Minnesota Vikings: Mike Zimmer

Greenway hopeful he'll play Sunday

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway returned to practice Friday after missing Wednesday's and Thursday's practices with a broken left hand.

While coach Mike Zimmer was playing it coy about Greenway's status for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, the linebacker sounded hopeful he'll be able to play.

"I felt good [in practice]," Greenway said. "It was good to practice and get some [work]."

Greenway has never missed a game in his career, starting 113 of 114 games since the Vikings drafted him in 2007. He played much of last season with a broken right wrist.

"I'm experienced, I think," he said, when asked Friday what it's like to play with an injured hand. He wouldn't discuss what kind of cast he would wear on Sunday if he's on the field but didn't seem to think the injury was something that would need to keep him off the field.

"[I need to] not let that be anything, other than we need to get out there and play," he said. "It's never going to be an excuse. Go play football, and just make it work."

Asked about Greenway's status for Sunday, Zimmer simply said, "We'll see."

Greenway was officially declared questionable for the game, as was linebacker Brandon Watts (knee) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring). Tight end Kyle Rudolph (abdomen), wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (chest), tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin) and linebacker Michael Mauti (foot) are all probable.
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The Cleveland Browns, in the view of Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, used some different looks against New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to "kind of get him out of the ball game" in a 26-24 win over New Orleans last weekend.

"They changed the leverage up on him, they doubled him some, they did some different things coverage-wise," Edwards said. "You’ve got to kind of pick and choose what it is you’re going to do and what you’re trying to take away. They move him around a lot in the formations; you’ll see him out at No. 1, flexed out as a receiver. They move him around a lot. The biggest thing is, what you’re doing within the coverages to try and take away what he’s trying to do coverage-wise."

Granted, Graham caught 10 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in the game, but his first catch didn't come until three minutes before halftime. The way Graham is playing right now, that probably has to be counted as progress.

The 6-foot-7 tight end has a league-high 18 catches in his first two games for 200 yards and a touchdown, and dealing with him might be the biggest assignment the Vikings face this weekend. As Edwards said, the Saints move Graham around enough that covering him will be a group effort; he caught three passes and a touchdown against Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, and also was matched up with Cleveland's linebackers and safeties. If the Vikings are without linebacker Chad Greenway because of a broken hand on Sunday, they could put linebacker Gerald Hodges (who started his college career as a safety) in Greenway's place, and Harrison Smith might spend more time in coverage than up near the line of scrimmage. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes could also draw some time against Graham. Whatever the Vikings do, controlling Graham won't be a one-man job.

"All these guys, they're going to get some catches at some point in the ballgame, no matter how much you preach," coach Mike Zimmer said. "You can't double-cover a guy every single play, for the most part, because now you can't play the running game, and they had 150 yards rushing (against Cleveland). You have to pick your spots with all of these guys. He's like a wide receiver -- he's just taller. A guy with height is always a matchup problem, especially if he can run and jump like this guy can."

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer still sounded optimistic on Thursday he'd have Chad Greenway on the field this Sunday in New Orleans, despite Greenway's broken left hand. But the Vikings have injuries to several starters to track on the other side of the ball.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was added to Thursday's injury report after being limited in practice with a chest injury, and tight end Kyle Rudolph was again limited in practice with an abdominal injury. Right tackle Phil Loadholt was a limited participant with an ankle injury for the second straight day, though Zimmer thought Loadholt would be ready to go for Sunday's game.

"He'll be fine," Zimmer said. "He's tough."

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) returned to full participation on Thursday, while defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was a limited participant after missing Wednesday's practice. Linebacker Brandon Watts also worked in a limited capacity for the second consecutive day, after returning from a knee injury.

"He's got great speed," Zimmer said of Watts. "He's a young, developing player that I think has a great future in this league. He's got some coverage ability and it's hard to find linebackers with coverage ability nowadays, the way the league is."

Linebacker Michael Mauti was a full participant with a foot injury for the second straight day, and could be in line to make his regular-season debut on Sunday. If Greenway is unable to go, Mauti or Gerald Hodges might start in his place at weakside linebacker, but Zimmer said he thinks Greenway is improving.

"He feels a lot better today," Zimmer said. "He didn't practice, but he feels a lot better. He was running around pretty good, so we'll see how he does tomorrow."
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When the Minnesota Vikings travel south to face the New Orleans Saints this weekend, the game will have a bit of a family reunion feel for Mike Zimmer and his son Adam.

