When Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff for 103 yards for a touchdown, the tone of this game was set when the referees announced that Marvin Mitchell’s block to the back was getting it called back.  Despite a number of bad mistakes, missed opportunities, and questionable play calls the Vikings were able to beat the hapless Cardinals by a score of 21 – 14.

Here are some post-game thoughts:

Peterson Looked Fantastic

Adrian had a great game, point blank.  He ran the ball 23 times for 153 yards (6.6 yard average), and scored the first touchdown of the day on a beautiful 13 yarder.  He tacked on two catches for six yards.

Peterson had his best game of the season and finally truly looked to be back to his old self.  He was making quick cuts, had some getup in his step, and put on an impressive display of power running on a number of occasions.

On a day when the offense couldn’t seem to move through the air at all, Peterson’s dominance couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ponder’s Play Has Me Worried

This season has a similar feel to it as when I was a kid and was allowed, in rare instances, to eat my dessert prior to choking down my vegetables.  Let’s face it, the schedule has been much easier so far than what we expect from the second half of the season.

That is why my patience is wearing thin with Christian Ponder’s inability to take over a football game.  I’m not saying he can’t be afforded the occasional mistake, but what I am anxiously awaiting every Sunday is seeing something out of him that shows me he is capable of willing this football team to victory.  I appreciate his fairly consistent ability to not screw things up miserably, but we need more than that if we are going to make the playoffs… and especially advance in the playoffs.

Ponder was 8 for 17 on Sunday for a measly 58 passing yards.  He did hit Percy Harvin on a three yard touchdown, but threw two interceptions that looked all too familiar.  On one of them, just before the half, he was very lucky that Jay Feely missed the subsequent field goal attempt or else this game could have gone in a very different direction.

Doing What We Are Supposed To Do

After typing up my weekly preview segment, I remember lying in bed recalling all of the times I thought the Vikings had a “sure thing” matchup only to be disappointed during the following game.

I was worried about that this week, with a Cardinals team that has been giving away sacks like they are chocolate candies on Halloween.  So, naturally, I was worried that the Vikings would actually generate very little pass rush and the purple would once again fail to do the things we all expected them to accomplish with ease.

Thank goodness I was wrong.

The Vikings got seven sacks on Sunday.  Brian Robison led the team with three, Jared Allen notched himself a pair, while Antoine Winfield and Kevin Williams each got in on one.  The pass rush was fun to watch, even with John Skelton doing an admirable job of avoiding it at times, and it was a huge difference maker in this game.

Tough To Form An Opinion On Simpson

After missing two weeks of action, Jerome Simpson made his return to the field on Sunday and managed to catch only one ball for eight yards.  The biggest impact he had actually came on a pass that wasn’t caught, but rather when he managed to draw a pass interference penalty that set up Adrian Peterson’s touchdown run.

In all fairness to Simpson, it is hard to catch footballs when the coaching staff doesn’t have the quarterback throw them to you, and when the quarterback simply doesn’t throw them to you.

For all the hype about Simpson being a “key” part of the offense, the only guy capable of stretching the field, the coaches sure don’t seem interested in utilizing those skills on any consistent basis.

Smith Has His Best Game To Date

If you take away Harrison Smith’s third quarter interception for a touchdown, he still had his best game as a rookie in my assessment.  The guy was all over the field making plays, whether it be solo tackles or pass breakups, and I still can’t seem to train my brain to believe that a Vikings safety is making good plays.

Matt Kalil, Smith, Josh Robinson, Rhett Ellison, and Blair Walsh have all helped out in this turnaround season for the Vikings and my hopes for the future are increased because of it.  Rick Spielman’s first Draft after being named G.M. appears to be mighty successful, so I am looking forward to how he continues to advance the talent on this roster.

Musgrave Fixes Red Zone Woes, But Otherwise Baffles

The offensive line and Christian Ponder were all struggling today.  Badly.

To anyone that has been remotely paying attention to this year’s Arizona Cardinals this shouldn’t have been a real surprising revelation.  What was surprising, however, was that offensive coordinator just kept throwing on first down and beyond, even when the Vikings should simply have been trying to protect a lead and chew up the clock.

Sure, Adrian Peterson got 23 rushing attempts which is about right, but Gerhart was the only other running back to carry the ball… and he only did that once.  Harvin carried it twice, and Ponder added one carry of his own.

Still, this apparent obsession with throwing on first down and failing to do what was working (running the ball) resulted in this game being closer than it should have been.  Not-so-coincidentally, the Vikings converted only 1 of 10 third downs against the Cardinals.  Again, this might work against Arizona, but it has to improve really fast if this season is going to avoid a downward spiral.

