Sorry for the delay, everyone. Life gets in the way sometimes...Enjoy, Ted
In June of 1876, Brevit General George Armstrong Custer, commander of the US 7th Cavalry, was surrounded by a coalition of Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne warriors, and was killed, along with most men of his command, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
In defending Christian Ponder as the starting Vikings quarterback, I kind of feel like Custer must've felt when he came over that last ridge, at least in a metaphorical way--I'm surrounded, everyone is shooting and firing arrows in my direction, and my fellow Ponder supporters are rapidly dwindling, one by one.
And after his dismal performance yesterday, I'm rapidly running out of ammunition to defend myself with. The San Francisco game, which we'll metaphorically call Major Reno, is long gone and nowhere to be found.
And the schedule gets decidedly more brutal from here.
It's tough to look at the rest of the schedule (Detroit, Chicago twice, Green Bay twice, Houston, and St. Louis) and see a path to .500, much less the playoffs. The Vikings really needed to stockpile 6 or 7 wins in these first 9 games and get some momentum heading into the bye, yet they have done the opposite--two straight losses, losses in three of four games, and a defense and quarterback that seem to be in opposite yet equal death spirals.
Maybe we were fooled through 7 games, maybe the Vikings fooled some of the lesser teams in the NFL, but I have a feeling we won't get fooled again:
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together
Before we get much older
But we're still here, and we will still be the Happy Warriors, no matter what. Your in for a penny, in for a pound SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Adrian Peterson, RB: If anyone had any doubt about whether or not AP was back before yesterday, well they were an idiot. Because he showed he was back for good about three weeks ago or so. Yesterday, he was just a beast. I love watching him, and I hate that the team around him is struggling so mightily right now. Peterson is the only offensive threat right now, yet he still gets yards in chunks. I dare to wonder what kind of year he would be having if the Vikings could throw the ball downfield.
Blair Walsh, K: Right now, other than Peterson and Percy Harvin, Walsh is the only Vikings player I am remotely interested in watching. My Dad chuckles whenever he kicks one through the end zone for a touchback. Yesterday during the second half, the Vikes approached midfield a few times. Each time my Dad looked at me and said "Just get to the 50 and let that kid kick it. Only damn chance we have for getting points." Can't say I disagree with him.
The Defense. All Of Them: Do you guys remember when the Vikings had a vicious, hard hitting secondary and a run defense that was damn near impossible to move the ball against? Oh, and do you also remember when the front four could get a push, collapse a pocket, and bring sack an opposing quarterback with stunning regularity? Oh, the first 6 weeks of 2012, how I miss you so. The Vikings run defense has given up, over the last four weeks, over 500 yards rushing, the pass rush has disappeared, and the secondary, which looked so good earlier this year, has reverted back to the 2011 secondary. The regression has been dramatic, and stunning.
Christian Ponder, QB: If I am being honest with myself, and I were to replace the name 'Christian Ponder' with 'Donovan McNabb', I would be screaming for a quarterback change. Ponder has gone from a confident field general that can take the offense down the field to the deer in the headlights rookie from last year. To be fair, there is plenty of blame to go around, but Ponder deserves a fair share. True, receivers might not be getting open...but these are the same receivers that he was able to get 270 yards passing against Jacksonville, 245 against Indy, 258 against the Titans, and a somewhat deceiving 251 against Tampa. A lot of these reasons are sounding more and more like excuses, yet still...the Vikes need to ride out Ponder this year and see if he can bounce back.
The Receivers. All Of Them: I think if you move the letters in the name Jerome Simpson around you can make out the name Bernard Berrian. Maybe not, but he is as an effective a 'deep threat' as Berrian was from 2009-2011. He currently has 8 catches and almost as many pass interference calls. Yesterday, the deep threat had one catch, for a whopping 14 yards. But he was the Vikings leading receiver yesterday. That tells you all you need to know how terrible everybody else was. Somebody...ANYBODY...needs to step up. Where the hell has Kyle Rudolph gone? Where is this vaunted two tight end system that was supposed to create a ton of mismatches in the middle of the field? I am starting to believe in Bigfoot more than this two tight end system. At least there's more proof of Bigfoot existing than this two tight end set.
Buy: Temporarily Removing Percy Harvin As A Kick Returner. Yesterday, Harvin had a little sideline hissy fit, and the coaching staff removed Harvin from kick return duty. As frustrating as yesterday was for Harvin, he is a team leader and he has to act the part. I thought he had moved past the immaturity stuff, but maybe not.
Sell: Any 'Get Rid Of Harvin' Talk. At some level, I think Harvin was doing nothing more than expressing the frustration we all felt yesterday. I'm not a guy to use military terms to describe football players, but Harvin is, in every sense of the word, a warrior for this team. He takes and dishes out a lot of punishment, and I can understand emotions boiling over in frustration when you lay it on the line for little return. Sign him to an extension, because he is the only receiving threat the Vikings have.
Buy: The Last 7 Games Being A Gauntlet. We need to be prepared for the very real possibility that the Vikings will go 1-6 over these last seven games. Chicago is the real deal, Detroit has improved since the week 4 Vikings win, and with the way the Vikings are playing, can you see them beating Green Bay or Houston?
Sell: Leslie Frazier Remaining Head Coach If They Do Go 1-6. Four weeks ago, this team was on the rise. They looked great on both sides of the ball...and then suddenly, they've looked awful. How can the same players, running the same offense and defense, look so different in just four short weeks? At some point, this has to move towards coaching. The defense, which played so well early in the year, is getting shredded. The offense, which was crisp and efficient, is a disaster. Again, it's not all Leslie Frazier's fault, but he is the captain of this ship. He's a good guy, I thought (and still think) he's the right guy for this job, but the NFL is a results oriented business. He's 11-20 as a head coach, and if the Vikings tank and do go 1-6, that makes him 12-26 in a little over 2 seasons. That will not cut it.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
It was about midway through the fourth quarter, and of course, Ponder was just awful. There was one pass that he threw that was Tarvaris Jackson like--it was low, and hit the ground about two yards in front of and to the left of the intended receiver, who I think was Kyle Rudolph. My dad looks over at me and says:
"Ponder looks good. If you like your QB throwing infield grounders around the horn."
If you told me before the season the Vikings would be 5-4 at the bye, I would've been okay with it. They should be 6-3, but eh, it's football. But the way they've gotten to 5-4 has been troubling, and this two game losing streak has been an ugly display of football. Injuries are starting to pile up, but they have two weeks to figure things out and see if they can't right the ship.
With the upcoming schedule, I'm hoping for the best. But I'm also assuming the worst. I'm a Vikings fan, it's what I do.