Things looked great during the team’s opening drive, as the Viking offense took the ball at midfield and quickly marched downfield for a touchdown on an effective six-play drive that took just 3:18 off the clock. But the remaining 25:05 of offensive time possession yielded just another 3 points. The running game was strong, but the passing game was largely inconsistent and highly ineffective, as the Vikings had just 129 net yards passing and allowed 5 quarterback sacks.
Kelly Holcomb got his first start as a Viking. Statistically, he completed 14-of-28 (50.0%) for 165 yards and a quarterback rating of 68.3. He completed just one pass downfield, a 25-yarder to his tight end and missed a golden opportunity for another that would have been a touchdown. Holcomb made sure he did not do anything to lose the game for the Vikings. He did not remotely throw into coverage and took care of the ball nicely. But he also didn’t make the plays to win the game, either. He held the ball too long at times, but in most cases it was under the guise of protecting the ball. However, he did take one unwarranted sack that pushed the offense out of field goal range. And in a game in which you score just 10 points and lose by 3, those mistakes were potentially the difference. In Holcomb’s defense, he did not get reliable pass protection, especially from the outside, which often disrupted the intended timing of plays. And at least twice he was sacked so fast there was nothing that could have been done, except not fumble, which he did not.
Adrian Peterson took another step forward in his development as a NFL player. He carried the ball 25 times for 102 yards (4.1 avg.) with a long of 16 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had 3 pass receptions for 48 yards (16.0 avg.) with a long of 35 yards, with most of that yardage coming after the catch. Peterson was more patient when he needed to be and more aggressive when that was needed than he was a week ago when he underachieved on a couple runs. This week, he generally got the most out of every opportunity and then some. The kid has amazing explosiveness and home run speed. On his longest reception, the defender was in position to tackle him almost immediately, but he simply couldn’t catch Peterson. But perhaps the most impressive area of improvement was how he tenaciously stepped up and effectively picked up a blitzing linebacker twice to keep the play alive.
Mewelde Moore picked up 21 yards on 4 carries (5.3 avg.) with a long run of 11 yards. Virtually all his carries were on draw plays in passing situations. He also caught 2 dumpoff passes for 10 yards and did a respectable job in pass protection. He also should have been credited with an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Jeff Dugan saw some action at fullback, primarily as a lead blocker. It was Dugan who made a key block on one play to spring Peterson for one of his bigger gains. On the downside, he was flagged for an illegal shift penalty that ended up undermining one drive early in the third quarter.
Bobby Wade was the team’s leading receiver with a modest 4 catches for 35 yards (8.8 avg.), with many of those yards coming after the catch on short, underneath receptions. He had another opportunity for a catch on third-down but was walloped hard and was short of the first down anyway.
Robert Ferguson started at the other wide receiver spot and did not record a catch. He should have had a 30-yard touchdown grab on a play in which he was wide open but Holcomb overthrew him. That played was easily the single biggest missed opportunity of the game. Ferguson only had one other attempt in his direction.
Sidney Rice made a couple (2-21) nice catches, both for key third-down conversions. Three other throws in his direction were uncatchable.
Aundrae Allison saw a few reps on offense but did not see the ball.
Troy Williamson was inactive with a hamstring injury.
What’s the point of instant replay if they still can’t get the call right? That has to be what Visanthe Shiancoe is asking himself after the blown call by officials on an apparent touchdown catch on a halfback pass from Moore. Shiancoe clearly caught the ball cleanly but it was ruled incomplete and surprisingly NOT overturned despite a challenge. That blown call was a four-point swing against the Vikings in a game they lost by just 3 points. Okay, get over it. Shiancoe made another nice play downfield on a 25-yard reception on a deep crossing route. His stats of 3-51 should have been 4-59-1. Okay, now get over it. Shiancoe is an impressive physical specimen who is capable of being much more involved in the passing game. This game might have been the first glimpse of that.
Jim Kleinsasser officially started the game, as well, as the Vikings opened in a two-tight end set. Kleinsasser had just one uncatchable pass thrown his direction, but was highly effective in the running game as a blocker.
Garrett Mills was inactive for his third consecutive game since joining the Vikings via waivers from New England.
Allen was particularly active in all phases of the game, recording 8 tackles, 2 sacks (for -21 yards), 3 quarterback hurries, 2 pass deflections at the line of scrimmage, 2 tackles-for-loss and 1 forced fumble. He did not do all of that going strictly one-on-one against McKinnie, but he wasn’t exactly neutralized.
Hali recorded just 2 official tackles, but both of them were for sacks (for -15 yards). One came against Cook, one came against McKinnie. They both looked almost identical, except they came from opposite ends. In both cases Hali beat Cook/McKinnie off the snap, got upfield and under them quickly and exploded around the corner and into Holcomb before he had any chance to do anything but eat the ball. Hali also recorded 2 additional quarterback hurries during the game.
Their No. 3 defensive end, rookie Turk McBride, also recorded 1 sack and 2 more quarterback hurries.
That kind of pressure and activity (11 tackles, 5 sacks, 7 quarterback hurries, 2 TFL) from defensive ends is far too disruptive to establish any kind of consistency in the passing game.
Center Matt Birk and left guard Steve Hutchinson were the most consistent Viking blockers. Birk whiffed picking up the speedy Derrick Johnson a couple times, and Hutch got beaten once on pass protection that led to one of Allen’s sacks. Otherwise they did okay and were relatively effective in the running game.
At right guard, Artis Hicks split time with Anthony Herrera. They both did a nice job run blocking. Hicks had some key blocks in a couple effective inside runs by Peterson. Herrera also graded out well. Hicks drew a 5-yard false start penalty in the first quarter that was a key ingredient to killing a potential scoring drive.
Here’s a breakdown of the team’s offensive drives:
2. Punt (penalty and sack prevented field goal attempt)
3. Field Goal (touchdown catch by Shiancoe blown by officials)
5. Clock expired (missed TD pass to Ferguson, sack preventing FGA)
6. Punt (penalty and 5-yard loss on running play prevented FGA)
7. Punt (intentional grounding penalty killed drive)
9. Clock expired (sack and penalty)
What ended up being just 10 points, could have easily been 24 points if not for unforced errors and the blown call – that’s unforced errors, not getting beaten. A 14-point swing hinging on just a handful of plays. If the Vikings can ever clean that stuff up, they could improve rather quickly. If not, it’s going to be a long season.
Coming Soon: Special Teams
Join the discussion