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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Sep 17, 2012

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the season we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

What did you think about that loss? And I think Ponder is making strides on becoming a solid quarterback. What are your thoughts?
-- @Cmager21

It is a hard loss to take, largely because of how close the Vikings came to winning the game despite a generally unproductive and undisciplined effort for much of the day. As frustrating as fans might be with the Vikings performance through the first three quarters, they should also appreciate the team’s resiliency and fight in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to win in the NFL. You have to be good in the first three quarters, too. Ultimately, a slow start for the offense in the first half, too many penalties and the inability to slow the Colts down through the air was the recipe for a close loss on the road.

As for Ponder, I agree that he’s making solid strides. He displayed improvement during the offseason and the preseason, and there have been times during the first two regular season games where we’ve seen that improvement on the field of play. I think Ponder would be the first to say he’s not where he wants to be, but he is on the way. He’s played great in the fourth quarter of the first two games, so the next step is to be consistent. Coaches (and fans) would prefer a player have a standard of performance rather than a tendency to be hot and cold.

We seem very predictable. Run Adrian Peterson, pass to Kyle Rudolph, screen pass to Percy Harvin. Do you see this changing when WR Jerome Simpson returns?
-- Steve G.

According to my count in going through the official play-by-play, the Vikings had 24 first-down snaps before the final drive of the game, which lasted just two plays before the clock expired. Of those 24 first-down snaps, the Vikings called 12 runs and 12 passes. That is balanced, but when you take a closer look, you’ll see that the Vikings called 10 first-down runs to three first-down passes in the first half, and then flipped the script in the second half by calling nine first-down passes compared to two first-down runs.

So while you could point to a running tendency on early downs in the first half against the Colts, we also have to remember that the Vikings have a talented one-two punch at running back and they were playing a defense that they thought they could run against. Then, in the second half, the Vikings offensive staff made adjustments to the plan and called more passes on first down. I give the coaching staff credit for making that adjustment. Sunday was the second consecutive week where we saw the offense perform better in the second half compared to the first, a sign that the right adjustments are being made at halftime.

I’m not sure how the return of Simpson in Week 4 will change the Vikings playcalling on certain downs. I’m confident Simpson’s return will allow the Vikings to stretch the field vertically more often, I’m just not sure what the breakdown will be on certain downs.

Why did we only throwing the ball 10 times in the 1st half? Christian Ponder threw it 25 times the 2nd half and it’s no coincidence we scored our only two touchdowns in that time. Why is the playcalling so limited early on?
-- Jake L.
Annapolis, MD

I don’t view the playcalling as limited. Ponder was asked about this during his post-game press conference, and he explained that the Colts played a lot of Cover 2, which takes away a lot of opportunities to throw it deep when the coverage is played properly. That forces a playcaller to lean on the run a bit more with the safeties so far from the line of scrimmage and it prompts the quarterback to adjust by taking what the defense gives him on passing downs rather than force a deep pass into coverage.

When is the last time an opposing quarterback looked below average versus our defense? I’m thinking a passer rating of below 80.0? It seems that every quarterback is Hall of Fame versus us. Even Tim Tebow threw like an All-Pro against our defense
-- Shawn

Defending the pass was an issue for the Vikings in 2011, no question about it. The Vikings ranked 26th in passing yards allowed and they ranked last in passing touchdowns allowed a year ago, which is largely what prompted the Vikings to begin making changes to the secondary this past offseason. The Vikings selected a safety in the first round, a cornerback in the third round and another safety in the fifth round to help shore up the pass defense. The Vikings signed Zack Bowman and Chris Carr in free agency to add a veteran presence to the group, but they were both cut after the preseason. In yet another move to address the secondary, the Vikings traded for cornerback A.J. Jefferson before the start of the season. Clearly, the Vikings understand their deficiency in pass defense, and they’re trying to fix the issues. So far, the results just haven’t been there.

Shawn is right, the Vikings have rarely made life difficult on opposing passers. While they did lead the NFL in sacks last season, they were still unable to prevent opposing passers from producing. Only two opposing passers had passer ratings below 80.0 last year – Chicago’s Josh McCown in Week 17 and Arizona’s Kevin Kolb in Week 5. This year, both Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck registered impressive passer ratings, as well.

This is an issue for the Vikings defense right now, and you can be sure that coaches will be working behind the scenes at Winter Park this week to make improvements before the San Francisco shows up at Mall of America Field for a Week 3 showdown.