Another week, another loss that shows the Vikings are juuuuuust good enough to keep it close, but not nearly good enough to win. Without Adrian Peterson, and more injuries to the secondary, the Vikes found themselves in a 17-0 hole at halftime, and as a team looked about as fired up as Eyore of Winnie the Pooh fame.
They came out swinging in the second half, but thanks to the longest non-scoring play in NFL history (and really, isn't that the Vikings franchise history in a nutshell when you think about it?) and one of the worst goal to go series I think I've ever watched unfold (and really, isn't that the Vikings season in a nutshell?), they weren't able to pull off the upset.
When you don't score given an opportunity like that, there will be the devil to pay. The devil...down in Georgia. Yeah, you saw this one coming:
SMR, after the jump.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Christian Ponder, QB. Here's the deal with me about Christian Ponder. I love this kid. He's taken a beating, but he has an ability to shake off a bad drive or a bad game and give his team an opportunity. So I'm just going to repeat what Christopher said in his post game recap:
Oh, and while I'm at it. . .if you watched today's game and are still under the impression thatdoesn't have what it takes to be a very good (if not great) NFL quarterback, then I'm going to put this as flatly and politely as I can. You're an idiot. Playing behind what might be the worst offensive line in the league and without a whole lot of talent in the receiving corps outside of Harvin, Ponder played with poise and confidence way, way beyond his years.
This is the point of the article where I'd insert the Orson Welles slow clap gif. You get the idea.
Percy Harvin, General, All Around American Badass. Percy Harvin had 210 total yards on Sunday--95 receiving, 11 rushing, and what I thought was a game changing 104 yard, no touchdown kickoff return. He also had a TD down on the goal line that the coaching staff should have challenged, and you saw that he damn near willed the Vikings to win this game. Just a beast.
Jared Allen, Long Snapper. You know you're having a bad year when your long snapper goes down. Jared Allen didn't have any sacks, only had 4 tackles, but stepped up and became the team's long snapper when Cullen Loeffler was hurt early in the game. He also had a hustle tackle on a punt return that was nullified by an Atlanta penalty, but it was 40 yards downfield, and it was a microcosm of Allen's game--always hustling, always setting the example.
Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson, LB: Here at the Viking Investment Company, we've been bearish on the Greenway and Henderson stocks this year. They have both gotten their fair share of tackles, but more often than not, those tackles have come well into the second level after the opposing back has gotten substantial yardage, and their pass coverage has been pretty weak. But they both had decent games Sunday, and I hope they'll be able to finish strong. That said, I think E.J has lost a step, and as I've watched him this year I wonder if this might not be his last season in purple. I'll be sad when he's no longer on the team.
Chris Kluwe, P. Kluwe is quietly having another stellar year, and kept repeatedly flipping field position and giving the Vikes a fighting chance.
Michael Jenkins, WR. Jenkins started out strong this year, but has become more and more of a non factor as the Christian Ponder era has progressed. I'm not sure what the issue is--an inability to get open, Ponder not targeting him, maybe an injury that could be limiting him, but his drop off has been fairly noticeable.
Devin Aromashodu, WR. I'm not sure if this is a fair slotting or not, to be honest. The District Attorney has made several big catches, but he seems to drop more than he catches, and with a young quarterback, the Vikings need sure handed receivers, and he isn't one. He's an upgrade over the dearly departed Bernard Berrian, but I've about had enough of the Vikings signing former Bears receivers. I swear, if the Vikings sign Sam Hurd next year, I'm gonna be pissed.
The Secondary. There are two bona fide dumpster fires on the Vikings--the secondary and the offensive line. The secondary has been ravaged by injuries for the second year in a row, and guys that should be playing either nickel or dime roles are starting. It's not going to get any better; truth be told, it'll probably get worse. For us fans, the only solution I have is drink early and drink often. New drinking game: Drink every time a Vikings defensive back motions 'no good' whenever an opposing receiver makes a catch with the ball near the ground or with them near the sideline. The bad news is you'll be blind drunk halfway through the first quarter and you'll miss the rest of the game. The good news is you'll be blind drunk halfway through the first quarter and you'll miss the rest of the game.
