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Updated: December 15th, 2013 8:07pm
Greg Jennings sets career-high as wide receivers break out with Cassel

Greg Jennings sets career-high as wide receivers break out with Cassel

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS - Greg Jennings had a career day Sunday.

Jennings, 30, played for years with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Sunday, he set a career-high by catching 11 passes from the Vikings' stated backup quarterback Matt Cassel.

His 163 yards bested Cris Carter's old franchise record for most receiving yards against the Eagles. He also was a big reason Cassel passed for more yards against the Eagles than any other player in Vikings history. Cassel's 382 yards topped Daunte Culpepper's 343 passing yards against the Eagles in September of 2004.

So what makes the Cassel-to-Jennings combination click?

"Being poised and understanding that his offensive line is going to perform a wall around him, give him that opportunity to step up in the pocket and make a throw down the field," Jennings said of Cassel, who finished the game 26-of-35 for 382 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

"He takes advantage of that, and we saw that today the way he spread the ball around."

Cassel also ran for a touchdown. Add Matt Asiata's three rushing scores, and the passing touchdowns to Jennings and Patterson, and that constitutes an offensive eruption. The six offensive touchdowns are the most this season.

No Vikings team has scored more points in a game since Dec. 20, 1998, when Minnesota beat the Jaguars 50-10 in a game quarterbacked by Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson.   

Many Vikings observers left Sunday's game contemplating where the team would be if Cassel had remained the starter after he led the team to its first win in week 4.

"Yeah you wonder," Jennings admitted. "I remember mentioning something like that to Matt and he's like, 'We've got three games, let's make the best of it.'

"I love it because that's his mindset. He's not worried about what coulda, shoulda, or could have possibly been, he stays in the now. As a quarterback - as a player - that's how we have to operate."

Still, with eight games--including the tie--decided by seven points or fewer, it's fair to wonder where this team would be if it hadn't stuck by Christian Ponder. With a group that includes Jennings, electric rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings have a dangerous corps of pass-catchers. It's only too bad for Vikings fans the group wasn't as visible all season.

"We have a special group in that [receiver's] room and it's as if we fly under the radar because of our running game and that we don't throw the ball as much as other teams across the league," Jennings said. "When we have an opportunity to make plays this is what can happen. We have a guy that's back there who can divvy it up and can spread the ball around. ... It was awesome to see the in-sync-ness of the offense operate as a well-oiled machine all across the board."

Jennings might have left another reception on the board, when Patterson looked for him on a trickery play. Patterson said he looked for Jennings on an end-around, but playfully chided that Jennings couldn't get open, so Patterson had to pull it down and reverse fields to pick up the first down.

Wright caught four passes for 95 yards, including a 42-yard strike from Cassel.

"That was real big, the way Cassel stepped up in the pocket and created more time. Our offensive line did a great job of making them bubble up," Wright said. "I heard the quarterback coach talk to him all the time about stepping up in the pocket and our offensive making them go wide and creating that pocket inside for Cassel to get a chance to throw the ball. .... Cassel did a great job of getting the ball to the wideouts."

The only time a Vikings quarterback completed more passes in 2013 was in week 6, when Cassel completed 32-of-44 in a lopsided home loss to the Panthers.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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