The last two games for the Vikings would have been painful if we weren't completely out of the playoff hunt and if we weren't, well, the Vikings. First, let's get through my notes from the loss to the Denver Tebows that I totally called:
Finally, an exciting game played by the Vikings. Christian Ponder shows signs that he is a good quarterback and also shows signs that he may be not so great of a quarterback -turnovers at terribly inopportuned times - is this guy Romo 2.0? Very similarly to the Raider game (and the Lions game), Ponder has turned the ball over both deep in our own territory and deep in enemy territory. This is a big red flag to me as a great football mind for these reasons: turnovers deep in your own territory equal easy points for your opponents, and turnovers deep in enemy territory equal out to forfeiting the opportunity for points for your team. These are the biggest momentum killers in the game of football.
Even with all the missed tackles and blown coverages by the secondary, I wasn't getting angry like I do sometimes when the Vikings are up to their typical ridiculously idiotic things. Say it out loud: our fourth string cornerback is #1 on our depth chart. The secondary we are fielding has no business starting, and they wouldn't be without the barrage of injuries we've faced this year. The defense played wonderfully in the first half and awfully in the second, while the offense did the opposite and played pretty badly in the first half and quite well in the second, thanks to some great plays by Percy and Gerhart wearing down the Broncos defense.
However, at the end when the Broncos were in extra-point range and we had no timeouts, the decision to just let them run the clock enraged me. In a situation where it is clear the other team can run the clock down to nothing and kick a <30 yard field goal and you have a minute left, you gotta let them score. At least then we would have a fighting chance. I do not believe you can hold out and hope for a forced fumble or a blocked/missed chip shot FG in the NFL (Frazier indicated later in the presser that they were going for the block), because NFL teams will execute in that situation 99% of the time. This is not the NCAA where field goals (especially indoors) are commonly missed from short range. On ESPN's NFC North Blog, Kevin Seifert disagreed, and had this to say on the matter:
The Broncos had a 95.3 percent chance to win the game the moment they made the interception. Had the Vikings allowed an immediate touchdown, their chances of driving the field for a touchdown on their ensuing possession and ultimately winning the game in overtime was 2.5 percent. So statistically speaking, the Vikings had a better chance of stopping the Broncos' final possession, as they tried to do, than pulling off a non-traditional miracle.
I agree with the idea that directly after the interception when we had 2 timeouts that we should've tried to make the stop, and if we did not allow a first down our worst-case scenario would have been the ball back with about 25-30 seconds and no timeouts. But once Willis McGahee broke off a 15 yard run down to our 4 yard line, I doubt we were better served by letting them run the clock down for a 21-yarder, which is essentially an extra point. Think fast, how many extra points have you ever seen blocked? Okay, now how many times have you seen a team score in 50 seconds? The percentage of us winning may have only been increased slightly if we let them score, but in "the game of inches", those are inches in the right direction.
Positives from this one included: Jared having another awesome game, Percy absolutely BEASTING for possibly the best game of his career, including two 50+ yard catch and runs for touchdowns, Kyle Rudolph having another ridiculous catch and Devin Aromashodu looking halfway like a passable starting receiver (he would go on to drop a long pass late in the Lions game).
The Lions game started out worse than any game this season, and if not for a late rally engineered by Joe Webb and aided by a penalty-prone Lions squad, would have probably gone down as the ugliest, most unwatchable game of the season. Yes, I know you're thinking about the Packer MNF game, but this was 21-doughnut 9:06 into the game. In the Packer game, the score hit 24-doughnut on a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch 4:15 into the 3rd quarter. Anyhow, it ended the way we probably needed it to end, with a loss. Spoiler victories are fun to watch, and knocking the division rival Lions further away from the playoffs would have been nice.You know what is nicer than that? The #2 pick in the draft. Tell me how much you remember that great Viking victory last year over the heavily favored Eagles which cost us a few draft slots. Nobody gives a hoot about a victory when it doesn't mean anything, and that's exactly what this would have been. With
Ryan Matt Kalil, the only top-5 OL prospect in the draft, most likely headed back to USC for his senior year (turns out this was just a rumor), we may be able to command a king's ransom to whatever team is desperate to trade up for a player like Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III. The Browns have 2 number 1's they may be willing to give up in order to get their shot at a franchise quarterback, since Colt McCoy hasn't exactly been setting the world ablaze. Even if we kept the pick, we could end up with Mo Claiborne from LSU, who is considered by many to be every bit as good as last year's top-5 cornerback from LSU Patrick Peterson, or 2-time Biletnikoff award winner Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State. Both of those players would fill big needs and have the potential to produce immediately. Check the links and see what you think for yourselves.
For crying out loud though, did it really have to end with a blatant facemask no-call on our quarterback? You know, the same position that Tom Brady, the guy who got a penalty called on the defense for tackling him, plays? The last thing we needed this season was another terrible insult-to-injury type loss that FaceMaskGate has now provided us with.
