49ers vs. Vikings: Final Report Card, Game Grades for Minnesota

Tim Arcand@@TArcandCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2012

49ers vs. Vikings: Final Report Card, Game Grades for Minnesota

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    On paper, the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings is a decidedly one-way contest, in favor of the 49ers. 

    Last season San Francisco surprised plenty of people, finishing 13-3, while the Vikings disappointed with the opposite record of 3-13. 

    It's a battle of former first-round quarterbacks in Alex Smith and Christian Ponder, and defenses that have prided themselves in stopping the run.

    In the end, the Vikings outplayed the 49ers in the Metrodome. This time the wild end of the game was not a late touchdown pass, but three fumbles and an interception exchanging the possession four times before the Vikings could close out the win.   

    The Vikings defeated the 49ers 24-13 and that's why these games are not played on paper. 

    In the  end the Vikings find themselves 2-1 after three games—just where many people thought they would be. Just not with a victory over the 49ers. 

    Here's a look at the Vikings' grades as the game progressed. 

Christian Ponder: B+

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    Final Grade: B+

    You may be asking why such a low grade? Christian Ponder just led the Vikings to an impressive upset-win over the 49ers. And while on the day he was 21-of-35 for 198 yards and two more touchdowns, he had a couple of throws that should have resulted in interceptions, if not for the 49ers defense doing their best Devin Aromashodu impersonation. 

    Ponder's numbers in the game were decent, resulting in a 94.7 passer rating. If San Francisco hangs on to one of those interceptions is drops to 82.8. Still, he has shown that he is more than capable to make a big pass when it is needed with two touchdown passes to Kyle Rudolph and scoring one with the 23-yard scramble. 

    Fourth Quarter: C+

    The quarter opened with the conclusion of a 15-play drive resulting in a 2-yard touchdown to Kyle Rudolph—the only scoring in the quarter.

    The Vikings had another five possessions in the quarter, and Ponder completed only one more pass in the game. It was a critical 14-yard completion to Percy Harvin to convert a third down with 3:49 left. 

    Third Quarter: B-

    After a good first half Ponder opened the second half failing to convert on third down and the Vikings went three plays and a punt. 

    On the Vikings' second drive he was able to sustain a drive that had the Vikings on the four-yard line as the quarter ended. On the drive he completed four of six passes finishing four of seven for the quarter. 

    Second Quarter: A-

    Another quarter, and another scoring drive leading to a touchdown for Ponder. On the drive he was 4-for-4 passing for 38 yards and added 34 yards on the ground on three scrambles including a 23-yard touchdown. 

    When the Vikings got the ball back after the blocked field goal and less than a minute left in the half, Ponder led the offense into San Francisco territory. On the drive he was only 3-of-8 on passes, and was fortunate that one of his passes intended for Michael Jenkins was not intercepted. 

    Still it was enough to score 10 points in the quarter. Ponder did a better job of spreading the ball around with passes to Jenkins, Adrian Peterson and Devin Aromashodu in the quarter, completing passes to six different receivers in the game. 

    First Quarter: B+

    Ponder led the Vikings to an opening-drive touchdown by completing six of eight passes. He utilized his best weapons on offense with four of those passes to tight end Kyle Rudolph and the other two going to Percy Harvin. 

    On a crucial 4th-and-goal from the one yard line he hit Rudolph for his third touchdown of the season.

    Unfortunately, the second drive of the quarter stalled after only six plays.  


    Pregame: B+

    Through the first two games of the 2012 season, Ponder has been playing better than he did last season in 10 starts.

    Currently with a 110.6 passer rating, Ponder has yet to throw an interception. Yet, the offense has struggled in the first quarter of both games and he has needed some late scoring drives to bring the game close. 

Offense: B

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    Final grade: B

    The offense opened the game with their first game-opening touchdown drive on the season. Six different receivers caught a pass and the Vikings finished with 146 rushing yards against a defense that averaged only 77 yards per game last season. 

    The offense came up big converting a 4th-and-goal for a touchdown on their first drive. Their three touchdown drives were all longer than 80 yards, and the drive resulting in a field goal covered 33 yards in less than a minute to close out the first half. 

    The two lost fumbles in the fourth quarter were the only negative as the offense should get a boost when Jerome Simpson returns after serving his three-game suspension. 

    Fourth Quarter: C-

    A touchdown to open the final quarter is the only reason the offense did not get a failing grade. After the touchdown the offense, specifically Toby Gerhart, coughed up the football three times, losing two fumbles to the 49ers. 

