Friday, February 27, 2015
Blog Page 207

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I’ll be the first to admit it.

I declared the Vikings dead before they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.  I thought the loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field, and the fashion in which they (Christian Ponder) lost it was an indicator for how the rest of the season would go.

If I had been right, I would have been labeled a realist.  Now that I am one win away from being wrong, I am very close to being an admitted pessimist.  Never, until now, have I thought of myself as a possible pessimist when it comes to my Vikings, but always felt I was a realist.

I still stand by my assertion that Christian Ponder has thus far done nothing to show us he is a franchise quarterback, but the Vikings are now playing football in a way, as a team, that could see them continue their winning streak should it continue.

Leslie Frazier.  A number of players.  A handful of readers here at VT.  They, you, are all very close to being able to say “I told you so” and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

Once again setting aside any pessimism or homerism, the realist in me has decided that this team, warts and all, can beat Green Bay this weekend and qualify for the postseason.  They can do some damage in January if given the chance.

They can continue to embarrass the pessimist and the realists alike.

And that kicks ass.

Last week I took a trip down memory lane to see just how well, or as the case may be not well, Rick Spielman fared in his first attempt at free agency as the General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings.  That article and the grades can be found by clicking here.

Even more important than free agency, at least for a rebuilding franchise, is the NFL Draft.  In 2012 the Vikings made 10 selections and I want to take a look at the first half of those.  Here are the individual breakdowns:

1.4 Matt Kalil, LT:  One goal of the 2012 offseason was all too obvious to anybody that paid the least bit of attention.  Upgrade at the left tackle position, kick Charlie Johnson inside, and keep Christian Ponder healthy for 17 weeks.

Mission accomplished.

As a rookie Matt Kalil has not only impressed, he has dominated in a way that shoots him to the top five of anybody’s rankings of NFL left tackles.  Christian Ponder has survived an entire season, in large part because of Kalil’s near-perfect protection, and Kalil has also contributed plenty to Adrian Peterson’s incredible year.  Kalil is the type of player, barring major injury, that the Vikings can look forward to sending to the Pro Bowl year after year.

Oh, and they traded back a spot for extra picks just before selecting him.

GRADE:  A+

1.29 Harrison Smith, S:  The trade back to number four gave the Vikings some extra firepower for the remainder of the Draft and it didn’t take long for Spielman to cash some of that in and grab Notre Dame’s stud safety Harrison Smith.

Smith was a welcomed sight for Vikings fans that had simply had it with watching mediocre-at-the-very-best play from the team’s safeties ever since Darren Sharper stopped being a good football player.

Smith has added quite the spark to this defense and is already making his mark in Vikings lore with 98 tackles, a sack, 11 broken up passes, three interceptions, two touchdowns, a forced fumble, plenty of fines, and an ejection.

Smith isn’t always perfect, but no safety ever is, especially in a cover-2 defense.  Smith could improve his follow through on tackling a bit, and has a few other areas to refine, but the kid is just plain exciting to watch.  A bruiser with ball skills was just what this Vikings defense needed to hang with the likes of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and [insert any cheese curd receiver here].

This pick has, at least this year, been a major success despite the added cost of trading up.  The only argument against this move of any merit is that the Vikings could have drafted cornerback Casey Heyward, who is having a Rookie of the Year type of season for Green Bay, by simply staying put where they were in the second round.

GRADE:  A

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While I still contend that Christmas for Vikings fans came in April, I wanted to drop a simple note wishing you all a very Merry and safe Christmas.

Enjoy time with family and friends.  Eat, drink, and be merry.

After the break we’ll proceed with Packer week, but until then allow yourself this time to celebrate and cherish the new memories that are sure to be made.

Merry Christmas.

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The Vikings were expected to struggle greatly this week, as the Texans represent the AFC’s best, but they made it look easy as they cruised to victory.

A number of individual performances contributed to the win, but none really stand far out above the rest, so now you have the tough task of casting a single vote for this week’s VT game ball.

Here are your nominees:

CHRISTIAN PONDER:  16 of 30 for 174 yards and a touchdown.  Seven runs for 48 yards.

ADRIAN PETERSON:  25 runs for 86 yards.  One catch for 4 yards.

JARIUS WRIGHT:  Five catches for 53 yards.  One run for 8 yards.

BLAIR WALSH:  Three for three on field goals (56, 41, 39) and two extra points.

HARRISON SMITH:  Seven tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.

ANTOINE WINFIELD:  Five tackles, one sack.

JASPER BRINKLEY:  Three tackles, one forced fumble.

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Adrian Peterson didn’t have a hundred yard game.  Christian Ponder, while making some nice plays early on, didn’t suddenly transform into Tom Brady.  Jarius Wright is obviously not at the same level as Percy Harvin.

Still, the Vikings dealt Houston a convincing 23-6 loss, and the defense can stand proud after this one.

Rookie Harrison Smith led the Vikings with seven tackles, while also adding a forced fumble and a sack.  Jasper Brinkley and company held Arian Foster to almost no gains whatsoever, and he also had a forced fumble.  Everson Griffen and A.J. Jefferson took advantage of those forced fumbles with each recovering one.  Antoine Winfield and Fred Evans each came up with timely sacks, and Matt Schaub never seemed quite able to develop the rhythm that has downed plenty of their 2012 opponents.

The special teams did their job, as well, led by Blair Walsh who broke an NFL record for 50-yard-or-longer field goals.  He scored from 56, 41, and then 39 yards out.

Coach Leslie Frazier should be proud of the way his team played on Sunday, despite the fact that his passing game still looks completely lost at times, as the Vikings have edged a huge step closer to being included in the postseason tournament.

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