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Some Observations To Chew On

What can I say, this is awesome!  A year removed from a three win season, the Minnesota Vikings are in the playoffs, while Detroit and Chicago are seeing heads roll.  Like I said, this is awesome!

I have been unable to think of a specific “format” to follow this week when it comes to writing on this site, so to kick things off I want to just offer up a few observations pertaining to last week’s victory over Green Bay and this week’s trip to Green Bay.

Here we go:

Was That Progress We Saw?

I am certain that any evaluators with complicated analysis and formulas for grading players will be giving Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder his highest marks of his career for his latest performance.  Ponder was 16 of 28 for 234 yards and three touchdowns, posting a career high passer rating of 120.2.  Most importantly, he did not turn the ball over at all and completed some crucial third down passes that kept Adrian Peterson on the field, and Aaron Rodgers off of it.

Some Negative Nellies out there (i.e. Me) might be quick to point out that Ponder had some luck aid his efforts and also made a number of questionable throws, but there is no denying that what we saw on Sunday was progress, or at the very least something that looked like progress.

For the sake of starting the new year on positive notes I will not point out the negatives and instead focus on what I thought was Ponder’s best throw of the season.  The fourth quarter bomb to Jarius Wright, that went for 45 yards and set up a touchdown, was a work of art.  So far this season, I have not seen Ponder confidently stand in the pocket and step into a throw the way he did on that one.

As most of you reading this know, I am not a 100% sold on this kid, but at the same time it is obvious he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  So, it only stands to reason, us fans should be thrilled to witness the progress we did at the most opportune time possible.

Now we get to include post season play in Ponder’s evaluation, which can only be viewed as a bonus when this team is forced to move on with self-evaluation.

Imagine The Possibilities

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here, but I want to say this anyways:  If there is one team in these playoffs I feel the Vikings matchup great against it is the Atlanta Falcons.

Why do I bring that up?

Well, if the Vikings manage to come out of Saturday’s game as victors; their reward will be a trip to Atlanta to take on the Falcons.  In that case, I would strongly predict a win because I feel that strongly about the matchup.

I’m not saying it would be easy, but what I am trying to say here is that it is not inconceivable to me that this team could indeed end up playing in the NFC Championship Game.

A Matter Of Exploitation

Green Bay may not employ all of the same strategies in the upcoming game that they did on Sunday, but if it was pretty obvious what they tried to do to the Vikings… exploit their weaknesses.

The Packers picked on A.J. Jefferson as the weakest link in the secondary.  Once Antoine Winfield had to leave due to pain in his broken hand, it was reserve cornerback Marcus Sherels that was viciously targeted.  As a result, Aaron Rodgers completed 70% of his passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns.  It worked, but just not well enough.

On defense, the Packers schemed to have monster nose tackle B.J. Raji bull rush on obvious running downs and ensured he was lined up against Brandon Fusco, the Vikings weakest link along the offensive line.  Raji was consistently getting penetration and made a number of big stops as a result.  It worked, but just not well enough.

The health of certain players, particularly Winfield, will be of great importance as the Wild Card weekend draws nearer.

Special Teams Worries

Jeremy Ross has been unable to beat out Randall Cobb as the primary return man in Green Bay, but Cobb’s injury that forced him out of the week 17 lineup gave Ross an opportunity and he took full advantage of it.

Ross averaged 28 yards on three kick returns, including a 44 yarder that he nearly took to the house.  He also averaged a whopping 20 yards on two punt returns.  Ross is essentially the only return man to shred yardage out of the otherwise stout coverage unit of the Vikings this season.

While the rest of the team is getting hot, however, it was worrisome to see the coverage unit struggle so much heading into the playoffs.  The importance of special teams cannot be underestimated, especially for a team that really needs all three phases of the game to be in synch in order to continue their winning streak.

Leslie Frazier Deserves No Small Amount Of Credit

Before the Vikings pay anyone on this roster, Zygi Wilf and Rick Spielman really need to get Leslie Frazier’s contract extended well into the future.

He has handled so many situations with grace, grace that kept things from becoming a media circus, that I just think he is a huge breath of fresh air after the Childress era.

If Frazier has really been able to successfully mentor Everson Griffen, Chris Cook, and Jerome Felton into men of character, after they each made serious off field transgressions, then their success this season (of which there has been plenty) should be directly attributed to his abilities as a head coach.

If Christian Ponder is really going to become the franchise quarterback that flashed last Sunday, then his devotion during the trying times of November should be reciprocated from above.

