With read-option offenses ahead, Vikings to seize chance vs. 49ers
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- An added difficulty to the Minnesota Vikings already tough regular season schedule will be the level of elite read-option offenses they face throughout the year.
On Sunday, the Vikings travel to San Francisco and will be given an opportunity to try and contain quarterback Colin Kaepernick in their third preseason game, in which starters should play into the third quarter.
"I think it's very valuable," Coach Leslie Frazier said. "I think there are about four or five teams on the schedule we know are going to run that offense. To get that this early in the preseason, we're hoping it'll pay dividends for us down the road."
The Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles all grace the Vikings schedule carrying dual threats at quarterback and the Vikings' defense gets a preseason test against arguably one of the better running quarterbacks in the league -- the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick played the game of his life in a playoff win against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 12, torching a front seven that showed a weakness to the read-option scheme when the Vikings temporarily tried quarterback Joe Webb's hand at it in the 24-10 playoff loss.
Peterson's appearance won't be the only sign marking the end of the preseason, as defensive end Jared Allen said the defense will game plan and set a routine for Sunday's game like they would for a regular season match up -- especially when facing a test like the 49ers offense.
"Yeah, you take this one a little more serious," Allen said after Sunday's practice. "This is one where I'll get into my in-season routine. For me, the season starts because in years past, I haven't typically played in the fourth one. Starters won't play, or are usually very limited. This is my last one to make sure my eyes and body are reacting at game tempo so when you go into Detroit, you're confident."
In the third preseason game, teams typically play their starting offenses into the third quarter. Frazier said he will do just that with the Vikings, with fullback Jerome Felton still sidelined from an appendectomy and Peterson seeing limited snaps in the first half.
Allen said the team as a whole will start to tighten up their weekly routine beginning with Monday's practice.
"We'll treat this more like a game," Allen said. "Starters will play longer, you want to get through it healthy first and foremost, but yeah, this is kind of our last tune-up game."
After the offensive debacle at Buffalo on Friday, the Vikings' offense needs as much tuning as it can get. Sans Peterson, the Vikings hold a pass-first philosophy in two preseason games that will not carry over into the regular season, but it's a necessary strategy to establish a revamped receiving corps and a young quarterback.
At the mercy of a scheming Bills defensive line, the Vikings amassed only 74 yards of total offense in Friday's first half, scoring three points, allowing four sacks and adding four first downs.
Frazier said Peterson will play Sunday night, but not into the third quarter like the rest of the first-string offense.
"We'll get [Peterson] in the ball game Sunday night. We want to be a balanced offense." Frazier said. "Anyone that follows us knows our offense is going to be run through number 28. We want to be balanced, doing everything we can to get our passing game to improve."
The 2:1 pass-to-run ratio for the Vikings first-team offense on Friday? That's simply a product of a Peterson-less offense and the necessity to get Ponder as many reps with his new targets as possible.
"Our identity has not changed," Frazier said.