Vikings-Colts Box Score (ESPN).
Today the 2012 Minnesota Viking revealed their biggest weakness.
Don't be distracted by the awful second half penalties. They were awful, nearly cost the Vikes a chance at a comeback, and really might have cost the team the game.
Don't be distracted by the familiar defensive collapse. It was awful, and it points to what we've known about the questionable pass defense.
Don't be distracted by Andrew Luck's performance. The Viking pass rush was consistent, but Luck was better: he showed mobility and intelligence at avoiding taking what should have been sacks. He managed to make some spectacular plays.
And don't be distracted by the poetic and statistical balance that the Vikings lost today the way they beat the Jaguars a week ago. The data shows that if you keep playing games like this, you're going to win about half of them. A mediocre or bad team is going to play a lot of games like this.
Don't be distracted by what Christian Ponder did or did not do. For the second week in a row, Ponder helped the Vikings when they were down, and put the team in position to win games that they could have lost. He hasn't played great, but I don't think he's been the problem, either, and he has been clutch.
The Vikings biggest weakness this year is this:
They have no downfield passing game.
The Vikings' best receiver by far catches most of his passes around the line of scrimmage. And there is nobody else that can be relied on for deep passes. They can't stretch the defense and make defense account for the deep throw--so those defenses play tight to muck up the short passes. They don't have a real opportunity to take advantage of the the benefits of deep throws, like picking up pass interference penalties. There is just nobody currently on the Vikings that can beat cornerbacks and regularly make a play past 20 yards. Thus they struggle to move the ball consistently, and even when they get a good drive going, it too frequently stalls, as they don't have the big play potential down the field to gain big yardage on a single play to really advance the ball.
It is possible that Jerome Simpson is going to rescue the Vikings here: he's the speedy, athletic player who really has big play potential. He doesn't even have to be the first or second option to massively impact the game: if the Vikes throw deep to him even a few times, that could really aid the offense. But that's for later.
Right now, the Vikings have a dink and dunk offense that relies on pass catchers to gain yardage after they catch the ball. Just look at today's play-by-play (ESPN): almost all of Ponder's pass attempts are short. In the second half, one pass finally got labeled "middle." No pass play is listed as "deep" until the fourth quarter, and in the fourth they got a total of three "deep" throws.
In all, Ponder had 33 pass attempts labeled "short," one "middle," and three "long" (that includes plays that didn't count due to penalties). I don't know that's Ponder's fault. I don't even know that it's the coaches' fault (though they must at least try go deep more frequently). It may simply be that they don't have the personnel for the deep pass right now. But that is a problem--the biggest problem the Vikings have right now.