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In the backwards race to obtain the top pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings could have made some headway with a loss provided that the St. Louis Rams shocked the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Instead, they beat the Carolina Panthers after enough things happened to go their way, some of which they deserve credit for and some of which they don’t. A missed field goal by Olindo Mare at the end of regulation ensured the Vikings’ victory.
The game started out with Marcus Sherels showing some skills with a 78 yards kick return. A three and out, combined with a missed Ryan Longwell field goal, meant the Vikings were unable to capitalize on a great situation.
Once The Panthers had the ball, however, E.J. Henderson was able to blitz rookie sensation Cam Newton and knock the ball from his hands. The fumble was recovered by Jared Allen and Bill Musgrave opened up the “Percy” chapter in his playbook, which resulted in a 10 yard touchdown run by Harvin.
In the second quarter the Panthers, like so many of the Vikings opponents, took advantage of the defense’s inability to cover tight ends. Newton threw a one yard touchdown to Jeremy Shockey and a 39 yard touchdown to Greg Olsen.
After Percy Harvin caught a third down pass inside the Panthers’ five yard line he had the ball stripped from his hands and the Panthers started driving, threatening to go up by two scores before halftime. That is when the league’s most dominant defensive player thus far, Jared Allen, went to work. Jared Allen beat pro bowl caliber left tackle Jordan Gross and was able to knock the ball out of Newton’s hand which was recovered by Chad Greenway.
Just before the half, Christian Ponder tossed a 19 yard screen to Adrian Peterson for the game tying touchdown.
In the third quarter each team managed a touchdown. Steve Smith, who abused Asher Allen all day long, nabbed a 22 yard touchdown. Adrian Peterson responded with a nine yard power run that will instantly become a mainstay in his highlight reel. Ryan Longwell’s fourth quarter field goal was the final score of the game and the Vikings were able to get the first win ever in Carolina.
There was plenty of disgusting football for fans of both teams to digest on Sunday, and the Vikings clearly need help in the secondary and along the offensive line, but it is hard not to come away from this one talking about some positives.
Christian Ponder made no big mistakes. He was 18 of 28 for 236 yards and a touchdown, and absolutely incredible on third downs. Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin continued to be contributors, while new additions like Kyle Rudolph and Michael Jenkins keep showing up at key times.
On defense, Jared Allen has been a beast which continued on Sunday. Erin Henderson was another defender that stood out. They lacked consistency as a whole unit, particularly when the offense gave them short breaks, but came up big at key moments on a number of occasions.
Leslie Frazier did not have his best performance of the season, but some great performances combined with a little luck, means Frazier should get to go into the bye week focused on how to beat Green Bay instead of answering questions about his questionable management of the challenge flag.
Last week’s loss to the rival Packers wasn’t a complete disappointment for fans of the Minnesota Vikings. First round pick Christian Ponder got his first start, with Donovan McNabb placed squarely on the bench, and did enough to pique the interest of Vikings fans despite the lack of a victory.
The Vikings traded a late pick to the Washington Redskins for Donovan McNabb, who restructured his contract to a one year deal, in an attempt to place a veteran presence at the helm to minimize the impact of a new coaching staff and the lengthy lockout.
That plan didn’t work out and the Vikings season is a complete bust, which means the brass has decided to cast their gaze towards the future and evaluate the young talent on their team.
McNabb, however, does not sound like he is happy with the decision.
On Sunday morning, Andrea Kramer’s recent interview with McNabb will air on NFL Network, but PFT has an interesting snippet for us to digest in the meantime.
Kramer asked McNabb if he should still be the starter in Minnesota.
“Absolutely,” McNabb says. “Absolutely.”
McNabb goes on to make a statement that seems to suggest he thinks the blame should, at least partially, be placed elsewhere on the roster.
“Well, I mean, everyone focuses on my position,” McNabb told Kremer. “We should be sitting here, I’ll be honest, at about what, 4-3, 5-2, or whatever? We had games that we should have won, but we just didn’t. Now is it the quarterback position?”
