt," said nose tackle Linval Joseph. "This is a big week. Green Bay is a very good team."




-- Once again, Adrian Peterson is reminding people that it's not a good idea to shoehorn him into a box based on averages of those who came before him.

In 2012, he wasn't supposed to be the same back because he was coming off a torn ACL. He won league MVP honors with 2,097 yards rushing.

This year, he was supposed to act his age, 30, and, besides, he missed all but one game last year, so perhaps there was a rust factor.

Well, with 26 carries for 203 yards on Sunday in Oakland, Peterson tied O.J. Simpson for the NFL record for most 200-yard games (six). Peterson leads the NFL with 961 yards and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry with five touchdowns, including an 80-yard explosion in the closing minutes of Sunday's 30-14 win.

"I would say I just have the feeling of being more agile," Peterson said. "There's more explosiveness, I feel quicker - my vision, just my whole vibe, I get into a rhythm. It's become on a different level here in the last three weeks."

Peterson has three straight games of at least 100 yards and four straight with at least 98.

-- An uncharacteristically awful dropped pass by tight end Kyle Rudolph loomed over Sunday's game from late in the first quarter until the Vikings finally regained a two-possession lead late in the fourth quarter.

Rudolph was wide open on second-and-goal from the Raiders' 2-yard line. Teddy Bridgewater threw him the ball. It hit Rudolph's hands and fell to the ground. The Vikings had to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.


The Raiders eventually led 14-13 and then trailed 20-14 in what became a close battle until the closing minutes.

"That's easily the worst play in the history of my career; without a doubt," Rudolph said. "I just got too excited, closed my hands too soon and dropped the easiest catch of my life."

Rudolph ended up with one catch - a 7-yarder for a first down on the field goal drive that gave the Vikings their two-possession lead late in the game - and was part of the tight end group that blocked very well as the Vikings ran for 263 yards.

"I think that was the best game we've ever played as tight ends as far as run blocking," Rudolph said. "Unfortunately, I ruined the whole day with the terrible drop."



--LB Eric Kendricks missed his second straight game because of injured ribs. He was replaced by 10-year veteran Chad Greenway, who had never started a game at middle linebacker. Technically, Greenway started at middle linebacker in the nickel defense, a position he had played for years before the Vikings drafted Kendricks in the second round this year. Greenway hadn't played in the middle in the 4-3 base defense until getting one snap there two weeks ago and then playing every snap there a week ago. Brandon Watts, promoted from the practice squad recently, stepped in at Greenway's outside spot.

--LB Anthony Barr played with a pad on his left hand, which is believed to be broken. He had a cast on it last week. Coach Mike Zimmer praised Barr for "sucking it up" and playing with the injury, but admitted Barr played a bit "one-handed." After the game, Barr needed teammate Chad Greenway to zip his coat for him because he couldn't use his hand. Bar finished with six tackles.


--NT Linval Joseph tied for the team lead in tackles for the second straight week. He had seven, including a 10-yard sack in which he leveled Derek Carr after Carr had narrowly escaped DE Danielle Hunter.

--CB Terence Newman had his first two interceptions as a Viking. The 37-year-old now has more career picks (39) than birthday candles.

--TE Rhett Ellison had an 11-yard touchdown reception, the third TD of his career and the first on the season. The Raiders lost track of Ellison, normally a blocker, near the goal line. Ellison was wide open while defenders scurried to defend fellow tight end Kyle Rudolph and running back Jerick McKinnon.



-- PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus. Teddy Bridgewater threw for only 140 yards, but the Vikings are now 5-0 in games in which he has thrown for fewer than 200 yards. Bridgewater had a 96.8 passer rating, not turnovers and would have had two touchdowns if tight end Kyle Rudolph hadn't dropped a 2-yard pass while wide open in the end zone. The Vikings tried to throw the ball down the field, but struggled with protection and getting fewer receivers open while using max protection schemes. Stefon Diggs' 46 yards receiving was the team lead and included a 37-yarder off a slant on the drive that led to a field goal and a two-possession game late in the fourth quarter. Bridgewater did do a nice job of throwing the ball away and scrambling to get the Vikings out of about 10 plays that could have produced horrendous results.

-- RUSHING OFFENSE: A. Adrian Peterson was having a solid game until breaking off an 80-yard touchdown run to make it a great game in the closing seconds. He topped 200 yards (203) for the sixth time in his career, tying the NFL mark set by O.J. Simpson. Overall, the Vikings ran for 263 yards on 33 carries (8.0). Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater juked two guys and stiff-armed a third guy on an 18-yard run on third-and-long.

-- PASS DEFENSE: B-minus. Terence Newman had two interceptions that led to 10 points. His first pick as a Viking led to a field goal and a 10-0 lead. His second pick came in the end zone and snuffed out the Raiders' last-ditch efforts to come back. Peterson went 80 yards for a touchdown on the next snap. Newman also had five passes defensed, including one that nearly was his third pick. The Vikings, however, had several breakdowns and poorly executed concepts that left their worst defensive back, Andrew Sendejo alone deep on some long balls. Sendejo gave up catches of 38 yards and 34 yards for a touchdown.


-- RUN DEFENSE: A-minus. The Raiders ran the ball only 19 times, gaining 84 yards (4.4). No player ran for more than 48 yards, while 12 of the yards came on scrambles by Derek Carr. The Raiders did have three runs of 10 or more yards.

-- SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Cordarrelle Patterson's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown off a squib kick erased two missed field goals, including a blocked 39-yarder. It was Patterson's first kickoff return in 33 games, going back to his All-Pro rookie season. Blair Walsh made his first two field goal attempts, running his streak to 17 straight, before pushing a 53-yarder wide right and then having the 39-yarder blocked. He did come back with a 34-yarder to give the Vikings a two-possession lead late in the fourth quarter. Another highlight was a 50-yard net punt that helped the Vikings maintain favorable field position while protecting a six-point lead in the third quarter. Punter Jeff Locke had a 52-yard punt and Marcus Sherels dropped the returner for a 2-yard game. Sherels should get as much attention for his work as a gunner as he does for being one of the league's better punt returners. The Raiders returned two punts for a total of 2 yards.

-- COACHING: A. The Vikings have won five straight overall and three straight on the road. They're finding ways to win, playing extraordinary complimentary football and taking on Zimmer's tough, gritty personality. Defensively, the Vikings wobbled a little in pass coverage, but made some adjustments at halftime, blitzing less and playing more coverage while holding the Raiders scoreless in the second half. Offensively, coordinator Norv Turner's commitment to the run was steady while he tried to throw the ball farther down the field, using some max protection schemes that the team hasn't used much this year. It was a nice mix, even if the passing results weren't what the team had hoped for. As for special teams, the Vikings scored their league-high 10th special teams touchdown since special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was hired in 2011.

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