Minnesota Vikings: 8 Takeaways from Their Thrilling OT Win over Jaguars
If the Viking's season opening victory over the Jags was any indication, the Vikings have some things to look forward to this year. From Percy's touches to the linebacker play, the Vikings look new and improved in 2012.
While the win was ugly at best, the Vikings are still a quarter of the way to improving their win total from 2011. If some of the things we saw Sunday persist in the coming weeks, the Vikings might just manage to climb out of the NFC North basement.
1: Harrison Smith Wants to Be the Next Rodney Harrison
I'm not saying he's going to succeed, but if he doesn't he's going to die trying.
Smith's first regular season effort as a Viking reaffirmed what we saw throughout the preseason from the rookie safety: he's gonna light you up. His first big fine from the NFL came before he even played in a game that counted, so it's probably a safe bet that Smith is a player at risk to lose huge chunks of his paychecks to the NFL.
From the Viking's perspective though, it isn't such a bad thing. Quick, name the last nasty defender to play for the Vikings defense. Did you have to go all the way back to John Randle, too? Sure, an argument can be made for Jared Allen, but good ol' number 69 isn't known for a nasty style of play so much as intensity.
When you look at the best defenses in the league, they all seem to include at least one name that strikes fear into offenses. If Harrison Smith can become the Vikings marquee mean streak defender, maybe the defense can turn the corner and end this painful hiatus from quality secondary play. Smith is everything Greg Blue was, plus adequate coverage skills. With the Vikings still experiencing growing pains at cornerback, opposing receivers' fear of getting obliterated could really help where we all know help is greatly needed.
2: The Linebackers Have Potential
Yes I was watching the same game as you. And no, I'm not crazy. I'll be the first to admit that the Viking's linebacker play was spotty at best, but when the Vikings really needed their big men in the middle, they came up big.
Chad Greenway's superman pass deflection in overtime was nothing short of heroic and Erin Henderson's sack was a huge momentum builder. Those two and new middle man Jasper Brinkley combined for 19 tackles, 10 assisted tackles and the one sack. The numbers aren't stupendous by any means, but they aren't bad either.
Especially early in the game, there were some poor decisions and missed opportunities from the group, but they picked things up towards the end. A trend easily attributable to season opener jitters for an optimistic fan, but also hard to hate for a fair weather fan.
Greenway is already a star, Henderson is still steadily improving and Brinkley is looking at two whole games in a row. If the group can improve as they go along this year, they will become a formidable trio. They won't be unbeatable this year, but they should be able to hold their own against anybody.
3: Jared Allen and Kevin Williams Have Help on the Defensive Line
In a game when Jared Allen was more or less non-existent and Kevin Williams didn’t do much more, Letroy Guion and Brian Robison were pretty disruptive.
Guion was involved on several running and passing plays, giving the Jaguars offensive line some noticeable problems. He only recorded three total tackles, but stats aren’t overly important for defensive tackles. What is important is that he was out there hustling on every snap and making things happen, which is more than can be said for “Fat Pat’s” final couple of years.
After Allen’s first snap penalty, he might as well have not been there anymore. He didn’t record a single tackle or give Blaine Gabbert any reason to worry. Thankfully, Brian Robison looks to continue to improve on his commendable effort last season, and he showed it by pressuring the sophomore quarterback on a handful of plays.
With Christian Ballard and Fred Evans also providing very solid depth, the Vikings front four is starting to look fierce again provided Allen and Williams get back to their normal ways.
4: Blair Walsh Has Ice in His Veins
We all watched him prove it.
After watching one of the greats dwindle off last year with Ryan Longwell, the Vikings needed to reload at kicker.
A lot of people questioned the Blair Walsh pick due to his lackluster field goal percentage at Georgia. He only converted 21 of 35 attempts in his senior year for a dismal 60 percent success rate. The Vikings must have also taken into account his combined 40 of 45 effort in his sophomore and junior seasons since they ignored his senior season struggles and spent a pick on him.
While it was only one game and Walsh still has a long way to go before proving he’s a consistent kicker, there’s no denying that he’s got nerves of steel. There was no other kicker available in the offseason, rookie or free agent, who would have made all four of those kicks on Sunday.
Frankly, without Walsh the Vikings would be 0-1 right now and the front office is looking brilliant for the pick.
5: Christian Ponder Is as Smart as Advertised
Ponder took care of the ball very well outside of the fumble he lost on Sunday. He threw no interceptions and completed over 74 percent of his passes. His decision making delighted fans and provided hope for the future.
Unfortunately, being smart is only half of the battle. Ponder also threw no touchdowns and didn’t make any huge plays. That’s not to say he didn’t make big throws when it really counted, he did and as a result the Vikes won the game. It’s just that the truly great quarterbacks make big plays on their own seemingly every game. 23 points in regulation won't usually be enough for the win considering the Vikings chronic secondary woes. Adrian Peterson is a truly great back and took it in twice, but he can’t do that every week. The Vikings need to be equally threatening through the air and on the ground if they want to take that next step.
For now though, fans should be happy with a smart sophomore field general. Whether or not Ponder can develop into a true elite quarterback remains to be seen, but Super Bowls have been won without top tier quarterbacks as long as they play smart.
6: Percy Harvin Will Always Get His Touches
The Minnesota Vikings are clearly unafraid to be the Percy and Peterson show. In a league where spreading the ball around typically leads to success, the Vikings are clearly intent on hanging their hat on their two best playmakers.
Peterson was obviously a huge factor on Sunday, but Harvin sure got his looks too. He was back for the kick returns, he got eight targets in the passing game and even four rushing attempts. The final tally was 15 touches, a huge number for a wide receiver. Peterson can generally be counted on to be a consistent contributor, so it’s up to Harvin to add to that in order to ensure a good overall offensive effort for the Vikings.
His sheer playmaking ability makes him a wise choice to center the offense around and as long as Percy does what Percy does best, the Vikings should have a decent offensive and special teams effort every weekend.
7: Shame on Anyone Who Doubted Adrian Peterson
Personally I am one of the many people that can proudly say that I never doubted All Day Peterson, but many people still did.
On one hand it’s totally understandable, as sports fans we have seen a torn ACL cut way too many careers short. Especially at the running back position, where sharp cuts are necessary for greatness, a torn ACL usually puts an end to a running back’s elite ability.
On the other hand, just look at Adrian Peterson. He's a monster and probably has 45 horsepower. I would fully expect the herculean demigod to return to the starting lineup three months after suffering a decapitation. A tiny torn anterior cruciate ligament is just an annoying obstacle to him. Add on top of that the world doubting him, and you have an unprecedented recovery resulting in a two touchdown, 84 yard outing from the face of the Vikings franchise.
8: The Coaching Staff Is Not Going to Win Any Games for the Vikings
I know, I know. Harsh words to end an optimistic article, but it’s true. Ever since Leslie Frazier has taken the reins with the Vikings, the team has had to rely on talent alone to win games. No brilliant play call is ever made for a first down (the Vikings went 2-10 on third downs on Sunday), and the great defensive scheme for a big third down stop is rare. The Vikings do have plenty of talent, but no team has enough talent to make the playoffs despite shoddy coaching.
It’s hard for an outsider to speak to the atmosphere Frazier creates in the locker room, but it does seem like there is a positive outlook from the team. By the same token, though, where was the tenacity at the opening of the game? Only on the Jaguars’ side of the ball. The Vikings were clearly ill-prepared and stumbled out of the gate Sunday.
An ugly win like that does nothing to cool down Frazier’s seat and if things don’t improve this year, fans will demand a coaching change.
But if things don't improve, well, Dennis Green is available. Hey, you never know!