Vikings at a Crossroad
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 13:10
The 5-3 Vikings have been a pleasant surprise for a fan base that expected another season in the cellar. After a surprising loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night, the Vikings have hit an important crossroad in their season. The way I see it, the Vikings season can go one of two ways:
The Vikings take the Bucs game as a wake-up call and have the no-one-believes-in-us attitude leading them into the playoffs.
They continue their downward spiral and position themselves for another top-10 draft pick.
The Vikings started the season better than any fan could have dreamed of. Second year quarterback Christian Ponder was making the right decisions, hitting his open receivers, scampering for first downs and most importantly, not turning the ball over. He has looked like a legitimate top-15 quarterback in the league at times this season.
Although the “game manager” label we want to slap on Ponder has felt a little unfitting these past few weeks. Through the first four games of the season, Ponder didn’t throw a single interception. In fact, he was the last quarterback in the NFL to throw an interception. But, it has been downhill from there.
In the past four games, Ponder has thrown seven interceptions and has only completed 60 percent of his passes. Thursday night’s game alone showed the glaring weaknesses in the Vikings passing game with Ponder at the helm. Tampa Bay keyed on Percy Harvin all night eliminating the Vikings pitch-and-put passes that have been the bulk of the Vikings passing game all year.
The lack of a deep threat is what’s holding the Vikings back. In the off-season, they signed acrobatic receiver, Jerome Simpson from the Bengals. After serving his three-game suspension for a positive test for marijuana, the once prolific deep-threat in Cincinnati has been obsolete in Minnie. The only productive thing Simpson has been able to do all year is draw pass interferences from the defense and has only accumulated seven receptions for 95 yards in four games. If the Vikings offense wants to start putting the fear into opposing secondaries, Simpson and Ponder need to start getting on the same page.
Along with the offensive woes the past three games, the defense has been put under an obscene amount of pressure. Thursday night’s game was a prime example.
In the first half, Tampa’s started two drives in Vikings territory and two more within ten yards of mid-field, all of which ended in points for the Bucs.
The Vikings defense has played well through the first half of the schedule, but has struggled mightily on the road. Giving up nearly 25 points a game on the road is too much if the Vikings want to even think about making the playoffs. Michael Irving put it best before the game, saying, “If you want to be a playoff team in the NFL, your defense has to show up on the road.”
The Vikings still have a long road ahead of them if they even want to consider a playoff berth. They have set themselves up nicely starting 5-3, but have a terrifying second half schedule that includes five games on the road starting next week against a tough, black-and-blue style Seahawk team. The Vikings also still have to play both games against the division leading Bears, and both games against a surging Packers team that is anxious to show that they still belong among the NFL’s elite.
Starting on Sunday, the Vikings will have to choose which way they want their season to go. For some of the die-hard fans like myself, this might spell disaster for the Purple.