Quotulatiousness

November 3, 2014

Vikings 29, Washington 26 – and Matt Asiata only scores touchdowns in threes

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

After a bad first half, the Vikings came to life in the final two minutes and then carried that momentum into the second half. The hero of the game was Matt Asiata, who scored three touchdowns, for the third time in his career (he also scored a two-point conversion). Chris Tomasson tweeted that Asiata scored the fourth most in a game in Vikings history (Chuck Foreman and Ahmad Rashad each scored 24 and Rich Karlis scored 21). Teddy Bridgewater threw for 26 of 42 gaining 268 yards and a TD pass to backup tight end Chase Ford, and the Vikings defence sacked RGIII five times to keep the game in reach.

Washington got a gift of four points after a terrible roughing the passer penalty against safety Harrison Smith (replays showed little if any contact between Smith and RGIII, but it kept a stalled Washington drive alive). Instead of settling for a field goal, RGIII found a receiver on the goal line on the next play for the touchdown.

Cordarrelle Patterson still seems to be in the witness protection program, with only one reception on seven attempts (some of which were badly placed throws by Bridgewater, but others looked like the fault was on Patterson), and he made some odd kick return decisions that didn’t pan out.

At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski pinpoints the game’s turning point:

The key play to turn the game came late in the second quarter when Robert Griffin III threw up a terrible pass that was picked off by Captain Munnerlyn. This set up the Vikings for a 20-yard TD from Teddy Bridgewater to Chase Ford to cut the Redskins’ lead to 10-7.

Trailing by just 3 going into the half, the Vikings knew they were in it. They came out in the second half with a commitment to run the ball down the Redskins’ throats and they got it done.

Norv Turner cranked up the two-headed monster of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata in the second half, helping Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings find the offensive rhythm they had been missing throughout the first half.

With the running game working, Bridgewater was able to operate much more efficiently than in the first half. Bridgewater threw some bad incompletions early in the game but never lost confidence, still taking shots when they were there.

Though the pass protection was not especially great, Teddy showed his cool under pressure by delivering most of his short passes accurately and, most importantly, not turning the ball over.

November 2, 2014

Pre-game program in Minneapolis

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:11

The Washington Redskins are in Minneapolis today to face the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams have 3-5 win/loss records and both are coming off wins last weekend. However, this weekend’s pregame festivities will include protests against the Washington team name:

People who want Washington to abandon the Redskins nickname are taking their protest to the streets.

After a rally at David Lilly Plaza, several hundred people are marching through the University of Minnesota campus to TCF Bank Stadium, where Washington plays the Minnesota Vikings. Four men banging a traditional drum and women carrying a banner reading, “No Honor in Racist Nicknames or Imagery” are leading the March to the stadium, about a mile away.

“Today it’s going to stop,” Clyde Bellcourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, said before the march began.

Update:

October 27, 2014

Vikings beat Bucs in overtime, 19-13

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:02

Stadium staff in Tampa Bay should have been getting ready to refund the ticket prices for those poor souls who had to sit through the first three quarters of the game yesterday between the Minnesota Vikings and the Buccaneers. There were a few good plays, but for the most part calling the “action” pedestrian would have been a generous way to describe it. That all changed in the fourth quarter, as the somnolent Bucs suddenly discovered both a running game and that the forward pass was still legal in the NFL.

Vikings fans were starting to get that horrible 2013 feeling … that the Vikes were going to lead all the way down to the final minute, then give up the go-ahead score … just like last week. Instead, the last drive in regulation got the score tied up to force overtime, and overtime didn’t last very long at all, as Arif Hasan explains:

Those two minutes (or rather 1:57 after the runback by Patterson) were just enough for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (after a confusing call by the refs that functionally drained 20 seconds from the clock—though not technically wrong, just unusual) to drive down the field in perfect position for a field goal (with room for error) in order to force the game into overtime.

A pair of offsetting penalties may have felt like more of the same to a franchise whose fans are convinced the organization is snakebitten. But immediately afterwards, a completion to Austin Seferian-Jenkins was turned into a fumble by the goat on the touchdown play, Anthony Barr, who ran it in for a touchdown to end the game.

In the end, just like in the Buffalo game, the real takeaways are not in single plays like the fumble return or the touchdown Barr allowed, but in the balance of the game. The ball bounced the right way for the Vikings this time, but the overall script was a positive one for Minnesota, as they consistently dominated an admittedly weak Tampa Bay team.

Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s stats included 241 passing yards, and a touchdown with no interceptions and only took one sack. 1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer discusses Bridgewater’s “up and down” day:

Bridgewater did his part to force overtime, but there is plenty of room for improvement from a rookie quarterback the Vikings initially wanted to have sit and learn in 2014 before Matt Cassel’s season-ending injury. Seven of Bridgewater’s 18 incompletions were tipped passes, including three from the Bucs’ defensive line.

“[Bridgewater] was up and down,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought he took good care of the football, which we’re asking him to do. He was only sacked one time, those things are important too. We definitely are having a hard time scoring points, so we have to do a better job there. I think his composure was very good today. He took some shots down the field, which we have to do. And we missed them. If we keep throwing them, we’ll hit some.”

On a play-by-play count, Bridgewater went 4-for-10 on his deep attempts, missing his first three before tight end Chase Ford reached back to grab a poorly thrown ball to finish with a 19-yard catch-and-run. Three plays later, Bridgewater spiked the ball to set up Walsh’s 46-yard field goal before halftime.

The receivers helped Bridgewater out, including Patterson’s 28-yard tip-toe grab down the sideline that was challenged by Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and upheld for the Vikings’ longest pass play of the day. But Bridgewater showed the ‘ups’ as well as the ‘downs’ that Zimmer’s postgame comments referred to.

After left tackle Matt Kalil was beat by Michael Johnson, who tackled running back Jerick McKinnon for a loss of five yards, Bridgewater hit Ford for nine yards and then found receiver Greg Jennings over the shoulder for a 17-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead in the third quarter.

“The throw to Jennings was a great catch,” Zimmer said. “Unbelieveable throw with a guy in his face. Those are the throws he can make, just have to continue to make the pocket clean and he has to just keep making those throws.”

October 26, 2014

Vikings vs Buccaneers – “When a 2-5 disaster visits a 1-5 dumpster fire”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:31

I wonder if I’ll even be able to watch this game later today: the Winnipeg CTV affiliate station usually carries the Vikings games on Sunday, but this promises to be a very low-audience meeting. If it’s not viewable in my area, I’ll have to depend on the team’s game highlights which are usually posted on their website the next day. How bad is this matchup? At the Daily Norseman, Eric Thompson thinks that it’ll be such a quiet game, you won’t even hear the boos:

The Minnesota Vikings vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Sunday is NOT a marquee matchup. Who will win on Sunday? And more importantly, who will care?

If the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play each other on Sunday and nobody gives a sh*t, does the game make a sound? When a 2-5 disaster visits a 1-5 dumpster fire and nobody can be bothered to care, can you still hear the boos?

We’re only seven weeks into the 2014 NFL season and the two metaphorical trees of the Vikings and Bucs seem to have already fallen in the forest. This was supposed to be a year of improvement and hope for both teams. The Vikings had a new coach to clean up the woeful defense, a promising new rookie quarterback, five starters returning on the offensive line, and the league’s best running back still in his prime. The Bucs had a new coach of their own that has already proven himself in the league, a veteran free agent quarterback that lit it up last year, and enough pieces on both sides of the ball to make a lot of experts choose them as a dark horse playoff contender before the season.

And yet here we are with both teams looking undead before Halloween. Minnesota’s new coach and quarterback are scrambling to learn on the job with the star running back exiled from the team and the offensive line in shambles. Tampa Bay has already benched Josh McCown and suffered two of the NFL season’s most embarrassing blowouts through six games. (The only saving grace for the one-win Buccaneers? The NFC South has been so lousy this year that they’re still only two games out of first place.)

[…]

The scapegoat in recent weeks for the Vikings has been Matt Kalil & The Turnstyles, which unfortunately isn’t a 50’s doo-wop cover band. The offensive linemen were scapegoats with good reason — they were an atrocity against Green Bay and Detroit. But they actually weren’t that bad last week in Buffalo. And “not terrible” is a gigantic upgrade for that unit, especially considering the mid-game injuries suffered by John Sullivan and Vladimir Ducasse. So why did the offense still muster only 16 points even though the defense forced four Bills turnovers? Quite frankly, Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t nearly consistent enough with his decisions and throws to make the offense run efficiently.

October 25, 2014

Fran Tarkenton’s three suggestions to help protect Teddy Bridgewater

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:03

Legendary Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton has some suggestions for the current coaching squad for ways to keep opposing teams from teeing off on Teddy:

The good news is, the Vikings’ defense is playing great. When you consistently hold teams to 17 points, you expect to win a lot of games.

The bad news is, the Vikings’ offense just isn’t producing enough. Even though the defense held Detroit and Buffalo to 17 points apiece the past two weeks, the offense has gotten only three and 16, and the Vikings lost both games.

No matter how many ways you analyze it, slice it up and study it, that’s not good enough. And it’s tough to watch great defensive efforts like Sunday’s against the Bills go unrewarded. When the defense gets six sacks and four turnovers, you can’t lose that game!