Healthy On A Short Week

The Vikings get to occupy some prime time air space (uh oh) on Thursday night as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Bucs are coming off of a disappointing last second loss to New Orleans, which sent them to a 2-4 record.

The short week makes for equally difficult playing circumstances, but each appear to have come out of Sunday relatively unscathed.

Leslie Frazier said that the only notable injury the Vikings sustained on Sunday was the suspected concussion that caused tight end John Carlson to leave the game.  This likely means that Carlson will be unable to play on Thursday, but he has been such a minor part of the team’s offense it isn’t exactly a reason to hit the panic button.

Other than that, the short week means that this hack blogger has to hurry up and get his preview article done.

32 COMMENTS

  1. On the Simpson front it’s hard to make many plays when the qb only completes 8 passes for the whole game. It’s hard to get upset when you get a win but this Muskrat and his play calling and clock management is getting pretty damn annoying.

    • Yeah, Johnny, can’t get too upset about a win, that’s for sure. But I just can’t help but worry about the future, with all of these warning signs we’ve been seeing and all.

      • I hear ya Adam and the only defense Ponder has is that he had some pretty piss poor pass protection and was really rattled.

  2. I love ugly wins, where the defense just takes over and makes stops no matter how many times the other team gets the ball. These 35-34 games are not football. Ask yourselves if you liked it better when our defense was porous and we lost games by those scores. The other team can have all the stats they want as long as we get the W. Good win, Vikes.

    • I don’t think anyone is saying they like losses better than wins, Coach. And I find it hard to believe that you, after this game, don’t worry about some of the things you saw in this game. Am I wrong?

      “These 35-34 games are not football.”

      Wasn’t it your bombers that put up 43 on the Stampeders back in the ’61 Western Finals? What about in 74 when your Vikings put up 51 on the Oilers? Was that not football? Those were good wins, coach, I hate to hear you discount them so.

      But that 16 – 6 Super Bowl loss to Pitts…

      :)

      • I’m not opposed to good offense, Adam. No one enjoys a romp more than me. You forgot the three times we cleared 50 in ’69. And did you notice how many points we gave up in each of those games? Never more than 14. I loved the points, but I loved the defense better.

        My point is that games can also be won with a superior defense, and when that happens, it may look a little ugly. (We beat the Packers 3-0 one year.) I don’t accuse anyone of liking losses better than wins, but we gotta appreciate that a defense can be the unit that wins a game, and that’s not the case in a 35-34 game. I hate having one of our touchdowns matched by the opponent within a few minutes. Right now, when we score a touchdown, it means something.

        • I agree that we can appreciate this defense.

          But I still think the defense would appreciate a little offense… especially against a better team that could wear their asses out.

      • Yes, there were unsettling things in this game, Adam, to be sure. Too many penalties, too much pressure on Ponder, that final minute of the first half, and too many rushing yards for AZ. We’re a work-in-progress, no question.

  3. Coach, I want your take on the Ponder situation. Is he just not good enough? Is Muskrat the problem? The oline or recievers?

    • the problem? musgraves and ponder are tied for first in the who sucks the worst catagory…..OC because he plays to “not lose” instead of playing to win, (coach green anyone?) and as soon as he has a 14 pt lead, whether 2nd quarter or 3rd, he calls plays and drives for “clock management”…..IN THE THIRD FREAKIN QUARTER!!!!! I’m thinkin’ he’s probably the worst hire on the coaching staff….followed by the QB coach, is there one? can anyone get this kid to wipe that “what the hell is going on” look off his face and get his head in the game…..come on, kid, turn it up a notch, get some fire in your eyes, some spank in your step, some spirit in your game….crank it up and grab the leadership role and run with it, cuz if you don’t, the second half of this season will destroy what little confidence you seem to have, and you’ll be headed for a nice career as a back-up NFL QB……my hope is that what I’ve seen in you as a QB when late in a game when we trail… they let you lose and you sling it pretty good….I hope that is the real you…and this crap today is only musgraves crawling into a shell with 25 minutes of football still to play…….I really don’t give a damn about today’s “win”…..I’m looking for hope, that this coaching staff and QB will be our core for our first ever world championship……and I sure as hell didn’t see that today…..

      • Freds wishes like hell he could watch a game live and in person with Krugs! You can see the big vein in his forehead ready to blow even when he types. Freds guy Krugs is a stroke ready to happen.

        Don’t hurt yourself Krugs, please.

