Hi kids. If you're anything like me (and I pray God that you're not, because well...let's just say I am no role model) you probably had little to no expectations when Matt Cassel was named the starter this week in place of an injured Christian Ponder. I mean, let's face it, other than two seasons, Cassel had really done nothing, except give us some pretty funny GIF's. And at 0-3, it seemed that there was little to look forward to moving forward, except watching our favorite players trying to achieve some personal milestones, and how far up the Vikings were going to draft.
Then we got a call from London, telling us all might not be lost, and it clashed with what we had seen through the first three games. London...calling...Clash...DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE BECAUSE IT WAS AWESOME!!!
London calling to the
faraway Iron Range towns
Now war is declared and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look to us
Phony Pondermania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the reign of that truncheon thing
The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in
Meltdown expected, but we got us a win
Engines stop running but I have no fear
'Cause London is burning and I live by the river
Your SMR full of quarterback controversy follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Jared Allen, DE: If I could invoke modern day philosopher and warrior poet Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson: FINALLY, the pass rush has come back to Minnesota!! Allen harassed Ben Roethlisberger for most of the day, accumulating 2.5 sacks and turning back the clock to to 2008 and 2009 levels. He had 2.5 of Minnesota's five sacks, and was a prime reason Big Ben was under pressure for most of the afternoon.
Adrian Peterson, RB: The Best Running Back In Football finally looked like it Sunday, rushing for 140 yards, two touchdowns, and some crucial clock killing first downs in the second half. Yes, the line gave him some openings, including one you could drive a combine through on his second score. But he still took advantage of it and made plays. Seriously, on his second score he started doing his patented 'I'm gonna score a touchdown high leg kick' from about the three, and no one touched him. Beautiful, just beautiful.
Jerome Simpson, WR: Maybe I didn't get the memo, but when the hell did Jerome Simpson become a bona fide threat on the outside? Seriously, that's another solid game from him, both in catching the ball and situational awareness. Simpson and Matt Cassel killed the Steelers on the quick slant all day, and he made a heady fumble recovery in the first half that went from almost a sure turnover to a first down and eventual field goal for the Vikings. 7 catches, 124 yards receiving, and a really nice 51 yard catch and run that lead to AP's second rushing TD?
Jerome Felton, FB: Is it any coincidence that the day that the All Pro lead blocking fullback came back from a three game suspension, Adrian Peterson looked like Adrian Peterson again? Let me give you a hint: NO IT IS NOT A COINCIDENCE.
Matt Cassel, QB: Matt Cassel looked and played like a By God NFL quarterback today. Yes, he started off slow, and was under 50% completion percentage in the first half, but he just looked and felt like the real deal today. From running the offense, to making decisions in the pocket, to getting rid of the ball, Cassel completely out performed my expectations of him. And I loved it. Is Matt Cassel the long term answer? No, he's not. Right now, do I care? No, I don't.
Greg Jennings, WR: Jennings finally got untracked today, hauling in two TD's and setting the tone with his 70 yard catch and run to stake the Vikings to a 10-0 early lead. His second score was a money catch late in the third quarter, and that proved to be the margin of victory.
Josh Robinson, CB: So could this be a sophomore slump? Yes, yes it could. He had an up and down rookie season last year, yet there were more ups than downs, and I thought he had a decent upside heading in to 2013. On Sunday, though, Robinson was was pounded more than a porn star's private parts on set, and when you throw in that pass interference call that lead to a Steelers touchdown, you have to wonder if Robinson hasn't hit his ceiling. On that PI flag, all he had to do was turn his head around and realize the ball was overthrown, yet he chose to maul Antonio Brown and set Pittsburgh up at the Vikes one yard line.
