The Vikings came out on the short end of a 23-20 nailbiter against the Colts. Looking back at five big issues from the game:
1. Nobody getting open downfield
Percy Harvin is great, but Percy Harvin isn’t really a deep threat of any kind. The only time Christian Ponder tried going deep to Percy, the receiver had two men all over him and the play resulted in offensive pass interference. Otherwise it was all short stuff to Percy. We know Percy can be deadly taking those smoke screens and turning them into long gains but he’s not going to do that every play. Most of those plays are going to be stopped for five yards or less and that basically makes them running plays. Teams will willingly give that up if that’s all the Vikings can get. Basically, this offense is in the same place it was last year. They can run it some and they can hit the short passes but where are the explosive downfield plays? Christian Ponder had decent protection for the most part but was forced to eat the ball because he just couldn’t find anyone open. Jerome Simpson’s return in two weeks may remedy this problem and it may not. But it has to be remedied or this offense is not going to be any good. Defenses are going to take away Percy Harvin and dare the Vikings to go long.
2. Double tight end attack not materializing
Unless I missed it, John Carlson didn’t have a single ball thrown his way against the Colts. This after having only one pass sent in his direction against Jacksonville. One target in two games for a guy who was supposed to be a significant part of the offense? Obviously something isn’t working here. Either Bill Musgrave isn’t finding ways to get Carlson open or Carlson just can’t get open because Carlson isn’t that good. Considering how successful Kyle Rudolph has been so far, I have to suspect it’s the latter. Might be time to mix in Allen Reisner as the #2 TE and see if he can do anything. Christian Ponder needs all the help he can get and it doesn’t make sense to throw a guy out there who’s useless in the passing game and isn’t much of a blocker. I don’t care how much money he’s making.
3. Not much going for Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson’s second game back was somewhat less exciting than his first. He did have 3 receptions including a huge play on a crossing route to get a first down and keep the game-tying drive alive, but his actual running stats were pedestrian at best. 16 carries for 60 yards with a long carry of 6 and no touchdowns. I’m pretty sure Toby Gerhart could do that. Now of course there were probably some underlying reasons for this less-than-stellar day. The Vikings seem to have trouble with the 3-4 and that could’ve led to the holes not materializing. Not much of an excuse after the way the Bears’ allegedly garbage offensive line mauled this same defense two weeks ago but whatever. A bigger factor certainly is the lack of a consistent downfield passing attack. Everything is getting clogged up with no receiver to take the top off the defense. Is that getting old or what? Adrian needs to stay patient and take whatever’s there, cause the last thing we need is him dancing around in the backfield like he sometimes does and getting stuffed for negative plays. It’s probably not fair to expect too much with him coming off surgery anyway.
The Vikings have long had a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties but yesterday was absurd. It got off to a bad start early with back-to-back penalties on the line to stall the first offensive series. Later, there was Andrew Sendejo’s roughing the kicker penalty that gave the Colts new life after the Vikings stopped their offense. Later in that same drive, Jared Allen was called for a late hit out of bounds on Andrew Luck. After the game Allen complained that it wasn’t a penalty but it sure looked like a penalty in real time, and anyway why put yourself in that position at all? Luck was clearly running out of bounds far short of a first down, there’s no reason to slide at him or get anywhere near him. Allen can use the replacement refs as an excuse all he wants but the fact is he was responsible for that and it was just a bonehead mistake. Another sequence in the 3rd quarter looked like bad comedy. After a Marcus Sherels punt return – the score was 20-6 Indy at this point so things were a tad desperate – the Vikings looked to be set up with good field position, but an illegal block by Christian Ballard pushed it back 10 yards. On the next play Matt Kalil was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness after losing his cool and pushing a guy. So that’s 25 yards lost on back-to-back penalties. Thanks to Percy Harvin they managed to get it back to their own 49, but the drive was stalled again when Phil Loadholt was called for holding. These were legit penalties too. This wasn’t the scab refs ruining our day. The Vikings deserved the flags. They dropped bonehead plays all over the field yesterday, and this team just can’t play like that. They don’t have enough talent to overcome all that.
5. What is going on with the defense?
The Vikings’ defense right now is a boom-or-bust proposition. Either they get to the quarterback/ball carrier in the backfield for a big negative play or they get gashed for a big play down the field. There doesn’t see to be anything in between at all. If the QB gets time, he’s going to find an open receiver. If a running back gets to the second level, he’s going to make someone miss and get a big play. Some of this is on Alan Williams who is getting awfully aggressive with his blitz calls. I think we were all a little stunned to see Williams dial up a zone blitz on the Colts’ last drive with 24 seconds left and the Colts just trying to get in field goal range. I guess the idea was to confuse Andrew Luck? The Vikings ran up Harrison Smith, who ended up as one of four men flooding the left side of the Colts’ line. Erin Henderson faked a blitz then went out in coverage. Everson Griffen ended up covering the tight end. But the Vikes gave Reggie Wayne a huge cushion and he wound up so wide open it wasn’t funny. Andrew Luck was not confused by the look and he was not bothered by the five men rushing him. He calmly stepped up and completed the pass, and that was all she wrote for the Vikings. I’m all for being aggressive and I’m all for throwing lots of looks at a young QB but you have to question the timing of that play, plus I have to wonder about the execution in the secondary. I get that blitzes are going to leave people open but was Wayne supposed to wind up that open?
Antoine Winfield seemed miffed after the play so I’m guessing someone goofed. Anyway, if the defensive line is so good, why not trust those four guys up front to get pressure and position your LBs and DBs to limit the Colts to small chunks. With time running out, the Colts are just trying to get close enough for a FG. Giving up that big a play in that situation just looks like ineptitude.
Marcus Sherels needs a good talking to about bringing the ball out of the end zone. God gave you knees for a reason Marcus. Use them.