Mike Zimmer was on the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff for three seasons with New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who served as the Cowboys' assistant coach under Bill Parcells when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator. When Payton became the Saints' head coach in 2006, he hired Adam Zimmer -- now the Vikings' linebackers coach -- as an assistant coach. Adam Zimmer worked for Payton during his first four seasons in New Orleans, winning a Super Bowl with the Saints in 2009.

"I would consider him a very close friend, but that being said," Payton said in a conference call with Twin Cities reporters. "He's someone I've known for a long time; obviously, we spent three years together in Dallas. I had a chance to hire his son Adam; he worked with us here, was part of our Super Bowl team, and I know Adam's there doing a great job. Their whole family, we've had a great relationship for quite a while. I'm thrilled that he's got this opportunity. I think he's a great choice for the Vikings. I'm biased, obviously, but you look at his history, the defenses and winning programs he's been a part of, it's much deserved. Already on film, you can see the impact he's having."

Payton said he hasn't had a chance to talk with Zimmer about the Adrian Peterson situation yet, but said he had no doubt the coach would handle it well. "Whenever you're a head coach, you try to eliminate distractions, but yet, they come," Payton said. "That being said, he'll handle this in a great manner. His demeanor is such that I'm sure he'll get the focus on football for the players who are going to be playing in this game. That's a strong suit of Mike's."

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Zimmer: Chad Greenway has broken hand

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We'll attempt to squeeze in some football news on a day where most of the news surrounding the Minnesota Vikings is of a different nature. Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that linebacker Chad Greenway broke his hand Sunday against the New England Patriots, though Zimmer is hoping Greenway will be able to play Sunday in New Orleans.

Zimmer added that right tackle Phil Loadholt is not practicing Wednesday because of an ankle injury,

Zimmer said he thought Greenway broke his hand early in Sunday's game against the Patriots; Greenway received medical attention in the first quarter but finished the game. Zimmer wasn't sure to what extent the injury will affect Greenway's tackling, a year after the linebacker played much of the season with a broken wrist.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd should be ready to play after dealing with a shoulder injury last week, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes -- who was questionable last week with a groin injury -- will be fine for Sunday's game against the Saints as well.
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When the Vikings return to practice on Wednesday to get ready for the New Orleans Saints, their work sessions will once again have a familiar sound: Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer barking orders and offering the occasional dollop of praise to his charges.

Priefer returned to work on Monday after the Vikings shortened his suspension from three games to two for making a homophobic remark during the 2012 season. The coach went through sensitivity training during the first week of the season, and the Vikings determined he'd completed the training satisfactorily enough to bring him back a week earlier.

"I think it’s good," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "I’m proud that Mike did the things that he had to do. I’m proud that we didn’t ruin a guy’s career because he made a mistake. I’m glad that we were able to stand by him. I appreciate all his hard work and the things that he has done during these two weeks, we’re glad to have him back."

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Stepping to the podium for his Monday press conference after a testy back-and-forth between general manager Rick Spielman and more than 50 reporters, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer probably felt a bit unsure about the scene he was inheriting.

Zimmer would normally be answering questions about the Vikings' 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots -- a game in which quarterback Matt Cassel threw four interceptions and the Vikings had a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown -- but after Spielman spent 11 minutes explaining, and then defending, the Vikings' decision to reinstate running back Adrian Peterson following his indictment for injuring his son, the coach sounded like he was almost pining to be grilled about the game.

"How about those Patriots yesterday?" Zimmer said after the fifth Peterson-related question he fielded.

Zimmer said ownership made the final call to bring Peterson back, and his comments on the decision suggested his role in the process was minimal -- "I don’t know how much input I had, to be honest with you," he said. But the coach sounded adamant that he wasn't going to let the Peterson situation sour his first, and possibly only, opportunity to be a head coach.

"My dream is still to take this football team and this organization to where we want to go," Zimmer said. "I can’t let the so called, 'distractions' or the things like this that we are dealing with today affect my focus and my trying to get this football team better. I’ve worked an awful long time to try to get to this position where I have to opportunity to do the things that we have to opportunity to do. I’m going to keep trying to do my very best."

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Rhodes trying to learn from tough day

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes was listed as questionable heading into Sunday's game after trying to return from a groin injury, and it's hard to believe that fact wasn't stored away in New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's mind as he took the field. Brady targeted the second-year corner on six of his 22 pass attempts, according to Pro Football Focus, with four of those throws coming while Rhodes was matched up with Julian Edelman.

