The week of practice is over and the Vikings are nearly set for their contest against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings-Broncos matchup in Week 4.
Denver is really good at home
The Vikings took care of business the past two weeks, defending their home field against the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers to move to 2-1. The Broncos will look to defend their home field for the first time since Week 1 and move to 4-0 in the process. Denver has been very good at home, particularly with Peyton Manning at QB. Since signing Manning heading into the 2012 season, the Broncos at 23-2 in regular season home games. A big part of this week's challenge for the Vikings will be neutralizing what is one of the loudest crowds/stadiums in the NFL – something that can be done with a punishing ground game and a few clutch 3rd down conversions.
The Vikings signed another former Gopher
The Vikings opened the week with two former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, but they will close the week of practice with three former Gophers. S Brock Vereen was waived by the Chicago Bears early in the week and the Vikings signed him to the Practice Squad on Thursday. Vereen was a standout at the University of Minnesota, where he played four seasons and was named First-Team All-Big 10 as a senior. The Bears used a fourth-round pick on him in 2014 but decided to part ways after little more than one season.
Everyone thinks Matt Kalil is playing well
You haven't seen Matt Kalil's name in the press clippings much this season. When it comes to offensive linemen, not seeing their names in press clippings is a good thing. If that isn't enough to convince you the Vikings LT is off to a good start, take note that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has given Kalil a thumps-up type of response In each of the last two weeks and now QB Teddy Bridgewater has gotten in on the Kalil praise.
"Matt [Kalil], he understands Coach Zimmer's mindset and Coach Zimmer's message. Coach Zimmer wants to be a tough, physical football team. Matt is doing that right now," Bridgewater said. "I remember a play that we pitched to Adrian [Peterson] on Sunday, and Matt was out front, he got the third level to block the safety, that's what you love to see from those guys. He comes in, he works extremely hard, he doesn't say much, he's always positive. Those are the type of guys we want on this team."
Kalil's biggest test of the season so far will come on Sunday when he goes up against likely future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware, who has a sack in every game this season.
Peyton Manning thinks Harrison Smith has good cover skills
There has been a lot of praise for Broncos QB Peyton Manning coming from Vikings camp this week. But Manning has been returning the pleasantries, too. One individual who was complimented by the 14-time Pro Bowl and seven-time first-team All-Pro QB was S Harrison Smith.
Manning said Smith "seems to be the guy that's kind of the quarterback of the defense, kind of gets them lined up so they give him a lot of responsibility," before adding, "He's a big guy, great size, has got really great cover skills," Manning said. "It's why they're not afraid to put him out there and let him cover by himself."
The Vikings front four and pass rush as a whole has received the lion's share of attention and credit in the aftermath of each of the team's last two wins. But Smith has been playing well, too. Zimmer was complementary of Smith this week, explaining on his weekly radio show – Xs and Os with Mike Zimmer – that Smith does a lot things well that go unnoticed but that lead to wins. Zimmer cited a tackle for loss on an end around during the first series of the second half in last week's game against the Chargers as well as a stop against the Lions on a two-point conversion that essentially iced the victory.