Vikings must fix QB, defense
The Vikings are 0-2 for many reasons with the top two being a quarterback who has turned the ball over too many times and a defense that’s broken down far too many times in critical situations.
Whether or not they would have beaten the Lions in Detroit or the Bears in Chicago probably didn’t hinge on rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s playing time in either game. But it’s stunning that a first-round pick and a playmaker of Patterson’s magnitude has played only 11 offensive snaps in two games.
Even the head coach, Leslie Frazier, has a hard time fathoming that heading into the team’s home opener against the winless and even-more-reeling Browns at Mall of America Field on Sunday.
“It’s just an oversight on our part; a major oversight because Cordarrelle is a playmaker,” said Frazier, whose team gave up four draft picks to move back into the first round to take Patterson. “He should be out there. We just got to get him on the field.”
The Vikings should win Sunday’s game. The Browns are starting their No. 3 quarterback, Brian Hoyer, and have traded their star running back, Trent Richardson, to the Colts on Wednesday. And, heck, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski even did the Vikings a favor by announcing on Wednesday that, A, starting quarterback Brandon Weeden (elbow) wouldn’t play and, B, Hoyer would leap over No. 2 QB Jason Campbell to make only his second NFL start.
“It’s a lot better than finding out on Sunday at noon, I promise you that,” said Frazier, whose coaching staff had spent Monday and Tuesday studying Campbell.
With the Metrodome crowd, a strong Vikings pass rush, a rookie QB and a pass-protection unit that’s given up an NFL-high 11 sacks, the Vikings should be able to dominate defensively. Offensively could be another matter against a Browns defense that’s giving up only 2.0 yards per carry.
Adrian Peterson has averaged only 2.7 yards on the 43 carries after his first touch went 78 yards for a touchdown. If he’s bottled up again, maybe this time Patterson can provide a spark, particularly in the red zone where his size (6-2, 220), speed and run-after-the-catch ability could be utilized best. In the red zone, the Vikings have two touchdowns in eight attempts. They were 0 for 3 in the late third quarter and fourth quarter in Sunday’s 31-30 loss in Chicago.
In that game, the Vikings ran 10 plays for minus-2 yards in the red zone. Peterson had six runs for minus-2 yards and Christian Ponder was 0 for 4 passing with one dropped ball by receiver Jarius Wright.
Sunday, Patterson opened the Bears game by tying a franchise record with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Then He played only six snaps on offense, catching two passes for 14 yards.
This week, the Vikings are determined to see more big plays on offense.
“Whatever we have to do,” Frazier said, “we need to get Cordarrelle on the field more.”
14th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 10-3. Vikings have won the past four meetings going back to 1992 and are 3-1 all-time against the Browns at the Metrodome. The teams met in the post-season once, with Minnesota winning the 1969 NFL Championship game 27-7 at home.
n Whether it’s his fault or not, receiver Greg Jennings just can’t seem to put his Green Bay past behind him.
Just when things seemed to be calming down after Jennings had created a stink by saying Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers acted as if he were bigger than the team, another controversy arose on Wednesday.
Apparently, Jennings signed a Vikings helmet for a fan at an event on Tuesday. Allegedly, he also wrote “Packers Suck” on the helmet. A photo of the helmet appeared on Twitter on Wednesday and, well, here we go again.
Jennings wouldn’t address the situation when asked about it after Wednesday’s practice.
“I’m not going to even jump into that,” Jennings said. “I’ll let that story be what it is: a story. If you guys want to hype it — it has nothing to do with football, does it?”
Reporters made another attempt to see if he’s the one who wrote “Packers Suck.” No luck.
“I’m not even going to address that,” he said. “Are we talking football, or are we talking something else?”
n The Vikings have taken some heat for being what some believe was too conservative on a key red-zone play in the closing minutes of the 31-30 loss to the Bears. On third-and-goal from the Chicago 4, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called for a standard dive left for running back Adrian Peterson.
The Bears were keying on the play and easily stuff Peterson for no gain. The Vikings kicked the field goal to go up by six, but then allowed Jay Cutler to breeze 66 yards in 10 plays for the game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.
Quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw incomplete on second-and-goal from the 4, defended Musgrave when asked about the call on Wednesday.
“We have the best running back in the league,” he said. “Again, we wanted points on the board. We didn’t want anything crazy to happen. We wanted to keep the clock running or force them to take a timeout. So if we incomplete a ball, the clock stops and they don’t need to take a timeout. You know, unfortunately, Monday morning quarterback, it’s easy to look back and think that we could’ve done things differently. But I wouldn’t expect that if it happens this week that we would change that. I mean, Adrian can make plays all the time, and he does a great job of it.”
