QB, offense show signs of lifeThe hole on the bottom of the Vikings’ leaky ship has temporarily been patched. The bumbling first mate, who was on the verge of being forced to walk the plank, was able to, finally, display his ability and potential again, as Minnesota defeated the Detroit Lions 34-24 on Sunday.
By: Casey Johnson For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The hole on the bottom of the Vikings’ leaky ship has temporarily been patched.
The bumbling first mate, who was on the verge of being forced to walk the plank, was able to, finally, display his ability and potential again, as Minnesota defeated the Detroit Lions 34-24 on Sunday.
If the metaphor was unclear, Christian Ponder is the aforementioned first mate, and he demonstrated against Detroit that, at times, he is capable of being a functional NFL quarterback, despite what he showed over the last few games. His 24-for-32 performance for 221 yards and two touchdowns, combined with another monstrous game from Adrian Peterson (171 yards and 1 TD), propelled a sputtering Vikings’ offense to an impressive day and a big win.
Forget all the talk about Ponder’s poor play being related to the lack of weapons that the Vikings’ passing game has. Because, even without Percy Harvin, Ponder proved on Sunday that the Vikings still have enough talent to be able to move the ball successfully through the air, although I doubt that anyone would be opposed to more talent. And yes, I know that the Lions’ secondary was decimated due to injuries, so it was kind of the opposite of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Minnesota’s success through the passing game hinges primarily upon Ponder’s ability to make good decisions, to have confidence in the pocket, and to throw the ball accurately to whichever receivers are open, all of which he was able to do on Sunday. I realize that those points of emphasis are rather basic and elementary to any passing game, but Ponder seemed to have trouble with those areas recently.
Ponder, who had nine turnovers in the Vikings’ previous five games, didn’t have a single turnover against Detroit, and he showed terrific poise and pocket awareness even when facing pressure. He also completed passes to 10 different receivers (including himself), and without Harvin, spreading the ball around was exactly what was necessary to have success in the passing game.
Another big key to the Vikings’ serviceable passing game on Sunday was the resurfacing of the Ponder to Kyle Rudolph connection, which has been so highly touted and talked about. Rudolph hasn’t made much of an impact this season outside of the red zone, but of late, he has been even more nonexistent, with just two receptions in the previous three games. But against the Lions on Sunday, Rudolph caught seven passes for 64 yards and one touchdown. Furthermore, he was Ponder’s security blanket on third downs, as he caught two passes for first downs and one for a score in third down situations.
The Vikings’ success through the air can also be strongly attributed to the success of their running game. Over the prior few weeks, Minnesota hadn’t been able to take advantage of the play-action pass to the degree that they should have, but on Sunday, they utilized it early and often. The play-action should, for obvious reasons, be a huge weapon for the Vikings. They have to continue to work on ways to make the most of it because Adrian Peterson demands the lion’s share of an opposing defense’s attention and respect, and rightly so.
I’ve probably not given Adrian the incomprehensible amount of respect that he’s earned over the last few games because I’ve been more focused on the puke-inducing play of Ponder and the Vikings’ overall decline. So I must now give credit where it is so rightfully due. Including this week’s game over Detroit, Adrian has amassed 629 yards, is averaging 7.7 yards per carry, and has four touchdowns in the last four games.
Peterson leads the league in rushing and has been one of the most remarkable stories in the NFL this season, thanks to his amazing recovery from ACL surgery — which we’ve all heard about a million times. His powerful and ferocious running style, combined with his electric speed, agility and tremendous vision, make him nearly the perfect running back. I feel like opposing defenders would rather take a shot to the groin than spend an entire game trying to tackle him.
Also, the Vikings’ offensive line must clearly be doing a superb job of run blocking. If they weren’t, no running back that has ever played would be able to put up the numbers that Adrian recently has. The O-line is creating lanes, and Adrian is taking care of the rest.
Sunday’s performance, as a whole, is a great example of why so many Vikings fans, including myself, are frustrated, though. We’re frustrated because the Vikings have shown flashes of being a competent and potentially successful team.
Minnesota has several pieces that other teams would gladly give family members for, and we care as fans and get frustrated and angry and break remote controls because the potential and ability is there. If the team was a complete band of bumbling imbeciles and just flat out stunk, we wouldn’t be frustrated. We would probably just expect failure, and we wouldn’t get so worked up over every loss.
As it stands, though, every pathetic loss following an impressive victory is total torment.
So what will it be this time? Has the Vikings’ leaky ship been patched with bubble gum or with something more sustainable? I guess we’ll get that answer quickly, as Minnesota follows their bye week with three straight games against Chicago and Green Bay, which will likely make or break the Vikings’ playoff hopes.
Casey Johnson is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner