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Monday Morning Mailbag: A Crucial Stretch Ahead

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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Great win for the Vikings this week to hold the lead in the NFC North. What do you think was the biggest factor for Adrian Peterson's big rushing game against the number one rushing defense in Atlanta? -- Michael L. Dickinson, ND

The commitment to the running game was the biggest factor to Peterson's big day. Mike Zimmer said in his postgame press conference that the Vikings decided during the week they would be committed to giving Peterson the ball and to running the football. They honored that commitment. Peterson had 29 carries and was targeted 4 times with 2 receptions in the passing game. Peterson touched the ball twice in four snaps on the first drive of the game and then he had 6 touches for 28 yards and the TD on the Vikings first scoring drive. In the 4th quarter, Peterson had 10 carries for 73 yards, including the 35-yard TD, and another reception for 11 yards. Peterson made plays and the blocking in front of him was really good for the most part, but the biggest factor was the commitment the Vikings showed to getting their best player the football early and often.

Great win! How would you rate the work of our safeties – Robert Blanton and Antone Exum, Jr.? Could any of them challenge Andrew Sendejo for a starting spot? -- Louis Michel

First off, Zimmer and his defensive staff deserve a lot of credit for the game plan they put together considering one of their best players wasn't available in the game and then the other starting safety left the game in the early stages. The adjustments they made to compensate for those losses were outstanding.

As for Blanton and Exum, Jr., I'm sure not every snap was perfect. But it's hard to imagine either of them receiving anything short of good marks for their performance on Sunday. In his first career start, Exum recorded a fumble recovery and was credited with 3 tackles, one of which was for a loss. He also seemed to be around the ball a lot. Blanton was thrust into action when Sendejo was injured, and he was credited with a team-high 9 tackles and also had a pass breakup. From my standpoint, those two did a great job stepping in when the team needed them. As for challenging Sendejo for a starting spot, that is something they have the opportunity to do every day in practice and in every opportunity they get during games.

Great to get a win but this team won't win a playoff game because they can't score pts through the air. I'm happy but nervous. -- Mark Mayo @BoomBoomMEM

It's not bad to blend in some caution with your optimism. But I don't think the passing game is getting enough credit following the win over Atlanta. The numbers aren't gaudy, but the passing game was efficient and, quite frankly, a vital component to the win. Teddy Bridgewater was 11 of 14 for 103 yards on the Vikings four scoring drives, including 5 of 7 for 67 yards on the first scoring drive of the game that resulted in Peterson's 1-yard TD plunge. Those numbers don't include the three pass interference/defensive holding penalties for 44 yards drawn by the passing game and the drive where Bridgewater went 6 of 8 for 30 yards to setup Blair Walsh for a FG attempt right before halftime. When you run the ball 39 times for 191 yards and 2 TDs, the passing numbers just aren't going to be gaudy. But that doesn't mean the passing game isn't performing well and it certainly doesn't mean it's not a key to success.

Would you say these next two games – at home against Seattle and then at Arizona on a short week on Thursday Night Football – are going to be the Vikings biggest test of the season? -- Kris Utah

There's no question playing two physical teams such as Seattle and Arizona within four days is a huge challenge. But the Vikings have had big-time challenges already and they've overcome them. Winning four straight road games, including back-to-back road games within the division, is a big-time accomplishment. Not losing consecutive games once so far this season is a big accomplishment. Neutralizing Matt Ryan and Julio Jones without Harrison Smith and getting by for two games without Eric Kendricks was a challenge. There are a lot of good teams and there are no easy games, so teams face a lot of challenges every week. The next two weeks for the Vikings are no exception and the games will have significant playoff implications, as well. It will make for an exciting two weeks, no doubt.

With Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn coming from Seattle, could today have given the Vikings a glimpse at what they'll face next week against the Seahawks? -- James Pringle @StuffedGreen

Yes, I do think there will be some rules and principles the Vikings defense can carry with them from last week's preparation for Atlanta to this week's prep for Seattle. But I also think Seattle does a lot more with its defensive front than Atlanta and I also think Seattle is ahead of Atlanta when it comes to talent on defense. That's not a knock on Atlanta because Quinn is in his first season and he's building a good program that will only get better, but Seattle is further along obviously and they are a battle-tested and championship-worthy outfit.

Pittsburgh lost to Seattle, but they showed us how susceptible the Seahawks were to the long ball! If it wasn't for a couple of Pittsburgh mistakes, the outcome could have been different. I do applaud the aggressive approach that Mike Tomlin took as he attacked the defence! Do you think we can capitalize on this apparent weakness and take another victory? -- John Stephens St Albert, Alberta

Taking what previous opponents have done to your next opponent and applying that to your preparation for the week is an important aspect of game planning, but so is staying within your own universe of strengths to figure out how to attack the upcoming opponent. The coaching staff will have to blend what the Vikings already do well every week with what previous opponents have done well against Seattle that the Vikings may not do often in order to devise a game plan to attack Seattle. It should be a great matchup to watch.

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