Monday Morning Mailbag

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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Sep 29, 2013

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.

 

How would you grade Matt Cassel's performance? Personally, I thought he showed a lot of poise for his first start of the season with a new team. He got progressively better as the game went on. He showed a ton of comfort, patience and decisiveness in the pocket. He finished the day with 9.9 yards per attempt, while also completing a high percentage of his passes and finishing by completing his last 11 passes.
-- Cody H.

I agree with everything Cody included in his question. In my view, Cassel should receive high marks from his coaches for the performance. I was particularly pleased with his drop back footwork, timing and habit of stepping up into the pocket to make throws. The best example of this was the second touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, in which Cassel dropped back with perfect footwork, stepped up into a clean pocket and delivered a pass with accuracy and authority. Granted, it was a great route by Jennings and that gave Cassel an easy target and big window, but Cassel still had to hold up his end of the bargain, and he did.

Another aspect of Cassel’s performance that is interesting and encouraging to me is that it coincided with other parts of the offense putting forth their best outings of the season, too. The Vikings offensive line was tremendous in paving the way for Adrian Peterson and providing a big, clean pocket for Cassel, and the Vikings wide receivers continued to play well in both the passing game and as run blockers. Was the increased performance from the line and the receivers a function of Cassel playing well, or vice versa? Was it some of both? Given the team-nature of football and how dynamic the game has become, I lean toward a little of both.

Great game by our backup quarterback, Matt Cassel. Do you think he secured the starting role after the win? Or will Christian Ponder play if he's healthy after the bye?
Kenny G.
South Milwaukee, WI

That’s a decision that will be made by the Vikings in the coming days. There will be several factors that go into it, and at the top of the list may be the health of Ponder’s ribs. Fortunately, I’ve never had a severe rib injury but we’re all aware they can be painful and there are also ancillary health risks associated with playing with a rib injury.

But that’s not the real issue at hand, I get it. The real question is whether Cassel’s performance on Sunday in the win over Pittsburgh was enough to convince the Vikings to replace Ponder. I don’t know the answer, and all we can do is wait and see how Frazier responds to that very question as time goes on.

Great to get a win! Proud of all three units, but I'd like to praise the defense specifically. There were plenty of plays that could have derailed our momentum – a couple instances of holding against our defensive players not called by the officials, Josh Robinson's pass interference call, not having two starters). But they fought hard and made plays in response to having their backs against the wall. Robinson had two plays made at the line of scrimmage or for loss after his PI call, Chad Greenways interception, pressuring Big Ben all day and, of course, the game ending sack/forced fumble recovery. This is the team I've hoped to see and we have much potential to turn things around this season. SKOL Vikings!
-- Luis L.
Tempe, AZ

I appreciated this email particularly because most of the comments I’ve received from fans regarding the defense have pointed to flaws or mistakes. While I’m sure the defensive coaching staff and the defensive players will find plenty to correct when they review this game, the bottom line is the defense did enough to win the game, in conjunction with the offense and special teams. As Luis mentions, there was a fair amount of adversity for the defense to overcome and then the defense presented Pittsburgh’s offense with more adversity than it could handle.

Surrendering 434 net yards, 29 1st downs, 27 points and an eight of 15 (53%) 3rd-down conversion rate is a bit much for my taste. But again, the Vikings defense made enough plays to win the game and came up big in the game’s biggest moment, with Everson Griffen closing on Ben Roethlisberger for a strip-sack to end the game with only seconds remaining.

In the Vikings 0-3 start, it seemed like the offensive line was getting blown off the ball and looked less physical, yet in the game versus the Steelers, the Vikings won at the line of scrimmage, which gives Cassel a pocket to throw from and opens holes for AP to run through. Would you account for this improvement as the offensive line being more physical and having that sense of urgency, or just matchup problems for the Steelers?
-- Kris
Utah

A little of both. My sense is the offensive line started coming together in Chicago, took a step forward against Cleveland and has now taken a giant step forward against the Steelers. I’m encouraged by their progress, particularly because of their slow start during the preseason and even into the early stages of the regular season. The offensive line we saw on Sunday in London is a group of guys that’s easy to believe in and be excited about. With Jerome Felton’s help, the dominated in the run game and were spectacular in pass protection.