Monthly Archive: August 2012

Aug 25

Pre-Season Game 3: Vikings vs Chargers

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know I spent much of Friday evening in full aneurysm mode. If you’re not following me on Twitter, you’re either a homer who used to follow me but couldn’t take my honesty, or you just weren’t aware I’m on Twitter. Frankly, the thought of you denying yourself access to my real-time commentary makes me sad. As a hint: you can click “Follow Me on Twitter” and you’ll be all set!

Chris Kluwe is awesome. And, unfortunately, was the only player on his game Friday night.

Like all Vikings fans, I guess I’m a bit masochistic. And what I mean by that is I had to rewatch the first two quarters of the game in order to do this commentary. It was like having hot pokers driven into my eyes the first time. Watching it again was like committing emotional suicide. If I can help you here, take this advice: if the 3rd pre-season game is waiting for you in your DVR but you haven’t watched it yet, don’t. Unless you’re a Chris Kluwe fan. He did a lot of tremendous punting (averaging over 50 yards per punt!) and what he was calling his “Gangnam Style” celebration, which essentially was some enthusiastic air roping. In any case, it was awesome. If anyone has a .gif of Kluwe doing that celebration, let me know, because my friend at Purple Jesus Diaries is looking for one.

If we think back to the first game of the 2011 season, you might recall that our favorite team played the Chargers. And the Vikings dominated them… for 2 whole quarters. And then they uncovered the fact that the shadow of the Purple People Eaters could only play 30 minutes of football. In this pre-season game, the Chargers had many of their starters sitting on the bench (or pacing the sidelines looking petulant… yes, Philip Rivers, I’m talking about you!) so, in theory, we should have been up 28 points at the half. As we all know, however, the Theory of Evolution proves itself out every day while the Theory of Vikings Competence hasn’t proven itself since the Vikings vs Cowboys divisional play-off game in January 2010.

On, it looks like Ponder and Whitehurst are having some kind of crazy hair battle. Ponder’s smiling like he’s winning but he doesn’t realize Whitehurst is planning to ambush him with a quasi-mullet.

The problems started immediately. Matt Kalil is not living up to the hype of the draft. Veteran Chad Greenway took atrocious angles. Ponder couldn’t hit a receiver to save his life. Until he was intercepted. That was a perfect pass to the wrong color jersey. Even our beloved Percy Harvin was out-of-sync. The interesting thing about the game stats is that the Vikings were better than the Chargers in nearly every category… but a) lost and b) were apparently deceptively better than they looked. Honestly – if you watched that game, you would never have anticipated that the Vikings had more passing yards than the Chargers.

Vikings’ QBs were sacked 5 times. I was shocked to see that the Vikings sacked the Chargers’ QBs 6 times.  If you’d asked me before I looked at the stats, I would have said we got to the QB 3, potentially 4, times. The Vikings fumbled and lost the ball 3 different times. The offending parties are: Asiata, Coleman & Hilliard. The great news is that Adrian Peterson hasn’t fumbled once on zero carries! Yes, I know he’s improved, but I still blame his fumble in Chicago in December 2009 for our loss of home field advantage for the NFCCG, and ultimately our first Super Bowl appearance in decades. But I digress.

Christian Ponder’s QB rating for the evening was 76.2. It’s like T-Jack is still on the field with no jump balls to mock. He and the receiver corp were out of sync all night long. It was painful to watch. It reminded me of the 2010 season when Favre came back (but didn’t really want to) and Berrian and Greg Lewis went off to California to “relax” during our early bye week instead of sticking around to try to fix things. This good news is that, since neither Berrian nor Lewis is still on this team or playing anywhere in the league, I consider things to be “fixed” to a certain degree.

Joe Webb looked better than Ponder while he was on the field. Which destroyed that little seed of hope I had after last week’s game. The saddest thing about last night’s game was that I was looking forward to Rosenfels to take the field. He did and he was solid, scoring the only Vikings TD of the evening. And, let’s be clear, it was only the 2nd offensive TD of the pre-season. My Vikings brethren – I believe we are in for a long season that will do nothing to alleviate the pain of the last 2 seasons. The only bright spot here is that we’re not Packer fans. We do not have to wear moldy cheese wedges on our heads to games and we don’t have to worry about cheddar dust covering our persons.