Christian Ponder looked awful in this game. He threw 3 interceptions, one was returned for a touchdown, and also had a fumble lost in the end zone for a Detroit touchdown. He could have easily had 5 or 6 interceptions by my count if the Lions defensive backs caught balls that hit their hands and chests. This kid is really starting to worry me. I get it, rookies make mistakes. The problem is, he isn't learning from the mistakes. He is making the same turnovers every time. The greatness of my football mind is arguable at best, and perhaps the plays need to get more creative, but it seems to me that he really gives away the hitch routes that we throw. That was the route he was intercepted on multiple times today and the nature of that route makes TAINTS (touchdowns after interceptions) a frequent result if intercepted.
With all that said, there is no quarterback controversy here. Ponder is a rookie and I will begrudgingly accept his mistakes. I am simply outlining the areas in which I think he needs to improve. As Vikings fans we all know that excitement need be tempered at all times. Christian Ponder has shown flashes of potential and nothing more. While some may point to inconsistent first year stats of Mannings and Aikmans, there are also Tim Couches and David Carrs out there whose starts were very similar to our rookie quarterback's. For now, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in recent memory and a wide receiver corps that is pretty thin as well. Let's just say the cupboards are pretty empty for Chef Christian at this point, and over the next few years he should have some better ingredients to work with.
|Doing it wrong...|
Joe Webb brought us back with some spectacular running plays, breaking Fran Tarkenton's franchise record for rushing yards in a game by a QB with 109 and a TD, and our defense played pretty darn well all game. Our secondary was pretty bad, but pretty bad is actually pretty good at this point in time for us. If you're excited to have your 4th cornerback back in the lineup as the starter, you might be a Vikings fan. We're so beat up in the secondary we should probably contact the Make A Wish Foundation and see if any of their kids' wish is to play in the NFL, then at least we'd get some positive headlines. Go ahead Leslie, throw Little Jimmy back there at strong safety. He surely couldn't get burned any worse than Jamarca Sanford and Ced Griffin have been, even if his condition does include club feet and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Jared Allen picked up his 100th sack as a Viking and 3 sacks overall, though that may be subject to change. The three sacks brought his season total to 17.5 with 3 games remaining, meaning he will need to average 2 sacks per game for the rest of the season to break Michael Strahan's NFL single-season sack record of 22.5.
|Doing it right, all the time.|
It's really becoming a strong opinion of mine that the Vikings need to clean house. I don't mean cut a couple players or veterans to send a message, either. I mean it in the sense that if the Vikings were a country, we need to drop an atom bomb on them. Look at who has come to play every game this season. It is literally the same 3-4 players, every time. Percy Harvin is a swiss army knife of an offensive weapon. How awesome is it to have a guy like Percy at 5'11, 180 pounds breaking tackles, refusing to go down until 4 guys make him? Jared Allen may give us the only good memory of this year if he can have a couple nice games in the next 3 and set the sack record. If we had 11 Percy Harvins on offense and 11 Jared Allens on defense, that'd be one hard-nosed, game breakin', mullet rockin', spear huntin', quarterback strippin', touchdown scorin' Super Bowl champion of a team right there.
|"Mighty Mouse ain't got nothin' on me"|
There are also a handful of solid players that do not make a ton of standout plays (Greenway, Kevin Williams, Erin Henderson, John Sullivan) but are still worth keeping. Finally, there is a good-sized portion of the team that has shown they do not have the ability to make plays that need to be made. Phil Loadholt was the 2nd most penalized offensive lineman in the league last year, and is good for at least one sack allowed/false start/hold per game this year. Charlie Johnson gives away more sacks than Santa gives away Christmas presents. Jamarca Sanford has no concept of how the Cover-2 defense is supposed to operate. Cedric Griffin has been beaten like a rented mule this season. Lorenzo Booker has about half as many fumbles this season as he has touches.
|You're doing it wrong.|
The way the team has battled back in games recently is a great sign that our coaching staff still has the players playing hard. Some of these players (hell, who am I kidding, plenty of these players) at this point simply are not equipped to be playing in the roles they're in. The defensive backs that are playing now are a product of injury forcing them to be in, so there's really no question that the players we have seen the last few games back there will not be starting next year. The offensive line's issues however, are a product of lack of talent.
Both of these groups need to be almost completely rehauled. This means one of two things: either the Vikings will be active in free agency this year and will add starters in the secondary, offensive line and/or receiving corps, combined with at least 1-2 added immediate starters through the draft, or we will try to build strictly through the draft and potentially have another rough season next year. If we can add two or three impactful free agents and have a decent draft, we could be looking at competing again next year. With Allen and AP approaching the back end of their primes and Percy Harvin only having a couple years left on his rookie deal, we should be looking to compete sooner than later. To do so, we're gonna have to make some big changes. Thanks for reading y'all. Have a good week and as always, SKOL.