Wednesday, October 9, 2013
As I have grown up in the world of electronic media, I have begun to publish my Minnesota Vikings Breakdown content on the new online project I'm managing called Minnesota Connected. Check out all my thoughts on the 2013 Vikings season so far, even the recent signing of Josh Freeman.
Head there via this link ---> Minnesota Connected
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What an ugly 21-14 win the Minnesota Vikings wrestled away from the Arizona Cardinals. For the second straight week Christian Ponder looked unlike his early season form. The Vikings offense looked like it did against the Detroit Lions -- a victory where Adrian ran the ball well, but few others participated. Against the Lions the special teams and defense were the story. This week it was Adrian and Percy making plays at the goal line, and most importantly, the defense.
Aside from Percy, who was far, far too quiet on Sunday, and AP, nothing worked on offense. This to me, doesn't make sense. I take not one once of respect away from the Arizona Cardinals defense. They have a very impressive unit that can defend both the pass and the run. They hadn't allowed a 100 yard rusher in 14 games. But on Sunday, they didn't defend the run very well. Adrian ran for 153 and a score on 23 carries. That doesn't compare to his 3 touchdown runs last season, but it's still a monster effort.
And even considering that, Christian Ponder and the passing game couldn't muster more than 58 passing yards. 58 yards. If a defense is getting burned on the run, play action has to work at least a few times on a competent offense. But somehow Ponder couldn't find a single guy open. There was pressure on him often, he was sacked 3 times, but no one open even on quick passes? Bubble screens? Percy? Nothing? 58 yards? And add two bone-headed interceptions.
How far has Ponder fallen? From the pro's pro of game managing, not turning the ball over, and getting the ball to your weapons type Quarterback to a second year player who looks confused in a few short weeks.
I love the guy, I do. But this team will not beat quality opponents not being able to compliment Adrian with at least serviceable passing game. Examples of this include, this victory, the 49ers victory, the Lions victory, and most of the loss to the Redskins. Toby and the sputtering offense late were dying to give the game to the Niners. The Lions, well, their offense is just terrible right now. So them not scoring much is no surprise. And the same can be said about the Cardinals led by John Skelton and their 'swiss cheese' offensive line. Any team that can score proficiently on offense will beat us if Ponder and Co. keep playing like this, just like the Redskins did last week.
Stop the negative. This is a victory, and I am happy about it. Yes. 5-2. But seriously, fans should be shocked at how far Christian Ponder has regressed compared to his early 2012 campaign. 1-10 on third down, and so many of those plays were manageable down and distance. Four straight second half three and outs. Only two drives of seven plays or more. Those are statistics to be very concerned about.
For my last negative comment, I'm again calling out Mike Musgrave. Another awful effort playcalling on his part. How does Percy only get targeted 5 times if the offense is struggling? He needs more targets then. How does Kyle Rudolph get 3 targets and 0 catches? With Adrian dominating, how could that advantage not create one second half opening?
Like I said above, the Vikings defense was the story of this game. 7 sacks, 3 by Brian Robison. They kept Larry Fitzgerald in check and didn't allow Arizona to put points on the board. LaRod Stephens-Howling burned the Vikings quite a bit, but he is sneaky quick and difficult to tackle. The difference maker this week was the defense coming up with turnovers. Robison got a strip-sack deep in Vikings territory and Harrison Smith came up with a pick-six -- great play by the rookie Safety there.
I'm excited about this victory, but I'm weary to play the Bears and Packers. Early in the season it looked like we could possibly throw a beat down on either team. And don't get me wrong, I still think we stand a fair shot in any of the four contests. But if I was a betting man, I wouldn't put money on Ponder and the passing game helping to decide victories against unquestionably better teams.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
The Minnesota Vikings lost to another rookie in RGIII and the Washington Redskins 38-26. The Vikings had three first quarter drives ending deep in Redskin territory with field goals. That was the difference maker in the game. Last week we got away with not stomping on the Titans throat. This week we did not. The Redskins are too good a football team to not come back from a 'mighty' 9 point deficit -- 13, 17, 21 points, now that's a different story. And that's what good football teams do.
The Vikings fought hard to compete late in the game, but not scoring those early points kept them at an arm's length of RGIII and the Redskins. The defense fought all they could, but keeping RGIII in check for a whole game is a very difficult task. That's where the offense comes in. The Vikings couldn't win this game by silencing the Baylor alum. They needed to outscore him. The offense needed to not kick 4 straight field goals to start the game. The offense needed to not allow 24 unanswered points to play out. The Redskins defense was their weakness and the Vikings didn't take full advantage of that until far too late in the game when they actually scored touchdowns.
