PASSING OFFENSE: D – Christian Ponder and the Vikings' passing attack – or lack thereof – tossed up some garbage stats with the game out of hand in the fourth quarter. But here's the most telling stat: When the Saints' Drew Brees left the game with about 10 minutes left, he had more touchdown passes (five) than Ponder had completions (four). At that point, Ponder was 4-of-12 passing for 18 yards. Percy Harvin, the team's only legitimate receiver, had three catches for eight yards. Ponder was sacked four more times. He's gone down 28 times in 268 attempts. Compare that to Brees, who has been sacked 23 times in 583 attempts.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C – It gets an average score because it was essentially irrelevant. Despite the return of running back Adrian Peterson, who missed three games because of a high left ankle sprain, the Vikings ran the ball only 13 times in a first half in which they trailed by only eight points. Peterson had only six first-half carries and 10 for the game. The Vikings converted only 4 of 14 third downs and held the ball for only 21 minutes, 11 seconds. So they only had 18 carries for the entire game. They finished with 105 yards, a 5.8-yard average that was helped by a 39-yard run by Peterson.
PASS DEFENSE: F-minus – Brees became the first player in league history to complete 80 percent of his passes (32 of 40) while throwing five touchdown passes and surpassing 400 yards (412). And he left the game with about 10 minutes left. Meanwhile, the Vikings' defense set a post-merger record by going a ninth consecutive game without an interception. Since their last pick, the Vikings have given up 2,447 yards and 25 touchdowns passing. A depleted secondary became even more pitiful when cornerback Asher Allen left Sunday's game in the first quarter because of a concussion.
RUSH DEFENSE: F – The defense was worn out from being on the field for nearly 39 minutes. And the Saints mercifully ran the ball 13 times for 60 yards in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Saints ran 38 times for 161 yards, a 4.2-yard average. The Vikings' proud defense that was dominant from 2006 to 2009 is but a shell of its former self. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson are showing every bit of their 31 years. None of the team's nose tackles are sturdy and outside linebacker Chad Greenway makes most of his tackles too far downfield.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C – Punter Chris Kluwe averaged 48.1 yards per punt with three of seven attempts being downed inside the 20-yard line. However, third-quarter returns of 22 and 24 yards by Darren Sproles gave the Saints a short field to work with. They turned them into touchdown drives of 53 and 44 yards. The Saints punted only one time (no return) and notched five touchbacks in six kickoffs.
COACHING: F – The last time the Vikings were this lackluster and this overmatched at home, Brad Childress was fired the morning after a 31-3 loss to the Packers. Coach Leslie Frazier, who is in his first full season after finishing the last six games of 2010 as the interim coach, reportedly has been assured he is coming back. But there are two games left to be played, and if the Vikings put forth the same overall effort and finish with a franchise-worst 2-14 record, all bets are off. Granted, the Vikings were playing Brees with a depleted secondary. But they put up virtually no resistance, giving up franchise records for first downs (36) and passing first downs (23). They also allowed the Saints to convert 73 percent of their third downs (8 of 11). At this point, it's considered a foregone conclusion that defensive coordinator Fred Pagac and some of the defensive position coaches will be fired after the season. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave appears safe, but Ponder is 1-7 and regressing quickly.
Grading the game: Saints
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