    On six possessions in the fourth quarter the Vikings punted twice and lost two fumbles. To show how much things have turned around for the Vikings, they were able to hang on the finish the game by downing the ball on the three final plays of the game. 


    Third Quarter: C+

    After the 49ers opened the second half with a field goal the offense could not answer and gave the ball right back after only three plays. The offense did come around on their second drive after San Francisco scored their first touchdown. They closed out the quarter with 11 plays that used the final 6:12 of the quarter. The problem was the Vikings didn't score any points.  

    Second Quarter: A-

    The offense put together another long scoring drive. This one an 11-play drive with Ponder scoring on a 23-yard run. After a blocked field goal gave the ball back to the Vikings the offense was able to add a field goal as the half ran out.

    For the first half the Vikings held the advantage in time of possession, 17:10 to 12:50. They will need to continue to dominate in order to finish off this game.  

    First Quarter: B

    The offense finished one for two on drives in the quarter. 

    They opened with a very impressive 16 play drive to score a touchdown and take a 7-0 lead on the 49ers. The drive was really limited to four main players—Ponder, Rudolph, Harvin and Peterson who accounted for all of the yardage. 

    On the second drive the offense came out in a no-huddle. The strategy backfired slightly in that the drive only lasted six plays and took less than two minutes off the clock. 

    Pregame: C-

    Even though quarterback Christian Ponder has been playing well, the offense has been inconsistent. The offense has needed plenty of luck in the first two games in order to make things close. They will need more than luck against the 49ers.

Defense: B

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    Final grade: B

    The Vikings defense came up big against the 49ers playing their best game of the season, coming up with two huge turnovers in the fourth quarter and three total in the game. The defense only had one three-and-out on the afternoon, but they came up big after a 94-yard return had the 49ers starting inside the 10 yard line to open the second half. Limiting San Francisco to a field goal was a huge lift for the Vikings.

    The defensive backfield is coming together with Antoine Winfield having a steady game, and A.J, Jefferson and Josh Robinson making some plays to help turn back an offense that came into the game ranked ninth in scoring. 

    Linebacker Chad Greenway had a huge day with 13 tackles and two sacks. The defense played well with plenty of delayed blitzes causing problems for quarterback Alex Smith. The defense will have plenty of challenges in the coming weeks to prove that they are an improved unit over last season when they allowed the most touchdown passes in the league.  

    Fourth Quarter: A

    The Vikings defense finally recorded two things many people have been looking for—a sack credited to Jared Allen and an interception by a defensive back. Third-round draft pick Josh Robinson came up with the pick when Smith overthrew Michael Crabtree with two and a half minutes left in the game.

    The Allen sack resulted in a forced fumble that was recovered by Brian Robison. The two turnovers were big in stopping any chance of the 49ers coming back in the game. The defense closed out the game allowing the fewest points on the season.

    Third Quarter: C 

    After holding the 49ers offense to only three points in the first half, they surrendered 10 points in the quarter. On a positive note, after a huge kickoff to open the half the defense held San Francisco to only three yards and another field goal.

    The second time the 49ers had the ball they were able to drive 86 yards on nine plays for a touchdown. The defense continues to give up large chunks of yards. They will need to come up with a stop in the final quarter to preserve any chance of the Vikings winning this game.  

    Second Quarter: B

    The defense allowed the 49ers to complete a 13-play drive to open the second quarter that resulted in the a field goal, the only points the defense allowed. The fewest points an opponent has scored against them in the first half this season. 

    On their next drive the 49ers were able to put together another sustained drive with an 11-play drive. Only a blocked field goal prevented the 49ers from scoring.

    Still, based on points allowed, the defense has come up big when needed and kept San Francisco out of the end zone.  

    The defense still needs to find a way to get off the field a bit quicker. 

    First Quarter: B

    The Vikings did something they have not done in the first two games of the season—they held the opposition scoreless in the opening quarter.  Still, the 49ers were able to convert two of three third downs in the quarter. 

    Linebacker Greenway and rookie safety Harrison Smith led the defense with tackles for loss to keep the San Francisco offense in check. 


    Pregame: D

    The only thing keeping this grade from being an F is a 55-yard field goal to put the Jacksonville game into overtime. Against the Colts, the defense couldn't stop Andrew Luck from driving 45 yards in 23 seconds for the game-winning field goal. Jared Allen is without a sack, and the defense has yet to intercept a pass.

