I couldn't see the game when it was playing, so I had to see the canned version, and did it last night. Other folks have trotted out stats and ratings, I'm just going to go with pure opinion here. What I saw.
The night after the game there was a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and that's not unusual after a Viking loss; we hate losing :) . But there were some really good things to see, too. This team is looking a lot better than they did last week, and I have to wonder if that has anything to do with the reduced training schedules of the pre-season.
- The Vikings WR corps has taken a huge step forward all the way around; Jennings is fraking fearless (although I wouldn't blame him if he punched Ponder in the mouth after the game, for some of the situations Ponder put him in)... CP84 needs more touches, lots more touches.... Jarius Wright is being scapegoated because he wasn't ready to be brutalized by Ponder's decision-making, but Jennings will be a great role model for him... Where was Webb?... Simpson is looking like a #1 WR for the first time, great to see
- Rudy rocks, but the mud took it's toll on the big man too... Carlson doesn't improvise worth a damn but he's not typically a liability
- Sanford is great at being late to the dance, but if he gets there in time, he'll lay the wood. Pretty much the usual. What pains me is how often Sanford wasn't in position to make the actual stop, he seems to often be pulled out of position and isn't fast enough to recover. Smitty was outstanding, and it looks like he's learned to pull up on a hit when it's no longer necessary; last year he was drawing some penalties for that.
- Rhodes is going to be everything we've hoped for, while Cook seems to be at his ceiling. Cook got burned a couple times, but hell, we're talking about Brandon Marshall, and the Vikings didn't seem to have game planned at all for Bennett.
- K-Will is proving that he has lots of gas left in the tank, thankfully. Got to love his interception. Allen and Robison reminded me of Eller and Marshall, and the old "Lets meet at the quarterback" credo. Robison has some legs on him.
- AD got little to no help from the O-line and it showed. His 13 yard loss was caused by yet another slip on the wet, muddy turf of Soldier Field. Also, it seemed like AD was doing a lot more finesse moves than power running.
- Speaking of the O-line.... they weren't great, at times they gave up a lot of pressure (especially in the first half), but a lot of times they gave Ponder plenty of time, too. They weren't a total dumpster fire like last week and they seem to get better as the game goes on. They can't protect a QB who rabbits.
- What's up with Walsh? He having trouble booming it out of the end-zone now? Absolutely NO EXCUSE for giving Hester the opportunity for a record return day. NONE.
- Sherels and K-Will both showed great field awareness and took advantage of everything that came their way. Sherels catches flak for being mediocre on D, but in ST, he's definitely an asset. Allen is great at reading the offense, huge plus and I hope that rubs off on the others
- Guion showed the way with his beautiful ball-strip. Please, Vikings, pay attention to what Allen and Guion did. It's all about the ball, not the carrier. Attack the ball!
- CP84 is big, fast, and shifty. Get him the ball. He was brought in to fill the void left by Percy, put him in a position to do it
- That final Carlson fumble... I watched that again and again. Carlson clearly saw that he was in trouble and when he turned, Patterson was shadowing him, apparently in position to accept a lateral. Carlson was indecisive, the ball was half in, half out, and it was stripped. Carlson should have simply lateraled the ball, quickly, and we might have won with the ball in CP84's hands.
Stupid announcer tricks
- Complaining about how difficult it is for a right-handed QB to roll left and throw, because it take so much more time - Any starting NFL QB can perform this maneuver, and yes, it does take slightly more time, but he can ready that throw while he's rolling out. Just dumb.
- When the Vikings have a 3rd and 6 situation, it's incredibly difficult, they couldn't convert last week. When the Bears have 3rd and 6, it's a 'manageable situation'. There you go.
- Technical fails. WOW! Really!? Just when the Vikings are finishing their first, and only, successful drive of the first half of the game! ARGH! Good on Ponder and Rudy, for finishing.
Christian Ponder - The elephant issue in the room
- About 4 minutes into the 4th Q, Ponder started looking pretty decent. Not great. Decent. Before that.... he was not inspiring any confidence.
