Vikings quarterbacks bad, defense not much better
It takes a lot to bump a ridiculously unsettled quarterback situation into the background, but the Minnesota Vikings’ woeful defensive performance on third down against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night certainly did the trick.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers entered the game with a 116.4 passer rating against the Vikings. That’s the highest mark by any quarterback against a single opponent since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. He also came in with a 70.7 completion percentage, 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 10 regular-season games against the Vikings.
Well, Rodgers managed to boost all of those numbers except the interceptions significantly higher in Sunday’s 44-31 win at Mall of America Field. He completed 82.8 percent of his passes (24 of 29 with three throwaways and one drop) with two touchdowns, no picks and a 130.6 passer rating.
But that wasn’t the most impressive stat, believe it or not. On third downs, Rodgers was 10 of 10 for 172 yards, six first downs and two touchdowns. He also was 2 of 2 with two first downs on fourth down.
As a team, the Packers converted 13 of 18 third-down opportunities, bettering their season high by six conversions.
The Vikings, meanwhile, dropped to last in the league in third-down defense. They’re giving up conversions at a 51.0 percent rate. The last team to finish a season allowing at least a 50-percent conversion rate was the 1995 Browns.
The miserable third-down performance has Frazier worried about much more than whether to start Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder at quarterback. He’s also contemplating some schematic changes on defense, both on third down and on earlier downs to avoid teams having so many third-and-short situations.
“I think you have to do it,” Frazier said. “We’re so bad right now on third down on defense. You’ve got to look at how we’re doing it, what we’re doing schematically, and also the people that you’re asking to do certain things. Can they get it done? Do we need to be doing something different based on the people that we’re asking to execute the defense? This is the time without question to try to go back and look at some things any time a team gets 72 percent conversion rate. That’s time to really do some re-evaluation.”
Frazier doesn’t think there’s much he can do from a personnel standpoint.
“I don’t know what you can do personnel-wise,” Frazier said. “Our guys are doing the very best that they can. We have some young guys on the back end that are battling. They’re getting better. They’re making some headway. I don’t know very much you can do there. We’ve got to look at what we’re asking them to do and how can we help them to be better at what we’re asking them to do. There are some things that we can try that should help us and that’s the approach that we’ll take this week.”
KR Cordarrelle Patterson set the NFL record for longest kickoff return when he took the opening kick and went 109 yards for a touchdown. It broke the record of 108 yards set by Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones (2012), Green Bay’s Randall Cobb (2011) and New England’s Ellis Hobbs (2007). It was Patterson’s second kickoff return for a touchdown in his seven-game NFL career. The other one was 105 yards. Two kick returns of 105 yards or more ties an NFL career record held by Jones and former Ravens safety Ed Reed.
Patterson’s record kickoff return added to the list of records set at the Metrodome. In 2007, RB Adrian Peterson set the single-game rushing record (296) in the same game in which Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie set the record for longest return of a missed field goal (109).
The dome also was the site for the longest run from scrimmage — 99 yards by former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett — and longest pass play — 99 yards from former Viking Gus Frerotte to Bernard Berrian.
WR Greg Jennings didn’t enjoy the first game against his former team. He was targeted only three times and caught a season-low one pass for just nine yards. Jennings’ previous low was three catches in three other games.
WR Joe Webb lined up in the shotgun for the first time this season. It’s part of the old “Blazer” package the team used some in 2011. Unfortunately for Webb, the play never got run. Right guard Brandon Fusco was flagged for a false start and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave scrapped the play and never went back to it.
TE Kyle Rudolph was QB Christian Ponder’s most popular target. Of course, that’s not saying much when an offense possesses the ball for only 19 minutes, 6 seconds. Rudolph is becoming the mop-up guy in lopsided losses. He had a team-high four catches while being targeted four times. He finished with 51 yards, his second-highest total of the season.
CB Chris Cook (hip) strained a muscle in his hip on Sunday, continuing a never-ending trend of injuries that have contributed to him missing more games than he’s played since joining the team as a second-round pick in 2010. Cook, who was injured late in the game, doesn’t look good for Sunday at this point. He was replaced by backup A.J. Jefferson, who also has battled injuries all season. Cook already has missed one game this season. But it’s not like he’s having a great year. Jefferson has regressed since putting together a promising first year with the team in 2012.
SS Jamarca Sanford (groin) left Sunday’s game early on. He, too, has battled injuries all season. He missed a game because of a hamstring pull earlier. He was replaced by Mistral Raymond, whose stock has fallen significantly since he was battling for the starting job early last season. Sanford is day-to-day. If he and Cook can’t play, the Vikings would be without three of their four opening-day starters in the secondary. FS Harrison Smith (turf toe) is on injured reserve with the designation to return if possible.
TE Rhett Ellison (ankle) didn’t play Sunday. The Vikings expect to get him back this week. His value has been on special teams since FB Jerome Felton returned from his suspension.
RB Matt Asiata (shoulder) didn’t play Sunday. He’s day-to-day, according to Frazier. He’s mostly a special teamer since Adrian Peterson handles nearly all of the carries and backup Toby Gerhart comes in on some third downs.