Donovan, let me answer that question for you: Yes.
Sure, there are other parts of the roster and coaching staff that deserve a portion of the blame, but there is no denying that McNabb has looked like a completely out of shape, slow, washed up quarterback most of the time in 2011. The fact that he is denying his fair share of the responsibility for the poor season, combined with Ponder’s seemingly mature and steadied leadership style, is just further justification that he should be staying put as the number two quarterback on this roster for the remainder of this dreadful season.
The Vikings are giving Ponder a fair shake right now and the chance to control his own destiny. His mission, which he has clearly accepted, is to win enough games as a rookie to ensure the Vikings are drafting late enough to not even have to consider drafting his replacement, Andrew Luck.
Jared Allen can’t be happy with the Vikings record so far in 2011, despite having a great first half of the season personally and being on track to break the single season sack record.
Regardless, I can tell you that Jared Allen has a gazillion reasons to be happy today and every day for the rest of his life.
Amy, Jared’s wife, gave birth to a baby girl on Thursday. I think I speak on behalf of everyone here in congratulating Allen. Fatherhood is a wonderful thing!
Allen missed practice, understandably, along with Visanthe Shiancoe (foot), Lorenzo Booker (concussion), and Anthony Herrera (knee). Adrian Peterson (ankle), Percy Harvin (ribs), Antoine Winfield (neck), Remi Ayodele (ankle), E.J. Henderson (knee), and Brian Robison (shoulder) were all limited.
The Vikings are taking the opposite approach to the 12 men in the huddle strategy taken two seasons ago in the NFC Championship contest.
Instead of an extra man, the Vikings will go into Sunday’s game against Carolina with one vacant spot on the roster as a result of Chris Cook’s suspension and the subsequent league decision to grant the Vikings a waiver until the matter is settled.
Leslie Frazier indicated on Friday that the opening would not be filled prior to Sunday’s game.
This really just means one less player will be deactivated prior to kickoff than normal.
Stephen Burton, who has taken the roster spot of recently waived Bernard Berrian (who is still jobless), could actually see some playing time. According to Leslie Frazier, there is a chance that Burton is the team’s kick returner if Percy Harvin (ribs) sees a limited role and Lorenzo Booker (concussion) is inactive.
Burton is getting high praise from receivers coach George Stewart and even goes so far as to compare him to Terrell Owens.
“When he was in school, it’s man against boys,” Stewart raved about Burton. “He’s a big kid. He’s a lot like Terrell at Tennessee-Chattanooga. Big athlete. Very raw, but he’s getting better every day.”
Burton apparently is a fan of Owens’ and is not offended one bit by the flattering comparison.
T.O. was my man,” Burton said. “He did it all. Great receiver, great routes, great catching. He shows passion for the game. He was my idol.”
Owens, who reportedly is dealing with plenty of personal problems at present, has not been linked to the Vikings as a possible free agent acquisition despite the fact that Stewart coached him in San Fran the year he was drafted. It isn’t too much of a surprise, however, since the Vikings are looking to shed the team of older, stop gap players and (hopefully) those players that come with baggage.
Okay, the thing I like least about blogging is this whole playing “catch up” after an extended absence. Nevertheless, if I don’t do it now, then I’ll feel weird about just jumping in with current news out of the blue.
So, I’d like to address some of the hot button issues that I missed while I was gone. Here goes.
I don’t think we ever had much doubt that McNabb was a one-and-done stopgap. The lockout situation pressured the Vikings into believing they needed an experienced veteran throwing passes if they wanted to win in 2011. As it turns out, they were destined to lose games either way. Tossing aside the laziness rumors, just like Leslie Frazier tossed them aside, it was clear that it was time to let McNabb’s tenure as a Vikings starter end a little earlier than planned. At this point, wins and losses are relatively inconsequential (other than draft order), so it makes sense to start evaluating talent that could be on the roster moving forward.