Christian Ponder had a decent day statistically, but he made far too many errant throws. Especially that awful interception to, gulp, Madieu Williams (funny, he made his first great play in a Vikings game against the purple). But what an idiot Ponder is for throwing that ball. That pick-6 dramatically changed the game. He clearly does not understand his role in the offense making a pass like that.
Some mental mistakes, some just poor passes. And some of that comes from the fact that he threw 52 times. 52! That is way too many passes for a 'game manager'. We were down and needed to pass the football, but you can't go that unbalanced. Come on Mike Musgrave. Seriously. AP is at your fingertips. The man tore his ACL at this very stadium 10 months previous. He's fired up and had some good carries. You cannot lean more on Christian Ponder than Adrian Peterson no matter the score. AP is a difference maker. AP isn't doing much out of the backfield? Run Percy. Ponder should never throw the ball 52 times.
Speaking of Mike Musgrave. I'm calling out your playcalling. In the redzone chances early in the game both AP and Percy were not on the field in certain plays? Huh? Even if they aren't the main targets, um, decoys? Two of the most dangerous weapons, on the sideline. Even aside from that, this was a poorly executed game plan by Musgrave and Frazier. Ponder clearly needs quicker looks. The looks downfield still are not working and Ponder is having difficultly finding long throws. So back to basics, short passes, check downs, and screens.
The Vikings fall out of first place with a record of 4-2.
I can honestly say that few things annoy me more than sports fans yelling across the aisle, "Your team sucks." Vikings and Packers fans are amongst the worst offenders and social media has only heightened the ignorant talk. Packers lose to Indy in Week 5 and all you hear from Vikings fans is, "Packers blow" or "Vikings are the best team in the division."
While at that point, the Vikings were indeed tied for the division lead at 4-1, only a little over a quarter of the season had been played and the Packers lost two games in the final moments (one because of a terrible call).
As you can tell from this site, since I spend the time to write and manage it myself, I am a very dedicated Vikings fan. I love no sports team more than the purple.
But I am also a realist. When the Vikings went 4-1, realistically, we could have been 5-0 if it hadn't been for some bone-headed plays by the Vikings in Week 2. But even after five weeks and the Vikings being 5-0 or 4-1, I still would have a tough time calling the Vikings the BEST team in the division. They have no recent history, with this core, to prove they can sustain their successes over the course of a season or against their tough division rivals.
Of course their record reflected they had the most wins, but they only have the best record through five games. Isn't the season 17 weeks? Does that make them the best team now? Yes. But are they really the BEST team? It's tough to say definitively.
And despite all this, Vikings fans sit here shouting across the aisle at Packers fans like a bunch of juvenile children, "See Packers suck, Vikings are the BEST!" Or I have even seen MEMEs calling Christian Ponder the best Quarterback in the NFC North. Yeah, above last years' MVP Aaron Rodgers. Five weeks doesn't mean anything people. Rodgers and Ponder had competitive numbers the first couple of weeks, but if tonight showed anything, it's that Aaron Rodgers can throw six touchdowns in a game -- Ponder couldn't do that on Madden (not dissing Ponder, but he clearly is not in Rodgers league, yet).
This type of fandom is fun sometimes, but when taken to the extreme, these fans spouting this crap look ignorant. It's important to win those games early in the season, but it's also important not to get ahead of yourselves and declare divisional victory. We haven't even played either the Bears or Packers, the two closest division rivals. If the Vikings play next week against Arizona like they did today, the Packers will be tied with us (they play St. Louis, who despite a good defense, will not beat Green Bay).
I am the definition of a die-hard fan, but I will never make myself look foolish by making false or inaccurate statements based on my dislike for the opposition. If the Vikings beat the Packers, then you can talk as much garbage as you want. But until then, quit relying on childish banter when a football team loses. The NFL is the toughest place on the planet to win contests, teams don't suck for losing a few games.
In short, talking like this makes you seem like you don't understand the sport and are just as knowledgeable as the cheerleaders standing on the sidelines with pom poms.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Percy Harvin is a man. Someone needs to tell the Tennessee Titans that he cannot be taken down with arm tackles. But even getting close enough to simply touch him is a task, just ask the Titans secondary.
The Minnesota Vikings route a team for the first time in a very long time, dismantling the Tennessee Titans 30-7. While the Vikings could have really broke this game open quite a bit more, settling for field goals in Titans territory, the effort as a whole was solid top to bottom. All working parts on the Vikings contributed something Sunday.
Christian Ponder threw his first interception of the season, a terrible decision and a terrible throw, only to be followed by his second. Despite two picks, Ponder looked light years better this week than last. He was 25-35 with 258 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two INTs. Numbers definitely don't show his drastic improvement from last week.
