Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Unlucky Seven: Vikings' first half possessions were miserable in Sunday's loss

Posted by: under On the road, Vikings, Bears, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, John Sullivan, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt Updated: November 27, 2012 - 8:41 AM

A lot has already been said and written about the Vikings’ lackluster 28-10 loss in Chicago on Sunday. And until the Vikings flip the page this weekend in Green Bay, a whole lot more will be said and written about what all went wrong.

But perhaps the simple solution to ceasing all the frantic discussion is with this simple recognition: Chicago is undeniably a better team than the Vikings in all three phases. Done and done.

Still, the Vikings’ failed to light the wick for their upset bid at Soldier Field in big part because they delivered a dud effort offensively in the first half, falling behind 25-3 and never getting back on track. The Vikings had seven possessions before halftime and did next to nothing with any of them.

Just like that, they were buried on the road.

Here’s a snapshot of how the first half in Chicago fell apart offensively.

POSSESSION 1

Three plays, 4 yards

Time of possession: 1:48

End result: Punt

Place the blame on: Right guard Brandon Fusco

Worst mistake: On the first play, with an empty backfield and five receivers spread wide, Christian Ponder had barely caught the shotgun snap when he was devoured by Henry Melton for a 9-yard sack. Melton used a basic swim move to slither past Fusco. Center John Sullivan failed to redirect Melton as well. And that was that. Facing second-and-19 and third-and-18, the offense had little chance to make up for the offensive line’s malfunction.

POSSESSION 2

Four plays, 6 yards

Time of possession: 0:50

End result: Field goal

Place the blame on: Receiver Jerome Simpson

Worst mistake: A Chad Greenway fumble recovery put the Vikings in ideal position to deliver an early uppercut. Taking over at the Chicago 28 should have been just the kind of jolt the Vikings needed to jumpstart their day. Instead, on third-and-4, Christian Ponder’s slant dart to Simpson hit the inconsistent receiver in the hands, then hit the ground. Opportunity squandered.

POSSESSION 3

One play, 1 yard

Time of possession: 0:06

End result: Fumble

Place the blame on: Running back Adrian Peterson

Worst mistake: Peterson was simply carrying the ball too loose and light contact from linebacker Nick Roach jarred it loose. Peterson lost control of the football, the first of his two fumbles on the day and an indication that Peterson might not have had his usual focus. Don’t forget, he also missed the team bus from the hotel to the game and had to take a taxi to Soldier Field.

POSSESSION 4

Three plays, 9 yards

Time of possession: 1:32

End result: Punt

Place the blame on: Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave

Worst mistake: After a 1-yard completion to Simpson on first down, it’s hard to know what the objective was on second-and-9. Musgrave went with two tight ends but kept both Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson in as blockers. That left the Vikings with Simpson trying to get open against Tillman and Michael Jenkins working against Tim Jennings. Jenkins wasn’t even out of his break yet when Ponder bolted from the pocket and rolled right – signs of the receiver’s lack of speed and the quarterback’s impatience. Eventually, Ponder threw the ball out of bounds. A third down completion to Jarius Wright on a drag route netted 8 yards but not enough for a first down.

POSSESSION 5

Nine plays, 53 yards

Time of possession: 3:32

End result: Blocked field goal

Place the blame on: Receiver Jarius Wright

Worst mistake: Technically, you could easily point the finger at Fusco and Phil Loadholt, who both failed to slow the push of Julius Peppers on Blair Walsh’s 30-yard field goal attempt. Peppers blocked that kick. But the Vikings were only left to attempt that after stalling inside the red zone. Most confounding: on second-and-4 from the Chicago 12, Musgrave called in a play that seemed to show his desperation with Percy Harvin out and no other reliable receivers to turn to. Instead, the Vikings only had one receiver on the field: Wright, a rookie, who didn’t really do anything wrong but couldn’t get open in the middle of Chicago’s zone. The Vikings had four other potential pass catchers on the play, including three tight ends. But John Carlson was slow getting off the line, was only 2 yards down field when the pocket began to cave and was knocked off his path by Lance Briggs. Rhett Ellison was still early in his route and Kyle Rudolph was never open. Ponder ended up under-handing an incompletion out of bounds just to avoid a sack.

POSSESSION 6

Five plays, 14 yards

Time of possession: 2:06

End result: Interception

Place the blame on: Quarterback Christian Ponder

Worst mistake: On an afternoon where Ponder never seemed settled and his pocket poise was absent, his worst throw cost the Vikings dearly. On a second-and-10 from the Vikings 25, Ponder felt pressure from Nate Collins and tried to gun a pass to Devin Aromashodu on a dig route 18 yards down the field. But Ponder’s pass sailed way over Aromashodu’s head and hit Bears safety Chris Conte right in the numbers. Conte returned the ball to the 13. And Chicago scored on the very next play. Ponder said after the game that he has to learn not to force the ball downfield. But in truth, the throw was far more worrisome than the decision. Also worth noting: Collins stunted and ran right over Fusco, who had been beaten a play earlier by Israel Idonije.

