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Stream of Consciousness

Due to the abbreviated period between games, I won’t be chewing the cud per se. In lieu, you’ll find a smattering of my thoughts about yesterday’s game below…

  • Christian Ponder did well at what he is good at, and not so good at what…you get the picture. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex native punished the Cowboys when he was afforded space to run. Moreover, both his 16 yard scamper on the first drive and the touchdown scramble were no walks in the park. Making linebackers change direction, and getting a few extra yards beyond where initial contact took place are pluses. The flip side of the former Seminole looking skittish, is that when things works he looks decisive: on that 16 yard-er it took barely two seconds for him to take off after reaching the top of his drop back. It’s the kind of stuff that made him look promising as a rookie.
  • When passing the ball, the offense looked efficient enough on the simple throws. The receivers had opportunities to make YAC through skill or scheme and it was almost enough. Last year with Harvin, the Vikings were amazingly efficient on those safe throws. With Jennings, Patterson, and Peterson, the team does not have to rely so much on one player to extend short passes. This is a good schematic situation, although at 1-7 a blueprint for winning games in 2013 is not as exciting as it could be. To wit, none of those individuals are quite as good at Harvin on such routes.
  • Then there were the struggles on intermediate and deep throws to the outside, where Ponder was 2-7 (including the last drive 12 yard ball to Carlson against prevent) with one interception. I will once again return to the Alex Smith comparison; with an elite running game (2012 Vikings: check) and an excellent defense (2012 Vikings: check, sometimes)Ponder, like Alex Smith, is good enough to quarterback a playoff team in spite of his limitations. Throw in an offensive guru like Jim Harbaugh (2011-2 49ers: check) and a soft schedule (2013 Chiefs: check) and Ponder could find himself starting a divisional playoff game at home…
  • Unfortunately, a running game based on the brilliance of Adrian Peterson seems less sustainable than one based on a fire breathing offensive line (2011-present 49ers: check), and the Vikings defense looks to be in dire straits. Not only have they performed poorly (conceding a total passer rating of 95.56*) but three starters (Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Chris Cook) and three major contributors (Everson Griffen, Fred Evans, Desmond Bishop/Marvin Mitchell) are set to hit free agency. All this to say, grabbing a quarterback with a top 5 pick seems more likely to make this team a winner than sticking with Ponder and overhauling the defense. You can win with Ponder, but a Manziel, Mariota, or Bridgewater should offer a surer path.
  • The advanced statistical crowd suggests a team should win roughly half of their games decided by seven points or less, in the long run. This would mean that while the Vikings were ‘lucky’ last year (5-1) in such games, they have been ‘unlucky’ this year (1-3), hence the suggestion that they’ve rolled snake eyes often. To flesh out this idea a little further, these figures don’t suggest that the Vikings were undeserving losers to the Bears, Brown and Cowboys. Rather, it suggests those losses have little predictive value…
  • That being said, in those four games with less than four minutes remaining and protecting a lead, the Vikings conceded drives of, on average, 10.25 plays and 72 yards. On all these drives, we have seen missed tackles and coverages busted, with little pressure on the quarterback. Four drives does not make up a large sample space so perhaps this is just symptomatic of a bad defense, period. Either way, it has been hard on my ticker.
  • Phil Loadholt, probably the team’s best offensive lineman of 2013 (Fusco has hit similar heights, but shown less consistency) is almost certainly out for Thursday’s matchup  (officially doubtful) with a concussion. Instead of starting J’Marcus Webb, I would like to see Charlie Johnson at right tackle and Joe Berger starting next to Kalil. I doubt it will happen, but Berger has looked good playing various interior lineman positions since arriving in Minnesota. Charlie Johnson has a lot of experience playing tackle, while the fact that as a free agent Webb could only land a backup role at a low salary in a tackle-needy league says something. He was alright in the Cowboys game, and perhaps the former Bear won’t look so overmatched on the right as he did protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side. Ryan Kerrigan, however, is a better rusher than most coming from that side.

 

I’ll have some form of preview before Thursday’s game…Skol!

 

*Coming into the week, such a figure would rank 27th in the NFL


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