By the numbers
11 — Consecutive number of field goals of 50 yards or longer that Vikings second-year kicker Blair Walsh has made at the start of his NFL career. He’s 1 for 1 this year.
Quote to note
“I don’t know if hesitancy is the word (but it’s) trying to make every run a 60-yard run, which is not always going to be the case. Sometimes, you’ve just got to get what’s there. And he’s been good at that and he’ll be better going forward.” — Coach Leslie Frazier on running back Adrian Peterson averaging 2.7 yards on his last 43 carries after breaking off a 78-yard touchdown on his first carry of the season.
Strategy and personnel
n K Blair Walsh needed only 18 NFL games to tie Ryan Longwell’s team record for most field goals of 50 yards or longer (11). Walsh is 11 for 11, including 1 for 1 this year.
n WR Jerome Simpson is well on his way to a bounce-back season. A year after catching only 26 passes because of back and leg issues, he already has nine catches for 189 yards. His 21.0-yard average ranks fourth in the NFL.
n DE Jared Allen had one of his two sacks taken away after film review of the season opener at Detroit. Allen’s tackle of Matthew Stafford was deemed to be just a tackle for loss because it was a busted play in which Stafford chose to try and run with the ball. Allen also leads all active NFL defensive ends with 96 consecutive regular-season starts.
n TE Kyle Rudolph, in just the second game of his third season, already ranks fifth all-time among Vikings tight ends in career touchdown catches (13).
n DT Kevin Williams came up with his fifth career interception last Sunday. That’s a team record for defensive tackles and tied for the NFL record with former Bengal Dan Wilkinson.
n FB Rhett Ellison (knee) did not practice Wednesday and might miss Sunday’s game. He’s the second-best fullback on the roster behind Pro Bowler Jerome Felton, who has another game left on his three-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. Without Ellison, who hyperextended his knee at Chicago last week, the Vikings are down to rookie free agent Zach Line as the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson when the Vikings use a two-back set.
n NT Fred Evans (shoulder) was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but is expected to play on Sunday.
n MLB Erin Henderson (heel) was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but is expected to play on Sunday.
n FS Harrison Smith (shoulder) was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but is expected to play on Sunday.
n C John Sullivan (knee) was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but is expected to play on Sunday.
n DT Kevin Williams (knee) was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but is expected to play on Sunday.
The Vikings are banking on a boost from the crowd in their home opener, particularly on defense. The Browns have given up league highs in sacks (11) and quarterback pressures (51), and they’ll be starting former No. 3 QB Brian Hoyer, who has only one career NFL start. This scenario is perfect for a Vikings’ pass rush that often takes it up many notches on the home turf. Offensively, the Vikings never want to air it out too much as long as Adrian Peterson is on the field, but look for more play-action passes and naked bootleg passes to the tight end to try and loosen up a Browns run defense that’s giving up only 2.0 yards per carry.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings FS Harrison Smith, who had his first interception of the season, vs. Browns QB Brian Hoyer. The Vikings defense had several breakdowns on the Bears’ game-winning drive a week ago. Smith was slow in rotating over on the 16-yard game-winning touchdown pass, leaving cornerback Chris Cook to try and cover two targets, leaning toward one and then failing to get to the other when Jay Cutler zipped the ball by him. Smith, however, also had his first interception of the season earlier in the fourth quarter. A nice read, good jump and sure hands made for an interception that looked easy but was far too rare for the Vikings’ butterfingered secondary. Smith, a first-round draft pick a year ago, has four career interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns a year ago. Hoyer, who was Tom Brady’s backup for three years in New England, has started only one game, a loss at San Francisco as a member of the Cardinals in Week 16 a year ago. He showed promise in the Browns’ fourth preseason game, throwing for 307 yards, but he also was playing with and against all backups.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who is third in the league with 193 yards rushing, vs. Browns ILB D’Qwell Jackson. It’s hard to criticize Peterson, but he appears to be trying too hard to make every run a 60-yard touchdown. Even his coach, Leslie Frazier, has spoken to him about that this week. Peterson is averaging 4.4 yards overall, but since breaking his first carry of the season 78 yards for a touchdown, Peterson is averaging 2.7 yards on 43 carries. Jackson has been the anchor of a Browns defense that has gone from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and back to a 3-4. Jackson has a team-high 18 tackles on a unit that’s allowing only 2.0 yards per carry.