NFL Nation: Marcus Sherels

MINNEAPOLIS -- Of the many young players on the Minnesota Vikings' roster who earned playing time and performance bonuses from the NFL for their work last season, right guard Brandon Fusco topped the list.

Fusco earned an extra $237,060.74 for his work last season, giving him the biggest share of the Vikings' $3.46 million total distribution, according to figures released by the NFL management council. The total amount is negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, and while every player gets at least a small bonus, the system is designed to reward low-salaried players who see the most playing time.

For a team like the Vikings, that meant a number of players saw big boosts to their paycheck; Fusco made just $594,167 last season, and he started 15 games.

See the NFL's full list of performance-based pay distributions here.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly after they finished a deal with former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to add another cornerback to their roster. According to a league source, the Vikings were finalizing a deal on Thursday night with former San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox, who could add some depth to their group of defensive backs next season.

Cox
The 6-foot-1 Cox began last season as a starter for the Chargers, but lost his starting job for good after he was benched three times in four weeks last November. Cox gave up three catches and a touchdown on three targets last Nov. 24 against Kansas City, and didn't play a significant role after that. Still, he had been a serviceable player in 2012, and intercepted four passes that season for the Jaguars. He'd give the Vikings another big corner, and he'd represent a low-risk gamble by the Vikings on the ability of coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to get something out of Cox.

He might also represent another closed door for a return by Chris Cook to the Vikings. The four-year player's future seemed uncertain after a conversation with Zimmer last week, and though Zimmer mentioned his ability to improve players who have a history of underachieving, like Cook does, the Vikings' order of business might tell the story better than anything else. They signed Munnerlyn and Cox on the same day Cook was scheduled to visit the San Francisco 49ers, and the Vikings now have eight cornerbacks signed for next season.

Of those eight -- Munnerlyn, Cox, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples and Kip Edwards -- only a handful might make the team, but the Vikings could also take another cornerback high in the draft. Those players might occupy whatever real estate and cap space was remaining for Cook to make a return to Minnesota.
GriffenAP Photo/Jim MoneEverson Griffen's new contract could be followed by several more big moves by the Vikings.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings retained another one of their free agents on Sunday, giving defensive lineman Everson Griffen a whopping $42.5 million over the next five years, including $20 million guaranteed, according to a league source.

Now what?

In the past five months, they have signed Brian Robison and Griffen to contract extensions, committing a combined $33.15 million in guaranteed money to the players. That would seemingly set their defensive end tandem up for the next few years, with Griffen replacing Jared Allen on the line. But wait, there's more!

Once the NFL's three-day negotiating window opened on Saturday, the Vikings made it one of their first priorities to express interest in former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and put themselves in the middle of what will likely be a heated race for Johnson. The 27-year-old stood out at right end for new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, and the Vikings would have been working on Griffen's deal while calling about Johnson. But wait, there's more!

They also called about former Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who played for new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray while he was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee and who has to be feeling emboldened today after news that Sam Shields signed a four-year, $39 million deal to stay with the Green Bay Packers. While the Vikings had more than $41 million in cap space last week, they have since signed Griffen and quarterback Matt Cassel, not to mention restricted free agent cornerback Marcus Sherels. They also reportedly brought back linebacker Jasper Brinkley for his second stint with the team, and according to a league source, they will host former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit on Monday.

While the pertinent question might be, "Who can the Vikings afford?" a better one might be, "On what does it make sense for them to spend their money?"

Without having seen the full breakdowns of the new deals yet, let's assume they account for about $16 million of cap space. That would still leave the Vikings with about $25 million of room for next season, with the cap likely to go up over the next few years. Paying both Johnson and Verner would be doable, but it could also chew up another $16-20 million in cap space for 2014, meaning the Vikings wouldn't have much leeway to sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to an extension, pursue other needs like a big-bodied nose tackle, or pay their draft picks. And in the case of Johnson, there is also the question of where the Vikings would use all their toys if they signed him.