The Offensive Line. With the secondary, we can at least blame injuries. The offensive line? Well, Anthony Herrera has been hurt, but Joe Berger has actually been decent in his place. So it's not that. No, what we have is years of neglect fully taking root. Other than the Steve Hutchinson signing, there has been little to no investment in this area in nearly a decade, and the talent level is the lowest, from tackle to tackle, than any other o-line in the NFL. The only way this unit is going to get better is with an overhaul and a talent infusion.
Buy: The Second Half Turn Around. Atlanta opened the game by holding the ball for almost 20 minutes and opening up a 17-0 lead. Both the offense and the defense looked like they wanted to be doing anything other than playing that game, and when you're 2-8, on the road, and down 17-0 to a team that's in the thick of the playoff race, this smelled like an ass kicking of historic proportions coming up.
Sell: The First Half Crapfest. But that didn't happen. The Vikings dug down, scored twice, and got to within three points early in the fourth quarter. Toby Gerhart was running effectively, Christian Ponder launched a 4th down, 39 yard lightning bolt to Percy Harvin, and BOOM, the Good Guys were within 3. But Atlanta is a good team, and answered with a TD, and it seemed that the game might be out of reach. And then...
Buy: Percy Harvin's 104 Yard Kickoff Return. BOOM, again. When Harvin fielded the ball about 7 yards deep in the end zone and started running out, both Dad and I went NOOOOO, because we both thought it was Lorenzo Booker returning kicks. But the announcer said 'Harvin' around the 5 or 10, and my Dad said 'watch this'. And Percy Harvin damn near pulled off the longest TD play in Vikings history. But he got the ball down to the three, where we got to watch...
Sell: The Goal Line Crapfest. That was about the worst four play sequence I've seen from the Vikings in a long, long time. When you're on the three, and you have a battering ram for a running back that's already scored from a couple yards out and a rookie QB, Football 101 says right here on page 1, paragraph 1...and I quote:
Run the goddamn ball, Leslie. Run. The. Ball.
Look, I like Ponder, we all know this. Most of us like Ponder. And I griped quite a bit about not rolling him out more during the game, but that was absolutely the wrong time to do that. Run the ball down their throats, and honestly, I had no problem using either Harvin or Gerhart in that situation. But now Ponder gets sacked, and you use second and third down to get back to the one. Run those plays on first and second down, and you're either in or on the 6 inch line, and a QB sneak from being down by three points. Everyone in the Georgia Dome knew you'd use Gerhart on fourth down, and it was a disaster. It was a disaster because Harvin SCORED ON THE PREVIOUS PLAY, and Leslie Frazier didn't challenge the play. I'm not even mad they didn't kick the field goal, which would've got them within 7. That's what the book says, but I can see going for it there, considering the momentum you had from the kickoff return. But they went for it, and telegraphed the play from 1,000 miles away. It was terrible playcalling all the way around. My Dad's a 'get off my lawn' type of old guy, yet he rarely drops the F bomb. He dropped the F bomb after that series.
Don Glover Quote Of The Day: "Teddy, was Leslie Frazier born stupid? And that guy Muskrat, (referring to Bill Musgrave), he's a F----in' idiot." --After the goal line crapfest. Ah yes, Don Glover is officially off the Leslie Frazier/Bill Musgrave Love Train. If it's any consolation, Les, you lasted longer than Brad Childress, Mike Tice, and Denny Green, combined.
There's more I could go on about--Remi Ayodele being invisible, Toby Gerhart (yay or nay, I could go either way, honestly), the emergence of Everson Griffen, the disappearance of Brian Robison (by the way, Griffen only has 1.5 less sacks than Robison now), and Leslie Frazier's seeming indifference.
And oh joy, look who's coming to town--Tim Tebow. I fully expect Tebow to go 2-18 for 187 yards and 2 TD's, both coming in the last 11 seconds to win. Why? Because that's just the way the season has gone.