The final score was an oddity, being only the second time in NFL history that both teams have scored in overtime only to have the clock run out before either team could get the game-winning score.
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Game Grade|
Week 12 against the Packers
Final Game Analysis
Passing Offense: The second half was worse for Christian Ponder, but not by much. By itself, a passing game with 7.5 yards per attempt and a surprising success rate in creating first downs is admirable given his history. The offensive line improved in pass protection, and Ponder's throws looked more decisive and impactful despite a lower passing efficiency.
Some receivers were more to blame for critical incompletions, but the offense should have done more—especially through the air—near the end of the game to put points on the board and put the game out of reach.
Running Offense: In another phenomenal running performance from the Vikings against the Packers, the Vikings' backup running back was more impressive in relief of Adrian Peterson than Peterson himself. Toby Gerhart turned it on in the second half, and by the end of the game he averaged 11.4 yards per carry and totaled 91 yards.
Peterson had a fantastic game of his own and finished with 4.6 yards per attempt and 146 total yards, along with a touchdown. Blocking was inconsistent in the run game, and Gerhart was somewhat fortunate to be able to run against a weaker run defense and work with some bigger holes. Regardless, it was a good game for all involved, with mistakes relatively minimized by the talent of the Minnesota running backs.
Passing Defense: Perhaps the goat of the game, Minnesota's pass defense took a significant turn for the worse. Matt Flynn's entry into the game should not have led to such a significant improvement for the Green Bay Packers, but the passing defense did have some issues as a result.
They did hold the Packers overall to 5.6 net yards per attempt (after factoring in sacks), but the situational pass defense was poor until the very end of the game. Most importantly, the pass defense did well enough until the fourth quarter, where they were responsible in a big way for losing the Vikings' 16-point lead (earned early in the quarter).
Running Defense: While the passing defense was a demonstration in why statistics can be a poor evaluative tool for judging a unit, the running defense was just the opposite. Allowing nearly six yards a carry (5.8, specifically) and two touchdowns to Eddie Lacy and Scott Tolzien perfectly demonstrated the issues the Vikings defense had in preventing gains on the ground. Whether it was due to missed gap assignments, poor angles or simply broken arm tackles—the same issues that plagued them in the first half—the Packers were able to move the ball on the ground.
Worse still, the Packers run game was arguably more effective than the Vikings' because of the consistency with which they were able to get necessary gains, converting first downs and rarely getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage. The defensive tackles, nose tackles in particular, and the linebackers were most responsible.
Special Teams: After a misstep in the Packers' kickoff to give the Vikings the ball at their own 40, the Packers decided to kick to Cordarrelle Patterson again, even when the game was close. Unfortunately, he did not repeat his opening performance and struggled to make it back to the Vikings' own 20-yard line. It's not necessarily a marker of poor performance, it's simply disappointing given that the Vikings expect more from him.
Jeff Locke was underwhelming, but Blair Walsh was perfectly on point. Marcus Sherels, the punt returner, sometimes played too safely and called early fair catches, and his muffed punt early on could have been disastrous. While the overall performance was acceptable, there were many small errors the special teams units could work on.
Coaching: In previous games, the coaches botched easy calls late into the game that could have (or did) cost the team a win. Despite an almost equally disappointing result—no one likes ties—isolated, high-leverage decisions like two-point conversions or play calls on fourth down weren't as obviously wrong as usual, nor was the decision to try Cordarrelle Patterson down the field with seconds left in overtime as opposed to kicking the "fair-catch kick" from 82 yards out.
That is a low standard, but one engendered by previous coaching decisions. The coaches are still on the hook for curious run-pass balance decisions, as well as ineffective coverage, especially on checkdowns. It also seems like the decision to give significant snaps to players like Letroy Guion and Robert Blanton were ill-conceived.
First-Half Analysis for the Minnesota Vikings
Passing offense: While Christian Ponder's completion percentage is high, his performance relative to what has been available—wide open receivers downfield—has been disappointing, and he was lucky early on not to have a pass intercepted after a drop from a Packers defender. To his credit, 8.2 yards per attempt is never bad, and Jerome Simpson has played impressively. Unfortunately, the offensive line has been terrible, and Ponder has been sacked on three of his 16 dropbacks (one of the tackles behind the line of scrimmage is credited as a run); and he has been under pressure on a number of others.
Running offense: Adrian Peterson hasn't carried the ball as much as you might expect, but he is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt—72 yards on 14 carries, a number of them at the line. The touchdown was the cherry on the cake of an excellent first half. Not everything was in sync, as the blocking was off and on. Peterson has been making gains in spurts and his hits before the line of scrimmage really hurt the overall success rate of the offense.
Passing defense: Aside from Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings passing defense has been extremely disappointing, especially considering that the Packers are playing their third-string quarterback. The pass rush has largely been successful, putting pressure on Tolzien whether they're getting the sack or not.
Rushing defense: The penetrating pass rush is coming at a cost: The running defense has been abysmal, and it's no one player's fault. That said, Letroy Guion is the biggest culprit, whether he's getting pushed around, missing tackles or taking terrible angles. Starting for the first time, Audie Cole has been found wanting in run defense despite a solid start to the game, and other players on the defense have been outside of their gaps or inefficient as tacklers, since Eddie Lacy looks to be on pace to set a broken tackles record.
Special Teams: The special teams have looked great. Cordarrelle Patterson's fantastic return aside, Blair Walsh has been the driving force both in the field-position game and in scoring, having put up the majority of the Vikings' points (including extra points). There hasn't been much opportunity for special teams play, but aside from a muffed punt (recovered) on a return, things are looking solid.
Coaching: Already, baffling moves have made the coaching staff look questionable at best. Guion's continued role on the team as a significant player along with the odd run/pass balance deserve particular scrutiny. There weren't any high-leverage opportunities to showcase good or poor decision-making on their part, but the decisions they've made so far haven't helped. It seems that the Vikings' success so far is not due to good design, but impressive individual performances.