Monday Morning Mailbag

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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Sep 16, 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.

 

Tough loss. It's hard to place blame on the team after playing a game they should've won. I find myself frustrated because this team is better than most people give them credit for, but I don't know where we went wrong. Should we have gone for it on 4th and goal? Was our defense out of position when we gave up the go ahead touchdown?
-- Louis L.
Tempe, AZ

There were mistakes made in the final minutes of the game that helped lead to the loss, and we’ll get into one interesting situation in the next question. Without getting into specifics, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier actually shouldered blame for the loss during his post-game press conference for some tactical decisions on defense down the stretch. But I wouldn’t pin Sunday’s loss solely on what happened in the final three minutes. There were plenty of other mistakes made earlier in the game that put the Vikings in the situation they were in later in the game – the Christian Ponder pick six, the Adrian Peterson fumble, too many return yards allowed to Hester, Matt Forte scorching us for 161 total yards, Martellus Bennett scoring twice, etc.

In the game of football, you win and lose as a team. It’s rare when a singular moment or play or player is the cause of a loss. I don’t think there was a lone reason for the Vikings loss. It was a bad confluence of events, and it’s something that’s happened to us far too often at Soldier Field.

I thought Christian Ponder played brilliantly down the stretch for us. But my question to you is: What did you think of the play call on 3rd and goal? We could have gone for the win with a play-action pass or just a normal pass. If nothing was there, just take the sack and no harm done. What are your thoughts on this call?
Nick K.
Mankato, MN

We have to remember that, particularly when it comes to analyzing play calling, hindsight is always 20-20. If the NFL’s play callers had the benefit of hindsight when making decisions, there would be far fewer mistakes and the outcomes of games would be much different. On top of that, we frequently question play calling while disregarding execution. All plays called are designed to succeed – but not all plays called are executed properly. With that being said, one could argue the Vikings could’ve taken a different approach offensively at the end of the game.

Staked to a three-point lead with a 1st and goal from the Chicago 6 with 4:20 to play in the game, the Vikings essentially had a choice of two paths: 1) Put your foot on their throat by throwing caution to the wind and trying to score a touchdown by any means necessary, or 2) focus on running the clock and forcing the Bears to use their timeouts. To me, being a road team and playing in a building where you rarely win, Option 1 is the most appealing. That’s why I loved the 2nd-down play call, with Ponder throwing to tight end Kyle Rudolph in man coverage. It was a miss by Ponder, but it was a great play call by Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave. The 3rd-down call (a run to Peterson) represented a change in philosophy from aggressive to conservative, and I feel once you pick a path (Option 1 or Option 2), you need to stay on that path. If you’ve decided to forget about running clock and burning their timeouts on 2nd down, you may as well keep going with that philosophy on 3rd down. Also, if Option 1 was the choice from the beginning, I would’ve gone for it on 4th down, as well. If you make it, the game is over. If you miss it, the Bears have the ball on their own 4 or 5 with 3:00 to play needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win. Granted, giving them a chance to tie with a field goal by going for it on 4th down instead of kicking your own field goal may seem like a questionable decision, but keep in mind it was raining and the field conditions were not good. If you’ve forced a team to try a long field goal in those circumstances just to tie the game, you’re in good shape.

Ultimately, this kind of Monday morning quarterbacking/play calling isn’t fair to the coaches and players who worked all week to prepare for the game and worked all day on Sunday to try and win. Frazier, Musgrave, Ponder and the rest of the team made the decisions that they thought gave the Vikings the best chance to win at the time. It didn’t work out this week, but I was pleased with the players’ effort during the game.

Although they have given up a ton of points, I believe this is one of the best Vikings defenses we’ve had in a while. They've been a menace in creating turnovers and stopping teams in the red zone.
-- Dustin F.

Very much agree, Dustin. I understand the Vikings have surrendered too many yards, particularly to running backs Reggie Bush and Forte, but we must also recognize that this defense is making plays, and they’re making the kinds of plays the Vikings defense hasn’t made in some time. Interceptions, pass deflections, forced fumbles – the Vikings defense is flying around and making plays in big moments. Following Ponder’s 2nd quarter interception in Detroit last week, Erin Henderson came up with an interception. Harrison Smith and Kevin Williams both had big interceptions in Chicago. Letroy Guion forced and recovered a big fumble late in the game at Chicago. The Vikings are holding opponents to a 50% scoring clip inside the red zone – that’s an impressive stat. Yes, there are improvements to be made and the Vikings need to find a way to generate more quarterback pressure (just one sack in two games), but generally speaking I think the Vikings defense has displayed improvement from last season and I’m excited about the direction it’s going.

Vikings

What happened to our offensive line? Last year they were a force to be reckoned with, but this year they can’t stop the pass rush or open any holes for Adrian Peterson. Is Jerome Felton the missing piece?
-- Greg S.

There have been some good moments by the offensive line through two games, and I’m thinking of the Vikings 4th-down conversion this past Sunday while running with Peterson behind Phil Loadholt as one of those moments; Loadholt, by the way, is playing tremendously well and the Vikings decision to re-sign him looks golden right now. But generally speaking, the Vikings offensive line can play better, and they will play better. This is a group of starters that all returned from last season and that are coached by a respected and talented position coach in Jeff Davidson. They didn’t suddenly forget how to play or become bad players. This is a group that can be dominant with their run blocking and can be effective in their pass blocking – they just have to correct some errors. Missing Felton is not helping, I agree, but this is about the five starters and I anticipate them putting it together for a full 60 minutes beginning next Sunday in the home opener against the Cleveland Browns.

Do you think that maybe we are trying too hard at having a receiving threat? I just get the feeling that since we are trying to stretch the field for Adrian Peterson we may be losing our touch at the run game fundamentals. Always a fan of the purple. SKOL!
-- Miah H.
Sioux City, IA

I don’t think the Vikings are erring in their attempt to establish a passing game. In fact, I thought Sunday’s game in Chicago was a good step forward in that effort. It was encouraging to see Greg Jennings and Rudolph make a couple of big grabs in big moments – the Ponder-to-Jennings 22-yard connection on 3rd and 3 from the Bears 28 late in the game was particularly encouraging. As the passing game continues to take steps forward as it did on Sunday, it’s only going to open up more opportunities for the running game.

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