The Vikings offense was once again very effective running the ball, gaining 155 yards on 22 carries (7.0 avg.), but in part because of play selection and in part because of the flow of the game they did not stick with it enough in the second half. The Vikings moved the ball okay at times but once again struggled to finish drives. They were also unable to connect on anything downfield, despite opportunities to cash in early.
Kelly Holcomb completed 21-of-39 (53.8%) for 258 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Once again, he seemed indecisive at times, was late to deliver the ball, and missed a huge opportunity to score early in the game when he missed a wide open receiver for an almost certain touchdown. Another deep ball led the receiver out of bounds, while another was scuttled at the last minute by the Packer defender. He held the ball too long on one of the team’s sacks. However, his pass protection was very inconsistent throughout the game and he was knocked down, hit, pressured or had passes batted down at least a dozen times throughout the game. The protection was never consistent enough for Holcomb to get comfortable.
Chester Taylor officially started and had 8 carries for 40 yards (5.0 avg.) with a long run of 37 yards. He also caught 1-11. Taylor had two runs for negative yardage; one early for -2 and another in the fourth quarter that lost 9 yards. Taylor appeared fully recovered from the hip injury that kept him out the past few weeks. He looked very explosive on his one long run, but had little to work with on his other carries.
Adrian Peterson had 12 carries for 112 yards (9.3 avg.) with a long run of 55 yards in the second quarter. He also caught 1-6. However, Peterson got just two carries the entire second half as the coaches tried to integrate both Taylor and Peterson into the game. Once again he was on the bench late as the team was trying to come back, a coaching decision that has understandably come under significant criticism. It’s clear that Peterson is the team’s most dynamic player on offense, so for him to be on the field for just 38% of the team’s offensive plays is hard to figure, especially in close games in which the team loses. Most onlookers have concluded that the Vikings should get Peterson the ball as early and often and continuously as possible, with him being tired as the only reason to take him out.
Tony Richardson returned to the lineup and took a swing pass for 9 yards on the opening offensive play of the game. He was quiet for much of the rest of the game, but delivered some key lead blocks.
Jeff Dugan saw some action at fullback, converting a third-and-1 situation with a 3-yard gain. He also made a 13-yard reception downfield but turned the ball over on a fumble on the play.
Rookie Sidney Rice did not start but led Viking receivers with 6 catches for 75 yards, including an impressive 15-yard touchdown catch. He was wide open for what would have likely been a 56-yard touchdown catch-and-run on the team’s first possession, which would have made his stat sheet read 7 catches for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rice made some tough catches inside, and his TD grab was an acrobatic reception reaching over the defensive back in Randy Moss fashion. He appears on the verge of becoming the go-to receiver in the passing game.
Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson started. Wade caught 5-83 (16.6 avg.) with a long catch of 40 yards. Wade was also mugged by Charles Woodson on the interception throw to end the team’s chances late. Most of his action came on Woodson, who also drew a pair of other penalties on the day. Williamson had 2 catches for 23 yards, both nice catches on difficult chances. He had one deep ball that he caught but Holcomb led him out of bounds. He had another deep ball that he almost one-handed, but was being pretty aggressively defended by Al Harris on the play.
Robert Ferguson played sparingly against his former team, seeing just one pass, an incompletion on third-and-8 in the third quarter.
Aundrae Allison was inactive.
Visanthe Shiancoe continues to show increased involvement in the passing game as he caught 4 passes for 38 yards (9.5 avg.) with a long of 15. He had one other uncatchable pass thrown his direction. On the downside, he was beaten clean on pass protection for a sack by Aaron Kampman in the first quarter on a play in which he was left one-on-one against one of the most polished pass rushers in the league. Granted, you’d like a better result from Shiancoe on that play, but it’s simply a bad scheme that puts him man-up with a player the caliber of Kampman in that situation. Shiancoe also had a motion penalty that cost the offense 5 yards.
Jim Kleinsasser came off the bench and had just one pass (incomplete) thrown his direction. As usual, he was effective as a blocker in the running game.
Garrett Mills was inactive once again.
OLT Bryant McKinnie had a horrible day, perhaps his worst ever as a professional. On top of two drive-killing holding penalties, he also was beaten for 2 sacks and also allowed at least one official quarterback hurry by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. As with Tamba Hali a week ago, McKinnie simply could not keep up with his speed around the corner. In total, he was responsible for 37 yards in lost yardage. Just not a good day. In McKinnie’s defense, he was suffering severely from food poisoning and tossed his stomach contents multiple times on the sidelines during the game until finally coming out.
OLG Steve Hutchinson turned in a solid performance. He also pounced on a Holcomb fumble following a sack. In a game in which the offensive line as a unit seemed like a weak link, especially on pass protection, Hutchinson still graded out fairly well, though not his true “A” game.
Center Matt Birk was penalized for a 5-yard false start penalty. But like Hutchinson, Birk actually graded out pretty well. Still, as a unit, the entire offensive line cannot be happy with the overall play, as the Packers set the tempo at times.
Artis Hicks started at right guard, then moved over to left tackle when McKinnie just couldn’t go anymore. Hicks showed a lot more power and aggressiveness at left tackle and actually held the fort there better than McKinnie had. He clearly does seem more comfortable in the left-handed stance. He had played okay inside before moving.
Anthony Herrera stepped in at right guard when McKinnie had to come out. Herrera made a few mistakes when the Packers threw a lot of looks at them when it became obvious they had to pass. But overall, he didn’t play too badly.
ORT Ryan Cook had a second consecutive rough game. Aaron Kampman didn’t dominate him the entire game, but he beat him squarely a couple times and made himself difficult to block. Cook can hold his own against average defenders, but a skilled technician like Kampman makes enough impact plays to disrupt the effectiveness of the offense.
It has become apparent to opposing defenses how to stop the Vikings – put eight men in the box against the run and try to bring pressure off the edge where their tackles have yet to show they can consistently handle the speed rush. Of course, it helps if you have the talent to do so, which their opponents the past two weeks have had with Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. But until the Vikings prove they can stop pressure off the edge, they are going to continue to see it.
Coming soon: Defense