Let's say Johnson came to Minnesota, filling the right end spot he played for Zimmer in Cincinnati. If Robison stayed at left end, the Vikings would be looking to move Griffen around again. He played 60.1 percent of their defensive snaps without starting a game last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Vikings aren't giving him $20 million guaranteed to use him in a part-time role. I think it's possible they could experiment with him at linebacker -- Zimmer likes his linemen to occupy blockers and allow his linebackers to run free, which isn't that different from a 3-4 scheme and could actually utilize Griffen's talents well -- but the previous regime tried a similar experiment, and the Vikings would have to see if Griffen could hold up in pass coverage. And with cornerback being a bigger need at this point, the Vikings might be better-served using their money to ensure they get an upgrade there.

It's also worth considering what Zimmer said last week, arguing for a reasoned approach to free agency while stating his preference for something with the dependability of a Ford F-150 over the flashiness of a Maserati. To this point, all the Vikings have done -- in fact, all they have been allowed to do by NFL rules -- is retain their in-house free agents. While they have expressed interest in two of the top defensive players on the market, that hasn't cost them anything yet. They could always clear more room by restructuring the contract of 31-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway, who is to make $8.7 million next season, and the Vikings still have enough room to do some contract gymnastics and sign a couple free agents while staying well under the cap, but for a team that has gone back to a draft-and-develop philosophy after years of shelling out for free agents, it might make sense not to get too carried away.

Could the Vikings still sign both Johnson and Verner? Yes. Would they have checked in with both of them so early, knowing Griffen's deal might get done, if they didn't have a scenario where they could land them? Probably not. But the size of Griffen's deal does mean the Vikings would have some pieces to fit in place if they were to get aggressive on the open market, particularly at defensive end.

All-NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
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NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 The Vikings had five players named to the All-NFC North team, which was the second fewest in the division. Of those, only running back Adrian Peterson is headed to the Pro Bowl (though kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson probably would have earned a spot if the NFL hadn't curtailed kickoffs from the game).

Other than Patterson -- who is a rookie -- and Brian Robison, it's tough to say that any of the selections played better in 2013 than they did in 2012. Offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt round out the Vikings' representation.

Even if several players got spots because they were the best options in a mediocre division, the Vikings' group of all-division players did provide highlights. Patterson was the best kick returner in the NFL, leading the league with a 32.4-yard return average and becoming the only player in the league to return two kicks for touchdowns. Peterson finished fifth in the NFL with 1,266 rushing yards, despite carrying only 18 times in the final four games and missing two with groin and foot injuries. And Robison had the best year of his career, finishing with nine sacks and ending the year second in the NFL with 81 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

It's tough to find too many snubs on the Vikings roster. The biggest one might be punt returner Marcus Sherels, who surged at the end of the season and finished third in the NFL with a 15.2-yard return average. Sherels, though, was up against a strong field; every punt returner in the NFC North had a touchdown this season.

 

Vikings inactives: Rhodes out

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Hello from the late, great Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which sees its final NFL game today as the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions finish their seasons (and possibly the tenures of their respective coaches). We'll have plenty more on that later, but from a competitive perspective, today's game will be missing a few things.

Both the Vikings and Lions are out of the playoff chase, both will be missing their star players (Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson) and both will be missing at least two of their top five cornerbacks. For the Vikings, that means rookie Xavier Rhodes will be out with a sprained ankle. Rhodes had been listed as questionable for the game after working out late last week, but he evidently wasn't able to go today. Chris Cook, Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels will be the Vikings' top three corners today. Not having to defend Johnson will make things easier, but the Lions showed in September they can gash the Vikings' defense with Reggie Bush, too.