        • freds…..you know me so well…..and it is because I want to avoid that stroke that I no longer watch a complete game…..I turn it on, crank it up and then leave the room…..when I hear from a distance that the Purple have a 3rd down play coming I re-enter the TV room, remain on my feet, make sure there are no women or children present and then nine out of ten times, because the play did not result in a 1st down, I become a different person than the one who just left church an hour earlier…..I say things and do things that no one should say or do, which is why the odds are pretty low that you and I will be doing this any time soon…..but I do keep an eye on myself and my vein in a nearby mirror and at just that critical moment I leave the room……waiting for the next third down…..I will occasionally check the score on line, not wanting to risk my health by entering the TV room too often…..having said all that, I do look forward to the day when we all meet and watch our team in the superbowl…..live or at your house…..I promise to behave!

          • Thanks for the update Krugs.

            But you can’t come to Freds house if you’re going to behave. That would be no fun.

    • Well, johnny, we gotta remember the Vikes were facing one of the better defenses in the league this year. Their resume’ includes holding the Patriots to 18 at New England, and holding the Eagles to 6 and the Bills to 16 at home. Ponder’s problems yesterday was a combination of that defense, some poor pass protection, some bad decisions on his part, and an ongoing need for improvement in the receiving corps.

      Leslie had a quote after the game that I found interesting. He said something to the effect that this is the way we are building our team, and that you don’t have to have this elaborate downfield passing game to win in the NFL. Now, that point is debatable, yes, but the point is that they are not, at this point, game planning for Ponder to light it up, especially against a defense like this. He played poorly, there is no question, but this game doesn’t make me question his future.

      I know Musgrave is getting beat up — it goes with that job. But give him credit for sticking with AP enough to win a defensive-dominated game. When we went up 21-7, I think it is clear the play calling changed. I think it was a similar situation to the Lion game. We’re up and their offense isn’t going to beat us, so let’s make sure we don’t beat ourselves. Its not pretty, but we’re 5-2.

      • 23 carries is what AD should be getting no matter the game, essentially. Yes, he stuck with Peterson late in the game, but only after calling pass plays (without success) on first down. Gerhart was used on ONE CARRY, coach. Meanwhile, no other RB got a touch. I think Musgrave outsmarted himself with these “extended handoffs” and this game was too close as a result.

        I agree that we knew this would be a tough defense to pass on, but why did we keep trying then, even when our main objective was to chew clock and advance field position?

        • Maybe he though they would be one dimensional and just didn’t want it to happen… Hopefully they will get better balanced as the season goes on.
          As we know it pretty tough after the bye…

        • To avoid my philosophical rant here, Adam, let me just say this…

          1. The chapter in the playbook relative to those that will work when you are losing the line of scrimmage is clearly the smallest. It’s one sheet of paper and it says, “forget it!”

          2. Just because a play doesn’t work doesn’t mean it was a bad play call. We are all guilty of calling for a pass when a run fails and for a run when a pass play fails. Plays fail for a number of reasons, with execution at the top of the list. Its still of game of blocking, tackling and throwing.

          3. We had to keep running pass plays to keep the defense honest. You didn’t really mean we should just abandon the passing game, did you? Actually, I found little to disagree with in the play calling (other than the last minute of the first half. What in the world was that all about?)

          4. What I am wondering is if we couldn’t throw to Rudolph, and we couldn’t throw to Percy (in the second half), are we really so bad elsewhere that we can’t get someone open in single coverage? I’m afraid the answer might be yes, and that means our number one need in 2013 will be at WR (I know, not exactly breaking news).

          OK, so I wound up ranting…, but you brought up the Steeler Super Bowl game. We’re even.

          • Fair points, Coach, but I still disagree:

            1. We were winning the line of scrimmage… when we were running the ball.

            2. Agreed… plays fail for all sorts of reasons. By the time the second half rolled around on Sunday, it was clear that plays failed because a pass was called. Conversly, they succeeded when a run was called.

            3. Musgrave called pass plays on the first five first downs of the second half. That is not only keeping the defense honest… it was gift wrapping third and longs.

            4. Agreed. Ponder needs more weapons, and the protection needs to improve so Rudolph can actually run downfield.

      • Sometimes its easy to forget how good the Cards Defense is, Agree that Ponders is still learning and trying to jell with Receivers, Couple of his decisions yesterday were lame. But we’re 5-2…

        This Bucs game coming up will be a good challenge for the Defense, Freeman is pretty moble guy

  4. All running plays succeeded? C’mon Adam, that’s just not true. We are talking about the Oct. 21st Viking-Cardinal game, right? I saw a significant number of running plays get flat out stuffed. Yes, we averaged 6.5 yards per rush, but that can be accomplished by 4 runs of 1 yard, 3 yards, -1 yard and 27 yards. That doesn’t mean all those plays are “successful”.