Special Teams: B

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    Final grade: B

    Kicker Blair Walsh continues to demonstrate why the Vikings selected him in the sixth round of the draft. The rookie is perfect, making all seven of his field goal attempts with another 52-yard score to close out the first half. This is becoming almost a regular event in a Vikings game this year. 

    The kick-off coverage team was pathetic in the second half allowing a 94-yard return to open the third quarter. Punter Chris Kluwe continues his steady play on the season. Against the 49ers he had a 53-yard punt, but also had a touchback.

    The biggest play of the game for special teams came on a blocked punt with time running down in the first half. It provided a huge swing in momentum as the offense was able to turn it into a field, resulting in a six point difference on the scoreboard. Instead of going into halftime up 14 points, it might have been as close as eight points. 

    Fourth Quarter: C

    The Vikings kickoff coverage team allowed another long return early in the fourth quarter. Kyle Williams returned another ball for 50 yards after catching the ball seven yards deep in the end zone. 

    Kluwe's first punt in the quarter resulted in a touchback, giving the ball to the 49ers on the 20-yard line. He made up for that with a 53-yard punt on the next possession.  

    Third Quarter: D

    A 94-yard return on the opening kickoff by Kyle Williams didn't help the Vikings cause by allowing the 49ers offense to open the half in the red zone. Walsh needs to put the ball deep into the end zone so the weakness of the coverage team is not exposed. 

    Second Quarter: A

    The big play of the second quarter was a blocked field goal by Letroy Guion with under a minute left in the half. The blocked preserved an 11-point lead for the Vikings.  

    The resulting drive resulted in Walsh kicking yet another 50-plus field goal. This one 52-yarder with 0:04 left in the half. On the season Walsh is still perfect converting all seven of his field goal attempts, including three over 50 yards. 

    First Quarter: B

    So far special teams has not played a huge part in the game, which is a good thing. Blair Walsh converted on his point-after attempt and punter Chris Kluwe had a 35-yard punt to end the second drive of the quarter.  

    Pregame: B

    Rookie Blair Walsh has been perfect on the season, making all six of his field-goal attempts including two from better than 50 yards. Punter Chris Kluwe is currently 12th in the league with a 48.2 average on his nine punts. 

Coaching: B

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    Final grade: B

    The Vikings are exactly where many people thought they would be at 2-1 after three games. Head coach Leslie Frazier and his staff put together a very good game plan against one of the best teams in the NFC—especially on defense. 

    The offense is starting to come together under Bill Musgrave as quarterback Christian Ponder settles into his best season at quarterback. The defense, with their lowest scoring game on the season under defensive coordinator Alan Williams needs to put together another game as good as this one before people will start believing they are improved. 

    The Vikings executed very well on both sides of the ball to get their second win. They were disciplined and took advantage of mistakes made by the 49ers. 

    The weakest part of the game was the coverage on kickoffs. Fortunately it didn't hurt the Vikings in this game. 

    Fourth Quarter: C

    Even though head coach Leslie Frazier indicated that Toby Gerhart was going to have a larger role this season, he needed to make an adjustment late in the game. Gerhart had three fumbles in the final quarter as the game was winding down. At some point he needed to make an adjustment and allow Adrian Peterson another shot with the ball.

    On the positive side, the Vikings scored the only points in the the final 15 minutes and were able to preserve the biggest upset on the afternoon.  

    Third Quarter: C

    The Vikings needs to come out strong in the second half to back up a strong opening 30 minutes. Instead the defense allowed 10 points and the offense was shutout. Frazier has yet been able to fully stop the 49ers on offense. 

    Frazier needs to be prepared for this game coming down to the final drive of the game. 

    Second Quarter: B

    The Vikings were able to put together a 10-0 quarter over the 49ers. The offense is clicking with two long scoring drives and the defense is holding up as the 49ers get into Minnesota territory. 

    The second half will be key as the 49ers look to make some adjustments. 

    First Quarter: B

    Frazier and his coaching staff opened the game with a game plan that produced the Vikings' first opening-drive touchdown of the season.  On the second drive they revealed a no-huddle offense, that while it resulted in only a six-play drive with a punt., it gave Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers something to think about.

    The defense also pitched it's first opening quarter shutout with a mix of linebacker blitzes that limited the effectiveness of quarterback Alex Smith. 

    Now it might be how well the coaching staff keeps up with the changing dynamics as the game progresses—something Frazier has not demonstrated he is capable of doing very well.   

    Pregame: D+

    After only winning three games all last season, Leslie Frazier is one-third of the way there after two games. The problem is, he is 1-1 after the two most winnable games on the schedule.