Josh Freeman, of course, ends his season on the inactive list, which could bring his bizarre tenure in Minnesota to a close. Freeman has only been active as a backup quarterback since his "Monday Night Football" debacle in October, and it seems unlikely he'll be in the Vikings' plans going forward, unless a new coach would have some strong ties to him.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:

Vikings: Xavier Rhodes practices again

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In addition to getting Adrian Peterson back on the practice field, the Vikings saw cornerback Xavier Rhodes practice for the second time this week on Thursday, giving coach Leslie Frazier hope the rookie could play in the season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Rhodes
Before he missed the Vikings' past two games with a sprained ankle, Rhodes had been turning into one of the Vikings' best cover corners, and the team especially suffered without him in Cincinnati last weekend, when Chris Cook gave up two touchdown passes in a 42-14 loss. If the Vikings were to get Rhodes back on the field, it could help them against Calvin Johnson and give them one more chance to see the rookie against top competition this year. Cook has typically covered Johnson in Vikings-Lions matchups, but if Rhodes is healthy enough to start, he could see time lined up against Johnson.

The Vikings are also trying to get cornerback Shaun Prater back from a sprained ankle, and coach Leslie Frazier said his starters would depend on "how healthy they are."

"They should all be out there tomorrow," Frazier said. "We'll figure out how healthy they all actually are."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart looks like a long shot to play Sunday; Gerhart was not on the practice field again on Thursday with a strained hamstring.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
Leslie FrazierAP Photo/Tom UhlmanA 42-14 loss to the Bengals didn't help Leslie Frazier's case to remain the Vikings' head coach.
CINCINNATI -- The Minnesota Vikings had just finished their 10th and most lopsided loss of the season, falling by four touchdowns to the Cincinnati Bengals at a time when such a shot could prove fatal to the chances of coach Leslie Frazier keeping his job. Running back Adrian Peterson -- who had said on Friday he looked forward to playing for Frazier "for the rest of my career," was even more pointed in his support of Frazier on Sunday.

After the season, Peterson said, he planned to communicate that support directly to ownership.

"I'm definitely not an individual that's looking for dramatic change. It would hurt if he leaves," Peterson said. "I try to say what I think, but there's a time and place for everything. With the season getting wrapped up, that time is coming. I'm going to give my input, see what they have to say and we'll go from there."

By that time, it might be too late for Peterson or anyone else looking to stump for Frazier. The Vikings need wins more than words to make that case, and instead of following up a blowout of the Philadelphia Eagles with another win over a playoff contender on Sunday, they got steamrolled, 42-14, by the Bengals in a game that guaranteed Frazier will have more seasons with double-digit losses (two) than double-digit wins (one) to his name as the Vikings' coach.

The loss, as much as anything, highlighted the glaring deficiencies on the Vikings' roster. Frazier can do little about his quarterback situation, where the inconsistent Matt Cassel has looked like the best of a weak bunch, and on Sunday, the coach's list of healthy cornerbacks included a converted safety (Robert Blanton), an undrafted free agent (Marcus Sherels), two practice-squad additions (Shaun Prater and Robert Steeples) and former second-round pick Chris Cook, who's been so unreliable that the Vikings were rotating him with Prater and Sherels on Sunday. That situation hangs more on general manager Rick Spielman than it does Frazier, but in light of how much the Vikings have apparently been doing their homework on coaching candidates, Frazier's fate might be sealed.

Citing multiple sources, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Vikings ownership has told others around the league that it is planning to make a head coaching change after this season, though one team source was adamant that nothing has been decided yet. Vikings ownership has told others that it believes it presides over an attractive opportunity, one that will have another premium draft pick, along with the promise of a new stadium coming. The Vikings already have been doing their due diligence on potential replacements for Frazier, and their wish list is said to include Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, among others.

I'd heard rumblings of candidates putting out feelers for the Vikings job as early as November, when the team was 1-7, and in reality, Frazier was in a tough spot last January, when ownership decided not to offer him a contract extension after a 10-6 season, choosing instead to pick up his 2014 option and effectively forcing him to repeat a season where the Vikings enjoyed a soft schedule, good fortune with injuries and the singular brilliance of Peterson during his 2,097-yard march on Eric Dickerson's record.

