RealClearSports
Advertisement

Vikings War Cry


December 4, 2012 7:27 AM

The Big Win That Wasn't

A D runs away.jpeg
On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings got another absolutely stunning performance from their all-universe running back Adrian Peterson. He ran through, over, around, and past helpless Green Bay Packer defenders all afternoon long. The only problem for the Vikings? Being on the wrong end of the 23-14 final score.

In a very crucial divisional match-up, the Vikings appeared - having weathered an early Packer storm - to take control of the game at halftime by rallying from a 10-0 deficit to lead 14-10.

What was the reason the Vikings squandered 210 rushing yards on 21 carries from Peterson and lost a game they easily should have won?

Was it the repeated offsides penalties committed by the Vikings' front four that kept each of the Packers first-half scoring drives alive? Nope.

Maybe it was because for the second game in a row,  the normally reliable rookie kicker Blair Walsh missed a routine field goal? (Last week's attempt was blocked in Chicago) Naw, try again.

Ok, how about missing Percy Harvin, and therefore not having the explosiveness at receiver that the team needed? Uh uh.

Well, maybe it was because of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense chewing up the clock and the Vikings' inability to get them off the field? Good try, but not really.

While all of those problems were contributing factors in Minnesota's unnecessary loss, they were not the real reason for the team falling back to .500 at 6-6. The real reason?
 
The now glaring weakness at the quarterback position.

On a day in which very ordinary quarterback play would have produced a rare Minnesota win at Lambeau Field, Christian Ponder was awful. Again. On a day in which the Packers were reeling from Peterson's onslaught, Ponder's terrible second-half interceptions, one in the Packers' end zone, and the other at the Packers' 10-yard line simply killed the Vikings. Never mind the countless open receivers missed, just avoiding those two costly mistakes would have given the Vikings the very big win.

In short, had the two starting quarterbacks switched teams for Sunday's game, the Vikings would have won with one of those hugely embarrassing Bill Belichick-styled routs. But the Vikings did not need a Rodgers-type of performance from Ponder on Sunday, they just needed an efficient game-manager.

Unfortunately, the "game-manager" tag has now become an insulting term when used to describe a quarterback. It shouldn't. Game manager quarterbacks have gone to, and won Super Bowls. All the Vikings needed on Sunday was for the quarterback to make smart decisions with the football, and to hit open receivers. Just taking care of the those two tasks would have gotten the Vikings tied with the Packers for second place in the NFC North Division and just one game behind the Chicago Bears whom the Vikings host this upcoming Sunday.

Now however, so differently the season's outlook appears. Stuck two games behind their front-running division rivals with four games to play, the Vikings find themselves in a logjam of teams right at, or about at the .500 mark.

While Ponder has certainly had his moments this season, and there was certainly cause for optimism for his being the long-term solution at quarterback, his downturn for the second year in a row brings much cause for doubt now. While several rookie and second-year quarterbacks are currently flourishing in the league, Ponder is clearly floundering.

While undoubtedly the Vikings' passing game is compromised by Harvin's absence, the cupboard is not totally bare without him. The other two veteran wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson have combined for more receptions and receiving yards in their careers, than Ponder has completions and passing yards in his. A competent quarterback could have gotten the ball to them at least occasionally throughout the contest.

Until well into the fourth quarter on Sunday, Ponder was so horrific, he had only completed five passes on the entire afternoon, and all of those were during a single possession. Not coincidentally, that possession resulted in Ponder's one highlight for the day, his second-quarter touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. Heading into the fourth-quarter however, Ponder had not completed a single pass to a wide receiver, and was on pace for his third game this year with a sub-100-yard passing total. When the Packers gained a two-possession scoring lead and softened their coverages by deploying a late-game prevent defense, only then did Ponder find his wideouts and eclipse the 100-yard mark with a meager 119 passing yards total. Such an anemic passing game will not win in the NFL, even with the dominant running presence of an Adrian Peterson.

Further perplexing, is the now stubborn refusal to turn to backup Joe Webb, even if for just pinch-hit relief. It is not as though Webb is an unknown entity to the Vikings in game conditions. In 2010, when Brett Favre was the starter, the offense was at its best with Webb behind center. Last year when Donovan McNabb was the starter - eventually replaced by Ponder - the offense was again at its best with Webb behind center. Webb just a third-year quarterback himself, has shown great promise, yet Head Coach Leslie Frazier continues to insist Ponder's excruciating play gives the team its best chance to win.

The worse Ponder plays - and his excellent September seems like such a distant memory now - the more foolish Frazier sounds. It is hard to know if the coach is merely following front-office orders to stick with Ponder under all circumstances - barring injury of course - or if Frazier, a career NFL player and coach, could actually believe what he says is true.

The Minnesota Vikings have come to the moment in time where the priority either needs to be winning football games, or trying to justify a first-round draft pick at quarterback. Peterson, certainly one of the greatest to ever play at his position, is in the prime of his career. Just decent quarterback play would have him in excellent shape to return to the post-season this year. He and his teammates who are required to perform well or sit, deserve better than having their season flushed down the toilet due to one position on the field not requiring any standard for performance whatsoever.


Enhanced by Zemanta

A Member Of