By Joseph Gunther
Despite a loss on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings continue to be one of the biggest surprises in the NFL.
The loss did drop the Vikings out of a tie atop the NFC North. The idle-Chicago Bears hold a half game lead over the Vikings with a 4-1 record.
Here is a break down of the aspects heading upward and downward through two games this season.
Here are the aspects now headed upward and downward:
The three things heading upward
The team’s stars: The best players on the Vikings have led the team to a 4-2 record. Adrian Peterson has rushed for 100 yards just once this season, but he is contributing more in the passing game. He is on pace to set career-highs in receptions and receiving yards. Percy Harvin leads the NFL in receptions and is seventh in receiving yards. Jared Allen has a sack in four consecutive games. Chad Greenway is tied for the NFL lead with 61 tackles. Antoine Winfield has an interception in consecutive games. He also has recorded 10 tackles in two of the last three games.
Young defensive backs: The Vikings defensive backs couldn’t stop anyone last season. The addition of three rookies from the 2012 draft has the Vikings ranked 10th in the league in pass defense. Harrison Smith’s physical presence and Josh Robinson’s speed is a big part of the turnaround. Robinson has shown the ability to be a solid tackler.
Blair Walsh: The sixth round draft pick has made 16 of his 17 field goals and all 12 of his extra points. As good as he has been when putting points on the board; most of the talk has been about his ability to help the defense. He has forced 24 touchbacks in 34 kickoffs. During Sunday’s loss to the Washington Redskins, he proved he can kick outdoors in the NFL. He was perfect in every aspect of his game; 4-4 on field goals and seven touchbacks in seven kickoff attempts.
The three things heading downward
Christian Ponder’s perfect season: The second-year quarterback has taken a couple steps back the last couple weeks. He threw his first two interceptions in each of the last two games. He wasn’t as sharp as a passer during last week’s loss.
The red zone offense: The Vikings have scored touchdowns on 50 percent of their trips to the red zone, but over the last three games the percentage was just 38.46 percent. During Sunday’s loss the percentage was even worse at 28.57. Last season, the Vikings scored touchdowns on 56.6 percent of its red zone trips. The three red zone trips on Sunday that produced just nine points end up costing the Vikings at the end of the game.
Containing running quarterbacks: The Vikings had no answer for Robert Griffin III’s legs. Prior to Sunday’s loss the most mobile quarterback the Vikings faced was Indianapolis Colts rookie Andrew Luck. Fortunately, the most mobile quarterbacks the Vikings will see the rest of the season are Seattle Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson and Green Bay Packers veteran Aaron Rodgers.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Vikings news, see CBS Sports Minnesota.
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.