The odds of doing that were slim when the Vikings had so much uncertainty at possibly the two most important positions in the NFL -- quarterback and cornerback -- and while Peterson insisted after the loss that the Bengals weren't better than the Vikings, Frazier almost sounded at a loss for what he could do with his young secondary racked by injuries and not only Peterson, but backup Toby Gerhart trying to play through injuries.

"It's been tough, now. I'm not going to sit here and sugarcoat that," Frazier said. "Where we are in the secondary, and where we were today, having to get [running back] Joe Banyard up with Toby going down [after re-injuring his hamstring on the Vikings' first series], we tried our best to maximize the roster. ... The good thing about Joe Banyard, about Shaun, all those guys is, they're playing as hard as they can and giving you everything they have. But some of those matchups can be difficult, for sure."

Frazier said this week he was just making a "general comment" in a Sirius XM Radio interview when he praised the Rooney family for their patience with the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaches, but it's hard to believe he wasn't uttering the remarks without an eye toward his own situation. His status looked as bleak as ever on Sunday, when his players could only offer statements of support while the results pushed Frazier to the brink.

"We'll have some internal discussions, but I've got one more game in this season," Frazier said. "I'm looking forward to hopefully coaching that final game and getting us a win at Mall of America Field as we close out the [Metrodome]. That's where my focus will be."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings won't have cornerback Xavier Rhodes on Sunday in Cincinnati; the rookie will miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle, meaning the Vikings' depleted secondary, which controlled Philadelphia's prolific offense last week, will have to try to do it again to Bengals receiver A.J. Green.

Cornerback Chris Cook should be back from a knee injury that kept him out last week, but Rhodes has been the Vikings' best cover corner in recent weeks, and Cook has struggled at times this season when put on an island against top receivers like Chicago's Alshon Jeffery. Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels will likely be the corners the Vikings rely on most, other than Cook, and safety Robert Blanton could again see time at cornerback, though he got beat for two touchdowns last week against the Eagles.

Tight end John Carlson is doubtful to play after having recurring post-concussion symptoms this week; coach Leslie Frazier said he hasn't talked with Carlson yet about the possibility of finishing the season on injured reserve, but considering there is only a week left in the season and Carlson has sustained three concussions in the NFL, the Vikings could think about shutting him down for the season.

"We just have to decide what is better for him and what is best for the club and see where he is when we come back and talk again tomorrow and see if he is better," Frazier said.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

  • Out: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle).
  • Doubtful: Tight end John Carlson (concussion).
  • Questionable: Running back Adrian Peterson (groin/foot), running back Matt Asiata (ankle).
  • Probable: All others.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not practice on Thursday, getting treatment on his sprained right foot, but coach Leslie Frazier said he still expects Peterson to play on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Peterson
Peterson
Peterson did some limited work in practice on Wednesday, which was his earliest practice of the week in more than a month, but Frazier thought it best to hold Peterson out for precautionary reasons on Thursday.

"We just thought it'd be wise to give him a day inside with our training staff, to work through some of the kinks from yesterday's practice," Frazier said. "Unless something comes up tomorrow that I don't foresee, he should be ready to go on Sunday."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart, who joined Peterson on the Vikings' inactive list last Sunday with a strained right hamstring, should be ready to go on Sunday. The same, however, might not be true for tight end John Carlson or defensive back Xavier Rhodes.

Both missed practice on Thursday -- Carlson wasn't feeling well after sitting out last Sunday with a concussion, and will have to clear some aspects of the NFL concussion protocol before he can practice again. Rhodes, meanwhile, is still unable to practice with a sprained ankle, and if neither one is able to practice on Friday, it seems unlikely either would play Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the Minnesota Vikings got back on the practice field, they had an unusual participant: Adrian Peterson took part in a Wednesday practice for the first time since Nov. 13, working in a limited role as he tries to come back from a sprained right foot in time for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Peterson
Peterson
The Vikings also had running back Toby Gerhart, who missed Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a strained right hamstring, as a limited participant, and coach Leslie Frazier seemed optimistic about both playing on Sunday. Peterson has been missing practice time because of a groin injury, which isn't completely healed yet, but after he was unable to do more than light work last week and missed Sunday's game, Peterson will likely get more work in the middle of the week than he has recently.

