Friday night was supposed to be the Vikings' coming-out party. In their first two games, the first-team offense had been on the field for just five drives. They scored in four of them and in the only one they didn't they missed a 49-yard field goal.
Considering that they were playing what Vikings color analyst Pete Bercich referred to as the "San Diego junior varsity team" – a squad that didn't suit 20 percent of its players, including six starters – it looked to be an opportunity for the first-team players for the Vikings to put some lumps on the depleted Chargers.
That didn't happen. From the first play of the game when Christian Ponder had his first pass of the night batted down, it just seemed as though it wasn't going to be the Vikings' night. It wasn't, as the Vikings fell 12-10 to the Chargers in a game that had all the excitement of watching milk curdle.
"We never really got a rhythm," Ponder said. "When we get the ball first in a game, it's always important for us to set a tone. Not only did we go three-and-out on the first drive, but the second drive as well. That set the tone for us for the rest of the game."
With the exception of a 40-yard bomb to Percy Harvin, the Vikings offense stalled, sputtered and tripped over itself most of the night. On the rare occasion when they would get a sustained drive, four turnovers did them in. While there were some things to like, it what was widely viewed as a dress rehearsal for the regular season and most of it wasn't pretty.
"I don't think it's a growing concern, but it's a concern," Harvin said. "The offense was up and down. We made some good plays. It wasn't all bad. We had two fumbles in the red zone, inside the 10-yard line. We didn't get off to a great start like we did last week, but we made some plays downfield throwing the ball."
Ponder was consistently pressured by the San Diego defense, but said much of the problem was of his own doing and took the blame for the struggles of the offense to sustain drives. He could have pointed the finger at his O-line, but didn't – even though there was blame to spread around.
"I feel very comfortable," Ponder said. "(The offensive linemen) have busted their butts throughout the (offseason practices) and this preseason and they're doing a good job. They've done well. It's on me. I have to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and taking the pressure off the tackles."
With most of the Vikings' frontline players expected to sit out the preseason finale against Jacksonville, Friday might have been the last look fans will have before wins and losses start counting in the standings for the team. It may not have been what the coaches, players and fans were expecting or hoping, but Harvin said the team will be ready when the gun goes off to start the regular season.
"This team, we've got a different thing going this year," Harvin said. "Today we had a couple of slumps, but we've been working hard and we're ready for it."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Ponder on offensive struggles: ‘It's on me'
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