Opinion Corner: Another complete effortDon’t let Leslie Frazier’s calm demeanor and shy smile fool you. Things are clicking right now for the Minnesota Vikings.
By: Casey Johnson, For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Don’t let Leslie Frazier’s calm demeanor and shy smile fool you. Things are clicking right now for the Minnesota Vikings.
Just one season after going 3-13, the Vikings have already eclipsed last season’s win total and are now 4-1. Quite frankly, the Vikings made their 30-7 win against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday look easier than getting an A in a college gym class.
So what did the Vikings do well on Sunday to get their fourth win? Everything. OK, maybe not quite everything. If we could just erase Christian Ponder’s first two interceptions of the season and a couple of silly penalties (I’m looking at you Harrison Smith), the Vikings would have played a near perfect game. By the time Tennessee actually scored, the Vikings had essentially checked out because the game was already pretty well in hand. Frazier didn’t even play Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, or Jerome Simpson in roughly the last 10 minutes of the game.
Though the Vikings did just about everything exceptionally well on Sunday, we can still credit their stellar defensive performance as the driving force behind the victory. In addition to giving up just seven points, the Vikings’ defensive unit forced two turnovers, held the once dynamic Chris Johnson to just 24 yards on 15 carries, and allowed only 267 total yards.
Also quite amazingly, the Vikings gave up just 96 total yards on the Titans’ first nine possessions of the game. And despite the fact that the Vikings lost their stud, rookie safety Harrison Smith to an ejection early in the second quarter, they held their third straight opponent to under 14 points. In fact, the Vikings’ defense is allowing just 15.8 points per game through the first 5 games of the season.
Yes folks, this is the same Vikings team that allowed over 28 points per game last season. Last year, a decimated secondary was the root of most of Minnesota’s defensive woes. This season, however, the Vikings’ retooled secondary has been healthy and their rookies, Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, have been drastic upgrades over the players holding their positions last year. My apologies if you miss Tyrell Johnson, Husain Abdullah, Benny Sapp, or Asher Allen, all of whom are currently not on NFL rosters this season (shocking, I know).
There are other very positive surprises for the Vikings’ defensive group this season, as well. No one knew what Jasper Brinkley would bring to the table at middle linebacker after being injured all of last season, but he has played quite well. And Jamarca Sanford has definitely improved his play at the safety position. But the Vikings’ defensive resurgence has come as a result of far more than just one or two players improving their play.
The Vikings have begun playing as a true unit. They are understanding the scheme put in place by Frazier and defensive coordinator Alan Williams, and they are taking care of their defensive assignments, which was often not the case last season.
As evidence of that, the Vikings allowed 65 plays of 20-plus yards last season and 13 plays of 40-plus yards. This season, through 5 games, the Vikings have allowed just 11 plays of 20-plus yards and only 1 play of 40-plus yards, which is clearly a dramatic improvement over last season’s porous defensive effort..
The dominating (yes, dominating) Vikings’ defensive effort was paired with another impressive showing from the offensive playmakers for the Vikings. Ponder was a solid 25 for 35 for 258 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was an unbelievable pitch and catch between him and 6-foot-6 tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Moving on to the most impressive playmaker of them all, it’s absolutely mandatory to stop and gawk at the outstanding performance of Percy Harvin. In the words of Dick Vitale, he is simply sensational. I am convinced that it is impossible for the first defender on any play to take the man down, just as I am convinced that he always falls forward.
On both of his touchdowns he made Titans defenders look absolutely silly. On the first, he took a handoff from Ponder at the 4-yard line and bounced off of two Titans defenders on his way to the end zone. On the second, he took a quick outside screen pass from Ponder around the 10-yard line, stopped on a dime twice to watch Titans defenders hopelessly fly past him, and graciously accepted a push from a Titans linebacker that propelled him into the endzone.
With Peterson and Harvin, the Vikings are fortunate to have two of the premier offensive players in the game, and it is hugely beneficial to Ponder. Having those guys greatly minimizes the pressure on the young QB to make big plays because the Vikings can chew up yards with handoffs and quick, easy screen passes.
Oh yeah, the special teams wasn’t too shabby either. Blair Walsh banged through three field goals on three attempts (12 for 13 on the season) to go along with his impressive five touchbacks, and there were really no glaring issues or weaknesses in the rest of the special teams department.
Yes indeed, it seems like everything is working right now for the Vikings. This could have been a trap game for the Vikes, as they were coming off of a couple of big wins and playing a Titans team that certainly isn’t very good. But Minnesota took care of business on the field just as they needed to.
Hopefully the Vikings can mimic Daunte Culpepper’s patented touchdown celebration and continue to keep things rolling as they head to Washington next week.
Casey Johnson is a Jamestown native. His column on the Vikings runs Tuesday in the Opinion Corner