Buy: Joe Webb's Troy Polamalu block on AP's 60 yard TD run. Granted, Jerome Felton played a big role in Adrian Peterson's renaissance today, but another key is how well receivers block, too. And on Peterson's 60 yard touchdown run, Joe Webb absolutely blew up the best safety in the NFL. Polamalu was flowing into the gap, but Webb blocked down and stopped him cold, allowing AP to get into the secondary untouched, and it was over. It was a hell of a run by Peterson, but it was one hell of a block that made the run possible.
Sell: Vikings inability to get a stop when the offense got a score. The Vikings defense vexes me. They can get turnovers, they were finally able to generate some pressure today, yet it seems that when they need to make a stop, they can't. In the first half, the Vikings would score, and the Steelers would answer. In the second half, the Vikings had 34 points on the board, and the defense made us sweat it out until the very end of the game. Seriously guys, knock this crap off.
Buy: Explosive plays that went for TD's. It was nice to see the Vikings get some explosive plays on a fairly consistent basis today. Greg Jennings set the tone early, AP continued the momentum, and Jerome Simpson contributed, too. I'd have to look it up, but I think the Vikings had as many explosive plays today than they have combined in the first three games. I'll explain why I think that was in a bit.
Sell: Sustaining drives and keeping the defense off the field in the first half. As good as the offense was for the most part, they really struggled in the first half, outside the two big plays by Peterson and Jennings. It was frustrating, because the defense was doing a very good job of containing the Steelers, and a 10 point halftime lead could have easily been a 17 point lead...or more, had they been able to get in sync.
Buy: Matt Cassel being named the starting QB. Fearless Leader and I were GMail chatting earlier, and we were arguing over who was the bigger Ponder supporter. We agreed that if he was cheerleader number one, I was cheerleader 1A (look, he's the boss, I'm not crossing him on this. Shaddup). But as I watched Cassel, I saw so many more positive things in one game than I've seen from Ponder in 29. Throw after throw that went right to where the receiver was in a position to make some serious YAC, as opposed to the receiver adjusting and contorting and bailing out a bad throw. Quick analysis and decisiveness in the pocket, which neutralized the Steelers pass rush. Smart decisions and no turnovers, which didn't put the Vikings defense on a short field. A command presence on the field, and a guy that looked like he knew what the hell he was doing. For one game, at least, it was a revelation, and the best quarterbacking we've seen around here since Brett Favre in 2009.
Now, will Cassel keep this up for all of 2013? I doubt it, for a couple reasons. For one, he's Matt Cassel. You've seen the GIF's, and you know the track record. It's unrealistic to expect a performance this good week in and week out. Secondly, in the post game presser it seemed like Leslie Frazier was intent on starting Ponder as soon as he's healthy...which is baffling to me. Right now, for at least one game, there's a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon between the two players, and as Herman Edwards has famously said, 'YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME'. Cassel gives the Vikings the best opportunity to win the game right now. You can't NOT play him at this point. Unless, of course, you want a rebellion in the locker room and in the stands. Sorry, Christian.
Sell: The long term viability of Christian Ponder. Sigh...Cassel's performance was probably the worst thing that could have happened to Ponder, other than, you know, his subpar performances up until now. Cassel looked every bit the NFL quarterback today, and when you contrast it with Ponder's happy feet, indecisiveness, inaccurate throws, and penchant to bail out of the pocket and roll out...all...the...time, Cassel really passed the eye test, where Ponder has failed it more often than not. And when you read between the lines of what some of the other players said, there might be a mutiny if Ponder starts over Cassel in a couple weeks.
Buy: Starting Xavier Rhodes. Seriously, why is he not starting over Josh Robinson? WHY??
Sell: Starting Josh Robinson. Seriously, why is he starting over Xavier Rhodes? WHY??
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
"Son, I like this Catskill kid at quarterback. Better than that Rosenberg guy the Pirates have."
Seriously, that was an exact quote. I pissed my pants.
So the Vikings finally get off the schneid, and in the process bring a little spice and controversy to the season. And historically, the Vikings are STILL PERFECT IN ENGLAND. SUCK IT LINDISFARNE!