Leslie Frazier inadvertently reveals he actually possesses emotions.

Let’s get to the real reason I was angry throughout the game. Two words: Leslie Frazier. As I stated back in January of 2011, Leslie Frazier is not head coach material. He cannot motivate a team sufficiently so that they show up and try. This is apparent on multiple levels. Trouble with the law for the players. 30 minutes of football vs 60 minutes of football for most of the 2010 season. Complete lack of passion or engagement during the dress rehearsal game for the regular season. Leslie Frazier is weak and he lacks vision. His coaching bench lacks creativity. No one on that coaching staff is inspiring the players to earn their overblown paychecks. The starters, with the exception of a few of them, feel entitled to their positions because Frazier refuses to create competition and hold people accountable. Frazier will lead us to a lot of mediocrity but he will never lead us to a Super Bowl. It is time for the Wilfs to start interviewing his replacement. If they want to throw away the 2012 season while they identify his successor, I’m ok with that – as long as I know they’re going to act.

Who am I kidding? The Wilfs have money, not football savvy. They confuse feelings of warmth generated out of familiarity and friendship with conviction that Frazier will get the job done. Good leaders know you hire talent – focusing on attitude and aptitude – you don’t hire people you like. If you come to like your talent – great. If not, you have to figure out how to motivate your talent. Likeability is not a reason to hire someone. The fact that Frazier rarely shows emotion, to me, indicates that he cannot feel the depth of passion needed to inspire his staff and his team. Like many things in life, coaching a football team requires aggressiveness and vision and the ability to articulate that and plan around it. Frazier has none of these skills because he’s not a visionary. He’s a great Defensive Coordinator who was always tremendous at reacting, but rarely designed a proactive attack. The last one I remember was the postponed Philadelphia game in 2010 that the Vikings won with Webb at QB and Winfield blitzing Vick like a maniac.

A head coach must have a comprehensive game plan that is proactive and takes advantage of gaps in the other team’s defenses and offenses. Leslie Frazier has shown that his game planning is weak and, as we saw in every single game during the 2011 season, he is completely unable to adjust at half-time. It’s time for him to go. You may not agree with me right now – but you will after another 2 mediocre seasons back to back. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t take the fan base that long to wise up. I’d love to see red Fire Frazier t-shirts well before mid-season.

One thing I’m sure we all agree on is that last night’s most important pre-season game was pathetic. What are your thoughts now about the 2012 season?


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Aug 18

Pre-Season Game 2: Vikings vs Bills

I’m getting back into the swing of looking forward to my weekly Vikings game. I don’t know about you, but I have missed football more than I can say. If you’re anything like me, you watch Vikings Game Plan before the game. I’m looking forward to the fall if only just to get Spielman to wear pants during his interviews.

During tonight’s game, the starters played a couple of additional series. Naturally, I know we’re all looking forward to the 3rd pre-season game so we can get a really good look at our team, but we saw some decent first-string action on the field tonight.

I look forward to seeing this in the regular season!

The Starters

The Vikings offense was first up for the night. Per the usual, the first play was a run. A 2-yard run by Gerhart. C’mon Musgrave – try to be slightly less predicatable. The 2nd play was a quick slant to PERCY, who had a great run after the catch and added another 15 yards to that after getting hit late. 3rd play was a sack that lost 3 yards. The 4th play was a quick pass in the flat to Jerome Simpson who leaped over a defender to get extra yards. As a side note – while I love Visanthe Shiancoe… our new 81 does a lot better with the YAC stat. I don’t know if you guys remember this as well as I do, but Shank used to fall down after the catch a lot.

Ponder took another sack before Gerhart busted out a decent run. A couple of plays later, it was a Ponder-Felton connection that gave us our 1st TD of the pre-season. It would also be our ONLY offensive TD of the evening. We’ll get to the implications of that in a bit.