The offensive line is still struggling, and Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times Sunday. That makes 13 sacks in the past two weeks. But the Vikings aren’t the only team in the NFL with offensive line problems, and there are things you can do to compensate.

You have to keep your quarterback upright. If the quarterback is on the ground, he has no chance.

October 20, 2014

Vikings fall to Bills, 17-16 on last-second touchdown

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

This was described by fans of both teams as “must win”, with Buffalo hoping to stay close to New England in their division, and Minnesota hoping to have some faint hope of relevance in the NFC North. Buffalo came in to the game sporting one of the top defensive squads in the league, while the Vikings defence is starting to look at least respectable after a few years of far below average play.

Both teams are starting to look like patchwork quilts, with all the backup players thrust into starting roles, and by the end of the game Buffalo was down to one healthy running back, while Minnesota had to plug in their reserve centre and swing tackle at guard due to injuries to John Sullivan and Vladimir Ducasse.

Ted Glover hands out his Blue Chip Investments:

Jerick McKinnon, RB: Coming into this game, the Bills had the best running defense in the NFL, giving up less than 70 yards a game on the ground. All McKinnon did was go for 103 yards on 19 carries, leading a ground attack that chewed the Bills up for 158 yards. He’s taken over the starting job at running back, and although he’s not going to fill the shoes left by Adrian Peterson’s absence, we’re finding out that once AP’s time in Minnesota is over, the Vikings running game should be in good hands.

Anthony Barr, LB: Barr is making a strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and had another fantastic game against the Bills–10 tackles, two fumble recoveries, broke up a pass, and was generally the Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Tunes cartoons–a mini hurricane that was all over the place. This kind of game is starting to become routine for Barr, and as exciting as that is for us as Vikings fans, I hope it’s scaring the Hell out of the rest of the NFL.

Everson Griffen, DE: I’m not trying to be a braggart when I say this, but I’ve been on a bunch of radio spots and podcasts between free agency and today, and in all those interviews, well, let’s just say I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked if the Vikings made the right call in keeping Griffen and letting Jared Allen walk. After today, when Griffen had 3.5 sacks and was an absolute beast on the outside, I’m pretty sure I won’t be asked that question anymore. On the season, Griffen now has seven sacks. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Allen has one, and saw his playing time drop today against the Dolphins.

Blair Walsh, K: We really haven’t talked about Walsh much this year, but once again we got a reminder as to why he’s one of the best kickers in the NFL. He was 3/3 on field goal attempts, including a 55 yarder right before the half that might have been good from 65. In Buffalo.

October 18, 2014

Percy Harvin traded … again

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

Former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was apparently unhappy in his new home of Seattle, so Seattle traded him to the New York Jets, along with his pricey contract. This isn’t the first time Harvin’s been unhappy enough to force his team to trade him: that’s the blueprint of how he left the Vikings. Harvin is a very talented receiver — when healthy — but he seems to be unable to get along with authority figures like head coaches. Even head coaches who are widely known to be easy to get along with, like Leslie Frazier and Pete Carroll. Harvin reportedly threw a weight at one of the assistant coaches early in his career with the Vikings, and gave Golden Tate a black eye during Superbowl week with Seattle. One wonders what he’ll manage to do to destroy the chemistry (such as it is) with his latest team.

At the Daily Norseman, Ted Glover reviews the [head]case:

To say this came as a surprise is an understatement, and it makes me wonder that if Harvin can’t play for two of the most player friendly coaches in the NFL in Leslie Frazier and Pete Carroll … how will he be able to fit in with Rex Ryan? And if Harvin wasn’t happy in Seattle, where he won a Super Bowl and has one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL throwing to him…how in the blue hell (as Fearless Leader would say) will he get along with Geno Smith and the talent wasteland that is the New York Jets offense? Yeah, Geno is an upgrade over Christian Ponder from his Minnesota days … but the Jets have literally nothing else in terms of offensive weapons, and a pretty bad offensive line.

And Geno’s not all that much better than Ponder, so yeah. I just see this as another train wreck already in the making, but who knows, stranger things have happened.

So with Harvin now on the Jets, let’s take on final look back on the trade that got this all started. In March of 2013, the Vikings sent the disgruntled but ridiculously talented Harvin to Seattle. In return the Vikings received Seattle’s first and seventh round pick in the 2013 draft, and their third round pick in the 2014 draft.

Arif Hasan at Vikings Territory:

The Seahawks evidently wanted to make this trade for a while. One interesting thing about the trade: Seattle will eat a significant amount of cap space from a trade, perhaps up to $9.6 million in accelerated cap (the combined cost of the future impact of the prorated salary bonus he received).

