The Minnesota Vikings are coming off of a really rough one, as they were defeated by the Brian Hoyer-led Cleveland Browns 31-27 yesterday. It’s easy to overreact after a team is upset, so I’ll try to avoid knee-jerks as much as possible and instead solely focus on what transpired during the game.
1. Awful blocking up front
Somebody might take a look at Adrian Peterson‘s 3.5 yards per carry and assume that he had a bad day, but that’s simply not true. Peterson looked good as a rusher, but the difference yesterday was two things. The first is the fact that the Cleveland Browns are incredibly good at stopping the run, and the second thing is the fact that the Minnesota Vikings blocking up front was putrid. Most of Peterson’s yardage came after he was first hit, and he needed to break several tackles in order to come away with 88 yards on the day. While he wasn’t as stellar as he normally is, he still looked solid to me, aside from that fumble. Another thing that hurt? The Vikings were playing Letroy Guion instead of Jerome Felton at fullback, so that was another huge drop-off.
A major reason why I am pointing to the Vikings offensive line as a large part of Peterson’s struggles is because they did an equally terrible job protecting Christian Ponder. The third-year passer was sacked six times, and he was hit eight times more. Jabaal Sheard absolutely slaughtered the Vikes O-Line, and fellow star OLB Paul Kruger added two QB hits as well. Additionally, Phil Taylor was a consistent thorn in the side of the Vikings offense, and they left Ponder scrambling all day. Luckily for the Vikings, Ponder did a much better job of rushing than passing, so the scrambles were effective (remember that one where he ran for a first down after causing two Browns defenders to miss out on sacks?)
2. Wideouts share the blame
Christian Ponder did have a bad day against a tough Browns defense, but I wasn’t exactly impressed with the Minnesota Vikings receivers either. I was not impressed by Greg Jennings yesterday, but he gets something of a pass since Joe Haden is an insanely difficult matchup. But, then again, you do expect a No. 1 receiver to do better against a No. 1 corner than Jennings did. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had five receptions, but he dropped a pass and those receptions went for just 28 yards. I don’t think the Vikings pass-catchers were horrible, but they shouldn’t be absolved of any blame.
3. Christian Ponder
Let’s get to Ponder. His inability to throw the ball deep kills the Vikings offensive efficiency, does not keep the defense honest, hurts the running game a bit, and it makes his receivers look worse. Ponder averaged just 9.1 yards per completion, and I think he needs to thank Cordarrelle Patterson for making that 37-yard catch, because that was a nifty catch. Ponder finished with a QB Rating in the 60s, and he was absolutely horrendous when the Browns decided to blitz. I did really like his running ability and that’s always been a plus, but that really doesn’t mean much if you can’t move the ball efficiently through the air.
4. Give Cordarrelle Patterson more snaps
The Minnesota Vikings and head coach Leslie Frazier technically fulfilled their promise when they stated that rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson would get more snaps, because he did play in a career/season-high 19 snaps yesterday. However, Jerome Simpson received over 40, and he’s been outplayed by the more talented Patterson ever since Simpson’s fluky Week 1 outburst. Patterson, as we saw with his big 37-yard reception, brings a playmaking ability that the Vikings could really use and capture. To me, it’s a no-brainer that Patterson needs to receive more snaps, and I think the Vikings should seriously consider starting Patterson over Simpson. He may be an unpolished rookie, but I still think Patterson brings more to the table than Simpson at this stage.
5. Pass defense woes
The biggest issue I have with the Minnesota Vikings as a team is definitely their pass defense, and I wasn’t a fan of it on Sunday either. While they did pick off Brian Hoyer three times and did indeed hold him to a bad day, Hoyer is, well, a bad quarterback- let’s not lose site of that. Hoyer has no business starting in this league, and his 321 yards were inflated. He wasn’t completely awful, but it’s safe to say that he isn’t a true upgrade over Brandon Weeden and is clearly of the career backup type. Anyway, there were still some issues I saw in the Vikings secondary, because they simply could not handle Jordan Cameron. The safeties had some issues with him, and he scored all three touchdowns. Josh Robinson was beat by just about everybody he faced, and chain-moving receiver Davone Bess had a real feast against Robinson. There wasn’t much of a pass rush either (they managed to make Oniel Cousins look good out there), and that’s the biggest takeaway I have on defense; the Minnesota Vikings just could not hold down a below-average passing attack.