The Vikings first-string defense took the field after the 80 yard scoring drive and they put together a very strong series, featuring Mistral Raymond, who seemed extra motivated. The Bills were forced to punt, giving the Vikings offense another crack at scoring. During this 2nd series, Ponder displayed a lot of composure and was able to go through a progression of reads that led to a nice toss over to Gerhart for several yards after the catch. This was just after Paul Allen was rhapsodizing about Peterson/Gerhart being the best 1-2 RB punch in the league. Paul is such a homer. The Vikings couldn’t seal the deal on a TD after a couple of “interesting” fade attempts by Ponder. Blair Walsh to the rescue with a field goal.

Harrison Smith celebrates after batting down a pass.

During the 2nd defensive series, Harrison Smith demonstrated why the Vikings drafted him by batting down a pass attempt by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Batting a ball down is good. Grabbing it out of the air for a delicious interception is better. Hopefully we’ll see that refined a bit in the regular season.

During the 3rd offensive series, Kyle Rudolph got a little dinged up. Later in the broadcast, a dashing Ben Leber, sporting a purple dress shirt with matching tie, would inform us that Kyle had a “little bit of an owie” behind his ear and it was treated with a band-aid. Also during the 3rd offensive series, Ponder went deep to Jenkins and connected along the sideline. Ponder showed a lot of versatility during the game (with the exception of his fades). Post-game commentary revolved around Ponder targeting 8 different receivers and spreading the wealth around. Last time we heard the pundits talking about a Vikings QB “spreading the ball around”, they were talking about Favre during the 2009 season. Now, I’m not comparing Ponder to Favre, but it’s literally been that long since someone said that about one of our QBs.

Everyone Else

Chris Carr hasn’t been doing himself any favors during the preseason. He seems to have been a very dedicated player prior to his injuries. Maybe he can turn things around… but he’s clearly running out of time.

Joe Webb isn’t an NFL QB. He’s made that clear now. I thought we should have run with him at QB instead of bringing in McNugget last year to give him a chance to settle in, but we didn’t and he’s languishing in the 2nd (or 3rd?) QB spot. It’s frankly a waste of incredible athleticism. Let’s get him on the field as a WR or even the 3rd RB. The kid can move – don’t sit him on a bench.

Special teams are looking pretty good. They’re getting downfield and stopping the kick and punt returners. Mistral Raymond and Josh Robinson started laying down some plays that will catch the eyes of the coaches.

Audie celebrates with his team-mates after his 2nd pick-6 in 13 seconds.

The big winner in the “Everyone Else” category has to be Audie Cole. Last week, he got the only sack of the night for the Vikings. Tonight he had 2 INTs. That would be impressive enough, but if you pair that with two TDs and the fact he did it in 13 seconds… WOW! Yes, I’m aware that Tyler Thigpen (who was drafted by the Vikings back in 2007, in the event anyone remembers that) is not a starting QB; however, what I really appreciated about Audie’s performance was that he was looking for the QB to telegraph where he was going with the ball, Audie read it and then jumped the route. I’m positive that a QB like Thigpen is much more obvious about broadcasting his intent than a first string QB in the NFL. The important thing is that Audie Cole is watching and waiting. I think we can all agree that we haven’t seen a lot of that from the Vikings defense in the last few years.

Many times during this game I felt something that felt suspiciously like hope for our season. Because I am, and have only ever been, a Vikings fan, I did everything possible to squash that hope as quickly as possible. I know you all know what I mean. Nevertheless, I saw the one thing I was hoping for tonight: passion. Our favorite team looked engaged and determined and it’s been 2 years since we’ve seen anything like that from them.

Based on Pre-Season Game 2, what do you think the Vikings will do this season? Vote now!


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Aug 18

And…. We’re Back!

You may have noticed I’ve been gone for 8 and a half months. Or, maybe you didn’t. Or, maybe you did and celebrated my absence. Regardless, after a delightful off-season, I’m back to critique our favorite professional football team.

If you build it, they will come.

 A lot has happened since January. The state legislature FINALLY voted to fund a new Vikings stadium. It’s too bad that Goodell and the Wilfs had to essentially threaten (without stating it outright) that we would lose the team without a stadium. The “legislators” have known this for years but couldn’t have cared less, apparently. Shout out to John Kriesel for his leadership.

Visanthe Shiancoe is a Patriot. Boo & hiss. Ryan Longwell was place-kicked right out of the state. Our current #4 is a QB named McLeod Bethel-Thompson. My first thought upon seeing that was to wonder if he was of the Clan MacLeod. It would be cool to have a Highlander who was also a Viking. But I digress.