"If he's healthy, we'd like for him to get some work," Frazier said. "We think that helps with the timing and helps the offensive line as well."

Frazier also said tight end John Carlson has cleared NFL concussion protocol; Carlson practiced Wednesday, and seems likely to play Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were taking part in light drills in the portion of Friday's Minnesota Vikings practice open to the media, but it was too soon to tell if either would be able to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Peterson
Peterson
Coach Leslie Frazier said this week that the Vikings wanted to see if Peterson, who suffered a mid-foot sprain on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, could run and cut effectively on his injured right foot. He was more optimistic about Gerhart being able to play with a strained hamstring, saying the Vikings just "need to see him burst a little bit." Depending on how they looked, Frazier said the Vikings could possibly wait until Sunday before declaring Peterson or Gerhart out.

It appears the Vikings won't have cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who wasn't practicing because of a sprained ankle on Friday. Nor will they have tight end John Carlson, who didn't have a helmet and hasn't been cleared to return from a concussion. That will mean the Vikings' only tight ends are Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford, and at cornerback, they'll be down to Chris Cook, Marcus Sherels and Shaun Prater, in addition to safety Robert Blanton, who could see some time at slot cornerback once again. Safety Harrison Smith looks on track to return from turf toe and be activated from injured reserve, but the Vikings aren't sure how many snaps they'll be able to give him after a two-month layoff.

We should know something more definitive on Peterson and Gerhart within the hour, when Frazier speaks to reporters.

W2W4: Vikings-Ravens

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As we close out the week and get you ready for the Minnesota Vikings-Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday, I've got a few items left in the notebook to pass along. This post will serve as a place to discuss a handful of odds and ends. Here we go:

Cole looking set at MLB: If the fact the Vikings moved Erin Henderson back to weak-side linebacker didn't clear it up, the fact the Vikings plan to make Audie Cole, and not Henderson, their middle linebacker in the nickel package should suggest the plan to make Cole the middle linebacker isn't a passing fancy. Coach Leslie Frazier said Henderson took to his old outside linebacker spot "like riding a bike," and as well as Cole has played in pass coverage the past two weeks, there's probably no reason to switch anything up there. Henderson admitted the move hurt his pride, but he seems to be accepting it for now. Given what Frazier said this week about Henderson not being the Vikings' preferred plan at middle linebacker, it's safe to assume he could stay outside if Cole keeps showing he can handle the middle.

Special teams could be pivotal: The Ravens and Vikings both have dynamic return men who could affect Sunday's game; Baltimore kick returner Jacoby Jones has a 26.5-yard return average this season, and punt returner Tandon Doss is averaging 15.6 yards per return, with an 82-yard touchdown to his credit. The Vikings, of course, have three TDs between kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson (two) and punt returner Marcus Sherels (one). "Their kickoff return guy, Jones, he's impressive," Frazier said. "Of course, our guy is special as well. Whether it be a turnover or kick return or punt return, it could turn this game for sure."

Preparing for Pitta: Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta is hopeful he'll make his season debut on Sunday after dislocating his hip in July, and if he does, the Vikings will have another element of the Ravens' offense to think about. They've been burned by several tight ends this year, giving up at least 60 yards to an opposing tight end in six games, but Cole's presence could help there. If Pitta plays -- which coach John Harbaugh wouldn't divulge on Friday -- the Vikings will be in for a test. "He’s a pretty tough matchup for linebackers and sometimes even safeties," Frazier said. "He’s almost a wide receiver in a lot of ways and it seems like he’s one of those guys that their quarterback looks for often. So he presents some challenges for your defense for sure."