- His decision-making is horrific. I have to get that out of the way, it's just horrible. From the moment the ball is snapped, he's obviously decided on where he'll be throwing the ball. At that point, it doesn't matter if the intended target is covered, the ball is going there anyway. He'll fit it in. He seems to think there's virtue in that, he works hard at getting the ball there, even though the receiver he's been staring down the entire time is now covered by 3 or 4 defenders. And to his credit, he does usually get the ball in there, or pretty close. But Lord, he leaves his WRs hanging out to dry, holy crap. This is where I'm looking at decision making. When you *know* that there's 3 or more guys on your target, that should tell you that at least 1, if not 2, other receivers, are very likely to be open or not well covered. The equation is just that simple. Why keep forcing those throws into heavy traffic which are almost guaranteed to have no YAC, when you have to know that someone else is free in space? Frustrating to watch.
- Ponder doesn't progress off his first stare-down read, then he rabbits from the pocket if he doesn't see it. The announcers gave him plenty of credit for tucking and running, but it doesn't impress me. I would rather him remember that he's supposed to be the QB, instead of pretending he's a RB. Stand and deliver, or eat the sack, because throwing on the run isn't his strong point. This latter isn't because of accuracy or arm strength, it's because he's not generally able to see any targets that aren't in front of him.
- Ponder is doing a great job of not letting a failed drive or INT get to him. This was a concern because there've been questions about his level of confidence, and I'm not seeing any issues there. Ponder bounces back just fine and keeps trying. This kid doesn't need to be handled with kid gloves.
- Going back to those throws Ponder's making into traffic... that was a decision-making issue, not an issue on the passes. He showed accuracy, and adequate speed on the ball, and most of all, he got the ball into those tight spaces. He may not have a great deep ball, but he can make most of the throws that he needs to make, in terms of strength and accuracy.
- The weather was a big factor, the Vikes are clearly unused to playing in the rain, and I saw at least 4 major plays get blown because of slipping in the wet turf and mud.
- The offense's performance in the 1st half was abysmal until that final drive. It's incredible to me that every other score was the D or ST. You just cant count on defensive and special teams scores to win games, those things should be icing on the cake.
- I agree with Frazier's call to take the FGs on 4th and 6, and 4th and 4. This Viking squad can't be counted on to go that distance in 1 play. That being said, I also agree with Frazier being gutsy enough to push when it's 4th and 1 or less.
- On second thought, the purple pants do look pretty good, I'm coming around on that :)
- I still hate the 'Prevent-D'. Hate it.
- The offense needs to put TDs on the board. IMO, 3 of them, every game, should come from Ponder's arm, but if they can get 2 off Ponder and 2 off Peterson, this team should win most of their games. I don't buy the 24 point threshold, I think it's more like 31 (4 TDs, at least 1 FG) to be a consistent winner
- The problem with a putative 'ball-control running offense' is that it can't be counted on to come back in a hurry from a 7 point deficit. And if it's 8 points, it's screwed. There's just not going to be enough time in the final 5 minutes, and worse, instead of pulling it's own weight, it depends on the D to hold back the other side. The Vikings have the pieces to do more than just a running game but it all comes back to the QB
- I don't know that playcalling was a huge problem, if the Vikings had been able to execute, it would have been successful. Uninspired, perhaps, but it could have been effective. I put more of the problem on that failure to execute, as a team, because often, individual performances were stellar. A lot of this may be because the team is so young, over all. Look at how Allen and Robison have gotten on the same page, after years of working together. If there's a problem in execution, it's sitting with the coaching and training time and overall youth of the team.
- At the end, Frazier looked like a sullen, pouting child, making faces on the sidelines. Comical.
This was a very winnable game and despite the issues, they almost won it! This has got to be cause for a lot of hope. The Vikings are showing a lot of growth, but obviously, not all the pieces are in place or firing on all cylinders. This isn't the fault of a lack of talent on the team, there's lots of it, although a few areas need to be boosted. Notably QB, LB, and NT.