In all honesty, I can’t really say with confidence what the biggest reason for the Harvin trade was, though I have to imagine it’s more attitude than talent. Pete Carroll was enamored with Percy Harvin coming out of Virginia back when Carroll was at USC. The talent Percy had that made him a first-round draft pick and an early MVP candidate in 2012 is still all there.

But it’s not inconceivable that it’s for football-only reasons—he took up $13.4 million of cap space on a young team looking to sign new contracts, and was going to take up $12.9M and $12.3M in the following years. While he was taking all that cap space, he grabbed 133 receiving yards and 92 rushing yards for 45 yards from scrimmage a game. There are about 66 players with more, including Jerick McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson—both acquisitions made as a result of the trade the Minnesota Vikings made with Percy Harvin (McKinnon with a pick received directly from the trade and Patterson as a replacement).

October 17, 2014

NFL fanbase one-downsmanship

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

The Minnesota Vikings will be visiting Buffalo this weekend — unfortunately, I couldn’t arrange to get tickets, so I’ll be watching the game on TV this time. Buffalo fans and Minnesota fans do have some painful memories of their respective team’s sporting misfortunes … enough to prompt a bit of one-downsmanship, says Eric Thompson:

Everyone has the person in their life that’s the consummate one-upper. No matter what you achieve in life, this person is quick to tell you that they achieved something even better. Just got a promotion and raise at work? That’s cool, but this person was already making a little bit more before their better promotion. Did you hook up with that cute girl after the party last weekend? Good for you, because this guy already did a few weeks ago. Set a personal best running the half marathon? Great! But this person beat that time by five minutes and only trained for like a week. No big deal. These one-uppers are the real life version of the Kristen Wiig’s Penelope character from Saturday Night Live.

It’s completely maddening, especially when the one-upper is actually…you know, right. Just when you think you have achieved something worth being proud of, along comes the one-upper to let you know that you aren’t really that special.

When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills, the one-upping tends to go in the opposite direction. Everyone knows that these are two of the most tortured fan bases in the history of the NFL. (Yes Cleveland, we see you. You’re definitely in the mix as well.) It has gotten so bad over the years that Vikings and Bills fans alike almost wear their teams’ failures as a masochistic badge of honor.

For example, the Vikings lost 4 Super Bowls in a decade. But the Bills can easily one-up that: they lost 4 Super Bowls IN A ROW.

Minnesota has made the playoffs once in the past four (about to be five) seasons. The one time they did make the playoffs, they had to start Joe Webb at quarterback. Buffalo fans scoff at that, because they haven’t made the playoffs THIS MILLENNIUM. There are TEENAGERS walking this Earth that have never been alive for a Buffalo Bills playoff appearance.

[…]

Of course Bills fans aren’t going to get any sympathy on our end. Our team made their ineffective first-round Florida State QB (Christian Ponder) the third-stringer because he was so bad. Then they started a journeyman without cool facial hair (Matt Cassel). Then they put their other first-round QB (Teddy Bridgewater) in after the journeyman broke his foot into a million pieces. Then after the rookie got hurt, they were forced to put in the aforementioned Florida State guy to get embarrassed on national television. And now we’re back to our second first-round QB of the past four years … and we’re just praying that he isn’t as bad as he was last week. And remember, THIS ALL HAPPENED IN THE FIRST SIX WEEKS OF THE SEASON.

Even if our rookie quarterback is good — we think he is, but we all know how quarterbacks usually work out in Minnesota — he might get himself killed behind our atrocious offensive line! They’re ranked 28th in pass blocking and 18th in run blocking by Pro Football Focus. According to the PFF ratings, Minnesota is the proud owner of the worst tackle in the NFL (Matt Kalil) and have allowed 22 sacks, which is second-worst in the league.

October 13, 2014

Detroit’s second win at Minnesota in 17 years

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:44

For the second week in a row, Minnesota lost against a divisional rival in an ugly game. While the score didn’t get out of hand, thanks to a stouter defensive effort, Detroit’s front four were getting to Teddy Bridgewater far too quickly and it clearly affected his play. After the first drive for the Lions, the Vikings defence held up quite well, but the Vikings couldn’t get anything going when they had the ball. As a few sites mentioned, over the last two games, the Vikings have given up more sacks (14) than they’ve scored points (13). I don’t think it’s mathematically possible to win anything under those conditions.