Rhodes said his groin wasn't bothering him on Sunday, but for the day, Rhodes gave up four catches for 67 yards, and was flagged three times for penalties; twice for pass interference and once more on an illegal contact penalty that was declined. Two of those penalties came against Edelman.

Rhodes' experience in press coverage helped get him into the first round of the 2013 draft, and he's getting asked to play tighter on receivers in coach Mike Zimmer's system than he was in the Vikings' former scheme, which often had Rhodes playing off receivers in zone coverage last year. Penalties will occasionally be part of the cost of doing business that way, but Rhodes is still trying to find the line between playing receivers physically and interfering with them.

"There is a very fine line between the pass interference and covering a guy close," Zimmer said. "The thing that he did yesterday on most all of those situations, we talk a lot around here about having contested catches and making sure the guys in there. Sometimes, you’re going to get those things. Obviously, we don’t want penalties defensively. The good thing is, if you want to take a positive out of that, we were pretty darn close to the receivers on all of these situations, now we have to keep perfecting the technique of not only being in the right place and contesting catches but not committing a foul."



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The game film greeting Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer in his return from a two-game suspension probably won't make for much of a welcome-back gift. In the Vikings' final game before they reinstated Priefer -- whose suspension for making a homophobic remark was shortened from three games to two after he completed sensitivity training -- their special-teams units had a couple of unseemly moments.

At the end of the first half of a 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had a 48-yard field goal attempt blocked and returned 58 yards for a touchdown by Chandler Jones. Later, the Patriots' fourth-down trickery -- leaving their offense on the field to go for it before hurrying their punt unit onto the field -- caught the Vikings off guard and led to them covering a punt with nine players.

"It wasn't too good," coach Mike Zimmer said.

Walsh said he didn't change his trajectory on the field goal attempt at all, because the wind was at his back and didn't require him to hit the kick any lower than usual. "With the wind behind you, you just throw the ball up there and let it go in," Walsh said. "That’s what I was doing in pregame. I have to watch the tape, but it was close."

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Two days after the Minnesota Vikings made the decision to deactivate Adrian Peterson for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, those players who would speak about Peterson largely supported the 2012 NFL MVP while doing their best to downplay the effect his absence had in a 30-7 loss on Sunday.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson gave possibly the most insightful response when asked about the identity of the Vikings' offense without Peterson. "We've got to get the mindset that (No.) 28 probably ain't going to be here with us," Patterson said, "so we have to come in and do what we do best."

That could be the reality facing the Vikings in at least the near future as the team decides what to do with Peterson after he was indicted on one count of injury to a child in Montgomery County, Texas on Friday. Peterson was booked in the Montgomery County jail early on Saturday morning after a grand jury found he used an unreasonable amount of force in disciplining his son earlier this year. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio on Sunday that the Vikings would determine Peterson's status after the weekend, adding that "all options are on the table." A league source told Paolantonio the Vikings could make a decision as soon as Monday following a meeting with ownership on Sunday night.

Running back Matt Asiata, who filled in for Peterson on Sunday, said he heard from Peterson before Sunday's game, telling him to "just go out and play hard," Asiata said. "We've got his back, and we miss him."

Fullback Jerome Felton also said he sent Peterson a text message before Sunday's game; "Adrian is a teammate and a friend -- sent him a little message, but we’ve got to focus on getting better this week," Felton said. "We talked, but I'll keep all of that between us."

Quarterback Matt Cassel said he was "shocked" to hear the news, "probably just like everybody else," but added the Vikings didn't change their game plan because of Peterson's absence.

"It’s Adrian Peterson. He’s definitely an impact player without a doubt," Cassel said. "At the same time, I don’t think we can use that as an excuse for why we performed the way we did today. The great example was last year, when we lost him for the Philadelphia game, and the team went out and performed well and we won the game without him. That happens sometimes, whether it’s through injury or unfortunate circumstances; you’re going to lose players and you have to learn how to close ranks and move forward.”

Coach Mike Zimmer largely declined to discuss Peterson, saying he would address the situation "Monday or whenever we have the press conference," and bristled at the idea that finding out the news about Peterson on Friday affected the Vikings.

"No, it didn’t affect the team," Zimmer said. "You know what affected the team? Throwing interceptions, getting a field goal blocked, not tackling well enough, having penalties on defense. That’s what affected the team. The team was fine.”
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings were driving late in the first half of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots with an opportunity to score before halftime and pull within a touchdown or a field goal. Matt Cassel dropped back on third-and-16 and found Cordarrelle Patterson inside the Patriots' 10, running a corner route between their cornerback and safety.

