Drew Brees (Crystal LoGiudice/USP)
The Saints might be the second-best team in the NFC, but there are a couple of vulnerabilities. Plus, notes on cornerback Chris Cook’s status, the coaching staff, Adrian Peterson and more.
While all the hype will deservedly be on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ top-rated offense and passing game when they enter Mall of America Field on Sunday, there could be some opportunities for the Vikings offense and defense.
The Saints defense is ranked 27th overall and 30th against the pass, a fact that isn’t lost on rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, despite his recent struggles.
“We know that we’re going to need big plays to win the game. We’ve had some games where we’ve had a lot of big plays and we’ve had a few games where we haven’t, and we know that big plays can change the momentum and win the ball game,” Ponder said. “We want to go out there and we’ve seen some things on film that we want to capitalize on. It’s just about execution, we need to make sure we execute.”
In about seven full games of action, Ponder has produced 23 passing plays of 20 yards or more. By comparison, Drew Brees has 55 pass of 20 yards or longer in 13 games. Of those, 17 have gone to TE Jimmy Graham, who is the second-leading receiver in the NFL with 80 catches for 1,101 yards.
Like the Vikings, the Saints haven’t created a lot of turnovers, at least through interceptions, this year. While the Vikings are tied for last in the NFL with six interceptions, the Saints are right there with them with seven. Of course, with the interceptions Ponder has been throwing lately, the Saint’s lack of interceptions is also a good sign. Ponder has thrown five in his last two games and 11 in the seven games he has started.
Brees has thrown 11 interceptions over his 13 starts this year, but he has shown more of a propensity for those on the road. At the Superdome, he has 20 touchdowns and three interceptions. On the road, he is still pretty good, throwing 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions, but there is clearly a tendency toward throwing more road interceptions, averaging more than one a game away from New Olreans.
All three of the Saints' losses this year have been on the road.
THE SHUTDOWN CORNERBACK
It’s hardly unexpected news, given the felony domestic assault charges he is facing, but Chris Cook’s season with the Vikings is likely over, head coach Leslie Frazier said Thursday.
Cooked was arrested on Oct. 22 after getting in a fight with his girlfriend. He was suspended for two games without pay, but the Vikings reinstated him to the active roster and he hasn’t played or practiced since.
“From all indications, he’s handling things the way he needs to handle them in a proper way,” Frazier said. “… I’m hoping that things go in the right direction for his personal life. That’s where his focus needs to be, not us and what we need to be doing. His personal life and what he’s dealing with.”
Cook played in only six games this season, starting three of them. Last year, minor surgeries to both knees limited him to six games, starting five of them, before he was placed on injured reserve.
“With three games to go, it looks like where we are now, we’re going to go with the guys that are playing, but you never know. But it looks that way as we speak,” Frazier said of continuing to move on for the final three games of the season without Cook. He has already been ruled out for this week’s game.
Frazier said he has talked with Cook “from time to time” to see how he’s doing, but Frazier doesn’t know what kind of a timeline the organization has in mind to make any long-term decisions about Cook’s future.
Cook remains in Minnesota.
NO TIME TO THINK ABOUT STAFF CHANGES
Frazier said he hasn’t given too much thought to changes he might make on his coaching staff after the season.
“It’s so hard to win in our league. That has really taken up all my time and energy, especially this week playing a team that is doing so well with the record they have. You don’t really think about those things. You want a win. You think about a win,” Frazier said.
Frazier said it would be his decision to make when it comes to changes on the coaching staff.
“I’ll be asked at the end of the season, ‘Do you want to make any changes or what changes do you want to make or do you want to stay status quo?’” Frazier said. “Then it’s up to me to make that decision, what direction do you want to go?”
Running back Adrian Peterson had a message for fantasy football owners: He will play on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints after sitting out the last three games with a high ankle sprain.
“The way he’s moving around, some of the things that really concerned him a week ago at this time don’t seem to concern him as much, nor does it concern us,” Frazier said. “If he has another good day tomorrow, we should be in the clear.”
Frazier said Peterson had a little bit or soreness on Thursday, but he looked better in practice.
“There were some runs (Thursday) that looked like the Adrian we are accustomed to seeing. Last week, they were few and far between,” Frazier said. “Today for sure, there were a couple bursts along the sideline, where he had to cut against the grain and we didn’t see that last week.”
WR Greg Camarillo (concussion) returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s practice. Frazier said Camarillo passed all of his post-concussion tests. E.J. Henderson (shoulder), Jarrad Page (hip) and Peterson (ankle) joined Camarillo as being limited.
Letroy Guion (ankle) was added to the injury report as limited.
Asher Allen (shoulder) and Christian Ponder (hip) were full participants in Thursday’s practice.
For the Saints, RB Mark Ingram (toe) and LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) didn't practice. LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) and DE Turk McBride (ankle) were limited.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.