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover isn’t handing out any gold stars to the team in this week’s summary:

Matt Kalil And The Matadors: If last week was kind of rock bottom for the Vikings franchise as a whole in 2014, the offensive line caught up with everyone else against Detroit. Kalil was a sieve, but the entire line was absolutely mauled by the Lions. Maul … Lions … please tell me you saw what I just did there. Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Vlad the Impalee Ducasse, and Phil Loadholt each got pantsed, repeatedly, by somebody on the Detroit defensive front. Ziggy Ansah was particularly terrifying today, and if Kalil and company don’t get it figured out, like right now, Teddy Bridgewater isn’t going to last three more games.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Teddy didn’t have a lot of time to set up and throw today, but he also held the ball and seemed a lot more tentative, at times, than he was against the Falcons. Granted, he was under pressure all day, and eight sacks is unacceptable, but I would argue two of them were on him for holding the ball. His first interception was a terrible, terrible decision and throw, but I’ll cut him some slack on the other two, as they were tipped or went through the hands of a receiver. And if there was something that kind of bothered me, other than the stuff I’ve already talked about, it seemed that Bridgewater seemed to go to his checkdown guy an inordinate amount of time today. Maybe it was because he was the only guy open or he didn’t have time to find a guy downfield (quite possible), but it was still somewhat troubling.

Cordarrelle Patterson And the Drop A Ball Trio: It’s pretty tough to climb and crawl back in to a ball game when your three primary targets — Patterson, Jarius Wright, and Greg Jennings — are 50/50 at best on whether or not they’ll catch a pass or drop it. When Bridgewater did get time and was able to make a throw, it was iffy on whether or not these three — or anyone not named Chase Ford or McKinnon, actually — would hold on to the football. As bad as the Vikings had played, they were only down 10 well through three full quarters of play. But yeah, poor blocking and an inability to catch the football killed any realistic chances the Vikings had to get back in the game.

Jeff Locke, P: Jeff Locke pretty much blows. When the Vikings need a good punt to flip field position, he can’t deliver. When you give the opponent an average starting position of the 30 or 35 yard line, you’re not doing your job. At all. Meh.

The announcers for the game were flat-out terrible, and I lost track of the number of times I’d be correcting them on players’ names and even which coaches worked for each team. I guess in some ways it matched the offensive ineptitude on display for Minnesota. 1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore reported from the stadium after the game:

October 4, 2014

Vikings struggles in perspective

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:45

The thrashing the Vikings absorbed from the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night had a lot of fans upset and angry, and rightly so: the team played a terrible game while Green Bay played very well. As I said in a post-game comment, “the news that Bridgewater would be inactive came as a knell of doom for any hopes we had for the eventual outcome.” Christian Ponder played badly, but so did almost everyone else in purple that night. You can make a (poor) case that Bridgewater being out would lower the morale of the offense, but it shouldn’t have made much of a difference to the defence or special teams players, yet almost everyone seemed to have “checked out” as Brian Robison put it in an interview.

Bo Mitchell wants to help put Thursday’s game into perspective:

Zimmer and Turner crafted their offseason game plan for the offense on basis of their best player (Peterson) being in the backfield. Turner said repeatedly that he planned to get him more involved in the passing game, get him in space, maybe line him up out wide on occasion, etc. Everything worked great in Week 1. Heck, the threat of Peterson was enough. Cordarrelle Patterson was the primary beneficiary. Vikings fans were riding high following the dismantling of the Rams.

Then the other shoe(s) dropped and scrambling to make adjustments ensued.

In Week 2, with a new game plan in place, new running backs in place and a controversy/distraction overshadowing the organization, the Vikings lost in lopsided fashion to the Patriots thanks in no small part to turnovers and a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. You can never plan for such things as losing your star player in such an awful, embarrassing, scandalous (pick your adjective) way. The master plan was compromised significantly after one week. So they made adjustments and moved on like all coaches must.

[…]

Week 4 brought a brief return of giddiness to Vikings fans as they leveled the Falcons behind rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whom they seemingly had to get ready in a hurry. The good thing was that Bridgewater had been splitting a lot of first team reps in practice with Cassel and played a lot in preseason so there was already a sense of chemistry in place when he had to take the reins. The coaching staff had prepared for this scenario and it showed.

What they hadn’t really prepared for was losing Bridgewater to an injury as well. Christian Ponder was pressed into emergency duty at the end of the Falcons game and then asked to get ready for the Packers four days later — after he really hadn’t spent any significant time at all working in Norv Turner’s offense. Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN and several others in the media pointed out that this would be a problem. Ponder barely played in the preseason outside of a few third and fourth quarters with second and third stringers.

So the Vikings were on their third quarterback in three games — their third quarterback in 12 days. If they wanted to use an excuse, I’d give them that one regardless of who that third quarterback was.