Jimmy K. is retired and so is Ben Leber, who came back to the great state of Minnesota and has joined the Vikings Entertainment Network. Asher Allen retired after an illustrious career chock full of interceptions and big plays. Wait. Wha…?

A quick scan of our Wide Receiver corp elicites a reaction that sounds like: “Oh. Uh… Well, at least Percy’s still here.” Seriously – who ARE those guys? Our MLB is no longer EJ Henderson… it’s Jasper Brinkley. Yeah… I couldn’t believe it when I read it and typing it out didn’t help either.

This isn't Adrian Peterson but I'm pretty sure you like it as much as I do!

There were many other changes during the off-season, but I know the one thing that was always on our minds was the progress Adrian Peterson has been making in his rehabilitation from a torn ACL/MCL. Our favorite Running Back is currently on the active PUP during the pre-season games. He’s trying hard to be ready for the regular season. Personally, I’d rather he take the time to ensure that he’s 100% right than take chances during a season that’s destined to likely not end with our first Super Bowl win.

I’m sure a few of you gasped at my audacity in pointing out that we’re likely not witnessing a championship team. But if you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a realist – not an optimist and certainly not a homer. I just can’t help being rational about our team’s chances. And let’s face it. We’re coming off 2 of the worst seasons EVER in the history of this team. We’ve turned over 40+% of our starters. If we go 8-8 this season it would be an incredible feat. I put our chances of doing so at about 20%. Disagree with me? You’ll have a chance to vote in a bit.

Let’s talk about what we saw from the team tonight.

Ponder got a grass stain on his hip after 2 series. How is that possible?

Starter Series:

Who didn’t suit up? Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield and Percy Harvin. Makes sense – we know those guys can play so why risk injury. Let’s see if we got any bargains in the draft.

Christian Ponder took the field after a Marcus Sherels kick off return of 12 yards. The first play was a hand off to Gerhart for a burly 1 yard advance. Thanks, Patrick Willis, for doing you job. Next play? Huge throw down field to Stephen Burton for a 48 yard completion. That IS what I like. Ponder was at a 100% completion rate until Jerome Simpson dropped a screen pass on the 3rd play. Yeah, there was a joke there. The drive ended with Ponder throwing the ball away, giving us our first look at Ryan Longwell Jr., who nailed a 39 yard field goal with seemingly no effort.

Matt Kalil didn’t quite live up to the hype. Apparently he’s not used to the speed of the game. I suggest he get a handle on that before the regular season starts so Ponder doesn’t pay the price.


Better hair than that dude on that team to the east!

The Non-Starters:

In the “good” category, I’d file Audie Cole and Paul Allen’s new BFF, McLeod John Baltazar Bethel-Thompson. Audie Cole looks like he can generate some speed on a blitz; caveat that, of course, with the fact that he was playing against 2nd and 3rd stringers. But still – he racked up the one sack of the evening.

Paul Allen was having a general love fest with Bethel-Thompson. I thought he went a little far with the comment about MickyL (too soon for a nickname?) making us almost forget about the last person to wear #4 on this team. Like we could forget about Kluwe’s one-year stint as #4 because good old Donovan McNugget came to town. I’m here to tell you, you had better step off, Paul Allen!

He was referring to Kluwe, right?

I don’t know what Webb was doing in the off-season, but he seems to have regressed instead of progressed at QB. I think it’s time to admit that Webb is super athletic and would make a hell of a receiver, but he just can’t be a QB in the NFL. The same could be said about Tebow – but thankfully, he doesn’t wear purple. Circling back to my comment about the WRs on the current roster, we could really use Joe Webb on the field catching passes. Especially since rumors are heating up again about the Jets wanting Percy Harvin. If that particular rumor is true and Spielman takes it, I believe Vikings Nation would go crazy. Am I wrong?

We’ll see what the second pre-season game brings. I’m hoping for intensity and passion to emerge and a sense that the team is starting to coalesce around Frazier’s vision. Is that what will happen? We’ll see. Use the poll below to indicate how you’re feeling about the season.


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