The score (14-3) doesn’t matter and neither does the record (0-1). Here’s what matters: Donovan McNabb looked sharp in his debut, going 6-for-11 in two series before handing the baton to Joe Webb. Here’s what else matters: The first team defense looked bad in every aspect of the game. They didn’t tackle, they showed poor discipline and they didn’t cover. In a quick TV interview before the second half Leslie Frazier looked and sounded miffed about the defensive effort. There were several glaring breakdowns, the biggest one coming courtesy of Chris Cook, who lost Yamon Figurs on a crazy play where Jake Locker fumbled the snap but recovered in time to find his receiver…who by this time was two steps behind Cook, the result being a 45-yard TD. Cook also missed a couple tackles and was burned another time up the right sideline (thankfully that particular pass was incomplete).
Cook had a terrible game – not an encouraging sign for the man the Vikings hope can hold down the LCB position in nickel, with Cedric Griffin at RCB and Antoine Winfield guarding the slot – but he certainly wasn’t alone. By-and-large the first team defense looked awful, struggling to get off blocks, missing tackles and suffering breakdowns in coverage. The only solace for Viking fans on this night of defensive ineptitude was the knowledge that Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin all got the evening off. The D should look better with those guys in. It will have to look a lot better than tonight or the Vikings will be in some trouble.
Beyond McNabb the passing game was basically non-existent. Joe Webb did almost nothing through the air during his time in the game, preferring to pull the ball down and run rather than hang in the pocket and go through his reads. On a couple of occasions a scrambling Webb seemed to miss wide open receivers, including Kyle Rudolph twice. Christian Ponder showed a little more improvisational ability than Webb, even completing a nifty shovel pass, but for the most part he looked every bit the green rookie. As things stand now, there is no compelling reason for Leslie Frazier to promote Christian Ponder above Joe Webb. Ponder clearly has a lot of work to do. We should all feel very lucky Donovan McNabb is on this team, because neither of his understudies looks ready to lead an NFL offense.
There were positives mixed in with all the struggles. Lorenzo Booker and Toby Gerhart both looked good in the running game, outside of one Booker fumble. Jaymar Johnson staked a claim to the punt returner job by running one back for 40 yards. Juaquin Iglesias made the longest reception of the night for Minnesota, a 26-yarder from Ponder. For the most part, however, it was a sloppy, undisciplined, not-especially-encouraging effort from the Purple. Let’s see if they do any better next week against the Seahawks.