Ponder just wasn’t ready. Where have I heard that before? Seriously, few backup NFL quarterbacks would have been significantly better in this scenario with so little prep. This doesn’t excuse the horrible lack of accuracy, the indecisiveness and the rest of the Ponder-isms. It was a train wreck waiting to happen.

Looking back, you can only make so many adjustments so quickly. Zimmer, Turner and the rest of the coaching staff kept the team treading water for four weeks, but they drowned in the Green Bay rain on Thursday night after the adjustments fell short and time ran out.

The Vikings at 2-3 have been victims of really odd circumstances. This isn’t an excuse. It’s a fact, though I really hesitate to use the word “victim.” I don’t even want to call it bad luck. Maybe it’s just fair to say: no team could comfortably survive such a strange amalgam of issues in such a short amount of time. Every team deals with injuries and teams have to find a way to overcome the losses of players like Fusco, Greenway and Rudolph. “Next man up” is the mantra league-wide. But look around the NFL and let me know if you see another first-year head coach directing a team without its best player that has used three quarterbacks already. This is weird stuff. Then again, Vikings fans have grown used to weirdness. It comes with the territory.

October 3, 2014

Vikings visit to Green Bay goes Ponderously

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:13

To say last night’s game was ugly is to sugarcoat the truth: last night’s game was a shitshow. For those of us on #TeamTeddy, the news that Bridgewater would be inactive came as a knell of doom for any hopes we had for the eventual outcome. Before halftime, Twitter was starting to see calls for Christian Ponder to be benched in favour of Chandler Harnish, who’d just been elevated from the practice squad (and who’d only just joined the team this week).

All through the preseason, I expected the Vikings to trade Ponder for (at best) a mid- to late-round pick. When that didn’t happen, I thought they were just going to hold on until a team’s starting quarterback got injured and then they could get a better trade … I didn’t think the Vikings would be on their third starting quarterback of the season by game 5! Now that Ponder has shown he really is who we thought he was, I doubt that anyone in the league is likely to call the Vikings and make an offer for Ponder’s services. As Jim Souhan says in his Star Tribune column today, he’s still the same old Ponder:

They could have called.

They could have gone to Hallmark.

They could have Instagrammed or texted or Facebooked or Snapchatted or beamed telepathic messages west.

Instead, the Vikings franchise turned an entire game on “Thursday Night Football” into a get-well card for Teddy Bridgewater, who will ever more be known as Not The Ponder.

Bridgewater has played six full quarters in the NFL. He has proved himself a franchise quarterback with his presence. He proved his value even more with his absence.

His presence made the Saints game competitive, and brought the Vikings an upset victory over Atlanta.

His absence may have destroyed what was left of Christian Ponder’s career, and the horrid tradition of “Thursday Night Football,” otherwise known as “What Time Can We Flip to ‘Scandal’?”

Without Bridgewater to engage Vikings receivers and TV viewers, another edition of TNF turned into a reason to take night classes on fall Thursdays.

In a performance that conjured images of Josh Freeman and Spergon Wynn throwing knuckleballs and sabotaging their careers on Monday night games in 2001 and 2013, Ponder proved that you can believe some of the people some of the time but never football coaches when they’re trying to protect the feelings of a former first-round quarterback or the man who drafted him.

When the Vikings kept saying nice things about Ponder during training camp, you had to figure they were hoping to trade him. When they kept saying nice things about him while keeping him on the roster, you had to wonder whether offensive coordinator Norv Turner had rewired Ponder the way some made scientists can turn a toaster into a short-wave radio.

Thursday’s 42-10 loss was a reminder that in politics, parenting and sports, what people do always counts for much more than what they say.

September 29, 2014

Vikings beat Falcons 41-28 in Teddy Bridgewater’s first start

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:12

The Minnesota Vikings have had a carousel at quarterback for the last few years: at the most important position on the field, the team has been unable to find consistency. This year has already seen three quarterbacks playing all or part of a game, but yesterday’s first career start for rookie Teddy Bridgewater gave Vikings fans a glimpse of something potentially great. On Twitter, Rick Gosselin noted that Bridgewater is only the fourth quarterback to record 300 passing yards and win his first NFL start since 1980.

Despite the margin of win, yesterday’s game was much closer than it needed to be because the Vikings defence was unable to get off the field on third down far too often, and communication breakdowns in the defensive secondary led to big plays for Atlanta. After a good series to start the game, the Vikings seemed to lose focus and Atlanta’s receivers were open too easily — fortunately for the Vikings, several passes were dropped or the score might well have been reversed.

