Opinion Corner: Ugly win better than no winWinter is still a month or more away, but that didn’t stop a couple of offenses from hibernating during the second half of Sunday’s Vikings-Cardinals game.
By: Casey Johnson For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Winter is still a month or more away, but that didn’t stop a couple of offenses from hibernating during the second half of Sunday’s Vikings-Cardinals game.
The two teams combined for just one offensive touchdown in the second half, while they punted eight times, threw one interception, and turned the ball over twice on downs. Luckily for the Vikings, Arizona’s quarterback John Skelton moves like some kind of half-asleep, fatted-up animal in hibernation mode — just ask Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, or Jared Allen. As a result, Minnesota was able to get pressure on Skelton throughout the game, and it keyed their 21-14 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.
The Vikings sacked Skelton seven times, including one strip sack by Brian Robison — who is, I believe, a close relative of Kid Rock — to halt a first half Arizona drive that spanned 74 yards in over eight minutes. Besides the pressure that the Vikings put on Skelton, they didn’t do much else right, especially in the second half.
In what was truly an offensive — as in terrible — second half from an offensive standpoint, the Vikings totaled just 58 yards on seven possessions.
The Vikings weren’t able to keep Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin successfully involved in the second half, and Christian Ponder struggled mightily. Ponder was an abhorrent 1-for-7 for four yards in the second half, while also being sacked twice. To be fair, though, the entirety of his performance on Sunday was atrocious. He was a repugnant 8-for-17 for just 58 yards and a touchdown, and for the third straight week, he threw two interceptions. Again, that was 58 yards for the whole game! And his two interceptions were totally inexcusable. On the first, Ponder successfully evaded some pressure, and then, while on the run, threw wildly behind an open Kyle Rudolph. Ponder’s second interception deserves far more description because it brings to light two large question marks.
At the end of the first half, the Vikings took over from their own 13-yard line with just 50 seconds remaining. As they were up 14-7 and Arizona had only two timeouts remaining, one would have expected the Vikings to run out the clock by giving the ball to Adrian Peterson a couple of times. However, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and head coach Leslie Frazier decided against that all too safe option.
Instead, they put the ball in Ponder’s hands, apparently, with the hope that he could navigate the Vikings into field goal range. After a short completion to Harvin on second down, Frazier, who must have been feeling extra amped up (although his face didn’t show it), elected to use a timeout when the clock surely would have run out to end the half with no harm done. The Vikings were at their own 21-yard line with 14 seconds left in the half and in need of, at the least, 35 more yards to get into field goal position.
Now I ask you, what good could possibly come from calling a timeout to get an extra down in that situation?!
To compound their terrible decision-making, Frazier and Musgrave decided to call a pass play, and subsequently, Christian Ponder threw the ball to someone in a Cardinals jersey. That being said, however, the blame for the interception itself rests squarely on Ponder’s shoulders. He should have never in a million years thrown the ball up for grabs when he could’ve easily just thrown it away. It was as if he thought it was the end of the game and the Vikings were trailing. Seriously, Brett Favre wouldn’t have made that throw.
From the standpoint of understanding football situations, it was one of the worst decisions that I’ve seen in quite some time, and Frazier’s clock management follows as a close second. The interception gave Arizona the ball back at Minnesota’s 29-yard line with just five seconds left in the half. Luckily for Minnesota, though, Jay Feely missed Arizona’s ensuing field goal attempt as the half expired, which would’ve brought the score to 14-10 — it did, however, bring Frazier to fold his hands in a prayer of thanksgiving.
That sequence of events shined light on two issues that will be important to watch going forward. First, will Christian Ponder be able to limit his mistakes going forward, as he had done through the first four weeks of the season? The story for the Vikings early in the year was Ponder’s ability to make good decisions and to take care of the football.
And second, does Frazier have the football IQ necessary to manage situations at the end of halves and, more importantly, at the end of close games? There is no doubt that he has done a good job of transforming this group of underachievers into early season playoff contenders. But when games are on the line and it comes down to important coaching decisions, will Frazier’s inexperience prove costly?
Despite the ugliness of the performance, at least offensively, it was, after all, still a win. And that’s the beauty of the 2012 Minnesota Vikings. So far, they’ve proven that they have far greater resolve and grit then the Vikings of the last two seasons.
In the past two treacherous seasons, the Vikings never would have had an opportunity to win a game in which they played so poorly. But their defense was again, as it has been many times this season, the key to their victory.
Something tells me that Minnesota’s victory over the Cardinals on Sunday wasn’t exactly how Leslie Frazier had envisioned it coming, and sure, the Vikings played lousy in many respects. But hey, Minnesota still won, and, quite frankly, that’s all that matters. You can’t apologize for a win in the NFL.
Casey Johnson’s column on the Minnesota Vikings runs each Tuesday in the Opinion Corner