POSSESSION 7

Three plays, 5 yards

Time of possession: 0:27

End result: Punt

Place the blame on: Ponder

Worst mistake: After taking possession with 1:48 left before halftime, the Vikings inability to run more than 27 seconds off the clock before punting was inexcusable. On first down,  Ponder had no one open and skipped a pass in the direction of Wright. On second down, Ponder got pressure from Shea McClellin and airmailed Rudolph on a deep ball down the seam. On third down, Ponder settled for a 5-yard safety valve completion to Wright. The Vikings’ third three-and-out of the day was a fitting way to end the half.

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NY Jets 3 2nd Qtr 13:18
Buffalo 7
Baltimore 7:30 PM
New Orleans
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Toronto 10
New York 7:00 PM
Houston
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Dallas
Chicago 8:00 PM
Utah
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Boston 0
Philadelphia 0 2nd Prd
NY Islanders 0
Ottawa 1 1st Prd 14:41
Detroit 0
Minnesota 1 1st Prd 13:09
Florida 0
East Carolina 49 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Nevada 56 FINAL
Weber State 59
Evansville 58 FINAL
Fresno State 52
Purdue 79 FINAL
Kansas State 88
Dillard 73 FINAL
Alcorn State 95
Clemson 64 FINAL
LSU 61
Georgia State 69 FINAL
Chicago State 46
MD-Eastern Shore 55 FINAL
Detroit 69
Missouri 53 FINAL
Arizona 72
Austin Peay 57 FINAL
Indiana State 61
Milwaukee 47 2nd Half 4:34
Louisiana 45
Marist 38 2nd Half 4:37
Fla Gulf Coast 52
Gardner-Webb 29 2nd Half 13:36
Old Dominion 38
Hampton 28 1st Half 3:20
Appalachian St 35
Grambling St 22 2nd Half
Ball State 41
FIU 30 1st Half 0:07
Ga Southern 32
Jacksonville 29 2nd Half
IUPU-Ft Wayne 49
Colgate 34 2nd Half
James Madison 39
Savannah State 3 1st Half 2:45
Louisville 35
Arizona State 39 2nd Half
Maryland 37
Santa Clara 14 1st Half 2:28
Michigan State 38
Western Carolina 42 2nd Half
Oakland 30
SE Louisiana 29 2nd Half
Tenn Tech 32
Bucknell 10 1st Half 2:50
Toledo 35
Villanova 25 1st Half 5:29
VA Commonwealth 22
Nicholls 18 1st Half 1:34
Wake Forest 46
East Tenn St 24 1st Half 3:49
Winthrop 27
Murray State 32 2nd Half
Xavier 52
Eastern Wash 12 1st Half 12:00
Indiana 17
Stephen F Austin 7:00 PM
Baylor
Lipscomb 7:00 PM
Belmont
Brown 7:00 PM
Illinois
Pepperdine 7:00 PM
Iowa
Rider 7:00 PM
Kansas
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Memphis
Clayton State 7:00 PM
Miss State
Miss Valley St 7:00 PM
TCU
TX A&M-Int 7:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Oregon State 7:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Hawaii 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Seton Hall 8:00 PM
Illinois State
NJIT 8:00 PM
Marquette
Stetson 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Florida A&M 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Pittsburgh 8:00 PM
Chaminade
Alabama 8:30 PM
Iowa State
Michigan 8:30 PM
Oregon
Colorado Christian 8:30 PM
Northern Colorado
Chadron State 8:30 PM
South Dakota St
Western Mich 9:00 PM
San Diego
SIU Edwardsville 9:05 PM
Portland State
Tulsa 10:00 PM
Auburn
BYU 10:30 PM
San Diego St
Ohio U 11/25/14 6:00 PM
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(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
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Iowa
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(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
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Kent State
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Massachusetts
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(17) Missouri
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(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
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(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
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Tulsa
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TX-San Antonio
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(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
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(1) Florida State
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(25) Boise State
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Washington St
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UNLV
Montreal 24 FINAL
Hamilton 40
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Calgary 43
Grambling 51 FINAL
George Washington 89
Saint Louis 57 FINAL
Vanderbilt 75
NW Nazarene 69 FINAL
Idaho State 88
Millersville 60 2nd Half 0:01
Delaware State 71
Harvard 43 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 97
Austin Peay 65 FINAL
Chattanooga 76
Brescia 68 FINAL
Morehead St 98
NC State 41 2nd Half 3:44
Tulane 50
Tennessee St 23 1st Half 4:06
(4) Tennessee 38
Troy 30 2nd Half
Florida A&M 33
Sam Houston St 17 2nd Half
South Dakota St 40
UNC Greensboro 32 2nd Half
Longwood 30
Rhode Island 25 2nd Half
Columbia 34
Western State 22 2nd Half
Northern Colorado 45
TX A&M-CC 25 2nd Half
Rice 30
Cornell 32 1st Half 0:35
Fairfield 23
St Johns 22 2nd Half
Marist 18
Bradley 25 1st Half 0:49
Stony Brook 38
Mount Ida 35 2nd Half
UMass Lowell 49
Thomas (GA) 26 1st Half 2:36
Georgia State 49
Loyola-Maryland 26 2nd Half
(10) Maryland 38
Barton 8 1st Half 14:30
UNC-Asheville 8
Campbell 27 2nd Half
Western Carolina 35
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Samford 43
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(7) Texas A&M
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South Dakota
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Holy Cross
East Tenn St 7:05 PM
Indiana State
(5) Stanford 8:00 PM
New Mexico
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Cal State Fullerton 8:00 PM
Weber State

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