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Monday Morning Mailbag: Hot At The Right Time

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This was a great team win with a number of players stepping up, but who in your mind was an unsung hero on Sunday night? -- Sam Markell Minneapolis, MN

I'll give you three players – one in each phase of the game – whom it feels like to me had great nights but aren't being talked about much in the aftermath. On defense, it's Chad Greenway. He didn't have any of the INTs or sacks or tackles for loss, but he was on the field the majority of the game and he was constantly around the ball; Greenway was credited with a team-high 9 tackles. On offense, it's Rhett Ellison. He had no catches and was targeted just once, but the Vikings ran the ball 40 times for 218 yards and Ellison played a significant role as a blocker. On special teams, it's Trae Waynes. He came in as the team leader in special teams tackles and he added to that lead with two tackles against the Giants. Waynes was part of return groups that allowed just 20.2 yards per kickoff return and only 6.0 yards per punt return.

Who knew there would be an offensive explosion like that? It's all about the teams getting hot at the right time. With that being said, if we go to Green Bay and win, how far can we go in the playoffs? -- Chris Ladd

The offense scored four touchdowns and did show both efficiency and explosiveness, but let's also give credit to the defense for scoring a TD of their own and for teaming with the special teams to help give the Vikings great field position all night. The blowout victory over New York is yet another example of the Vikings winning as a team, with not one phase or individual player standing too far above the rest. It seems the Vikings have had many wins like that, and it's an endearing trait of Mike Zimmer's team. As for how far the Vikings can go in the playoffs, I don't think next week's game will dictate that. With 15 games in the books, we know what kind of team the Vikings can be. If the Vikings play next week and in the playoffs like the played Sunday night against the Giants or last week against the Bears, I think they can be as good as any other team in the playoffs. It's all about how you play on any given day.

It seemed our defense was more aggressive against the Giants. Not necessarily on blitzing, but the corners seemed to be jumping routes and it showed with the three picks. Was that something they've been trying to add by being more aggressive or just how the game played out? -- Travis Rothstein

Even though the Vikings had three takeaways on Sunday night against the Giants, I'm guessing it wasn't because Zimmer suddenly allowed his DBs to jump routes. My sense is the surge in takeaways is more the result of the entire defense playing team football, with individuals doing their jobs well in order to put teammates in positions to succeed. An example would be the first interception of the night. Xavier Rhodes was in good position and tipped Manning's pass. Rhodes didn't get the interception, but the tipped pass by Rhodes wound up in the hands of Andrew Sendejo. Earlier in the season, coach Zimmer was asked about why it is his defense ranks so high in so many statistical categories but didn't rank high in takeaways. He mentioned it could be because he doesn't promote a defensive style of play in which his players gamble for turnovers because it exposes the defense to allowing big plays.

If the Vikings win next week and lock up the NFC North, who would they play in the first round of the playoffs? -- Conor Christenson

Seattle. If the Vikings win next Sunday night, they will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC and will host the No. 6 seed. With Seattle at 9-6 and Green Bay at 10-5 entering Week 17, there's no way for Seattle to jump ahead of Green Bay because Green Bay holds the head-to-head tie breaker. Seattle would play at Minnesota and Green Bay would play at Washington. The Vikings would have a shot to avenge and early-season drubbing they took at the hands of the Seahawks, who came to TCF Bank Stadium on December 6 and won 38-7.

Can we expect Zimmer to blitz Aaron Rodgers more this week then the last time the Vikings and Packers met? -- Tanner Hadler

It's tough to say how the Vikings will attack Rodgers and Co. on Sunday night. On one hand, you don't want to pull any punches when so much is at stake and it's the last game of the season. On the other hand, you have to pick your spots against Aaron Rodgers because he's dangerous when being blitzed. I expect the Vikings to mix things up and avoid relying on any one strategy too much.

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