After three games, the Vikings quarterback position was open to two players. After Sunday's loss, all three enter the equation for next week. See what Leslie Frazier and Matt Cassel had to say, as well as getting more than a dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
Two weeks ago, it appeared as though the Christian Ponder
era might be over at the hands of Matt Cassel
, who put together a strong performance in London to give the Vikings their only win of the season. One game later, it doesn't look any better for Ponder, but Cassel's pedestrian performance now has people wondering when the Josh Freeman
era is going to begin.
Cassel didn't have an awful game – he completed 32 of 44 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown – but it was two horribly thrown interceptions that brought the boo birds back to the Metrodome. Both of the picks by safety Mike Mitchell
were on horrible overthrows that basically hit Mitchell between the 2 and the 1 on his jersey.
As the Vikings prepare for the New York Giants
next week, the quarterback questions that have dogged the team continue to be a source of media inquiry, with few definitive answers being provided by head coach Leslie Frazier. Could Freeman be ready with less than two weeks of preparation?
"I'm not sure. We'll take a look when we get with him this week and see where he is," Frazier said. "We've done some things with him in this first week. We'll see when we get together this week."
For his part, Cassel is heading into the week simply looking to prepare as though the job is still his.
"It's the same as always," Cassel said. "I have to get prepared and whatever Coach (Frazier) decides, I have to be accountable. We just have to see what decisions are made. Just like the last three weeks, I never know what's going on until I'm being told by the coaches. I'm sure it will be very similar to what it's been for the last three weeks. We'll see."
Asked if it's hard to prepare for a week not knowing if he'll be first, second or even third on the depth chart, Cassel was quick to shoot down that notion.
"It's not hard to prepare not knowing," Cassel said. "You go about your business. You get the reps that you get and you go out there and get ready to play."
Cassel has been no stranger to QB controversies. Last year in Kansas City, the Chiefs fell apart and the entire coaching staff and many of the players were imploded and sent packing. However, Cassel sees the chance for the Vikings to plug the leaks in the boat and keep the 2013 season afloat.
"As bad as it is, I think this team has great leadership on it," Cassel said. "We have a lot of veteran guys that know how to work and how to turn this thing around. As disappointed as we are about being 1-4, there is a lot of football left to be played. There are 11 football games left. We can't throw in the towel and I know those guys in the locker room won't throw in the towel. We just have to find some momentum, some camaraderie. We need to come together and win a game, then hopefully build off of that and get on a roll."
Before Sunday, it appeared as though Cassel might be the answer at quarterback. Now, it appears as though the competition has gone from two players to three and there's no telling whether Cassel will be the starter next week and beyond or if he could end being the No. 3 quarterback. The confusion with the pecking order – short-term and long-term – of their quarterbacks has to be a cause for concern moving forward. If the players don't know who the starter is from one game to the next, it's hard to get on the roll they're going to need as the season winds into its middle third.
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings were without Blair Walsh for kickoffs Sunday after he suffered a left hamstring injury on Thursday in practice. Punter Jeff Locke handled kickoff duties. Walsh explained the particulars of the injury, saying, "The whole time, I had a good idea that I would be ready to go. The trainers did a good job of getting me ready to go, but it was decided that I wouldn't handle the kickoffs because of the strain it would put on my leg. It's not a real significant injury, so I expect that I will be back and ready to go next week."
The Vikings lost two defensive players in the same drive in the second quarter. Xavier Rhodes suffered a left leg injury that forced him out of the game. Later is the same second-quarter drive, linebacker Desmond Bishop left with a knee injury. Rhodes would return to the game, but would leave again in the fourth quarter when the injury flared up. Bishop was almost immediately ruled out and, as we coming off the field, let out a scream of frustration that could be heard throughout the stadium. Sunday was Bishop's first start as a Viking.
To make problems worse, safety Harrison Smith left with a turf-toe injury in the third quarter. All three of the injured players will have MRIs to determine the severity of their injuries.
Long snapper Cullen Loeffler played in his 144th game as a Viking Sunday, tying him with Mike Morris for the most games by a long snapper in franchise history.
The Panthers dominated just about every statistical category Sunday. They outgained the Vikings 367-290, held a whopping time of possession edge (36:27-23:33), converted 7 of 12 third downs (and two on which they failed, they converted on fourth down) and ran the ball 39 times, as opposed to just 13 times for the Vikings.
Kyle Rudolph set a career high with nine receptions, gaining 97 yards and scoring a touchdown. Through the first four games, Rudolph has just 12 catches for 103 yards and one TD and, thanks to his big day Sunday, moved into second place on the team with 21 receptions, trailing only Jerome Simpson (23).
In their four losses, the Vikings have allowed 34, 31, 31 and 35 points.
The Vikings have now been outscored in every quarter, with their worst being the fourth quarter – where they have been outscored 38-16.
Cordarrelle Patterson didn't have a kick return because not only did none of Graham Gano's six kickoffs get returned, all of them sailed out of the end zone.
The Vikings have allowed opponents to convert almost 50 percent of their third down conversion attempts – allowing them to make good on 33 of 67 chances (49.3 percent). It's over 50 percent when you factor in that teams have converted four of six fourth downs against the Vikings defense.
For the season, opponents have almost a 7½-minute time of possession advantage (33:44 for opponents and 26:16 for the Vikings) – not a good sign for a team that prides itself on ball control and running the football.
Several players pointed to the early dominance of the Panthers to being a big factor in the Vikings loss. The Panthers dominated time of possession in the first quarter thanks to a critical penalty that helped sustain the drive. Following a Cassel interception on the opening drive of the game, the Panthers appeared to be going three-and-out when Chad Greenway recorded a sack on Cam Newton. But a holding penalty on Chris Cook kept the drive alive and the Panthers went on to put together a marathon 15-play drive that took 9:29 off the game clock. The drive included a pair of fourth-down plays in which the Panthers converted a first down and scored their touchdown.
The paid attendance was 63,963.
Members of the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx sounded the ceremonial Gjallarhorn prior to the start of Sunday's game.
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.