Dan Zinski posted his immediate reaction to the game at The Viking Age:

Nothing good can come the Vikings’ way without some kind of negative note sneaking in there. The Vikings beat up the Falcons on the scoreboard 41-28 Sunday, but there were plenty of negative notes.

The biggest, ugliest negative was the injury to Teddy Bridgewater. The rookie QB was having a very strong day when he hurt his ankle on a run and was forced to leave the field on a cart.

The good news is that x-rays came back negative and Bridgewater is reported to only be suffering from a sprain. Still, the sight of Christian Ponder finishing out the game at QB did not exactly do a lot to inspire happiness in fans.

Thankfully the Vikings were well in control of the game by the time Ponder was forced to come in. Things didn’t look so rosy earlier when the Falcons were tearing up the Vikings’ defense and scoring seemingly at will.

Huge defensive breakdowns plagued the Vikings throughout the first half and third quarter. Captain Munnerlyn and Robert Blanton were primary offenders as the Falcons rolled up 28 points on Mike Zimmer’s D.

Bridgewater’s favourite target in the passing game was Jarius Wright (who had his first 100-yard receiving game), while running back Jerick McKinnon (first 100-yard rushing game) did most of the damage on the ground: the three are familiar with one another from the time they spent working together on the second team. In general, the Vikings got very good results from their reserves in this game: not that the injured starters weren’t missed, but the team showed it still has good depth.

At the Daily Norseman, Christopher Gates heaves a sigh of relief:

As fans of the Minnesota Vikings, the last two or three weeks … well, it’s been pretty rough in the land of the purple and gold. Between having to keep up with the injury list and having to, seemingly, keep one eye on the police blotter, it has been a pretty big downer.

And I don’t know about you all, but starting at about 3:30 Central time on Sunday afternoon … I forgot all about all of that. Every damn bit of it. I forgot about Adrian Peterson’s ongoing situation. I forgot all about Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco and Matt Cassel being injured. I forgot about the fact that, in their previous seven quarters of football, this team had scored all of nine points.

The reason I forgot all about those things is because, early on in Minnesota’s game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon, I had the calming realization that this team is going to be just fine.

This team put together one of the most impressive offensive performances that we’ve seen around these parts in a while, and it was put together, largely, by guys who are barely old enough to have a drink after the game. We finally got to see some repetitions for running back Jerick McKinnon, and he responded by racking up 153 total yards on 18 touches, including a 55-yard run that was incredible to watch.

September 25, 2014

Vikings place two starters on injured reserve list

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

This season is starting to feel cursed, as news came out on Wednesday that Matt Cassel and Brandon Fusco are both being placed on season-ending injured reserve. Cassel isn’t a surprise, given the initial reports on his foot injury, but Fusco also being lost for the year is a very unpleasant surprise. Fusco has been one of the pillars of strength on the offensive line, and his replacement on Sunday was beaten badly on the first two plays he was in on. And it’s not just Viking fans who think he was becoming a great offensive guard:

Christian Ponder moves up the depth chart to be the backup quarterback behind Teddy Bridgewater. Vlad Ducasse may or may not replace Fusco, but the other choices are not great either: backup center Joe Berger can do the job at least in spot duty, rookie left guard David Yankey is still learning and may not be ready yet. Austin Wentworth has been activated from the practice squad, but I’m assuming he’s just there for depth at this point.

With Kyle Rudolph undergoing surgery this week, the depth at tight end was down to Rhett Ellison and recent free agent signing MarQueis Gray, so Chase Ford was signed from the practice squad. Ford is a good player and only ended up on the PS due to needs in other areas.

As far as I can tell, the team has placed seven players on the IR list (one of whom took an injury settlement and left the team), plus Kyle Rudolph who may need to go on IR for his recovery period. And that’s on top of losing the best running back in the NFL for some undetermined period that might well be permanent. And it’s only week four of the NFL season.

September 22, 2014

Vikings lose to Saints 20-9 in injury-filled game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

I posted yesterday that I thought the leash on quarterback Matt Cassel might be getting shorter, after the horrible outing last weekend at home against the Patriots. Sunday’s game in New Orleans was starting to look like we had another instance of “Bad Matt” on our hands, but head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t have the chance to decide whether to make a quarterback change, as Cassel left the game midway through the first half with what was originally termed “turf toe”, but was later re-defined as “fractures in his foot”. Teddy Bridgewater came in to play the rest of the game — the Vikings only had Cassel and Bridgewater active, so rather than Christian Ponder, the emergency quarterback would have been next man up … and we haven’t had a definite word on who the emergency quarterback would have been. Cassel is definitely out for a prolonged period (possibly the entire season, if the MRI verdict is bad), and Bridgewater has been designated the starting quarterback for next week.