If Adrian Peterson’s incredible season can ever possibly be duplicated or improved upon in the future, then why not stick with the guy that oversaw the action this season?

If so many rookies can be coached up and produce in such a big way, like they have this season, then why would you want to leave that coaching staff in any sort of limbo state?

It is time for Frazier to be rewarded.  Actually, scratch that, it was time for him to be rewarded four wins ago.

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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. happy new year to all!
    things are looking up
    let’s get our first victory of the new year this week!

  2. Enough with the Frazier kool-aid its like 09 with chilly, the team makes up for an awful coach and all the fans start loving the coach just to realize he sucks. Frazier is no different.

    1. i don’t know how, at this point in the vikings’ progress, you can say ‘awful coach’. at the very least, don’t you have to give les, and even the assistants, the benefit of the doubt here? these guys were rookies who have grown as leaders and coaches since they got their jobs, they’ve gone through a learning curve and are on an upward trajectory, and i can’t see the signs that were there with childo

      the team says positive things about leslie that indicate that they genuinely like and respect him, and if he wasn’t doing a good job, you could read between the lines and see it. even though most players need to kiss up to their coaches, i don’t get the sense that that’s what’s going on here. the big picture is that we’ve over-achieved, we’re a much better team than we were last year and better than we were earlier this season, and even if it was all due to the players, an awful coach would have probably screwed that up

      if ponder improves, we can contend for a title next year. i’m not gulping the kool-aid, but a sip here is warranted because we’re now in the playoffs and anything can happen when a team gets hot, so, like the twins went from worst to first, and the 2000 lakers won a year before anyone thought they could, i won’t count us out right now. can a quiet coach like les win in the biggest games? we don’t know that yet because we haven’t gotten that far, but at this point, i have to think that leslie frazier is doing a pretty damn good job

      1. A lot of what you say is true, and my comment may be a bit harsh on Leslie hes not the worst coach in the league but when everyone is praising him(and Ponder) for average performances it drives me crazy. Ponder had a good week 17 I’ll give him that BUT week 14-16 people were praising him and we was average AT BEST. A first round pick with over 20 starts shouldn’t be praised and get game ball votes for an average performance. That is how I feel with Les, I think the coaching on the Vikings has been average to sub-par all year, if you look at September-November only he would probably be on the hot seat.

        1. You and I align when it comes to Ponder, I think, but I can’t agree with you on Frazier. And the fact checkers can have at it, but I don’t think my support of Frazier is anything new.

          He had some mid season gaffs, or at least his offensive coordinator did, but he has otherwise been a very solid head coach.

          Good challenge flag success rate. Greatly cut down on penalties. Has the patience of a chopping block, unlike most of us. Has put young players in a position to gain experience without shattering their confidence.

          Oh, and he more than tripled the win total.

          I don’t think he has many similarities at all to Childress (who I never really supported) and the thing about Frazier that could end up being his greatest trait is whether or not he can help troublemakers get their heads screwed on right.

          Let me put it this way: I would not want to take a chance on Dwayne Bowe with Childress as HC, but under Feazier I think he could be a superstar. At one point or another most of us were calling for Griffen, Cook, and Felton to be cut. Sure, they might get in trouble again and I might be wrong about Frazier… But these guys are each a big reason we are going to GB this weekend.

          Like Sugarman is one of the NFLs best at getting injuries to heal, I think Frazier is one of the NFLs best at getting immature dinks to grow up.

          That combination of Sug and Frazier makes Spielmans job of finding players that can succeed in Minny a hell of a lot easier.

          1. You could be right, and I am being extra hard on Frazier because people are giving him too much credit. I just don’t think we should give him a big extension after 1 winning season. I also think it helps Frazier that Spielman has taken the GM position and he cant mess up the roster.

            1. There is zero benefit to anybody in the Vikings organization if Frazier enters next season as a lame duck. Either commit to him now or send him walking now.

              They’ll give him the extension and he will have earned it.

              1. Yes let’s get him extended sooner rather than later. Less drama to worry about. With all the coaching vacancies out there he would probably get some offers. I’d hate to get stuck with a Rex Ryan type of coach.