The defense played excellent again. That's five weeks in a row. They are making plays at almost every foreseeable chance. Minus a stupid mistake from Harrison Smith, the defense was brilliant.
But still, the Vikings were only 3-11 on third down. We will need to convert those chances against better teams. 4-1 is a start few of us fathomed and standing in the way of 5-1 is RGIII (barring him not playing because of his mild concussion) and the Washington Redskins.
With Week 5 over, the Vikings beating the 49ers now seems significantly more impressive. Since the Vikings victory, the 49ers have blown out their opponents the past two weeks 79-3.
And initially, the loss to the Indianapolis Colts looked like a hiccup. While we definitely should have won that game if it weren't for mental errors, the Colts comeback victory vs. the Green Bay Packers proves they are no small bump in the road. Andrew Luck is the real deal. Want vindication for him being the number one overall pick? Watch the last minute drive he led... that's a young man building his own legend.
Monday, October 1, 2012
Where would the Vikings be without special teams in Week 4? Probably on the losing end of a lackluster offensive effort vs. the Detroit Lions. But thankfully the special teams came up big, getting an opening kick return touchdown from Percy Harvin, a 'birthday present' punt return from Marcus Sherels, and two field goals from Blair Walsh. Oh, and don't forget the defense holding Megatron, Matthew Stafford, and the rest of the Lions usually potent attack in check.
While two areas of the Vikings roster held their own on the field, the offense looked absolutely atrocious netting only 15 first downs and converting 25% of their third downs. The protection was not bad for Ponder, who was sacked twice, but for some reason he could never find a rhythm. He passed for a mere 111 yards. Ponder looked unsure of himself and Offensive Coordinator Mike Musgrave lacked confidence in his Quarterback as well, calling a game plan that was constricted at best. I was left in disbelief at some of the Vikings passing attempts/plays.
Adrian Peterson was the lone bright spot on offense, getting his first 100 yard rushing performance of the season gaining 102 yards on 21 carries. While he didn't find the end zone, he was the only threat Sunday punishing Lions defenders with his freak blend of power and agility.
Thankfully the Lions were not firing on all cylinders -- some of that can be attributed to the Vikings defense, because the inability for the offense to move the ball late in the game gave Detroit plenty of chances to steal this one. Either way, 3-1 sounds pretty good about now. Bring on 4-1 after Tennessee next week.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The Minnesota Vikings pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory by handling what many were calling the best team in the NFL (including me), the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings dominated 24-13 by playing almost perfect in all 3 phases. Their defense stopped Frank Gore and the running attack and limited Vernon Davis and Alex Smith in the passing game. The Vikings great special teams play also kept the dangerous return man Kyle Williams in check.
By far the biggest story of the day was the constant top tier play from Christian Ponder. Any doubts about his ability to dominate in the NFL were cast aside as he proved for the third straight week he can lead this offense. Most assuring is that he did it against one of the league's best defenses. Ponder went 21 for 35, 198 yards, and two scores. He made some absolute money throws, and boy can he toss the pigskin on the run. He also had the play of the game rushing for another touchdown diving into the endzone like a white, less athletic Cam Newton. Speaking of Cam, what's up with him this year? Lost his drive, comfortable with his success?
Ponder's play the past three weeks has spoken for itself. Week 2 he looked uncomfortable at times, unwilling to hang out in the pocket while getting sacked 4 times. This week, he was sacked 0. And that is a huge compliment to the offensive line. They go from playing like garbage against a lackluster Colts front 7 to standing up to the formidable Niners defensive attack. Also worth noting, Ponder has yet to throw an interception in 2012. Say what you will about him not taking shots down field, he isn't turning the ball over either. The Vikings down field threat will get a boost this week as Jerome Simpson returns from his weed smoking suspension. Not sure if he'll make a huge difference, but he's at least a threat.
Rudolph was in beast mode against the Niners. That one handed catch? Cooler than PSY's music video for Gangnam Style.
Who even knew Randy Moss was in the building Sunday? Get your 3 catches out of here Randy.
Oh, and just to clarify, the NFL has expanded the number of timeouts per half to 5.
And who hands the ball off to Toby Gerhart a third time after two fumbles? Come on Leslie, that reflects bad on your decision making. Quit being such a cotton-headed ninnymugggins and put AP in there to finish the game. Quit protecting him. You want to stomp on the opponents throat? You put in AP, not the guy who literally almost fumbled the game away. You got away with one there Leslie.
Bring on the Detroit Lions... but you stay at home Megatron.