5 Simple Solutions to Minnesota Vikings' Biggest Issues
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the result of the game was far too predictable, even if the 42 combined points scored in the fourth quarter were anything but that.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Minnesota is stuck in a position of attempting to remain competitive while finding opportunities for players to build for next year.
Following are a handful of simple solutions for the Vikings in the short term, while taking into consideration the 2014 season.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted.
Start Matt Cassel for Rest of Season
With Christian Ponder still experiencing concussion symptoms, Matt Cassel made his third start for the Vikings this season.
He finished the game against the Baltimore Ravens 17-of-38 for 265 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
It's interesting to point out that Cassel has thrown for 241, 243 and 265 yards, respectively, in his starting performances this season.
Ponder's season high in passing yards was 236 in Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys.
At this point in the season, there's no reason to put Ponder back under center. Although he was cleared by the Vikings medical staff on Monday to practice, via 1500ESPN.com, it's hard to argue against keeping him on the bench.
Neither Ponder nor Cassel are the future for the Vikings at quarterback—not to mention the failed signing of Josh Freeman—but you have to throw someone out there.
Cassel is most deserving of the opportunity.
Adjust Two-Minute Drill on Defense
For the fourth time this season, the Vikings defense gave up a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
While the pass interference call against Chad Greenway was extremely suspect, the defensive schemes and play-calling continue to come into question with the Vikings' soft approach.
It seems no matter what personnel group takes the field for Minnesota, the result is the same. That speaks to a lack of preparation in game-planning rather than player execution.
The solution here is an aggressive pass rush up front that doesn't rely solely on zone coverage. Opposing quarterbacks have picked the Vikings apart all season when given time to read the field.
Maintain Cordarrelle Patterson's Snap Count
Cordarrelle Patterson had a breakout performance against the Baltimore Ravens in the snow, a rare environment for the rookie out of Tennessee.
He was targeted seven times and hauled in five receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown. That included a 79-yard score off a screen pass to the wide receiver late in the fourth quarter.
After starting the season with only 11 combined snaps in the Vikings' first two games, via Pro Football Focus (subscription required), his on-field production has been increasing each week.
Patterson saw 50 of the team's 66 snaps in Week 14, an impressive ratio considering that both Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson are seeing plenty of the field.
The Vikings are starting to see more of Patterson's raw talent materialize and it would be a mistake not to continue with that trajectory.
Stick with Audie Cole at Middle Linebacker
With the off-field problems of starting middle linebacker Erin Henderson, the emergence of Audie Cole has been intriguing for the Vikings.
After cutting Cole earlier this season, the fan favorite was re-signed when the team needed to fill the hole at Mike. He recorded nine tackles in his debut against the Chicago Bears and had a game-high 13 tackles in Baltimore.
Despite being in the coverage zone of Marlon Brown's game-winning touchdown, Cole played exceptionally well throughout the game.
With three contests remaining this season, the Vikings would be best served in continuing their evaluation of Cole during game situations.
Overhaul Coaching Staff
There's no way to dance around the issues of the Vikings' coaching. While the season has been filled with injuries and some unlucky situations, a major overhaul is needed at the top.
While you could argue that should also include general manager Rick Spielman, he has at least produced some top talent through the draft, even if that doesn't include Christian Ponder.
Head coach Leslie Frazier has little chance of surviving this year's debacle in Minnesota, which will also spell the end for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
A new head coach will bring a new staff and regime, something the team desperately needs as it also looks for a new leader at quarterback.
Looking back at the 2013 season, it can be viewed as a complete failure. However, it may also be viewed as a catalyst for Vikings' success in the future.
Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.