    Some failed plays serve to set up plays to be successful. You are not going to be able to sustain a running game if there is no concern about passing the ball. I guess we have to agree to disagree about the play calling last Sunday. I’m fine with that.

    • Coach, I’m not meaning to be so argumentative here… but I just can’t help it. I simply disagree (which, like you said, we can agree to do) and think the playcalling in the second half was atrocious… which resulted in zero points generated by the offense in the second half.

      FIRST DRIVE: 4 passes called, three incompletions and one penalty for -5 yards. 2 runs called for 26 yards. Punt.

      SECOND DRIVE: 2 passes called, 1 completed for 4 yards. 1 run called, gained 4 yards. Punt.

      THIRD DRIVE: 2 passes called, 1 sack and 1 incompletion. 1 run called, gained 4 yards. Punt.

      FOURTH DRIVE: 3 runs called for 9 yards. Punt.

      FIFTH DRIVE: 4 runs called for 13 yards. End of Game.

      In the second half, the Vikings had 8 first down attempts. On 5 of them, the Vikings attempted a pass play, netting -1 yards on first down (1 sack, 1 penalty, and only 1 completion… to Peterson). On the three first down run plays, the Vikings netted 10 yards. So, if you ask me whether I would rather face 2nd and 10 or 2nd and 7… the answer is going to be obvious.

      Not all running plays succeeded, no, but none went for negative yardage. Not a single Vikings keep-em-honest pass in the 2nd half went for more than 4 yards. Peterson went for 4 yards or more 7 times in the second half.

  5. I can’t help it either Adam (but it is kinda fun, huh?). I would simply ask… was it play calling or execution of the plays? No one PLANS on second and 10. Yes, the passing game was anemic, to say the least, but you have to stay with it somewhat for several reasons. You must keep the threat of the pass in the mind of the defense, and you have to believe you will have some success. So the mix was 8 passes and 11 runs. Did you want 2 passes and 17 runs? Good luck with that.

    But if you want to say, “It didn’t work so you were wrong”, well,OK, but I think that is what we call hindsight. My experience has been that when the offense works, we praise the players. When it fails, we blame the OC.

    • It is fun, indeed, coach… always is with my VT readers, as you guys are as sharp as they come (yes,e ven you, Tomb).

      The ratio you site is skewed by the fact that it would have been 100% (instead of 97%) stupid to pass on that last drive. (however, why we risked Peterson on those reps is something I don’t get either. If we can’t trust gerhart with more than 1 carry a game, its time to cut him).

      I get all the Football 101 stuff about keeping the defense honest, and opening upt he run game, and yadda yadda yadda. I get it, and I agree with it, but this isn’t what we saw here. We saw five first down passes in a row… FIRST DOWN… the ratio would be easier to swallow had we been throwing on 2nd and 6 (after a run) instead of 1 and 10 with horrible results. I mean, its not like we were DOWN by two scores.

      Ponder had been running for his life since the second quarter started and big mistakes were the result. What does it do for his progression, his confidence, his ability to be a leader to set him up to fail miserably?

      The ratio was not great, the sequence was awful, and the results were, well… there were no results.

  6. I get your points as well Adam. I really believe the plan was to try to hit Rudolph or a back on first down, even if only for 5-6 yards. Then, on second and five, you have a very good defense at least a bit on their heels with an equal threat of a run or pass, and that can give AP a bit more room. Yes, five times in a row seems stubborn, but you gotta believe in your plan. Could they have mixed up that pattern a little? Yeah in hindsight, they might even agree with you. But you really and truly only know that after the fact, and I just don’t think it was that blatantly wrong.

    I gotta know – do you think there is any validity to my last sentence? “My experience has been that when the offense works, we praise the players. When it fails, we blame the OC.”

    • I would say that when things seem to fail consistently, the coaches get the blame. When one or two specific big plays (or mistakes) can be pointed out, the players get the blame. In both cases, too much blame is probably assigned… and not enough shared.

  7. Fair enough, my friend. My final point for the evening would be this… If you were to ask the players, and they would be given every chance to be honest, I will bet they would say the problem Sunday was not play calling, but rather execution of the plays called.

    Gotta punch out. Thanks for the discussion!!

  8. LOL…I’m sitting here, minding my own business, passively reading this pillow fight get a little edgy, and then: e ven Tomb??

    …bitches.

  9. By the way, ladies, you’re both wrong. I would explain it to you, but it’s very complicated math.

    Having said that, I’m glad we can agree on at least one thing:

    “(however, why we risked Peterson on those reps is something I don’t get either. If we can’t trust gerhart with more than 1 carry a game, its time to cut him).”

    Agreed, cut him. High fives all around!!

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