Chad Greenway (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY)
Chad Greenway was the first draft pick for Brad Childress, but since missing his rookie season, the Vikings linebacker has been going strong. Plus, rankings and statistics for the Vikings and Steelers entering Sunday’s game.
Of all the hoopla over the Vikings playing in London Sunday, a milestone has been largely missed that dates back to when Brad Childress first took over the wheel of the Viking ship.
It was the spring of 2006. Mike Tice had been informed by access to pre-printed press release that he had been fired. Zygi Wilf wanted to clean up the organization. It was just three months after Al and Alma’s became T-shirt fodder and the phrase “Love Boat” was getting old.
Tice was viewed as the uncle who would buy alcohol for his underage nephews. Chilly was viewed as the uncle no underage kid wanted to sit next to at the Thanksgiving table. He was all business.
He wanted to change the image of the Vikings. Part of that was taking a clean-cut and, in draft terms, “safe” pick. It was before Rick Spielman came in, so he had nothing to do with the selection. At the time, the de facto G.M. was Fred Flintstone doppelganger Fran Foley.
In what was viewed as one of the easiest-to-predict first-round picks to date – Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Matt Kalil joined that list for those in the business of predicting draft choices – the Vikings took Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway.
He started his career as bad as anyone could. On special teams in the first quarter of his first preseason game, Greenway tore an ACL and his rookie season ended almost the instant it began.
At the time, skeptics wondered if Greenway would ever make a return to be at the level that made him worthy of the 17th pick in the draft. As Greenway lay on the operating table, his teammates got on a plane to play a game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This time when the Vikings got on a plane to go to play the Steelers – this time in London – Greenway was with them and preparing for a significant personal milestone.
From the time he returned from his devastating knee injury as a rookie, Sunday will be the 100th straight game in which Greenway has appeared – his 99th career start. Only two current players – London Fletcher’s untouchable 244th game today and Stephen Tulloch’s 116th – have a longer intact streak.
When Vikings fans think of successful draft picks, Spielman gets much of the credit. But, give credit to Chilly and Foley – they hit on their first pick out of the gate when they selected Greenway.
VIKINGS-STEELERS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 19th-ranked offense (13th rushing, 24th passing) and the 29th-ranked defense (21st rushing, 28th passing).
The only teams ranked lower in team defense than the Vikings are Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington.
The Steelers have the 28th-ranked offense (31st rushing, 10th passing) and the sixth-ranked defense (22nd rushing, 4th passing).
The only offenses worse than Pittsburgh are Tennessee, Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.
The Vikings are averaging 336 yards a game on offense (215 passing, 121 rushing). The Steelers are averaging 310 yards a game (258 passing, 52 rushing).
The Vikings are allowing 430 yards a game (316 passing, 114 rushing). The Steelers are allowing 298 yards a game (183 passing, 115 rushing).
The Vikings are tied for 14th in giveways/takeaways at even – 10 giveaways, 10 takeaways. The Steelers have 10 giveaways and are the only team in the league without a takeaway.
The Vikings are tied for 17th in offensive red zone efficiency at 50 percent, scoring touchdowns on five of 10 possessions. The Steelers are 28th at 40 percent (two TDs in five possessions).
Pittsburgh is tied for 12th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on five of 10 opponent drives (50 percent). The Vikings are tied for 21st at 61.5 percent (eight of 13).
The league average in third-down conversions is 38.5 percent. The Vikings are slightly ahead of that on offense, converting 39.5 percent (17 of 43). The Steelers are second-worst in the league (ahead of only Cleveland) at 27.8 percent (10 of 36).
Defensively, Pittsburgh is right at the league average on third downs, allowing 18 of 47 opportunities to be converted (38.3 percent). The Vikings have allowed 45 percent of third downs to be converted (18 of 40).
The Vikings are second in the league in average starting position after kickoffs (the 25-yard line). The Steelers are ninth with an averaging starting position of the 22.1-yard line.
Defensively, the Steelers are tied for sixth in opponent average starting position (the 19.4-yard line). The Vikings are dead last (the 28.2-yard line) – 3.4 yards more than any other team in the league.
Ben Roethlisberger has one 300-yard passing game. The Vikings have none.
The Vikings have allowed two 300-yard passers. Pittsburgh hasn’t allowed any.
Both teams have had one 100-yard receiving game – one from Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and one from Minnesota’s Jerome Simpson.
The Vikings have allowed three 100-yard receivers. The Steelers haven’t allowed any.
Adrian Peterson has one 100-yard game. The Steelers haven’t had a rusher gain 40 yards in a game yet. Neither team has allowed a 100-yard rusher.
Christian Ponder has stood out in no area in passing. Before being benched due to a rib injury, he was tied for 20th in attempts (100), was 21st in completions (59), 22nd in completion percentage (59.0), 21st in yards (691), 17th in yards per play (6.91), tied for 29th in touchdowns (2), 31st in touchdown percentage (2.0), 31st in interceptions (5), 30th in interception percentage (5.0) and 30th in passer rating (65.9). The Vikings didn’t need an excuse to go with Matt Cassel.
Of the quarterbacks with enough pass attempts to officially qualify on the league stat charts, only three quarterbacks have a lower passer rating than Ponder – Geno Smith of the Jets (65.0), Brandon Weeden of Cleveland (62.0) and Josh Freeman (59.3).
Roethlisberger is in the middle third of most passing categories and is ranked 21st in passer rating (81.2).
In the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger is 24th in passer rating at 68.8. Ponder was 27th at 64.1.
Ponder was 15th in third-down passer rating at 85.9 – by far the best down of performance this season. Big Ben has been big brutal – his passer rating is an abysmal 31.6. Only Weeden (26.4) has been worse.
Peterson is fifth in rushing yards with 281. Entering play today, he is only 16 yards behind second place, but is 114 yards behind league leader LeSean McCoy.
The leading rusher for Pittsburgh is Felix Jones with 71 yards – which ranks 53rd in the league.
Peterson has more yards in one carry (78 yards) than any Steelers running back has gained all season.
Peterson leads the NFL on third-and-1 rushing. He is the only player to run four such plays and he has converted all of them.
Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown is tied for seventh in receptions with 20. Simpson leads the Vikings with 12, which ties for 63rd place.
Brown is fourth in the league in receiving yards with 324. Simpson is tied for 27th with 218 yards.
Peterson is tied for second in the league in scoring among non-kickers with 24 points (four touchdowns).
Blair Walsh is fifth in the league in scoring among kickers with 27 points. Shaun Suisham of the Steelers is tied for 26th with just 16 points in three games.
Walsh is tied for ninth in touchbacks with nine. Suisham is tied for 31st with just three touchbacks, which could be good news for Cordarrelle Patterson.
Peterson is eighth in total yards from scrimmage with 333 (281 rushing, 52 receiving). Brown is ninth at 328 (324 receiving, 4 rushing).
Patterson is getting closer to the league lead in kickoff returns. Thanks to the Vikings hideous performance against Chicago, Devin Hester still leads the league in kickoff return average, but it has dropped to 38.3 yards per return. Patterson is second at 37.4 yards. No other player has better than a 29-yard return average.
Harrison Smith and Erin Henderson are both tied for second in interceptions with two each.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.