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10 Things: What Team Was That?

The Vikings were without their top two running backs, their most productive offensive lineman this season, and their starting cornerback duo.  As if the odds weren’t stacked enough against them, Minnesota had to play the potent offense of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, so expectations were minimal as fans filed into the Metrodome.

The Vikings, however, had no-names show up big on their way to a 48-30 beatdown of the Eagles.  Here are ten things I noticed about the game:

1.  NFL Network reported prior to the game that Matt Cassel would remain with the Vikings into 2014.  The understanding is that both Cassel and the Vikings have the option to void the second year of his contract following the season, so I was surprised to see such a concrete report come across the TV.  Cassel then proceeded to have one of the best games of his career.  He finished 26 of 35 for 382 yards and two touchdowns.  He threw one interception and took three sacks, but for the most part he was sharp and poised on his way to a 116.6 quarterback rating.  He also ran for 19 yards and another score.  These are the types of games we just never saw out of Christian Ponder and it is no wonder that Cassel’s future with the franchise suddenly looks far brighter than Ponder’s.  Jennings had never before, in his entire career, caught 11 passes in one game.

2.  Greg Jennings continued to show that he can better reward the Vikings for their investment when Cassel is at the helm.  His best game as a Vikings so far came to the tune of 13 targets, 11 catches, 163 yards, and a touchdown.  Jennings continues to be precise with his route running and the main difference lately seems to be that he now has a quarterback willing and able to take advantage of his talents.

3.  Brian Robison is already making post-game comments that acknowledge that Jared Allen is unlikely to return to Minnesota next season, but that isn’t stopping the duo from enjoying their remaining time together.  Each grabbed Nick Foles for two sacks and dominated the Eagles offensive line for almost the entire game.  The Vikings are likely to be moving on from Allen this offseason, but games like this have to make them wonder if they would be making a mistake by doing so.

4.  Cordarrelle Patterson had a nice day on offense with five catches for 35 yards and a score.  He also had two runs for 15 yards.  Where he is really making a name for himself is in the return game, however, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that he scares opponents on special teams.  The Eagles avoided kicking to Patterson all day long, he never did get a chance, but their decision to do so still set the Vikings up with great field position.  Patterson was even in on one punt return attempt, but it was a fair catch.  Patterson is quickly blossoming into one of the most dangerous players in the NFL and has the fanbase excited about things to come.

5.  Earlier this season, running back Matt Asiata tragically lost his father, and he admitted how emotional Sunday’s start was for him.  Asiata was forced into duty due to Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart both being injured.  He carried the ball an impressive 30 times, but only gained 51 yards, an average of 1.7 yards per carry.  He did make fantasy players roll their eyes all afternoon, though, as his three touchdowns were an impressive stat to put next to his name.  He also had three catches for 15 yards.

6.  Harrison Smith made his return to the Vikings defense on Sunday.  It was a rocky day for him and his secondary, but it was good to see Smith out there making his team better.  Smith tied with a team lead eight tackles and was flying around the field, shaking off the rust.  Smith didn’t start this week, but he was plenty involved throughout the afternoon.

7.  The depth chart looked pretty desperate just before kickoff, but credit should be given to a handful of reserves that showed up on Sunday, and showed up big at important times.  We already talked about Asiata.  Tight end Chase Ford had a pair of nice catches for 55 yards.  With a few exceptions, Joe Berger got the job done.  Most notably, though, was cornerback Shaun Prater.  In his first start, Prater performed as well in coverage as any Vikings player not named “Xavier” has all season and the reward was his first career interception.  His performance today should certainly earn him an invitation to training camp next year.

8.  Jerome Simpson was called for taunting and a replay of the incident left more questions than answers, as it appeared like some normal jawing was going on when all of the sudden Bradley Fletcher pushed him onto his butt.  Simpson was not shown retaliating or anything.  Following the game, Simpson agreed that the call was stunning, and even went so far as to say today’s refs were saying questionable things to Vikings players.  After last week’s horrendous officiating, and now this revelation, conspiracy theorists are certainly going to have a field day wondering if the NFL has it out for the Vikings.  Simpson wouldn’t go into detail about what was said by referee Billy Smith, but he did note that nothing said was racist.

9.  For those that needed a reminder that the 2013 season has reached levels of “terrible” that come very close to that of 2010, Jared Allen was happy to do so by once again performing long snapping duties.  The mainstay snapper for the Vikings, Cullen Loeffler, was forced out of action with a hand injury in the fourth quarter.  The last time Allen performed this duty was two years ago when Loeffler had an injury that forced him to miss five games.  Loeffler is not expected to miss anymore time this season.

