Minnesota Vikings: 5 Things We Learned in Loss to Atlanta Falcons
With running back Adrian Peterson out due to injury, reserve Toby Gerhart was given the starting role and wide receiver Percy Harvin carried the offense.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes for 262 yards to Christian Ponder's one touchdown and 186 yards, and the Vikings defense really had no answer for him.
Heading into halftime, the score was 17-0 in favor of Atlanta, and Minnesota's offense and defense both looked like they needed life support.
In the second half, the Vikings played better, going on a small run to threaten the Falcons lead, but it was not quite enough. Questionable play-calling on a late game fourth down certainly didn't help their cause either.
The Vikings finished with just 64 rushing yards, 4-13 on third down completions and with 109 less total yards than the Falcons.
Here are a few things we learned about the team yesterday.
Toby Gerhart Is No Replacement to Adrian Peterson
The Vikings need Adrian Peterson, period.
Backup Toby Gerhart may have the potential to be successful in the future, but thus far in his career he has not shown a lot of production. Yesterday, Gerhart did score a touchdown, but he rushed for just 44 yards.
With the lack of talent at the receiver position, combined with a young quarterback, Minnesota has to have Peterson on the field. Peterson relieves pressure from the quarterback and is the No. 1 scoring threat for the Vikings.
In Gerhart's defense, the play-calling has not exactly been favorable towards him and replacing Peterson is no easy task.
But if yesterday proved anything, Peterson is unquestionably the bread and butter of this current Minnesota offense.
Percy Harvin's Still Has Explosive Play Making Ability That the Vikings Need
Battling an injury to his ribs early on in the season, Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin got off to a bit of a slow start. His playmaking ability combined with his crafty moves were seen rarely during the first half of the year.
In Sunday's loss against the Atlanta Falcons though, Harvin was the player Viking fans all know and love.
Against Atlanta, Harvin put on a stellar performance, accentuated with a number of highlights Harvin accumulated 95 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, to go along with an electrifying 104-yard kick return. The return was the longest non-touchdown run in NFL history.
Without Peterson, Harvin carried the offense and was utilized in multiple formations at wide receiver, as well as carrying the ball a few times and returning kicks.
Playing unquestionably his best game of the year, Harvin's 204 all-purpose yards were a season high.
Hopefully, Sunday's performance is a sign that Harvin's injury problems are behind him, as Harvin may be the only wide receiver on the roster that poses a threat to opposing teams.
The Vikings Are Still Not a 60-Minute Team
The loss to the Falcons' yesterday told the story of Minnesota's season, the Vikings struggle to put together an entire 60-minute game.
The Vikings have now lost seven games this season by less than seven points, and in over half of these losses, the team had one half where they looked pretty good and one half where they performed poorly.
Typically, it has been the second half that the team has struggled in, but against the Falcons, it was the first.
Had Minnesota had any production in the first half their second-half run may have paid off.
The Offensive Line Continues to Fail
Watching the Minnesota Vikings play, it seems like every time Christian Ponder receives a snap he is forced to scramble. The rookie quarterback is allowed very little time to set up and throw, and his pocket is virtually non-existent.
Playing in just six games this season, Ponder has been sacked 18 times. Again yesterday, Ponder was sacked four times and hit plenty more.
The Secondary Needs Help Fast
Week in and week out, the Vikings' secondary continues to get picked apart by opposing teams' quarterbacks.
The saga continued on Sunday, when Matt Ryan made the unit his victim with a three-touchdown game on his way to a 128.2 passer rating. The performance by the Vikings secondary consisted of blown coverages and missed tackles, and the outcome was Ryan's best efficiency rating of the season, and a 79.4 percent completion percentage, the highest in a single game by a Falcons quarterback with at least 30 attempts.
Playing without the injured Antoine Winfield at cornerback and legally troubled Chris Cook, the already dismal and depleted Vikings secondary took a couple of more hits yesterday. Safety Tyrell Johnson suffered a "significant" hamstring injury, according to Leslie Frazier, and cornerback Asher Allen has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. Both players return timetables are undetermined.
Improving this aspect of the defense is going to have to be a focal point for Minnesota come the offseason.