Sunday, October 14, 2012

Coming Off the Ledge: Washington 38, Minnesota 26

Washington-Minnesota Box Score (ESPN)

I pin this loss on two relatively obvious factors.

Christian Ponder's turnovers gave Washington easy points.
As far as moving the ball goes, the Viking offense didn't play notably better or worse than it has played all season. But the Vikes would have lost to the Jags, 49ers, and Lions as well if in any of those games Ponder had both a fumble that gave the opponent the ball on the six and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Quarterbacks throw interceptions. Good quarterbacks throw interceptions. Great quarterbacks throw interceptions. Great quarterbacks make those interceptions rare, and great teams have the talent to overcome those interceptions. The Vikings are a good team this year (I think?), but not so good they have a significant margin over most of their opponents. They had that margin last week against Tennessee. But most weeks, the Vikes won't have a talent and execution margin high enough to overcome key turnovers. They didn't this week. And they will need to avoid those turnovers to control games in the future.

The Vikings didn't know what the %$#@ Robert Griffin III was doing.
Griffin's numbers (17/22 for 182 yards passing, 13 for 138 rushing) obviously show his production and efficiency. But there was really no point in the game when the Vikings seemed to know if Griffin was handing off, running, or throwing. Alfred Morris didn't do much, but off the play-fake Washington spun the Vikings around in circles. There were throws from the pocket, design QB runs, rollouts, and scrambles. Defenders just didn't seem to know what to do, and when they did seem to know, they weren't quick or fast enough to get to Griffin in time.

The Vikings have forced pocket passers to struggle mightily this season, but the two rookie QBs that bested them both showed mobility and creativity that the Vikings couldn't deal with. The good news for the Vikings is that such QBs are pretty rare, and mostly don't show up on the rest of the 2012 schedule.

Coming off the ledge
The Vikings just lost on the road to a well-coached team with a dynamic quarterback. It wasn't entirely unexpected, nor is it entirely disastrous. We know more about this team now, its strengths and limitations.


  1. Same old, same old.
    No offensive game plan. No pass rush. Frustrating!

    1. Anon 5:11:

      One reason the Vikings couldn't get much pressure on RGIII is almost all of his throws were very quick drops where he got the ball out of his hands within two seconds. It's tough to get to the QB that way, especially when you have to account for all the fake handoffs options Washington runs. This is a very tricky offense to defend against.

      I do wonder why the Vikings didn't jam their WRs more at the line of scrimmage to get RGIII to hold onto the ball a bit longer. Chris Cook was beat a number of times on slants by playing off coverage. Weird.

  2. This will probably be the subject of my post-game rant, but this was a game where the Vikings lack of a big red zone threat showed up in a big way. Other than Rudolph, they don't have anybody who can make a play in the end zone inside the opponent's 20. Convert a couple of those first quarter drives into TDs and I think this game turns out much differently.

  3. Great game plan to have Jenkins go in motion and stay in the backfield to help block. We have no receivers, other than Harvin. Think how good he would be with some outside help!

    Not a play-off team, but getting better.
    PV, you have ranted for years about the lack of wide outs. You are still correct!

    Does AP have to run inside only?

    Won't like this one, but anytime the opponents need yards, they run to their left. Who is over there not playing the run?

    1. I won 't argue they couldn't use another receiver or three. But I'm still skeptically about Ponder's ability yo go downfield. Percentages for downfirld attempts are lower for anybody, but Ponder really seems to spray on throws beyond 10-15 yards (particularly outside the numbers). And there wasone replay I noticed a downfield receiver was breaking away in the background. Obviously I can't say what the safety was up to, but the point remains that route wasn't given a chance to develop.

      Or I'll put it this way: That throw Russell Wilson made to Sidney Rice to put Seattle on top? I'm not sure Ponder can make that throw. Or if he or the team would even dare try it. Maybe I 'm wrong.


    2. Jianfu:

      Ponder was off on some short stuff yesterday as well. He missed hitting Rudolph, Carlson and, I think, Ellison, in the flats yesterday, too. I also remember him lofting a sweet deep pass to Harvin last year against Atlanta for a TD. I know it's but one example, but I think it shows he's capable if he's got time and someone is open.