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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Oct 22, 2012

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the season we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

Good win versus Arizona. I feel like we've got a lot to work on offensively, but our defensive play was greater than I had expected. I know we've added a lot of weapons on the defensive side of the ball, but what do you think is the major factor for this quick turnaround from last year’s defense?
-- Tosin
Maryland

Several factors have combined to help the Vikings improve on defense. First, the defensive line has continued to play well. They led the NFL in sacks last year, and this year the Vikings are tied for third in sacks with 22, including seven on Sunday against Arizona. The defensive line had six of those seven sacks. Also, the Vikings have a nice rotation going at defensive line right now that allows them to keep starters fresh throughout the game. The next factor I’d point to is health – both Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield have been healthy this year. Last year they missed a combined 21 games, and it negatively impacted the defense. And finally, there’s no denying that the infusion of youth to the defense has given them an edge they didn’t previously possess. First-round pick Harrison Smith has had a fantastic season, and he was rewarded for it on Sunday when he took an interception back 31 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Josh Robinson has been impressive early in the season and is a regular contributor on the defense, especially as an outside cover corner.

Those three factors, along with a few others, have combined to help the Vikings make a profound improvement on defense.

I don't want to jump all over QB Christian Ponder for a poor performance or two, but is his increase in interceptions lately something to be concerned about? Do you think he will become more likely to revert back to his old ways of last season?
-- Shefflan S.

Although my inbox this morning would indicate otherwise, I can assure you the sky is not falling on Ponder and the Vikings passing offense. Yes, the interceptions are concerning because you never want to turn the ball over. Possessions and field position are too valuable, and turnovers cause you to lose both of those battles in a game. So from that standpoint, yes the interceptions should be concerning.

But the good news is we’ve seen Ponder on the other side of the spectrum, so we know he can get back to that point. This is a quarterback who threw no interceptions through the first four games of the season and is still completing 67.0% of his passes for the year. This is also a quarterback who threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns against a playoff team (Denver) last year when he was just a rookie. The physical skill set is there for Ponder. Right now, he needs to figure out what’s causing the errors and get it corrected. I’m confident he’ll be able to do it.

Ugly win. Minnesota was lucky to come away with a victory. The defense and special teams did okay, but that was one of the worst offensive displays (not including Adrian Peterson's running) that I have seen in a while. I understand that this is a young team and there will be growing pains and that the Vikings want to establish and maintain ball control, but I think they are way overdue for shots down the field. Jerome Simpson was almost a non-factor today, and I honestly can't recall a time when the Vikings attempted to stretch the field on the Cardinals. Is it just that our receivers aren't getting open, or is it Christian Ponder not wanting to turn the ball over and being too protective with it?
-- Greg S.

I can’t agree that the Vikings were lucky to come away with a win on Sunday. The Vikings defense was dominant in registering seven sacks, holding Arizona to just 5.2 yards per play and keeping Larry Fitzgerald in check with just four receptions for 29 yards. On top of that, the Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per carry behind 153 rushing yards from Peterson and the special teams group did a nice job of neutralizing Patrick Peterson in the punt return game. This wasn’t a case of the Vikings falling into a win or pulling a miracle out at the finish. I’ve been through plenty of experiences where I genuinely felt that the Vikings played well enough to win, but they wound up on the losing end. You take every win you can get, and you never apologize for it. This was a good win for the Vikings against a tough opponent.

As for the passing offense and its inability to get going on Sunday, I think it's probably a combination of factors, including but not limited to: inexperience at quarterback; inadequate pass protection; receivers not getting open; playcalling; plus other factors. I wouldn't place the blame at any one person's feet or as the result of any one aspect of the offense. In football, you win as a team and lose as a team. The same goes for subsets of the team, such as offense, defense and special teams. I would venture to guess that when the offense meets this week to review the Cardinals game and prepare for the Buccaneers game, all aspects of the offense will feel that they need to improve in order for the Vikings passing game to improve.

I know you have been sticking up for Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave, but his playcalling does not suit our offense. I’m sitting here watching the Vikings go three-and-out all 2nd half of this game. What is it going to take for him to figure this offense out?
-- Cody R.
Arizona

I’m not going to try and pull wool over anyone’s eyes by blindly defending an aspect of the team when it’s apparent that something has gone amiss. With that being said, I don’t think it’s fair to blame any one person for the deficiencies in the Vikings offense from Sunday, and that includes coach Musgrave. Let’s also remember, Musgrave is as responsible for the running game as he is the passing game. So whatever blame you want to assign to Musgrave for the passing offense on Sunday, an equal amount of credit should be given to him for the  success of a running game that averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 27 attempts.

Running an efficient offense is about so much more than calling the right plays, or making the right throw or running the right route. A lot of things have to happen simultaneously, and there are going to be times when a wrench is thrown into the gears. There are going to be times when the defense has to pick it up for a low-scoring offense. There are going to be times when the offense has to pick it up for a leaky defense. And then, as we saw in Week 4 at Detroit, there are going to be times when the special teams come in and save everyone.

The Vikings, at 5-2, are off to a great start. And a big reason for the great start is the play of the Vikings offense. This past Sunday, the Vikings defense held the fort down. One of the Vikings strengths this season is how they are playing as a team. We saw that once again on Sunday in the win over Arizona.