              2. I believe he has earned more time, but i don’t wanna commit to him for 4+ seasons more until i see how the Percy Harvin and Christian Ponder things play out. I wouldn’t be opposed to a contact with an escape clause

  3. Happy New Year Guys!
    Frazier is No Childress, Really been awful the last 4 games…

  4. Adam,
    Understandable about Ponder, If he stays steady and doesnt make the big mistakes he should be around for awhile as you said. Jarius Wright has really stepped it up this season!
    He is only going to get better, Looking forward to him and Percy in the future together.
    And our young secondary with a year under their belts 🙂

  5. Happy New Year VT Fans!

    My biggest concern this weekend is Winfield. Can he play? If not, I see us being burned badly by Rodgers and his passing attack. Shearls might be an A+ Special teamer but he sucks at corner.
    Absolutely positive Green Bay will once again stack 8-9, trying to stop AD (Won’t happen). Hopefully Frazier (Who took us from 3-13 to 10-6, so say what you want Skol, you’re wrong about him) has Ponder ready to take advantage.

    Going to be REAL difficult to win this game but even with a loss, I’m pumped about this team!

  6. Fran,
    Yeah I have a feeling Marcus and A.J. are going to see alot of passes coming their way. Ponder is going to see 1on1 coverage, needs to continue to step up! need a good start like this week,if not I dont want to play catch up with packers at home.
    Win or lose I,m excited about this team too.

    1. Hey, Charlie, glad you’re having a relaxing New Year, and thanks for asking about ours. We’ve had a busy holiday season here, little ones in and out all through the last 10 days, with a couple of big gatherings thrown in. Mrs. Grant loves to gather everyone up as much as she can, and as long as she understands that football has a place in the whole thing, I love it as well. Everyone is fine and had a real good time together. I tell ya, those little ones are some kind of entertainment. Everyone’s back to their lives today, now, so we are doing some relaxing ourselves.

      Vikes game sure added to the fun (especially having family from Chicago in the house last Sunday!!) – tough loss for the Gophers, though. Happy New Year to you and your clan, Charlie!

  7. Strongly agree with all your observations, Adam. (See? I’m not always cantankerous!)

    One more observation is that Musgrave seems to be opening things up with some noted creativity. He had Peterson and Felton spread out wide, with a pass to Felton for a nice gain and a first down. He put Wright at full back and brought him out to the flat for a TD pass. We threw to AD for a TD. I believe these are examples of the offensive growth we have all been hoping for.

    1. That pass to Felton surprised the hell out of me. His YAC was pretty cool too. I love that guy. Hopefully Musgrave is getting the confidence in Ponder to start mixing some different stuff in this week. There is obviously lots of film available on Ponder but it’s all vanilla and if we can trust him with more playaction and a few wrinkles thrown in (Like AD at WR, Wrgiht lined up in the backfield) and Ponder plays a near perfect game and our defense plays for 4 qtrs, we have a shot.
      Remember this boys, the last time we played the Pack in a wild card game, we beat them (In Lambeau) and Randy Moss mooned the audience.

  8. Happy New Years back at you guys.
    I think Denzel has been learning on the go and has shown improvement along the way. I like his progression as the HC and his players really respect him. I also like the mostly drama free year they’ve had.

  9. Hey Adam, maybe have an idea for a poll…

    How many of us had the name Gary Anderson come to mind as Walsh lined up for the game’s final play last Sunday? It was even uttered by one of my boys in our living room as Walsh ran onto the field. He was promptly informed that if Walsh proceeded to miss, he would be immediately dismissed from the house for the rest of the holidays. (Obviously, Mrs. Grant would have overruled, but the sentiment remained.)

    It wasn’t dead center, was it.

    1. I sure did Coach but I didn’t say a word. I was sweating bullets as he lined up for the second attempt, good thing it wasn’t 5 yards further yikes!

      1. So did my brother-in-law from Chicago, Adam. Of course, he had a bit of vested interest in the results of that kick. Its one of the first times I’ve seen one of Walsh’s kicks have any sort of movement on it, they’re usually true as a straight edge.

      2. I thought he had missed it wide. Kind of got pumped, thinking AD was going to get another series to break the record. Oh well went to the playoffs instead. . .

        1. When they showed the kick from the camera view below, it didn’t look as bad…

  10. I see they’re replaying the Vikes/Packers game on NFL network at 8:30 CST if anybody’s interested.

      1. Yeah sorry krugs I assumed they would be replaying Sundays game. Of course they want to replay the Packers win, aholes.

        1. I think Thursday at 7 Central they are showing the whole 3 hour game from week 17.

          1. CC, it’s just a little funny that they played the week 17 game of Colts/ Texans right before week 13 game of Vikes/ Packers?

            1. Yeah, you’re right Johnny. They want to remind everyone that the Packers also beat the Vikings. Gotta make sure Pack gets their accolades.

  11. To be sure, I got that sucker recorded. As well as the 04′ wildcard game. You know I’ll have that DVD thing fired up for Saturday night!