Another week, another loss. The Vikings again started their game on an emotional high, this time a 105-yard kickoff return for touchdown by rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. The Bears tied it up quickly and then it was a grind-it-out game that came down to the last ten seconds before it was decided. All in all, things looked a bit better this week.
Where the Vikings Were Bad
1. The offensive line. It still sucks. No decent running lanes for Peterson, and during the first half, Ponder was frequently sitting in a collapsing pocket.
2. Linebacking corps. Guys frequently out of position and moving way too slow. Again, I was lamenting Greenway’s performance in real-time (and was only once shut up by him laying a big hit on the very next play).
3. Special teams. Punting wasn’t as bad this week — or was it? Hard to tell with the field conditions. In this game, however, kickoffs were the problem. Kicking to Devin Hester on every play is like cutting your own throat. To be fair, they did a good job of containing him in the second half of the game. On our last possession of the game, the handling of the kickoff was muffed by none other than John Carlson, who has never done anything positive for this team on the field1 — down the ball, take a shot downfield, and then bring in Blair Walsh to set the NFL record for longest field goal.
4. What’s with this roll-left-to-pass shit? Honestly, I don’t get it. You have a right-handed QB, and rolling him out left to pass slows down the play and gives the defense more time to key in on the action. It’s great if you use it once or twice a game, but c’mon Musgrave, everyone sees it coming now. Let’s stop with the bullshit and start getting a little more creative.
5. Jerome Felton still out. I think this is hurting our run game more than most people realize. He’s back Week 4 when we play Pittsburgh in London, and it’ll be interesting to see how A.P. runs when he’s got his lead blocker back.
Vikings? Good? Sure.
1. Second half adjustments. This was one of the more-pleasant improvements I saw this week. The last few years, and especially under the Childress regime, the Vikings struggled to make adjustments to their gameplan at halftime, and the result was usually continued frustration (and losing). When the Vikes came out of the locker room, they seemed to be doing better on both sides of the ball, and playing with a little more fire. Good. Keep it up.
2. Takeaways. This was a positive on both sides of the ball — two INTs, and a fumble recovery for touchdown by our defense helped us a great deal. That Ponder only coughed up one interception against a defense that lead the league last year was pretty impressive, too. There are people who are stating that he stared-down his receiver again, but I didn’t see it. It looked to me like the corner just got extremely lucky by reversing direction to undercut the curl route.
3. Christian Ponder. Yeah, you read that right. Ponder was a positive this week — not giving the ball away on stupid plays, accurate on his deep throws, calling audibles at the line of scrimmage (something he hasn’t done much in the past), and his gritty-as-hell hit on Lance Briggs while attempting a run for a first down was fun to watch, too:
5. Defensive line. The return of Kevin Williams helped. A lot. The defensive line was able to establish a pass rush and keep Cutler on the move, and all in all, seemed more crisp and ready to play. Chicago did average 5 yards per carry on the run, so maybe this wasn’t a shining point, but it was still better than Week 1.
The Vikings were in a position to win this game on more than one occasion — had Ponder not thrown the INT that was turned into a touchdown, or had they gotten a touchdown instead of the last field goal, we might be looking at a hash mark in the win column. That’s football, though — a handful of plays can define the game as a whole.
Next week, it’ll be a battle of the 0-2 teams as we face the Browns in the home opener. Cleveland is slightly worse than the Vikes in passing and only ranks 29th in the league in rushing — Minnesota should have no problem keeping their running under control, and might even be able to stop the pass. We’ll see. I’m predicting a win by 3.
1. I exaggerate. But only a little.