Monday Morning Mailbag

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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Sep 23, 2013

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.

 

Wow, a tough game to watch. So many great plays, but nothing consistent enough to win the game. What do you think the team needs to do to turn this around? I hope they find the answer soon. Ready to watch the game from the UK. Hoping for a Win.
-- Mike B.
Goodwin, SD

There’s a word in Mike’s question that I think is relevant to dissecting what has gone wrong for the Vikings in their 0-3 start – consistent. The Vikings have done a lot of good things in all three phases of the game each week and collectively for the season, but they haven’t been able to do them consistently enough to win games. In just this week’s game alone we saw the offense drive 80 yards in 11 plays to open an early 6-0 lead, but then we saw them unable to close the game with two three-and-out series late in the 4th quarter while they were leading. Defensively the Vikings have forced 10 turnovers and have responded to some tough situations, but then they’ve given up game-winning drives in the final moments for two consecutive weeks.

What needs to be done to turn it around? It’s a hard question to answer, but the Vikings must figure it out and they must figure it out this week if they are going to salvage anything from this season. The good news is I believe the players to turn this around are already on the roster, it’s just a matter of the whole team – players and coaches – collectively improving and becoming more consistent. Maybe this week’s trip to London will force the team to approach and prepare for the game differently, and maybe this different approach will help yield a different outcome. One thing is for certain: the Week 5 bye will be helpful for the Vikings as they will be looking to regroup after a rough start to the season.

Our offensive line has continued to underperform for three straight weeks. Adrian Peterson has very few holes to hit and Christian Ponder seems to barely have enough time for a three-step drop before he has someone in his face. I'm not saying Ponder was perfect, but when are we going to make an adjustment for the offensive line and what do you think can be done to improve?  When did this group take a step back?
-- Brandon T.
Fond Du Lac, WI

This has been a point of frustration for the Vikings all season, and it’s frustrating because this same group of five starters played so well last season in blocking for a 10-win team and the NFL’s MVP. We know age hasn’t caught up to them – it’s a young group. I find it hard to believe that there’s been a massive and sudden ability erosion from them, either. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly the problem is. Perhaps opposing defenses are approaching the Vikings offensive line differently and the Vikings haven’t been able to adjust yet. Perhaps injury is playing a part in it. I don’t have the answers, but something is not working as it was last season and it’s hard to explain. We know the personnel in place have the ability to get the job done because they did so last season. Now it’s a matter of making adjustments to execute the plan better.

Looking back on a 0-3 start, it's easy to point fingers. I think our defense is better than it has played. In your opinion, where is the defense missing “it?” I will start the conversation on a positive by saying that safety Harrison Smith has been our defensive MVP thus far.
-- Paul
Kirkland, WA

A collection of problems have combined to hamper the defense this season. As I stated above, we have seen the defense play well for stretches of time this season, but then we’ve seen issues pop up to ruin some much of the effort. At various times the Vikings have missed too many tackles – the linebackers had trouble containing running backs against Chicago and Detroit and the secondary had missed tackles on Browns receivers this past Sunday. Then there have been blow assignments – Bears tight end Martellus Bennett broke wide open for a 23-yard gain to setup his game-winning touchdown three plays later and then AJ Jefferson was beaten badly on a 47-yard touchdown against Cleveland. And even the coaching staff has taken blame for some play calls during games – Frazier admitted as much during his post-game press conference in Chicago. It’d be nice if there was one glaring issue that needed to be resolved in order to develop a consistent effort for the defense, but unfortunately there’s been a confluence of mistakes that led to the defense’s inconsistent output.

The bright side is that the defense has improved in generating turnovers, as they’ve forced 10 of them already this season, and there have been some young players who’ve stepped up at times and that is good news for the future. Marcus Sherels stepped up and had a nice game against Cleveland, Smith has been a star performer all season at safety, and draft picks Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes have flashed plenty of potential so far. Hopefully the Vikings defense can build upon those positives, fix some errors and develop a more consistent brand of play.

Christian Ponder started out great, converting on 3rd downs and keeping the chains moving. But during the 2nd half he couldn't seem to finish those critical drives to stay ahead and win the game. It seems like this type of inconsistency is Ponder's MO thus far. How long will the coaching staff stick with someone who clearly at this point isn’t making the progressions that likely should be seen at this point in his career? Have we seen enough yet to make that determination?
-- Shefflan S.
Coon Rapids, MN

Criticism of Ponder has been mounting this season, and while I believe he’s taken too much of the blame for the Vikings struggles this season, I also see it as only fair that this kind of question be included in the mailbag because it’s representative of what many of you are thinking. That’s the point of the mailbag – to allow fans to dictate the content so as to provide a thorough look at the team.

I understand the frustration fans have with the start of this season and I also understand that taking too much blame when things are going poorly (and receiving too much credit when things are going well) is part of the deal of being a quarterback in the NFL. Ponder understands that and accepts that responsibility, as well. But there are problems going on around the quarterback, too, and changing to a different quarterback will not necessarily fix some of the other issues that are making it tougher for Ponder to succeed.

The point here is not to absolve Ponder from blame – he, too, needs to be held accountable for how he plays. But I thought he gave a gutty performance against Cleveland, and at times he played well enough to lead us to victory, much like last week in Chicago. Ultimately, though, the Vikings didn’t win and quarterbacks are judged in this League by wins and losses.