It was a perfect call to beat the Patriots' coverage, and a connection with Patterson would have put the Vikings on the doorstep of a touchdown with 30 seconds and a timeout remaining. But Cassel's throw led Patterson too close to the sideline and the receiver wasn't able to get both of his feet in bounds. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones blocked the Vikings' ensuing field goal attempt and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 24-7.

"I had to put it outside away from the safety," Cassel said. "It was a split safety, and over the corner's head. I threw it where I wanted to, and unfortunately we weren't able to complete it in bounds."

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMatt Cassel's four interceptions were too much to overcome.
Throws like those can extend drives and prevent the 10- or 14-point swing that effectively took the Vikings out of Sunday's game. They can help Cassel bounce back from the interceptions he threw on Sunday, and in the long run, they can help reinforce his hold on the starting quarterback job. But if Cassel can't make them, he might not be able to shake the notion that he has the job only until Teddy Bridgewater is ready.

Cassel will start for the Vikings in New Orleans next week after going 19 of 36 for 202 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions on Sunday, and in reality, the Vikings' decisions at quarterback should -- and probably do -- revolve more around determining the right course of action for Bridgewater than any short-term ramifications. But the Vikings' attempt to get to 2-0 turned sour on a poor performance from Cassel, and with it, the quarterback missed a chance to assert himself, against his former team and without Adrian Peterson by his side to command some of the defense's attention.

"I'm not going to make excuses and say that just because Adrian Peterson wasn't playing today is the reason why we faltered," Cassel said. "There are a number of different reasons, and I will take full responsibility. I've got to take better care of the ball and not give short fields against a good team, and maybe the circumstances will be different."

Chief among Cassel's concerns might be his struggles on shots down the field, which are a key component of offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme and led to three of his interceptions on Sunday. He was 0-of-8 on throws that traveled more than 10 yards in the air, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and is just 1-of-11 with three interceptions on throws that covered 10 or more air yards this season. Cassel is the first quarterback since 2006 to start in both Week 1 and 2 without completing more than one pass 10 or more yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

There were more parties responsible for the Vikings' offensive shortcomings on Sunday than just Cassel. Tight end Kyle Rudolph dropped three passes, wide receiver Greg Jennings had a drop, and the Vikings gave up six sacks.

"Matt's been in this league 10 years," Rudolph said. "He's a professional; he's ready to get back to work. You know, it's not all on Matt by any means. We put ourselves in a lot of really tough situations."

Many teams do, and the good ones have quarterbacks who can get them out of those situations. Most of Cassel's opportunities to do that on Sunday fell by the wayside.

"Today was one game in a 16-game season," Cassel said. "Of course, at times would I have liked to change some outcomes and circumstances? Of course. I think any quarterback in the league would tell you that at times."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Even if Mike Zimmer isn't assuming he can recreate the game plan he used to contain the New England Patriots' offense last season -- or at least isn't saying that -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick expects he knows what's coming on Sunday.

Zimmer's scheme in the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-6 win against the Patriots last Oct. 6 was so effective, Belichick said on Friday "I wouldn’t be surprised if they Xeroxed the same game plan.

"We couldn’t do much: 1-for-13 on third down, six points, whatever it was," Belichick told New England reporters on Friday. "They did a good job. Yeah, we’re certainly prepared for that, if they just do the same thing they did last year. It wouldn’t shock me at all, until we show we can do something about it. We didn’t do much last year."

In the Bengals' win against the Patriots last season, Zimmer blitzed Tom Brady on 12 of his 41 dropbacks, or 29.3 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That was the fifth-highest blitz percentage the Bengals' defense had in any game last season, and Cincinnati's defense sacked Brady three times on those blitzes. Brady's QBR when he was blitzed in the Bengals game was 2.2.

The Vikings only blitzed Rams quarterbacks eight times last week, and as we discussed this week, the Miami Dolphins did some of their best work against Brady when they didn't blitz him last week. It will depend in part on how effectively the Vikings can generate pressure against the Patriots' suspect offensive line, and how reliably their young secondary can cover receivers if Brady tries to spread them out. That, to me, is one of the bigger keys to this game, and will probably dictate in some sense how aggressive the Vikings can be with their blitz package.

Belichick, though, expects he'll see much of what the Bengals did last season.