10.  The preg-game reports out of Minnesota were many.  Cassel would remain the presumed starter into training camp of 2014.  Leslie Frazier would be fired.  The Vikings were already reaching out to Bill O’Brien.  Rick Spielman’s job is safe for 2014.  That about sums it all up, and while none if it was super surprising to me, it is interesting to hear some of the mainstream media members are getting leaks about the situations.  Neither Mark Wilf or Rick Spielman would comment to Ben Goessling after the game, which was also unsurprising, but the fanbase is getting restless and they may soon be forced to come clean about what exactly the plan is moving forward.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. Bill O’Brien isn’t coming here, they won’t pay his 7 million dollar buyout. I feel bad for Frazier but it’s the right call he’s a failure as a head coach.

  2. I agree that O’Brien likely won’t be the guy, but I do think the Wilf’s would pay the buyout if they thought he was the right guy. The hot college coaches have made splashes the last few years (Carrol, Harbaugh, Kelly) and the Wilf’s seem to be guys that would jump on that trend.

  3. thanks, Adam, for adding a little fresh ink to all the rumors and ideas we discuss here……I didn’t really want a win, just because I want Frazier gone, but I did love Cassel and the gang putting up 48 (gamecast in MT today…no TV)…good national comments about Vikes’ roster having talent, but not the coaching staff to use it properly…

      1. They absolutely should get some credit, but that’s part of the problem with this staff, they have no consistency from week to week. How is it that they can put together a gameplan that leads to 48 points against the Eagles yesterday without Adrian/Toby/Rudolph/Carlson/Fusco and get critical 4th quarter stops with your 5th string corner, a converted safety, and guy who wasn’t on the roster playing CB for you…yet when this team was at full strength early in the year they found ways to screw it up and lose games? As much as I want to believe that Frazier and this staff could put together this type of game plan every week, his career here has proved otherwise.

      2. Coach…..Dan T kinda answered already….but, you asked “ANY” credit? so, yeah, they get a little, and really, not much more…’s why IMHO…..had AD been ready and healthy and normal, part of me says we run the ball as usual, instead of being “forced” to air it out for this game….it’s almost by accident that this game turned out this way….. probably not a very popular opinion but it’s mine…read a couple of national writers who said “winning this game, this way, actually may have sealed Frazier’s fate because it shows more his bad decisions all year vs a good call for this game…..hey, only time will tell as all this plays out…and as always, I appreciate your thoughts, questions and opinions ,,,,,

        1. There is an old adage among coaches regarding how fans see football. “If you win you have good players, if you lose you have a bad coach.” I know guys on here see beyond that, but there is also some truth that when fans get frustrated at losing, the coach is at the top of the list.

          Maybe Leslie will lose his job, and maybe he should. I don’t think he should because I don’t think a coach can be judged until he has a legitimate QB, and frankly, I don’t think Leslie had the option of playing Cassell unless Ponder was hurt. Guys… you’re expected to go with the first round draft pick. Cassell was not brought in to take over for Ponder after a few games. I think Ponder played his way out of the job, especially as Cassell has siezed the opportunity. But did Leslie really have any other choice than to stay with Ponder? I think not.

          You wanna see a coach who isn’t getting it done with the personnel he has? This Garrett guy at Dallas is an overblown bust in my opinion. Give Leslie a QB and some DB’s, and I say he’ll get it done.

  4. Amazing how good a defense can play when our offense controls the ball for 36+ minutes. I think the long drives by engineered by Cassell was the difference maker today.

    Ponder rarely had long drives.
    Adam, could you do an interview with Mrs Ponder to confirm this.

  5. The coaching staff deserves credit for the victory. Most of the credit goes to Cassel, he played lights out. Well done Woody. The O-Line gave him time, but that’s in part because he got the ball out. The receivers did their part. And good job by a very depleted secondary, linebackers also played well. McCoy had 38 yards rushing.
    Unfortunately it’s probably too late for the coaches. It’s not all their fault, sometimes players gotta make plays. And many times this season, when they needed to most, they failed.
    Had they stuck with Cassel…this is a talented team, especially on offense. The future is bright. I do think Frazier could succeed here, but odds are he won’t get another chance.

  6. Facing a rookie head coach, no pressure (being eliminated), Metrodome Legends on hand, and could the Eagles really win 6 in a row? They were 3-5 at one point.

    1. Or…facing a red hot team with a red hot QB. With the pressure of Metrodome Legends on hand, without the the MVP and his backup. Also the starting CB’s out, as well as the starting RG.

  7. So…Ricky gets to keep his job despite the Ponder pick. Yeah, the one that set this team back 3-4 years…and wasted a chunk of AD’s career.
    Well I guess you can’t get them all right. But really, who among us would’ve picked Ponder? Anyone….anyone…

    1. yeah, even though it’s still rumors…..I’ve always wanted rick gone too…..we’ll see

  8. Anyone notice how well our Vikes are playing lately? Ever since Ponder got knocked out of that Bear game, this team is playing at a pretty high level. Beat a good Eagle team…Should’ve beat Baltimore on the road…who I see is beating the Lions in Detroit.
    I would not be surprised if we won these last 2…
    If that happens, is Frazier still fired? I don’t know, I just don’t wanna be one of those teams that keeps changing coaches every 3 years.

