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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Vikings hope they’ve got a better grip on ‘Houdini’ Russell Wilson

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Not many get a second shot at Russell Wilson.

Not in terms of games, unless you’re in the NFC West or the playoffs, nor when he’s scrambling around and making defenders miss on any given play. The Vikings (11-5) will face Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks for the second time in five weeks on Sunday, and hope they’ll have a better grip than the last meeting at TCF Bank Stadium.

“I think guys got a better understanding of how to defend him,” linebacker Anthony Barr said. “Obviously it’s still a great challenge and very difficult, but I think guys are starting to understand. You’re not going to be able to keep him in the pocket on every play. But when he does, you have to stay on your coverage and hopefully force him to make a bad decision. I think we’ve gotten better as the last couple games progressed.”

Wilson broke contain and scrambled nine times for 51 yards in the Vikings’ 38-7 loss to Seattle last month. The game was forgettable, but the lessons learned. Outside of a running threat, Wilson has developed into a stellar pocket passer who threw for 19 touchdowns to no interceptions in a five-game stretch this season.

“He’s throwing the deep ball pretty well lately,” Barr said. “He’s been one of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL in the second half of the season. It’s been pretty ridiculous what he’s able to do. Now we get to face them again when they’re hot and rolling.”

The Dec. 6 loss was also coach Mike Zimmer’s first time facing Wilson, preseason or regular season.

“I’ve learned he’s really, really good,” Zimmer said. “He throws the deep ball great. He’s extremely accurate on the quick throws. He gets the ball out fast, he sees things, he’s an unbelievable scrambler. There were times when we had him and two guys couldn’t get him. He’s like Houdini. That’s a quote for you.”

A main difference now is the Vikings are healthy on defense, as they were without nose tackle Linval Joseph and safety Andrew Sendejo in the previous loss to Seattle. They’d also lost Barr and safety Harrison Smith to re-aggravated injuries in the first quarter.

And they’re coming off a successful outing against Aaron Rodgers, who is also a threat on the move. The Vikings mixed up their pass-rushing tactics in last weekend’s win at Lambeau, sending blitzes of five or six defenders. Then they’d change the pace and only rush three, using defensive ends Everson Griffen or Brian Robison to spy the quarterback.

But Wilson’s agility differs from many, if not all, quarterbacks in the league. He has been sacked 46 times this season, once more than Teddy Bridgewater, though only one of those sacks came against the Vikings last month.

They’re working to put themselves in a better position. Then the hard part comes.

“He makes some moves that you watch it on tape, he makes guys look silly a lot,” Robison said. “You just have to be one of those guys that is clued in on where he’s moving, where he wants to escape. A lot of that comes from watching film and a lot of it comes from getting around him and when you have to take your shot, hoping he’s there when you get there.”

Seeking a fast start

In the last meeting with the Seahawks, the Vikings trailed 21-0 at halftime, which makes it difficult for any play caller to stick with a running game. Adrian Peterson had just eight carries for 18 yards, and the offense was shutout for the first time in over two years.

Heading into Sunday’s wild-card bout with Seattle, they’re focused on a fast start so they can lean on the 2015 NFL rushing champion. An early lead, Peterson and tough defense is the formula that helped the Vikings reach 11 wins and a NFC North title.

“When we play one-dimensional that way, we kind of get behind the 8-ball,” guard Brandon Fusco said. “Got to get a lead with these guys and wear them out in the run game. And go from there.”

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater struggled to find his groove last week in Green Bay, and took a step back after a three-game surge to end December.

“I can’t get too greedy,” Bridgewater said. “I have to be patient with this defense and that’s something that we understand.”

‘More than redemption’

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said this week he was hoping they’d get a rematch with Seattle to end their bid for a third-consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Floyd and the Vikings are playing for more than that, Barr said, as they look to establish their postseason pedigree in the NFC.

“I think it’s more than redemption at this point,” Barr said. “We just want to keep going. We don’t want it to end Sunday. We’re fighting for more, something bigger than ourselves.”

More than a handful of Vikings remain from their last playoff appearance in 2012, and safety Harrison Smith said he’s learned how fleeting these opportunities can be.

“Then, I was a rookie, so I thought that’s what you did every year, you just go to the playoffs,” Smith said. “That should be your mindset, but I kind of took it for granted. Still, it’s not our ultimate goal, but it’s our first stepping stone.”

Bundle up

The Vikings added a few amenities for fans to stay warm while attending Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium.

To counter an expected freeze that may not reach above 0 degrees, they’ll be handing out free hand warmers at entry gates and free coffee at a ‘Fan Zone,’ located on Oak Street outside the stadium.

“We know Minnesotans are resilient when it comes to cold weather and unified when it comes to the Vikings, so we view this Sunday’s game as a rallying moment,” co-owner Mark Wilf said in a statement. “At the same time, we want our fans to be smart and safe when they are supporting the team, and we are taking a few extra steps to assist in that effort this Sunday.”

The University of Minnesota will also open the nearby Mariucci Arena as a heated, indoor space for fans to congregate before the game. Those doors will open at 9 a.m.

Injury report

Fullback Zach Line (illness) returned to practice on Thursday, leaving just running back Adrian Peterson (low back) and nose tackle Kenrick Ellis (ankle) on the sideline.

Peterson will play Sunday, and it’s looking that way for nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) as he practiced for the second straight day. Joseph was listed as limited in Thursday’s practice. He has missed four of the last five games with a lingering toe injury.

“I think he’ll be good to go,” Zimmer said of Joseph.

Defensive end Everson Griffen (shoulder) was also limited in practice. Receiver Adam Thielen (shoulder/low back) was a full participant.

The post Notebook: Vikings hope they’ve got a better grip on ‘Houdini’ Russell Wilson appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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