Opinion Corner: For Vikings any win is a good winThe Vikings 2012 season-opening win against the Jacksonville Jaguars was everything Vikings fans have come to expect, maybe except for the winning part, that is.
By: Casey Johnson, For the Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The Vikings 2012 season-opening win against the Jacksonville Jaguars was everything Vikings fans have come to expect, maybe except for the winning part, that is.
Any true Vikings fan had to have had an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach when the Vikings went three-and-out with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter. Regardless if the opposing quarterback was Aaron Rodgers, Tim Tebow, Joe Namath (now, not 1974), or yes, even Blaine Gabbert, Vikings fans know that anything is possible when it comes to finding a way to lose a game.
In fact, anything is most likely probable. So when Blaine Gabbert hit Cecil Shorts III (yes, that is his real name) on a 39-yard scoring strike with just 20 seconds left, I would like to be able to say that I was shocked. Of course, I was not, and instead, I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t think I recall ever losing quite like this before.” And that thought was immediately followed by, “Who should my second favorite team be this year?”
However, much to my surprise, instead of lifelessly submitting like a seal that just got clubbed in the head by a polar bear, the Vikings displayed some composure and, actually, got a little good fortune. In a matter of 16 seconds, they managed to cover 32 yards and get themselves into field goal range, thanks mainly to a 26-yard completion from Christian Ponder to Devin Aroma-something. Then, the Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh, who missed 14 field goals in his senior season at Georgia, stepped up and booted home a 55-yard field goal as time expired. Sorry all of you Vikings fans that left early. Now you will forever be one of the pathetic few who couldn’t wait another couple of minutes to get to your car. Although, I’m not sure why you were in such a hurry to beat traffic anyway. The game wasn’t even sold out. I hope that your friends now mock and ridicule you.
In overtime, Walsh coolly converted another field goal attempt, and the Vikings were able to hold the Jags on just four plays. And at last, I could finally breathe again. Thank you Blaine Gabbert for throwing a bomb into double coverage on 4th and three.
Any win is a welcome win in the NFL, and that is even truer if you are a team coming off a 3-13 season. It certainly took a while for the Vikings to shake off the offseason cobwebs, as they managed just one first down on their first three possessions and were unable to get off of the field on the Jaguars first possession. The Vikings helped make the Jags, coming off of a 5-11 season, look surprisingly competent on their opening drive. That drive ended in just a field goal, but in the second quarter, the Jaguars put together a touchdown drive to go up 9-0 after Minnesota blocked the extra point.
At one point in the first half, Jacksonville was leading in time of possession at roughly 18 minutes to just 6 minutes for the Vikings. Things were certainly not pretty for the Vikes early on, but luckily, as the game progressed, they were able to figure some things out offensively. In fact, the Vikings scored on six of their final eight drives (Walsh’s 4 field goals and Adrian Peterson’s 2 TD runs).
For the Vikings to start the season with a win is definitely important and exciting. However, it would be extremely foolish to read too far into the play of the team or any individual player after just one game, especially after the season opener against another terrible football team. That being said, there were definitely some positives.
I will say that I was impressed with how Christian Ponder played from the final possession of the first half through overtime. As I mentioned, he led them to six scoring drives on their final eight possessions. Once he and the Vikings coaches began to get human bowling ball Percy Harvin involved in the game, surprise, surprise, things started to turn around.
Ponder finished 20-27 passing for 270 yards and no interceptions, and those are definitely numbers that the Vikings and their fans should be able to live with, especially since the team has a seemingly healthy Adrian Peterson in the backfield. And let’s not forget that Ponder completed two huge passes in the final 20 seconds of regulation to put the team in position to tie the game. Sure the Jags were probably in some sort of prevent defense, but nonetheless, he made big throws when they mattered most.
I think that it was also a blessing in disguise that Ponder was stopped short on a couple of third downs when he tried to run to pick up the first down. Hopefully, those plays will help to encourage him to stay in the pocket and check down to his second and third options when things break down, instead of scrambling at the first hint of pressure. I’m not saying he should never run, and I’m not saying he should stand in the pocket every time he’s about to get drilled. I’m just saying that he has to continue to develop his pocket presence, and he has to learn to trust his arm and his receivers to pick up first downs. The passing game will never develop like it needs to if Ponder gets skittish and takes off all the time.
Now, let’s get back to Mr. Peterson’s health. Maybe we should ask the Jaguars defense if Adrian seemed healthy. His 84 yards on 17 carries for a 4.9 yard per carry average and 2 touchdowns would suggest that he’s feeling relatively spry these days. I’m no doctor, but it doesn’t seem like we’re going to have to worry a ton about his health this year. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still a Vikings fan and numerous ghastly occurrences in the team’s past have me slightly hesitant still about saying that he won’t have any issues with his surgically repaired knee. I am cautiously optimistic, though, after his strong, impressive play in the season’s first game.
And again, without bestowing too much confidence in a player after just one game, I will say that I couldn’t have been more impressed with Blair Walsh in his first game. I mean really, the rook nailed a 55-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime. He was put in an extremely pressure-packed situation, and he rose to the occasion. I don’t know if Ryan Longwell would’ve had the leg to put that through the uprights, so congratulations to the team for drafting a rookie kicker with a big leg.
One game in, and I emphasize just one game in, that decision seems decent. All in all, Walsh was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, and he definitely saved the Vikings a win from the depths of gut-wrenching agony and a week of asking, “If we can’t beat the Jaguars, who can we beat this year?”
It wasn’t a pretty win and I almost had a couple of myocardial infarctions, but at least the Vikings won. And, if only for just one week, they’re undefeated.
Johnson is a 2007 graduate of Jamestown High School. He lives and works in the Twin Cities. Read his blog at www.http://caseyjohnson.wordpress.com/