Aside from Cassel, other players who left the field due to injury included tight end Kyle Rudolph, right guard Brandon Fusco, linebacker Chad Greenway, and cornerback Josh Robinson. So if you’re keeping count, the Vikings are missing their starting QB (injury), starting RB (Adrian Peterson is on the Exempt list and away from the team indefinitely), starting RG (injury), starting TE (injury), backup WR (Jerome Simpson, who was cut this week for his continued legal issues), starting LB (injury), and backup CB (injury). That’s a full season’s worth of personnel changes in only three games.

While the game was hardly a thing of beauty, the team rallied around Bridgewater and the defence put in a much better performance in the second half and might have kept the Saints out of the endzone but for a badly timed penalty on Captain Munnerlyn which kept a scoring drive alive. When you don’t get a win, you look for positives, no matter how meaningless they might seem:

Of course, there were positives that were not meaningless, like the return of the intermediate-to-deep passing game:

Bridgewater’s debut wasn’t statistically eye-popping — 12 of 20 for 150 yards and a passer rating of 83.3, plus 27 yards rushing, but he made few mistakes and generally did everything you want your backup quarterback to do when inserted into a game part-way through. Cassel had not completed a pass longer than 15 yards in the first two games of the season (unless you count interceptions). It’s also interesting to note that Bridgewater didn’t play at Louisville until he replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie season, now he’s replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie professional season.

Despite the road loss, Ted Glover sees signs of life in the Vikings, particularly with Teddy at the helm:

When Matt Cassel was hurt early in the game, my Twitter timeline BLEW UP. Not because everyone was happy that Cassel got hurt (and seriously, if you did, you’re a terrible human being — get well soon Matt) but because it was Teddy Time, the moment we’d all been waiting for. And it was in about the most inopportune time one could ask a rookie quarterback to come in at — on the road in a very hostile environment, against a good team, down 10 points. His numbers weren’t sparkling (12/20 150 yards, 0/0…6 carries for 27 yards) but for a guy getting thrown into the fire, he looked good, and played well. He looked in command, and made some very good throws, including one to Greg Jennings on a frozen rope. It was a hell of an effort for a guy pretty much thrown to the wolves, and yeah, he missed some throws, especially a couple of easy swing passes to Jerick McKinnon that looked promising. And no, he didn’t engineer a touchdown, which was the first time since the Vikings didn’t score a TD in a game since 2010. But there was so much to like in the debut, that you can’t help but be encouraged that the Vikings maybe, finally, have stability at the quarterback position.

Update: A Final Dispatch From The Teddy Bridgewater Underground. ¡Viva la Revolución!

September 21, 2014

Getting closer to Teddy Time?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:46

Today’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints may be the point at which quarterback Matt Cassel has to defend his starting job against rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel did well in the season opener against the St. Louis Rams, but was flat out terrible last week playing the New England Patriots at the Vikings’ home for the next two years, TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. If Cassel can get back to his preseason-and-first-regular-season form, he’ll definitely keep the starting job. If he turns in another performance like last Sunday, the Teddy Bridgewater Underground may start active operations to install their preferred quarterback for next week.

A.J. Mansour explains just how Cassel fell short of expectations last week:

Could Cassel have had a solitary bad game? Sure. Could he have crumbled under the pressure of facing his former coach and old tutor? Of course. But it wasn’t just the statistics that raised a red flag when I watched the game last weekend. It was the body language, the fundamentals and the physical strength that Matt Cassel exhibited, or didn’t exhibit, that have me concerned and have me once again calling for Teddy Bridgewater to start under center.

While it was the four interceptions that stole the headlines after the game last weekend, it was what led to those four turnovers that should be a worry. Cassel, a ten-year veteran, was making rookie mistakes. You could see him throwing off his back foot, throwing across the field and throwing into double, even triple coverage situations.

All of those observations left me concerned, but the thing that left me most ready to call on the rookie was the lack of arm strength Cassel exhibited last Sunday. Really, it’s been a struggle all year for him.

To date, Cassel doesn’t have a single completed pass of more than 19 yards down the field. Despite seven attempts last week, the deep game has yet to click for Matt and his receivers, and the reason is staring us straight in the face: his arm is simply not strong enough to deliver a deep ball with enough velocity to get it past the defenders without the receiver having to pull up and slow down.

Throw into the mix the fact that the Vikings most dangerous deep threat from a year ago, Jerome Simpson, and their most dangerous backfield threat, Adrian Peterson, have either been cut or are indefinitely barred from the team and the Vikings offense has been left completely one dimensional and reliant on the short-to-intermediate passing game to score points.

In my mind, the solution is simple, and already on roster with the Vikings.

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