Vikings special teams trying to shake off effects of ‘down game’

Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said he's looking forward to seeing how players respond after a "down game" for the kick and kick coverage phases that had been a stabilizing force in the Vikings' strong start this season.

Daniels ran through a list of "self-inflicted wounds" that helped the Bears crawl back into last week's 29-22 win, including a 15-yard punt by Ryan Wright, a holding penalty by edge rusher D.J. Wonnum and a blocked field goal that set up short fields and points for the Bears in the second half.

"We say, through adversity to the stars," Daniels said. "So this upcoming game in Miami, this is where we're looking to rise and kind of take that next step. We kind of got punched in the mouth a little bit and it'll be interesting to see how we respond."

The Vikings still rank fourth in opponent average starting field position at around the 25-yard line, according to Football Outsiders, but that wasn't helped by a recent stretch that saw the Bears start drives at midfield and their own 33 and 41 because of special teams issues.

Wright, the undrafted rookie punter, had a strong start in his first four games by pinning 9 of 16 attempts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. But his only punt against the Bears was shanked. Daniels, the 33-year-old first-time coordinator, blamed himself for an exchange they had before the kick when Daniels said he asked Wright if the punter was sure he had enough leg for the type of punt he wanted to execute.

"Me asking him that, he felt like he needed to pound the football," Daniels said. "It just caused him to drop the ball inside right there and it went off the inside of his foot."

Resetting the market

Receiver Justin Jefferson and Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill rank first and third, respectively, in receiving yardage through five games. They'll also soon be near each other on the salary leaderboard after Hill signed the richest deal for an NFL receiver last offseason at $30 million annually. Jefferson, 23, is first eligible for an extension next spring.

"Every single year the market goes up just in the salaries and guaranteed money that's being paid," Jefferson said. "I was definitely happy for him, happy for that type of receiver getting paid like that. But I'm just trying to win a Super Bowl at this point and not worry about the contract stuff."

'Change the game'

The Dolphins' 25th-ranked defense is led by All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard, a pesky coverage defender who has a team-leading four pass deflections. Coordinator Wes Phillips said the Vikings are wary of timely pressures and blitzes that can lead to errant throws and opportunities for Howard and Miami's secondary.

"They're trying to change the game in those areas with their pressure plan, and the DBs do a great job of reading the QB and knowing when to stick their foot in the ground and drive routes," Phillips said.

Etc.Wonnum did not practice Thursday because of an illness. Cornerback Akayleb Evans was upgraded to a full participant while working his way through the concussion protocol, indicating the fourth-round rookie could be cleared to play in time for Sunday. Edge rusher Za'Darius Smith (knee) was upgraded to a full participant. Running back Alexander Mattison (shoulder) remained limited. Cornerback Patrick Peterson on facing Dolphins' No. 3 quarterback Skylar Thompson: "We have to expect a little bit more trickery. Some more gadget plays, because offensive coordinators sometimes feel those guys are not as detailed."