Life just feels better after a win, doesn't it? And when you had the sports Quinella I hit, I'm riding pretty high. The Cardinals won the World Series and I got to go to game 7, The Gophers beat Iowa and kept Floyd here in Minnesota, Ohio State beat Wisconsin on a last second Hail Mary, and then the Vikings got a win in conditions they struggle in--outside on grass. But unless you guys are as weird as I am and follow those exact same sporting teams, all you care about is the Vikings, so let's get to it.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching two very good young quarterbacks in Christian Ponder and Cam Newton, and then I saw the highlights of Tim Tebow against Detroit. And then I 'Tebowed', thanking the Lord that we didn't draft him last season and got Ponder this season. Yes, I know I was on the Tebow bandwagon, and I hope by now you have all learned that whenever I think a guy is going to be great, he's probably going to stink.
That was a great win for the Vikes in many respects. Most importantly, it was a win. Secondly, it came when the offense struggled badly early on, yet they were tied at halftime. When the defense needed to make stops in the second half, they did, at least for the most part. The offense didn't abandon Adrian Peterson, and it paid off in the fourth quarter...and the Vikings also got a little luck, and that never hurts.
Oh yeah, and there was some kid playing QB that looked like he's been in the NFL for five or six years. And he played like he had Carolina On His Mind. Take it away, Mr. Taylor:
Isn't that just a great song? I was stationed in North Carolina for three years back when I was in the Army. Great area, except Fayetteville.
SMR, after the jump
Blue Chip Stocks:
Christian Ponder, QB. It's funny that the quarterback who was supposed to look lost and unsure of himself is the veteran, and the quarterback who has provided leadership and a calming presence has been the rookie. Ponder's stats weren't eye popping, like Cam Newton's have been, but they weren't anything to sneeze at, either. He has provided much needed ability, leadership, and a big play presence that was sorely missing the first 7 weeks of the season. By my unofficial count, Ponder was 8-9 on third down passing, getting 6 first downs. One of those was a Percy Harvin fumble, but Ponder is developing this knack for making plays when the Vikings need them most, and it's been a trait that's been lacking at the QB position for the better part of a decade, save for Favre in 2009 and Daunte Culpepper in 2004.
Adrian Peterson, RB. When the Vikings looked like they were going to go into halftime trailing, AP had had a pretty pedestrian game up until that point. I was afraid that the Vikings were going abandon the running game, and I feared that Carolina was going to tee off on Ponder. But the defense forced a turnover, and Ponder hit AP for two short dump passes that resulted in a touchdown, and The best Running Back In Football was in business. He had a great second half, finished with over 160 yards total offense, and had two TD's.
Jared Allen, DE. Great players make great plays when his team needs it most, and Allen did just that on Sunday. The Vikes defense was reeling after giving up two 2nd quarter TD's, and had the ball with enough time to add another score and really but the Vikes in a hole. Allen broke through, did a strip sack of Newton, and Chad Greenway recovered the fumble on the Carolina 39. Two plays later, the Vikes were in the end zone and the game was tied. Allen got two more sacks on Sunday, and is on pace to obliterate sack records.
Toby Gerhart, RB. The Vikes did a good job of mixing Gerhart in to the offense, and Gerhart had some nice runs to move the chains or put Minnesota in manageable down and distance situations. It's exactly what he's supposed to do, and I thought he did it well.
Percy Harvin, Jack Of All Trades. One thing that I really liked was how Bill Musgrave tried to feed Harvin the ball in as many different ways possible. He's been limited by a rib injury, but he seemed fine on Sunday. Harvin had a sweet 10 yard TD run between the tackles early in the game, but he also had a bad fumble on the Carolina 5 that looked like it might have been The Play that we looked to as to when the Vikings lost the game. But Jared Allen bailed him out on the next series, the Vikes scored, and all was good. Does anyone think that if AP were to miss a game that Percy could be a 20 carry a game back? I do.
Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph, TE. One of the things that interested me about Bill Musgrave was how he was going to utilize the two tight end sets he talked about. On Sunday, we saw them deployed to near perfection. Between them, Shiancdolph had 5 catches for 62 yards, and I would bet 4 of those catches went for first downs. They all seemed to be big grabs right when the offense needed someone to step up and make a play, and these guys did.
Asher Allen, CB. You know, this is kind of unfait to Allen. He was pressed in to starting because of injuries, and was put in the unenviable spot of covering Steve Smith. Still, though, he looked lost at times. It was a particularly unimpressive performance.
Cedric Griffin, CB. I really like Cedric Griffin. His story is an inspiring one, but at least to me, it looks like he has lost a decent amount of speed, and is playing deeper off the line to avoid getting burned. Maybe it's the scheme, I don't know. What I do know is that Griff had a lot of trouble yesterday, and I hope it's only one game.
Remi Ayodele, NT. Has anyone heard Ayodele's name called yet this year? Carolina had 140 yards rushing, with an average of 5.2 yards per carry, and a lot of that was between the tackles away from Kevin Williams. The linebackers didn't have the greatest game, either, but Ayodele has been invisible.
Buy: Percy's TD Run. After giving away a golden opportunity to get points after a great kick return by Marcus Sherels, an early turnover by Newton presented another opportunity. The Vikes made a great call. Harvin went in motion, lined up as tailback, and went off tackle untouched into the end zone.
Sell: Percy's Fumble. There's no such thing as a good turnover, but this was a particularly bad one. The Panthers had scored two TD's and really had momentum. The Vikes started driving, and Harvin made a nice catch and run on third down to get to the Carolina 5, but had the ball wrestled away from him. It looked like the critical play of the game, like I said earlier, but Jared Allen bailed him out a few plays later with a sack and fumble, and the Vikes converted it into points.
Buy: Marcus Sherels Kickoff Return. Sherels made an electric play to start the game off, which is exactly what the Vikings needed. He got the Vikings down well into Carolina territory, and set the offense up with a short field and a golden opportunity to take an early lead. This kid just makes plays.
Sell. Ryan Longwell's Duck Hook. Unfortunately, after Sherels' kick return the offense stalled and went three and out, punctuated by a sack on third down. Longwell lined up for a 44 yard FG---automatic for him---and he duck hooked it as bad as a rookie at training camp. Longwell's still one of the best kickers in the NFL, but we saw a crack in the armor yesterday.
Buy: E.J. Henderson's Early Sack. After the Vikings blew a golden opportunity for points after the opening kick return, the defense made an early statement. E.J. Henderson came through on what looked like a delayed blitz, and did a strip sack on Newton, which Allen recovered. Two Percy Harvin runs later, the Vikings were in the end zone.
Sell: The Inability Of The Secondary To Make A Play. Steve Smith made the secondary look foolish, and Greg Olsen abused Husain Abdullah on a 39 yard TD pass. The Vikes also had at least two interceptions dropped, and looked two steps behind all day. I understand that great players are going to make plays, and Steve Smith and Cam Newton did that. But when you have an opportunity to make a play yourself, you need to step up, and no one in the Vikings secondary did that.
So we sit at 2-6 heading in to the bye, but it's a hopeful 2-6, if that makes any sense at all. Not hopeful in the sense that I think the Vikings are going to make a run and miraculously make the playoffs, but hopeful in the sense that this is a decent team with a lot of talent, and with continued good play from Ponder, the climb back towards the top of the division won't take as long or be as arduous. There are still a lot of holes on this team that need to be filled, but one or two free agents and a good draft, and who knows what could happen?