Wet weather possible: Aside from rain in Week 2 in Chicago, the Vikings haven't had to deal with much inclement weather the past few seasons. That could change on Sunday, with the game-time forecast calling for a mix of rain and snow. And as we mentioned earlier this week, the Vikings are just 1-6-1 since 2006 when game-time temperatures are 40 or below, according to ESPN Stats & Information. "The guys will figure it out. We'll go play, regardless of the elements," Frazier said. "Depending on how bad the conditions are, it'll determine how much you're throwing the ball and how much you're running the ball. We'll see when we get out there in pregame."

Cassel vs. Ravens: Even though he'd spent his entire career in the AFC before this season, Matt Cassel had only started one game against the Ravens -- and he probably doesn't have many good memories about it. He completed nine of his 15 passes for 92 yards and two interceptions last year, being knocked out with a head injury and missing the Kansas City Chiefs' next game after they lost 9-6 to the Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. The Ravens' defense looks quite a bit different than the one Cassel faced last year, but he'll look to solve Baltimore's scheme on Sunday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the first time since 2009, the Minnesota Vikings left Lambeau Field on Sunday evening with something other than a loss. But to get from where they were early in the fourth quarter -- sitting with a 23-7 lead, a running game that was battering the Green Bay Packers' defense and an opponent who gained just 40 yards in the third period -- to a 26-26 tie, the Vikings had to face many of the same defensive issues they've had all season.

They let Matt Flynn throw for 119 yards in the fourth quarter after he replaced Scott Tolzien on Sunday, and gave up another 53 rushing yards as the Packers stormed back to score 16 points and force overtime. The Vikings allowed 13 first downs in the quarter -- even though the Packers went 1-of-5 on third downs -- and handed Green Bay another 43 yards in penalties. And on offense, the Vikings could manage just two first downs, once again failing to run the clock out on a trailing opponent

That meltdown didn't lead to the Vikings fourth come-from-ahead loss of the year, thanks to the Packers' failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and their inability to punch the ball in from the Vikings' 2 in overtime. But even if the final result wasn't the same as many of the Vikings' defeats, some of the symptoms were.

"It's a weird outcome," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "It feels more like a loss in this locker room. I feel like the way things went in that fourth quarter -- opportunity to get off the field, and we get a penalty -- it's kind of the same, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot things we've done all year."

Of chief concern was probably the 35-yard pass interference penalty Marcus Sherels committed on James Jones to set up the Packers' first touchdown, followed by defensive end Jared Allen's illegal-use-of-hands infraction on third-and-10 from the Vikings' 15. The Packers were a yard short of a first down before Allen's penalty, which gave Green Bay a new set of downs at Minnesota's three, and Eddie Lacy scored on the next play.

And then, on the Packers' final drive, defensive end Everson Griffen jumped offside, giving Flynn a free play and setting up the jump ball he threw to Jones, who beat Sherels for 28 yards. The issues continued in overtime, when Robert Blanton's holding penalty nullified Greenway's sack and extended a Packers drive that ended in Mason Crosby's field goal.

"It ends up obviously being a big play in the game," Greenway said. "You want to sit here and point blame at Blanton, it's just a tough situation. Those situations we were putting our DBs in today, it was a lot of man coverage, and challenging those guys. You're going to have some of that when you're doing that."

The offense wasn't without blame, either.

When the Vikings got the ball back after the Packers' second touchdown with 3:30 left, they had their fourth chance of the year to run the clock out and seal a victory. For the fourth time, they couldn't do it.

Ponder said a fumbled snap on 2nd-and-8 was due to a miscommunication in the exchange between him and center John Sullivan, adding, "It seems like late in games, we have these mess-ups that cost us games." Ponder lost three yards after recovering the ball, and was sacked on third-and-11 before the Vikings punted.

