Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Oct 15, 2012

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

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Painful loss this Sunday. But we have to expect some ups and downs, I guess.  I don’t think the Vikings played a bad game, except for one area: Containing Robert Griffin III. Do you think it was a fluke, or do you think RG3 is just that hard to keep in check? The Vikings shut down their running backs, and RG3 didn’t pass for much at all. I think the turnovers and the inability to keep RG3 in check really cost us the game.
-- Greg S.

I agree, Greg. The correlation between winning the turnover battle and winning the game is just too strong over too long a period of time to dispute. A typical NFL game will have each team possess the ball about 12 times (the Vikings are averaging 11 possessions per game this year), and giving up any of those possessions significantly decreases a team’s chances of winning, plus a turnover typically results in good field position for the opposing team. The Vikings have lost the turnover battle twice this year (at Indianapolis, at Washington), and they lost both of those games.

Another aspect of the game that hurt the Vikings was red zone scoring efficiency. Clearly, not scoring touchdowns and settling for field goals instead ultimately cost the Vikings a chance to bury Washington early in the game. Had one or two of those field goal drives – particularly the drive that ended on the Washington 2 – ended in a touchdown, I think the Redskins offense would’ve been much more predictable and easier to handle. The Vikings scored touchdowns in just two of seven (29%) red zone trips, while the Redskins offense scored touchdowns on three of three (100%) red zone trips.

Speaking of the Redskins offense, they have something going with Griffin III. It’s a unique offense that truly plays to the strengths of the quarterback. Some may question how long Griffin III can survive running that offense and taking as many hits as he does, but for the time being it’s a productive scheme that puts a lot of stress on the opposing defense.

Getting the ball to Percy Harvin is great, but do you think other players should get more opportunities so that we can switch it up? Also, I think the playcalling is too conservative and we end up paying for it in the second half. What do you think?
-- Brandon K.
Tempe, AZ

I don’t agree on either issue. Before we get too critical of the offense, let’s remember that they scored 26 points, racked up 421 net yards, collected 27 first downs, went 8 of 17 (47%) on 3rd downs and held a three-minute time of possession advantage. Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterback Christian Ponder have done a nice job of leaning heavily on their best playmakers while also incorporating other weapons into the mix. Harvin’s numbers are obviously outstanding, but keep in mind that Ponder completed passes to eight different receivers on Sunday, including seven to Adrian Peterson and six each to Michael Jenkins and Kyle Rudolph.

I don’t have much patience for blaming the playcaller, either. Poor execution by the players can ruin a great playcall, but a great playcall cannot overcome poor execution. You win with players in this League, and it’s the players’ responsibility to execute the plays the are called.

I'm very pleased with how the season has gone thus far, even after losing to the Redskins. But my question is: Why don't the Vikings run Adrian Peterson to the outside more often?
-- Justin
Anaheim, CA

Without being in the offensive meeting room on a weekly basis, it’s hard to know the answer to this question. The frequency with which the Vikings call running plays in a particular direction is likely based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: the skill set of the individual running back and blockers; the opposing defense’s strengths/weaknesses; counteracting tendencies developed in previous weeks; the kind of playing surface on which the game is being played.

It was great being able to watch a Vikings game live and in person. I wish we finished with a win, but you can't get everything in life. My question is: With TE John Carlson not performing as expected, do you see Rhett Ellison getting more snaps at tight end? And what do you think we need to work on to improve our red zone efficiency? Great game as always, go Vikings!
-- Tosin

I wish I had the answer to the red zone efficiency question. If you go back and analyze every Vikings red zone possession so far this season, I’m sure you’d be able to diagnose a variety of issues - penalties, inadequate blocking, dropped passes and everything in between. The bottom line is the Vikings red zone touchdown percentage (50%) is a touch too low (NFL average is 52.5%), and you can be sure the offensive coaches and players are working as hard as they can to fix the issues.

As for Carlson, I’m a bit uncomfortable saying that he’s not performing well. He may be doing everything that’s being asked of him, it’s just that the opportunities haven’t come his way. We have several talented pass-catchers, beginning with Harvin and also including Rudolph and others. There’s only one football to go around each play, and you can’t get everyone the ball as much as you want every game. Carlson’s production has not been to the point of satisfaction yet, but I am confident it will get to that point eventually. Carlson is a capable, skilled and smart player who fits in well with this offense. In time, his opportunities and, in turn, production will increase.