Vikings vs. Bears: Minnesota's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 12
It was a tough game to watch.
Play on both sides was subpar, but especially relative to the Minnesota Vikings.
The offense had little going for it outside of Adrian Peterson, again. And the defense was put in some tough spots to succeed but played well below its capabilities overall.
There were positives too, though. The defense did force two turnovers, Jarius Wright showed he could produce in consecutive games and Peterson continues to defy the laws of science.
Here are my eight winners and losers from Minnesota's 28-10 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Loser: Christian Ponder
It seems there could all but be a cemented spot for Christian Ponder among the "losers" from each week over the past month.
He's thrown for over 200 yards and two touchdowns just once in the past five games, which was against the Detroit Lions in Week 10 (221 yards for two touchdowns). That Week 10 performance ended a five-game streak with at least one interception.
Ponder deserves a slight break in that Percy Harvin was inactive versus the Bears. But then again, he also did post strong numbers in Week 10 without Harvin. But then again, this game was on the road. Take it as you will.
The second-year QB was shortchanged by drops from receivers, namely Jerome Simpson, in the lopsided loss. But he's still missing plenty of receivers and struggling to show confidence in the pocket.
Some fans continue to call for Joe Webb to replace Ponder, but that's not the answer.
Winner: Kyle Rudolph
After a three-week performance that included just two catches for 17 yards, Kyle Rudolph has caught touchdown passes in two consecutive games.
The second-year tight end caught five passes for 55 yards and a TD versus the Bears. He caught seven passes for 64 yards with a TD versus the Lions in Week 10.
Rudolph is proving that he's a very capable red-zone option and will become more of a threat all over the field as he continues to develop. He's just 23 years old and has the size (6'6" and 258 pounds, 10.75-inch hands) to be a standout tight end for years.
Even if the receiving corps continues to struggle, at least Christian Ponder (or whoever Minnesota's QB will be) can rely on Rudolph.
Loser: Vikings Pass Rush
When talking with followers of the Chicago Bears one theme was repeated throughout the lead into this game: whoever plays QB for the Bears will be in trouble.
Between defensive ends Jared Allen (7.0 sacks this season, 22 last) and Brian Robison (5.5 sacks this season, 8.0 last) and the rest of the Vikings pass rush (27 sacks on the season) it was a grand disappointment the unit recorded one sack in the 28-10 loss.
The Bears have allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL (35). It should have been a field day for Allen and Co. They were likely licking their chops entering this one and possibly thought the sacks would come with minimal effort.
Too bad for them it didn't work that way.
Minnesota still has one of the best pass-rushers in the game and a strong pass-rushing defensive end in Robison, but this should have been a big game for them. Instead, it leaves Minnesota fans wanting more come the Week 14 matchup at Mall of America Field.
Winner: Jarius Wright
He sat out the first nine weeks of the season, but in his two active weeks, Jarius Wright has made quite the impression.
As one of two receivers drafted out of Arkansas in 2012, he's the only one who's made an impact this season. In two games, he has 10 receptions for 114 yards with a TD. Against Chicago he caught seven passes for 49 yards.
Wright is a smaller receiver (5'10" and 180 pounds) and works best in the slot and in the flats, much like Percy Harvin.
He's quick and not afraid to go over the middle and could be a strong No. 2 or No. 3 receiver some day. Too bad for the Vikings he's so similar to Harvin, but at this point the receiving corps needs any help it can get (as I'll get into on the next slide).
Loser: Wide Receivers Not Named Jarius Wright
Outside of Jarius Wright, in the two games Percy Harvin has been absent the Minnesota Vikings have lacked a difference-making wide receiver.
Wright hasn't been a standout, but given that Week 12 was just the second game of his NFL career, we'll say he was pretty good.
But Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu are all on warning: They need to step their game up if Minnesota is to make the postseason.
Simpson has been a huge disappointment after signing with the Vikings in the offseason after serving as a backup in Cincinnati. He's caught 12 passes for 138 yards and zero TDs in seven games.
Jenkins is, at best, a good possession receiver who can pick up seven yards per catch.
Aromashodu is as inconsistent as they come at his position.
They all should be looking for new jobs this offseason if Minnesota is serious about being a contender in 2013, barring a major showing in the final five games.
Winner: Adrian Peterson
The freak show continues to impress.
Sunday's performance with over 100 yards rushing was Adrian Peterson's fifth consecutive game rushing for triple digits. He rushed for 108 yards on 22 carries (4.9 yards per carry).
Peterson didn't reach the end zone but did also catch six passes for 30 yards.
Peterson has asserted he's finally 100 percent now, and the rest of the league is praising God because of that. If he still proclaimed himself less than 100 percent, it'd be scary to see what he could do...but at this point, I just expect the unexpected with him.
This performance took some time to get going, with eight yards in the first quarter and 23 in the second. But it's difficult to succeed when the O-line underwhelms in its performance.
Loser: Charlie Johnson
Part of the reason the Minnesota Vikings opened the season 4-1 was the stellar play of their offensive line.
A big part of that success was the improved play of Charlie Johnson at left guard compared to what he did at left tackle last season.
But it's safe to say that Johnson is Minnesota's worst offensive lineman at this point in the season. There was one particular play in which two defensive linemen ran stunts across Johnson's face, and he opted to pick up neither of them.
Now that's what I call laziness.
Winner: Vikings Defense Forcing Turnovers
Something that has plagued Minnesota's defense through the first 10 games of the season: forcing turnovers.
Entering the Week 12 matchup with Chicago, the Vikings had forced 10 turnovers. That's 1.1 turnovers per game. The Vikings bettered that average by forcing two against the Bears.
Minnesota had the benefit of facing the turnover-prone Jay Cutler (59 interceptions thrown in 50 games with the Bears), but the defenders still must catch the ball or recover the forced fumble.
Too bad for the defense the offense coughed up the ball three times.