What To Watch For: Can The Vikings' Offense Stay Balanced?

In Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Minnesota Vikings remained almost perfectly balanced on offense. Christian Ponder dropped back to pass 30 times (27 pass attempts, 2 times that he was sacked, and 1 where he was credited for a run), and the combination of Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, and Percy Harvin carried the ball 28 times. Even though the National Football League is moving to more of a passing league, for a team that is constructed the way the Minnesota Vikings are, it is highly important that they maintain that sort of offensive balance.

The Vikings only ran 58 offensive plays last week because the Jaguars dominated the time of possession statistic. Jacksonville held the ball for nearly 38 minutes in Week 1 (37:49), while the Vikings held the ball for just 27:05 of the game. This is obviously not sustainable for Minnesota. . .there's probably nothing wrong with them only running 58 plays, but if that's going to be the case, it needs to be because they're pounding the ball with the run and "shortening the game." That wasn't the case last week, as it had much more to do with the fact that the Vikings picked up just one first down on their first four drives of the game.

While it's nice to have Peterson and Gerhart in the backfield, one of the big keys for the Vikings in getting going on offense is getting Percy Harvin much more involved in the early going than they did in Week 1. In the first 27+ minutes of action against Jacksonville, Harvin had touched the ball one time on an end-around. With as much talent as Harvin has and the fact that he seems to generate something positive every time he touches the ball, one touch in the first 27 minutes is unacceptable. Not surprisingly, on the Vikings' final drive of the first half, Harvin got the ball on the first three plays of the drive, and proceeded to gain 32 yards, putting the Vikings on the way to their lone first half score.

In order to remain balanced, the Vikings will also have to continue to get solid play from quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder finished the game last week with a 105.5 quarterback rating, the best for a game in his young career. Yes, he threw a lot of shorter passes, but if the team is continuing to move the chains, that's perfectly acceptable. If Ponder can continue to complete his passes on the early downs at a high rate (as he did against Jacksonville, hitting on 85% of his passes on first and second down), it will make it easier for the Vikings to keep their offense on the field.

The Minnesota Vikings have never beaten the Colts on the road, be it in Baltimore or Indianapolis. They haven't beaten them at all since 1997, when they defeated the pre-Manning Colts 39-28 at the Metrodome. If the team can stay balanced on offense and get off to a much better start than they did in the season opener, they have a chance to end both of those streaks on Sunday afternoon.

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