Cassel-to-Jennings combination burns Birds
MINNEAPOLIS - Baffling. Greg Jennings spent seven seasons in Green Bay catching passes from Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but never had as many receptions in one game as he did Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings: 11, for 163 yards and a touchdown. Jennings has a wonderful imagination when he is in the right mood, and Sunday's 48-30 victory over the Eagles - accomplished without all-pro tailback Adrian Peterson (foot sprain) - turned a smiling Jennings fanciful.
MINNEAPOLIS - Baffling.
Greg Jennings spent seven seasons in Green Bay catching passes from Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but never had as many receptions in one game as he did Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings: 11, for 163 yards and a touchdown. Jennings has a wonderful imagination when he is in the right mood, and Sunday's 48-30 victory over the Eagles - accomplished without all-pro tailback Adrian Peterson (foot sprain) - turned a smiling Jennings fanciful.
"We've got a special group in that [receivers] room," Jennings said. "It's almost as though we kind of fly under the radar because of our running game, because we don't throw the ball as much as other teams across the league. When we have an opportunity to make plays, this is what can happen."
To fly under radar, one first has to be airborne, and Minnesota's 22d-ranked passing game rarely seemed aerodynamic this season. The Vikings' inability to settle on a quarterback - Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, and Josh Freeman all started - meant a heavier-than-usual reliance on Peterson, who despite groin and hamstring problems ranked second behind LeSean McCoy in the NFL in rushing.
But with Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart (strained hamstring) questionable all week and inactive Sunday, the Vikings turned to a facet of their offense so shaky it may yet get coach Leslie Frazier fired. After Frazier decided to sit Peterson - "It was not an easy conversation. Trust me on that one," Frazier said - Cassel completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards with two touchdowns, the first 300-yard game by a Vikings quarterback this season. The 48 points were also a Vikings season high.
Whether Peterson played or not, Frazier thought the Vikings could exploit the Eagles through the air.
"They did a good job getting people in the gaps and penetrating," Frazier said. "That also left them vulnerable in the passing game, and we thought that would be the case through our week of preparation. Fortunately for us, with Matt at the helm, we were able to take advantage of it."
Cassel, who backed up Tom Brady for four seasons in New England before moving on to Kansas City, said he did not feel undue pressure.
"There's a lot on my plate each and every week," he said. "I've got three kids at home, too, with a 5-year-old."
For whatever reason, Jennings never established the rapport with Ponder, who began the season as the starter, as he has with Cassel, who threw his way 13 times on Sunday.
"There is definitely a synergy there between the two of them," Frazier said.
Their 57-yard touchdown collaboration for the game's first score highlighted both their skills. Jennings broke the pattern when he saw an opening on the back side. Cassel eyed Jennings while stepping up to avoid the grasp of defensive end Fletcher Cox, then fired deep down the right side. Jennings outran two defenders for the catch and the score.
"My route technically, kind of, sort of wasn't supposed to be over there," Jennings said. "It was a great throw from Matt, and I just did the easy part, catch the ball and get it in the end zone."