      1. I also hate changing coaches every few years, but you have to get the right guy. Lets say the the best we can expect from Frazier is comparable to the guy that will be across the field from him Sunday. Marvin Lewis has been with the Bengals for a decade now. He’s had poor seasons mixed in with a division title and what will likely be a third consecutive playoff berth this year…but their playoff stops have all been one and done events and I don’t see that changing with this years team. I would like to see the Vikings win a Super Bowl, not just be competitive 50% of the seasons I watch and maybe get to a Championship game every now and then. I fear Frasier is going to be in that mold. I do think it’s true that a lot of a coaches success is dependent on having a franchise QB, Tony Dungy is an interesting case of this. For all the credit Tony Dungy gets, the fact is that it took a change to Gruden to get Tampa Bay over the hump. Gruden took his offensive knowlege and turned a solid but unspectacular Brad Johnson into a Super Bowl winner. He won that game against the team he had previously coached and still had his imprint on as another solid but unspectacular former Viking QB Rich Gannon had put up big #’s in the twilight of his career. I don’t think anyone here would say Gannon or Johnson were Super Bowl QB’s. The flip side of the coin is that Dungy rebuilt his defense in Indy, but the Championship he did win there was just as much about Peyton as it was Dungy. What does all this mean? I don’t know, I’m starting to ramble a bit but does anyone hear think that Frasier, who comes from the Dungy coaching tree, is as good a coach as Dungy is? Again, it took Peyton Manning getting involved to get Dungy a ring, so if Frasier isn’t at the same level as Dungy was, what are we going to need to add to this roster get to the big game? At some point, the system has to make the players better (like Gruden’s offense) instead of handicapping the team.

  9. With ya CC. Been like that my whole life. Until they let a coach have full control we are doomed. Also, won’t get one of those retired coaches everyone dreams of until they allow it.

  10. the ponder pick at 12 was a big reach, everyone knew it, but ricky got better and has earned his stay. les is a nice guy and i like him, but he’s gonna get the axe because the team underperformed this year for it’s level of talent. if cassel stays, he can start for a while and mentor our next newly-drafted QB with all new coaches. i have no idea wth we’re doing with freeloader, but i’m very remotely and guardedly hoping they’re sandbagging that sucker cuz he’s good

  11. What I noticed Sunday is that the younger players seem like they are pretty talented. Why wasn’t Frazier playing the younger guys sooner? This is why I think Frazier should be fired. He seems very stubborn and loyal to his veterans. Why was Patterson sitting on the bench? I think some of the QB issues are his fault also. Vikings don’t have a coach that can coach a QB and make him better. Maybe some of the bad play from the players was because the players didn’t want to play for Ponder, but that still is on the coach. I think if you are the head coach and you don’t want to play a guy you should fight until you get what you want.

    1. Interesting read, WTF, but I gotta tell you I don’t buy much of it. I am growing quite weary of people who think they know something about Leslie’s thought processes based on his sideline demeanor. The guy is neither lost nor overwhelmed, thank you very much. I believe it was the Bear game where he was proven to be one of the few on the Viking sideline who DID have a clue in his use of timeouts. I will agree that he is still learning his trade as a HC, but I won’t stand by and let people describe him as incapable because he doesn’t rant and rave enough. He didn’t as a highly regarded DC, and he won’t as a head coach, either. Let’s admire the fact he is thinking instead of blowing a fuse.

    2. Thanks, WTF, a good read……….Coach, I read many reasons why Frazier would be considered incapable, but I don’t recall any of them being the fact that he doesn’t rant and rave enough on the sidelines…..

      1. Agreed, Krug, the phrase “rant and rave” was mine, not in the article. I was making a broader reference to the fact that people seem to want to see more animation from Frazier on the sideline, and because they don’t, in their minds it means he is ineffective.

  12. Excuse me! HOW has Speilio ‘earned’ his stay. Seriously. Figured what out? Freeman is more than likely his decision forced on Frazier. Writting’s on the wall bitches!

    1. he earned it by improving. he sucked and then got better. the kalil move, taking smith, the harvin trade, this last draft, and decisions on frazier’s one-year option instead of a longer term deal, and letting rice go were all pretty good. he also kept and extended greenway and AD

      don’t forget what we had before, the triumvirate thingy. i like our owners, who will spend the dough to win, and having one GM

  13. I’m saying he won’t be. I’m saying he shouldn’t be back. And, the norseman doesn’t include the gaffe of letting a all-pro fan favorite and potential HOF Center, and amazing 3rd down RB go during the Favre year. Cost us a SB.