Today's game was the first one I've been able to see this season, since I've been out of the country for the past two weeks. And like Pacifist said, it looked like the Vikings and 49ers had switched uniforms--if I hadn't known better, I would have thought the players in Purple were the ones that were coming off an NFC Championship appearance and had beaten their first two opponents convincingly. I know there was some worry about the Vikings' chemistry, but it seems that the veterans were successful at getting the younger players to put in the effort and adopt the mindset necessary to be a good football team. Now the question is whether they can maintain the level of play we just saw, something that's going to have to start tomorrow.
- Christian Ponder was impressive today. He was very active with his feet, constantly buying more time for his receivers to get open and he wasn't sacked once. And with this receiving corps, he needs to buy them as much time as he can. He did float too many passes over the middle (and almost threw a disastrous interception in the 4th quarter) but the touch on the two touchdown passes to Kyle Rudolph was the kind of thing that should get everyone excited about what Ponder can become.
- Maybe Jerome Simpson can change this, but the Vikings really didn't take a shot down field. Ponder averaged a paltry 5.65 yards per pass attempt and I don't think he threw the ball more than 15 yards (Percy Harvin had a 24 yard reception, but some of that was gained after the catch). It's really hard to methodically march down the field and the Vikings need to start throwing intermediate and deep passes or it's going to get even harder for their offense to move the balls via short passes.
- Rudolph's second touchdown brought me back to my high school days, when I got pretty good at catching passes one handed after a thumb injury. Ponder's throw was perfect, since you need to lob the ball in to make a one handed basket catch, something that my teammates took a while to figure out. (Yeah, I know--I can hear your Jay Cutler-esque reactions from here).
- The Vikings' decision to draft Blair Walsh in the 6th round was not a popular one. He's now kicked a 50+ yard field goal in each of the Vikings' first three games. A kicker like that is a really valuable offensive weapon--it's really hard to argue with the Vikings' decision when he's making 52 yard field goals comfortably. And who knows if Walsh would have signed with the Purple if he had been able to pick his team?
- The 49ers' longest pass play was only 29 yards. Their longest run was only 11 yards. The 49ers were supposed to be the sure tackling team, but while the Vikings' defense gave up a lot of completions on short crossing routes and out routes, they didn't let any of them turn into big plays and they shut down the deep routes. Equally impressive was the effort by the safeties and linebackers in shutting down Vernon Davis, who I expected to torch the Vikings. Now, the big question is whether the secondary can turn in this kind of effort against a better quarterback next week (or at least a better wide receiver if Stafford is unable to play).
- Randy Moss's return was the big pre-game story, but all I could think about during the game was how old he looked. He had no lift (twice he was unable to get up high enough to catch a high throw) and he seemingly ran nothing but short routes. It was a sharp contrast from when he was wearing 84 in purple and gold, able to beat every defender deep and win every jump ball. Moss' jersey was the first one I bought (the year before I hurt my thumb DOOOONNNNTTTTTT CAAAAAARRRREEEEEE) and watching him today made me feel old. Time is cruel, she is.
- Moving from a player who's career is pretty much over to one who's just begun, Josh Robinson's first career interception was as much about Alex Smith making a bad throw as it was about Robinson making a good play. Regardless of that, I'm still pretty sure he would have scored if Chad Greenway hadn't gotten in the way / told him to go down. Of course, if Greenway hadn't done that, well, who knows how the replacement refs would have screwed up that play?
- The Lions are next and how the Vikings' handle this success will tell us whether to start raising expectations. There was a let down after the win against the Jaguars. If that happens again, the Vikings will not have a pleasant trip to Detroit.