And with a chance to win the game in overtime, Cordarrelle Patterson couldn't corral Ponder's throw to the back of the end zone after Davon House tipped it slightly. Patterson said he lost focus on the ball for a second, and Ponder said, "That's something we've got to convert on to win a game."

If any one of several plays had gone differently, the Vikings might have put their division rivals' playoff chances to bed. As it was, they headed for home trying to process a strange result.

"At the end of the day, they made a few more plays than we did to get back in the game," defensive back Chris Cook said. "That's the way football goes sometimes."

Vikings: Robinson has broken sternum

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' string of injuries in their secondary continued on Sunday; cornerback Josh Robinson will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a fractured sternum, coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday.

Robinson
Frazier wasn't exactly sure when Robinson got injured on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, but it's possible that the second-year cornerback could miss the rest of the season. Rookie Xavier Rhodes will likely take Robinson's left cornerback spot in the base defense, with Marcus Sherels taking over for Robinson as the slot cornerback in the nickel.

Robinson has probably been the most-maligned cornerback on the Vikings' roster this season, though he's been far from the only problem with the secondary in the league's worst-scoring defense. He had started to improve in the last several weeks, but Pro Football Focus still has him ranked as the worst slot cornerback in the league.

Frazier also confirmed that center John Sullivan sustained a concussion on Sunday, and will have to go through the NFL's testing protocol before he can return to action.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings continue to insist Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks isn't solely about them facing Percy Harvin, their former teammate who looks like he could come back from a hip injury just in time to settle old scores with the Vikings. And in a technical sense, they're right.

For the Vikings, the Seahawks present matchup problems that extend far beyond Harvin; they'll play their second straight game against a quarterback (Russell Wilson) who can make plays with his feet, run the read-option and confuse defenses. A run defense that has been shredded for 409 yards in its past three games will have to contain Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, and assuming Christian Ponder starts at quarterback, he'll face one of the league's best defenses at the site of one of his worst games in the NFL.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Vikings aren't sure what to expect from their former receiver, Percy Harvin, who is expected to be in Seattle's lineup on Sunday.
But the potential return of Harvin adds another element to the matchup, especially given the likelihood the receiver isn't regarding this as just another game. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he and Harvin left on good terms, adding he texted the receiver to wish him well after the Vikings traded Harvin to Seattle in March, but it was tough to disguise the tension that existed between the mercurial receiver and the team after several confrontations, including one in Seattle last year where Harvin screamed at Frazier on the sidelines.

"If that's what he wants to do, that's what he wants to do," defensive end Brian Robison said of Harvin putting extra emphasis on the game. "I know Percy is the type of guy that's going to play hard no matter who he's playing, and it will mean a little more to him, but the bottom line is in our minds, our defense has to get after their offense."

The Vikings also have no idea how the Seahawks will use Harvin, since he hasn't played a game with the team yet. Wilson said in a conference call on Wednesday that he's not going to change his reads to force the ball to Harvin, but the Vikings know as well as anyone how versatile the receiver can be, whether he's getting the ball on kickoff returns, out of the backfield or lined up wide.

And if he's in the slot, he could find a favorable matchup against Josh Robinson, whom Pro Football Focus rates as the worst slot cornerback in the league this season. Robinson has improved there lately, and Marcus Sherels could also help him out, but a healthy Harvin represents as tough a potential matchup as the Vikings could see in a slot receiver.

"He's a tough guy. He's strong and also very fast, elusive," Robinson said. "He's a guy that has a lot of talent, one of the best I ever faced. I look forward to the challenge."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll still isn't confirming Harvin will play, but a three-word tweet from Harvin -- "It's go time" -- might have betrayed the Seahawks' intentions on Tuesday afternoon. If he's back, he's certainly going to give the Vikings plenty to think about.

"You really don't (know what he'll do) because he's coming off an injury," Frazier siad. "You don't know how far along he is, so it's hard to say. We did so many diffent things with him -- will they try to do some of those things? It's really hard to say."

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