Three Ups And Three Downs For The Minnesota Vikings Through Two Games
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The Minnesota Vikings have won a game and lost a game.
That falls right in line with what the experts expected of the Vikings this season.
The Vikings were not expected to be very good or record many wins, despite its schedule. It still needs to show somehow that it is rebuilding into a perennial playoff contender.
The three things heading upward
Blair Walsh: The rookie kicker has been outstanding with a pair of kicks over 50-yards. He is a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points. He also has been effective on kickoffs as well with seven touchbacks in 11 tries and a 20.5 return average. There were a lot of critics when the Vikings selected the former Georgia Bulldog in the sixth round of the draft in April and then released beloved veteran Ryan Longwell within a week. Walsh has silenced them and he looks like a kicker the Vikings can count on to make big kicks while the rest of the roster is being upgraded.
Two-minute offense: Quarterback Christian Ponder has led the Vikings to game-tying scores in the final minute of each game this season. The Vikings drafted Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft because of his brain and throwing accuracy. He used both to move the offense down the field for a field goal against the Jacksonville Jaguars as time expired in Week One and led a touchdown drive with 31 seconds remaining against the Indianapolis Colts.
Adrian Peterson: The sixth-year running back was an unknown health-wise when the season began. However, he has been the focal point of the Vikings offense in both games. He looks healthy and is still one of the toughest running backs to tackle in the NFL.
The three things heading downward
The pass rushers: Where have they been through two games, most notably Jared Allen? Last season, the Vikings tied for the NFL lead with 50 sacks. The leader of the group was Allen, who fell a half sack short of tying the NFL single season record. Through two games this season, the team has four (1.125 sacks per game behind last season’s pace). It is tied for 16th in the league and seven behind the league-leading Green Bay Packers.
Two-minute defense: The Vikings would be 2-0 and feeling a whole lot better about itself if not for its defense in the last two minutes of each half. The Jaguars and Colts combined to complete 11-of-15 passes for 170 yards, two rushes for 10 yards, two passing touchdowns and a field goal in three drives in the final two minutes of each half. Two of the four incompletions were spiked passes to stop the clock. Also, the Vikings committed a five-yard offside penalty that the Colts chose to accept instead of a five-yard pass completion. The Vikings need to stop someone inside of two minutes if it is going to pull off an upset or avoid being upset.
Downfield passing: Ponder has the highest completion percentage in the NFL and is sixth in passer rating. His passing efficiency also ranks among the league’s best. Those are three areas Ponder wanted to improve this season from last. While he has improved those areas, the team is not taking shots downfield. Ponder’s longest completed pass this season is 29 yards, tied with two other quarterbacks for the ninth shortest. Of the 10 players with a shorter longest pass, four are backup quarterbacks and one is a punter. If the Vikings do not start trying to stretch the field, defenses will take away the short passes and run plays.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.