EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings will have somewhat of an opportunity to run it back and try to keep the Jets from rushing forward.
Minnesota defeated Carolina 31-13 Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, but defenders said they would have liked to have allowed fewer rushing yards against a Panthers team that incorporated zone read plays and designed runs by quarterback Cam Newton, who had 49 rushing yards on nine carries.
Despite trailing from start to finish, the Panthers stayed with the run Sunday, rushing 33 times for 178 yards, led by Jonathan Stewart's 12 carries for 85 yards.
It was the highest rushing total by a Vikings opponent this season, but Minnesota did limit Newton to 194 yards passing on the day.
Players said they expect an even stronger commitment to the run from the Jets (2-10), who are likely to have some zone read plays and quarterback runs by Geno Smith, when they visit the Vikings (5-7) at noon (CT) Sunday.
"That's what they do, so we're going to be tested again this week," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We really want to make them throw the football, not that they can't do it, but we just know how good they are in the run game, so if we can slow them down, it would help us."
New York rushed 49 times for 277 yards and attempted just 13 passes (seven completions for 65 yards) Monday, including five throws that occurred in the final 1:57 after visiting Miami claimed its first lead of the game.
"They're going to run the ball. We saw that on Monday night," defensive end Brian Robison said. "They're going to come in here and no matter what situation they're in, they've got backs that can run it really well, and then they've got the quarterbacks that can do the zone read stuff and do things like that. We're going to get a heavy run dose and we've got to stop them and put them in a situation where they have to throw the ball."
Chris Johnson led the way against the Dolphins with 17 carries for 105 yards, Chris Ivory had 16 attempts for 62 yards, Smith had four carries for 19 yards, and receivers combined for nine carries for 85 yards.
"They've got a good set of backs," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "Johnson can hit the home run, and Ivory can, too, so our biggest thing is staying in gaps, farming your own land and getting them down."
Ivory has 146 carries for 641 yards on the season, including a 71-yard touchdown, and Johnson has carried the ball 109 times for 505 yards with a season long of 47 and has an NFL record six touchdown runs of 80 or more yards in his career.
"Ivory is a downhill, get his shoulders turned, angry runner – he runs angry," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "Johnson is a slasher that has the breakaway speed. You have to be mindful of what guys can do when they are out there."
"MR. CONSISTENCY": Rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen filled in for a considerable part of Sunday's game against Carolina after Shariff Floyd was sidelined with a knee injury. Stephen, a seventh-round pick in this year's draft, set a career high with 10 tackles.
Zimmer said Stephen has been playing well against the run, and Robison said Stephen is ahead of some prior rookies he's seen.
"I think he's just been Mr. Consistency as a rookie for sure," Robison said. "He's been one of those guys that goes in there, and every play, you pretty much know where he's going to be at. He's going to be in his gap, do the things you ask him to do, and that's what you want to see out of a guy like that."
Stephen said Robison and Griffen have taught him lessons on reading keys, tips that give defenders information before the snap and immediately after to get a better idea of how to react. Stephen, who grew up on Long Island, N.Y., said he anticipates a challenge from Ivory and Johnson.
"They're both good running backs and I respect both of them and the way they play," Stephen said. "I think it's a big key to tackle those guys because they can get yards after contact and be explosive playmakers. It's definitely good to be able to swarm these guys and get after them."
ADDITIONAL THREAT: The Jets added former Vikings receiver and first-round pick Percy Harvin in October via a trade with the Seahawks. Harvin played Minnesota for the first time a year ago while still with Seattle and has shown to continue posing multiple offensive threats.
Harvin has 17 rushes for 96 yards and 19 receptions for 182 yards since joining the Jets.
"We'll see Percy again, so we know he'll be fired up and ready to play us," Greenway said. "The roster turns over so fast that a lot of guys didn't play with him, but I did for a number of years and know the quality of player he is and know he'll give us his best effort.
"With the ball in his hands, he's as good as anybody, as far as making people miss and getting to the end zone," Greenway added. "It's about getting the ball and finding ways to get him the ball. That's what they're doing in New York right now, and we've got to find him."
THIELEN IT: Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was named NFC Special Teams Player of Week 13 after he became the first Vikings player to return a punt for a touchdown since 1986, which was four years before he was born.
Thielen came through the middle of the line cleanly to strike down Brad Nortman's offering, then collected the ball and rose from the field in one motion. His 30-yard sprint was the longest punt return in team history for about 12 minutes of game time until it was trumped by Griffen's 43-yard touchdown return of a block by Jasper Brinkley.
Thielen is the fourth player in franchise history to block and return a punt and added two tackles on special teams. The native of Detroit Lakes who played collegiately at Minnesota State-Mankato said teammates deserved to share the designation.
"It's a whole unit together taking this one," Thielen said. "We've been working our butts off and trying to make a difference in games. Special teams is a huge part of a football game that goes unnoticed, but it's nice that our guys are showing what we can do and showing we can make a difference in the game."
PARTICIPATION: For the Vikings: Jerick McKinnon (lower back), Anthony Barr (knee), Jabari Price (hamstring), Rhett Ellison (ankle) and Floyd did not practice Wednesday. Chase Ford (hamstring/foot) was limited, and Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) participated fully.
For the Jets: Jace Amaro (concussion), Jeff Cumberland (illness), Nick Folk (right hip), Jeremy Kerley (illness), Greg Salas (hamstring), Josh Thomas (illness) an Muhammad Wilkerson (toe) did not participate Wednesday. Willie Colon (shoulder/knee) participated fully.