Everybody, I have to be honest, we need to temper our expectations a bit. Ponder got his first start against the Packers and commanded an offense that was able to put up 27 points… a rarity for this year’s Vikings. It was good to see some young blood slinging passes down the field, spreading the ball around, and occasionally producing the big play. Still, he was only able to complete 40% of his passes and threw two crucial picks. The kid will have ups and downs, and just as it is important that we don’t crucify him after a down week, we need to be careful not to crown him after a good one. The Vikings quarterback situation is far from solid at this point. Whether it is developing Ponder, searching in free agency, or looking towards the 2012 Draft (or all of the above) the quarterback position still needs work.
There is draft strategy that basically says “a guy that fails off the field, is unlikely to succeed on it.” Like any draft strategy, there are exceptions, but the Vikings have ignored that idea in recent years and it has done more damage than good. Cook was looking like a decent starting cornerback this year, after an injury plagued rookie campaign, but allegations that he bloodied his girlfriend during a jealous rampage are indeed very serious. He not only hurt is team by not being available on Sunday to cover Greg Jennings, he is obviously a young man that needs to get his act together off the field before he can succeed on it. The decision to suspend Cook was a no-brainer for the Vikings, but the suspension is temporary, and the team now needs to decide if Cook is damaged beyond repair or if he is a young man that they can help become a better human and get a quality football player in return. No matter how they handle this situation there will be criticisms following shortly behind.
Was he drunk!?! C’mon man, that’s despicable. What can you say about this other than that it was poor sportsmanship, he deserved every penny of his $20,000 fine, and I was glad to see he was able to smooth things over with T.J. Lang. Robison, who has been one of my favorite players this year, gave Vikings fans no room to trash talk with a Packers fan this year with one kick to no-fly zone. Hopefully Robison puts that schoolyard B.S. behind him and we never see anything like that again on an NFL field.
Berrian Being Cut
Just like with McNabb being benched, it was time to put the underachieving stopgaps to the side and see how some of these youngsters can handle themselves in the NFL. I am curious to see if Stephen Burton sees any playing time and how he does. Michael Jenkins seems like a solid #2 receiver and Harvin is built for the slot, so it is clear that finding a true #1 receiver must be an offseason priority. At this point, Berrian’s absence will be hardly noticeable as he’s been invisible for over two years.
Some Positive Stuff
Before the season started, if I had told you that Jared Allen would lead the NFL after seven games with 11.5 sacks, and Adrian Peterson would lead the league in rushing with 712 rushing yards, would you have guessed that they would have the second worst record in the NFC? Me neither. Still, that’s where they are. However, there are still elite talents on this team (Allen and Peterson are not the only ones) and they are both going to be here for years to come. There is no doubt that these are guys to rebuild a team around and should give everyone hope for the future.
Well, another successful, relaxing, and fun Warwas family vacation is in the books!
We had nearly two weeks of sunshiny fun in Hawaii which consisted of visiting Pearl Harbor, me wearing shorts and swim trunks for the first time in nearly three weeks, letting baby Gates swim in the ocean for his first time and so many other great memories.
Another highlight was meeting longtime Vikings fan buddy “Ole” and I am happy to report that yet another one of our online friends is just as great of a guy in real life as we have all been led to believe on the internet. Our meeting was kind of impromptu and brief, and I was feeling quite out of it as a result of getting over an illness that I seem to get every time I even look at a commercial airplane, but it was fun get to know Ole and chat about both the Vikings and the incredible state in which he resides. It is a rare occurrence, but always fun to actually meet one of you guys!
Yesterday, Alaska greeted us with Mosse-filled, black ice covered highways on our six hour drive home letting us know that winter might not have completely settled in… but its right around the corner.
So, to get to the point, I am back in the Vikings Territory saddle and am hoping to finally end my long hiatus once-and-for-all by “going live” with this site and getting back to my routine of daily updates. That will feel good.
Although, while I haven’t gone back and watched the two games I missed yet, all of this I hear about Brian Robison and Chris Cook has me feeling like the dad that comes back from vacation to find his house in shambles because the kids did nothing but host parties the whole time…
So, stay tuned for some opinions on recent happenings and updates on everything else moving forward.
Good to be back, folks.