Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm.

–Minnesota can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday with a win at Detroit coupled with a loss or tie from the Philadelphia Eagles (home against Houston) and a loss by the Washington Redskins (at Tennessee).

–Running back Dalvin Cook was named the NFC offensive player of the week after rushing for a career-best 136 yards in last week’s win against Miami. Cook had multiple touchdowns for the first time in his career with rushing touchdowns of 13 and 21 yards. He added one reception on a screen for 27 yards. He had a season-high 19 carries and the second-most all-purpose yards of his career. He surpassed 100 yards rushing for just the second time in his career and the first since his regular-season debut. Cook’s had two of his three best rushing outputs of the season over the past three weeks. It’s the third player of the week honor for the Vikings this season following safety Harrison Smith in Week 1 and defensive end Danielle Hunter in Week 9 against the Lions.

–Defensive end Everson Griffen was named the team’s 2018 Ed Block Courage award recipient on Wednesday. It’s the first time Griffen has been recognized with the honor in his career. Griffen went through a much-publicized issue during the season where he missed five weeks to deal with his mental health. One of the team’s defensive leaders, he’s returned to his starting spot and has started the past six games. He has 4.5 sacks this season.

“It’s been a rough year for me, but I’m still here,” Griffen said. “I’m still standing. That’s the main thing. I’m here to fight. I’m a fighter, so that’s all that matters.”

–Four Vikings players were named to the Pro Bowl this week. Linebacker Anthony Barr was named to the team for the fourth straight season. Hunter, who is tied for second in the league with 14.5 sacks, was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his fourth season. Smith, a first-team All-Pro last season, is now a four-time Pro Bowl player. Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who is second in the NFL with 105 catches, was named to the team for the second straight season.

–Cornerback Mackensie Alexander had his fourth sack of the season last week against Miami, setting a new Vikings record for sacks in a season by a defensive back. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer joked about his third-year nickel back this week, noting Alexander’s sack on Sunday came when he was unblocked. “Somebody told me he set a record or something,” Zimmer said. “If you don’t get blocked he should have an asterisk by that name.” But Zimmer did note how Alexander is more mature this season. “He’s grown up a lot,” Zimmer said. “He spends a lot of time studying now, a lot of time with Terence (Newman) and George (Edwards) and Jerry (Gray) and really he’s been playing really well.”

–Zimmer said the team challenged punt returner Marcus Sherels to be more aggressive in his returns and Sherels responded with a season-long, 70-yard return in which he nearly scored. “Yeah, that’s important all of the time,” Zimmer said of Sherels’ ball security. “He’s done a really good job with that, I think since I’ve been here there’s been one fumble or something (like that). We kind of challenged him a little bit this last week with being more aggressive. In Seattle the ball bounced one time, there was another time when I thought he could have returned it that he fair caught. This time he was much better, and I thought we blocked better on the edges too.”

BY THE NUMBERS: 47 – The number of sacks this season for Minnesota’s defense, led by Danielle Hunter’s 14.5. The total leads the NFL this season and is the most for any Vikings team since Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014.