Craig: Five extra points

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 8, 2012 - 12:51 AM
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Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) attempted a pass in the second quarter.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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1. Ponder rebounds after picks

Yes, Christian Ponder threw back-to-back interceptions at the end of the first half and the start of the second half. But let's look what he did after those mistakes. He completed 12 of 13 for 100 yards, two touchdowns and no more interceptions. "I just shook it off," Ponder said. "The good thing was with both those interceptions was they weren't bad decisions, they were poor throws. First one, Kyle [Rudolph] was wide open and I threw little high and it bounced around. Second one, I should have waited a half-second more and let Jerome [Simpson] clear that backer. But I shook it off. That's part of the role, part of the job. I was going to throw an interception at some point this season." Ponder's streak of passes without a pick ended at 144.

2. Winfield surrenders reps to rookie Robinson

For one of the few times in his 14-year career, cornerback Antoine Winfield didn't start when he was healthy. Rookie Josh Robinson started in the base defense. Winfield came on in the nickel and still saw considerable snaps the rest of the game. Winfield said it wasn't because of a swollen knee. "[Defensive backs coach] Joe Woods came to me this week and said they're going to try to roll Josh in some more and try to get him some experience," Winfield said. "I'm cool with that. I've started 14 years in this league. I'm not worried about that. It helps me." Winfield also had his first interception of the season. Asked if he was benched for the first play for disciplinary reasons, Winfield said, "No, no. Not at all. I'm a good guy."

3. Titans punt team catches Vikings unaware

The Titans caught the Vikings' coaching staff napping on a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 41 in the first quarter. Tennessee shifted from a punting unit into a version of the Wildcat offense. Safety Jordan Babineaux lined up in shotgun formation, took the snap and went around right end for a 10-yard gain against a stunned Vikings punt return unit. "I was thinking, 'Call a timeout,' honestly," said Christian Ballard, nose tackle on the play. "But that's a little bit above my pay grade. That was a good call on their coach's part. We just need to call a timeout and get our defense back on the field. Be more situation aware."

4. Ellison looks like No. 2 tight end

It's way too early to say the Vikings wasted a five-year, $25 million deal on John Carlson. But it's pretty obvious that the prized free-agent acquisition is now this team's third-best tight end behind Kyle Rudolph and, yes, rookie fourth-round pick Rhett Ellison. The Vikings have tried diligently to get Carlson some touches, but all they've come up with so far is two catches for 1 yard, including one catch for 2 yards Sunday. Ellison, meanwhile, caught two passes for 35 yards, including a powerful 29-yard catch-and-run in which he ran through middle linebacker Colin McCarthy to set up a touchdown. "I was just excited to see the ball thrown my way," Ellison said of his long gain. "I was trying to go around the receiver's block, but, more importantly, I was holding on to that ball as tight as I could."

5. Challenging early was too soon

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier won a challenge in the first quarter, but was it too risky trying to negate a Titans first down at the their 42 less than 14 minutes into a game the Vikings were leading 7-0? It sure feels that way considering all the wacky missed calls that can follow over the final 46 minutes of an NFL game. Teams start with two coach's challenges. They need to win two challenges to be given a third. So had Frazier lost his next challenge, he would have been out of challenges. Seems like a lot to risk for the reward that was earned.

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