If you missed my live Vikings chat on Tuesday afternoon, you can check in here and read the back and forth in full. In addition, each week I will attempt to go overtime, bringing good questions that I didn’t get around to answering on the chat here to the Access Vikings blog for discussion. Here goes.
Q: How close was Adrian Peterson to delivering a 100-yard rushing effort?
A: Again, we’ve detailed in full how remarkable Peterson’s rapid recovery has been. And if you missed Jim Souhan’s column from after the game Sunday, I suggest you read it here. Let’s not forget that Peterson was stopped for a 4-yard loss on his final carry in overtime. Up to that point, he had picked up 88 yards on 16 carries. And his biggest run of the day, the 20-yard burst on the third play of overtime, almost went the distance. Probably should have too. In the locker room Monday afternoon, receiver Percy Harvin noted that Peterson was one block away from breaking into daylight. So I went back and looked at that run again and it seems safe to assume that had Stephen Burton held his block just a second longer on Will Middleton that Peterson could have closed the game with a 62-yard touchdown run. Imagine how crazy that would have been with Peterson finishing his day with 16 carries, 130 yards and three touchdowns.
Q: Were you surprised Percy Harvin was back on all seven of Jacksonville’s kickoffs.
A: For clarification purposes, Harvin wasn’t back for all seven kickoffs. In fact, Marcus Sherels was deep on the final kickoff of regulation with 20 seconds to play. Presumably, that was to keep Harvin fresh to run routes in the final 14 seconds. And for what it’s worth, he was likely Christian Ponder’s first option on the first down play that ended up being that 26-yard completion to Devin Aromashodu. But back to the original premise of the question. Yes, I was very surprised at all the work Harvin got on special teams and it’s an indication that coach Leslie Frazier was receptive to the pleas from both Harvin and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer to get Harvin as much return work as possible. Priefer, during his very first press conference in training camp, promised that Harvin was the No. 1 kick returner and would be used accordingly.
"I think we're going to have a good plan with Percy this year," Priefer said then. "He is our number one kickoff returner. When we have the opportunity to use him, we're going to use him.”
But I had to put an asterisk on those comments based on how cautious the Vikings were with Harvin late last season. Yes, Harvin was battling a shoulder injury that he eventually had offseason surgery for. And so the Vikings didn’t want to put him at too much risk on kickoffs. But there was also an understanding of just how valuable Harvin is to the offense, which was particularly evident in the games that Peterson missed or didn’t finish in 2011 due to injury. There were six of those contests during which Harvin saw very little work as a return man. I figured that with Peterson’s status iffy heading into the season opener and with receiver Jerome Simpson suspended for three games, the Vikings would do their best to preserve Harvin for offensive duties, not wanting to risk much on the high impact collisions of kickoff return. But I was wrong. They turned Harvin loose. And it’s worth noting that his final return Sunday was a pretty impressive 30-yarder in which he drove forward for nine extra yards after absorbing the first big hit.
Q: That last Christian Ponder to Kyle Rudolph incompletion late in the fourth quarter, what happened?
A: This was asked about during the chat and I’ve since had a chance to go back and watch the play several times. Indeed, Rudolph showed an uncharacteristic case of alligator arms, prematurely flinching as Jacksonville’s Dawan Landry closed in. This was one of those key miscues for the Vikings that gets brushed under the rug because of the final result. But going forward, the Vikings absolutely need to capitalize on plays like that. Yes, Rudolph had a wonderful game with five catches for 67 yards. But that missed opportunity came on a third-and-13 play with 5:43 to play and the Vikings trying to add to a 17-15 lead. A catch and the Vikings get first-and-goal at the Jacksonville 9 and may have been able to add a game-sealing touchdown. Instead, they settled for a 42-yard Blair Walsh field goal and let the Jags hang around.
Q: What were the worst moments that the replacement refs had in the opener?
A: Two stand out to me. First, the penalty that was called on Michael Jenkins on the Vikings’ final series of regulation was questionable. Jenkins was called for an illegal block below the waist against Landry when it seemed clear that he hit the Jacksonville defensive back near the midsection. Mark Craig details the disastrous ripple effect of that flag here. It’s also worth wondering just what the referees were thinking on the personal foul they called on Letroy Guion with 12:45 to play and the Vikings ahead 17-12. Sure, Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert may have already been sacked, tripped up by Erin Henderson. But initially it seemed hard to tell whether Henderson had grabbed Gabbert’s foot or whether the Jaguars quarterback had fallen on his own. Plus, there was no whistle. So when Guion fell on top of Gabbert, it drew a flag. And yet, even if you concede the flag itself, the refs improperly penalized the Vikings. Guion fell on Gabbert at the Jacksonville 33. The official ruling was a personal foul “after the play” for unnecessary roughness. Which should have put the Jaguars at their own 48. Instead, the 15 yards were marched off from the original line of scrimmage, moving the ball to the Minnesota 45 and costing the Vikings seven yards. Jacksonville wound up kicking a 47-yard field goal on that drive.
Q: Can you explain the coverage breakdown on Cecil Shorts’ touchdown with 20 seconds left?