"(There's) a lot of carryover (from Cincinnati)," Belichick said. "They do a good job keeping you off balance. I’d say that’s one of their real strengths is they give you a bunch of, not so much different looks but different combinations off similar looks. ... You have to figure it out after the snap. Your receivers and your quarterback and your line sometimes have to make post-snap adjustments."

Said Zimmer: "That was a completely different team. They didn't have (Rob) Gronkowski last year. I don't know. All I know is, he's going for win number 200. I'm going for win number two."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The prospect of cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd playing in the Minnesota Vikings' home opener on Sunday appears to be improving.

Coach Mike Zimmer said on Thursday afternoon that there is a "good chance" that Rhodes (who is nursing a groin injury) and Floyd (who has a shoulder injury) could be ready for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Rhodes said on Thursday that he is feeling better than he did early in the week, and he was on the field with his helmet during the portion of Vikings practice open to reporters on Thursday.

"He was alright," Zimmer said. "We're just getting him in some (drills)."

Floyd did not practice on Thursday, but Zimmer said there was a possibility he would be able to do at least some work in the game on Sunday. If Floyd isn't available, Tom Johnson would likely start at tackle for the Vikings.

"We'll know more tomorrow and the next day," Zimmer said.

Linebacker Michael Mauti (foot), fullback Zach Line (ankle), tackle Mike Harris (shoulder) and guard Charlie Johnson (ankle) were again limited for the Vikings, and cornerback Jabari Price was a full participant with a hamstring injury.

Also, Adrian Peterson did not participate in practice after going through warm-ups with the team during the open portion, but the Vikings say his absence was not injury-related.

Patriots vs. Vikings preview

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
Update: The Vikings have deactivated Adrian Peterson for Sunday’s game following Friday's indictment by a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.

The Minnesota Vikings are coming off their biggest road win in five seasons, while the New England Patriots are trying to avoid an 0-2 start after a 13-point defeat on the road last week. Just like everyone predicted, right?

In a matchup that pits Patriots coach Bill Belichick against a couple of his old foes from the AFC -- Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner -- the Vikings will try to build on their surprising start in their home opener at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. Zimmer's game plan in Cincinnati last year forced Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into his worst game of the season, and Zimmer will hope to recreate the performance with a Vikings defense that isn't as experienced as what he had with the Bengals.

ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss discuss this week's matchup.

Ben Goessling: Mike, the Vikings sacked Rams quarterbacks five times Sunday. After a pretty poor week for the Patriots' offensive line against the Dolphins -- a team whose defensive coordinator is a disciple of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer -- do you think protecting Brady is going to be a lingering issue this week?

Mike Reiss: Yes, Ben, there is no doubt about that. One thing I believe should help the Patriots is that while the Vikings' defensive line is solid, I don't believe it is at the same level as Miami's. Specifically, the Patriots won't be seeing the same type of speed rush from Cameron Wake off the defensive left side, which they just couldn't handle. There's only a few like Wake in the NFL. The Patriots are still figuring out their best combination up front, and that will be one of the most closely watched storylines from a New England perspective. One thing I'm sure Patriots followers would be interested to hear is how Matt Cassel, the New England backup from 2005-08, is performing.

Goessling: So far, Cassel has been solid, though he didn't have to take many chances in the Vikings' win against the Rams last week. He only attempted three passes of more than 10 yards, and he was able to hit a number of screen passes to running backs, receivers and even tight end Rhett Ellison. But Cassel hit Greg Jennings on a nice post play and threw a couple of touchdown passes off play-action. The hope is Cassel can be solid enough to keep the Vikings relevant and give them more time to develop Teddy Bridgewater; ultimately, he is the future of this team, but for now, Cassel is buying the Vikings time before they turn things over to Bridgewater. And if they're able to win enough games with Cassel, who knows? He could turn out to be the starter all season.

Belichick will get to face one of his old foes from the AFC in Turner on Sunday; how have the Patriots typically matched up against Turner teams, and how do you expect their defense will handle the Vikings on Sunday, after the Vikings showed off a number of weapons last week against the Rams?

Reiss: When the Patriots have faced a Turner-coordinated offense, Belichick has touched on the vertical nature of the passing game. He also said earlier this week that, "You have to be able to stop the running game and stop '12 personnel' [1 back, 2 tight ends]." The Patriots' biggest issues in the opener were poor fits in the run game (191 yards allowed). I wouldn't be surprised if we see Darrelle Revis shadow Cordarrelle Patterson after Revis almost exclusively played the left side in the opener.

In last year's draft, the Patriots traded the No. 29 pick to Minnesota for Patterson and received second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks in return. The Patriots turned those picks into linebacker Jamie Collins, cornerback Logan Ryan, receiver Josh Boyce and used the seventh to trade for running back LeGarrette Blount (now in Pittsburgh). One year later, how do you assess that deal from a Minnesota perspective?

Goessling: I can't imagine the Vikings have any regrets about it. As much as they could have used some of those picks to address their defensive depth issues, they've got a budding star in Patterson. He's not only filled the role vacated by Percy Harvin in the Vikings' offense, he's done it without any of the questions surrounding Harvin's durability and temperament. Patterson isn't quite as strong or shifty, but he's taller, a more natural outside receiver and his ability to hit holes is as good as you'll find anywhere. He's already become a focal point in the Vikings' offense, and I imagine that will only continue. The Vikings use him in enough different ways that I think it would be hard to completely shut him down with Revis, though I'm sure Belichick will come up with something to try and fence him in.

Speaking of defensive game plans, the Bengals' defense under Zimmer had a good one to frustrate Brady last season, and Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyne (a Zimmer disciple) had success against the Patriots last week, of course. We've talked a little bit about the pass rush already, but what else did Zimmer dial up in that game to force Brady into one of his worst days of the season, and do you think he can do it again this weekend?

Reiss: The main things I remember about Zimmer's plan last season was the ability to hurry Brady with the standard four rushers early (Geno Atkins was a beast inside), and then bringing out the different blitz packages on third down and more obvious passing situations. One thing, in particular, is the double A-gap blitz right up the middle. Even if you don't bring those extra two rushers on a blitz, by showing the look, it forces the offensive line to communicate and make sure they are all seeing the same thing in terms of who is coming, who isn't and who to block. The Patriots' offensive line crumbled in the third quarter against the Dolphins last week, and I'd imagine the Vikings watched that tape and are salivating at the possibilities of frustrating Brady. At the same time, I think the Patriots are better than they showed, and we could see some personnel changes in the middle with rookie center Bryan Stork in the mix.

Defensively for the Vikings, tell us more about where and how they put stress on the opposition.

Goessling: You touched on it a little bit: The big key to it is still the creativity Zimmer shows in his blitz packages. He doesn't bring extra pressure all that often, in the grand scheme of things (he only blitzed eight times last week), but he'll show enough blitz looks, and send pass-rushers from enough different spots, that he keeps you on your toes. You'll often see him show a seven- or eight-man front, only to have several players drop back into coverage. The problem is guessing which players it will be; the Vikings have some flexibility with their personnel, like linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Harrison Smith. The Vikings' secondary depth still concerns me, and we'll see whether Brady can exploit it this week, but this Vikings' defense won't be as big of a pushover as last season's unit was.

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It's been several years since any of the principal figures in the Minnesota Vikings' passing game faced New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis. Quarterback Matt Cassel's only game against the three-time All-Pro came in 2008, when Cassel was making his first start for the Patriots, Revis was with the Jets and Brett Favre was starting the home opener for New York.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings' only matchup with the cornerback came in 2010, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Jets 9-0 in the Meadowlands, and only one member of the Vikings' offense -- running back Adrian Peterson -- started for the team in its last meeting with the Jets, in an Oct. 11, 2010 Monday night game that featured both a lightning delay and Randy Moss' first touchdown catch from Favre.

(Two mentions of Favre? On an ESPN blog? Whoda thunk it?)

Anyway, as the Vikings prepare to face the 29-year-old Revis on Sunday, they're still expecting to see one of the game's best cover corners. Revis gave up a touchdown pass in the Patriots' loss to the Miami Dolphins last week, but only allowed one other catch in five targets, according to Pro Football Focus, and remains one of the premier shutdown corners in the game.

"The thing that's always impressed me about him is, he's patient at the line," Jennings said. "He's never been a real jumpy corner, to where he goes for your first move. That eliminates a lot of getting beat, right there. A lot of corners aren't that patient.'

The Vikings move their receivers around enough that several players will likely get a chance to go up against Revis, who stayed on the left side of the field last Sunday. However much time they spend on "Revis Island," Cassel said the Vikings can't be afraid to go there.

"He’s a guy that covers down one-on-one tremendously well," Cassel said. "So you’ve always have to be conscious of where’s he at, but at the same time you can’t be afraid to take a shot if the read takes you there and that’s where you need to go with the ball. You have to be able to do that and challenge him at times as well.”

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