Early success keeps things simple for Vikings

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2012 - 11:50 AM

Scoring TDs on their first series in each of the past three weeks has allowed the Vikings offense to stay aggressive, and confident.

 

Michael Jenkins shrugged. The Vikings receiver wishes he could identify something more complex behind his first reception in Sunday's 23-6 win over Houston. But in truth, the 32-yard pickup was full of backyard simplicity.

Bunched with fellow receiver Jarius Wright on the right side, Jenkins ran a routine out route, using leverage and sharp timing to break toward the sideline against Brandon Harris.

The Houston cornerback stumbled and Jenkins darted free. Quarterback Christian Ponder hit Jenkins 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Then the receiver turned upfield for an additional 16 yards before being shoved out of bounds at the Texans 2.

Degree of difficulty: low. Effectiveness: high. Just how the Vikings like it.

"It's about winning," Jenkins said Wednesday. "We all have one-on-one battles. And with mine, I was able to win that and get open. Plus Christian had time to put it out there."

Jenkins' reception provided the biggest gain on the Vikings' 78-yard touchdown drive to open the game. The drive's exclamation point: a play-action 3-yard TD toss to Kyle Rudolph.

That marked the third consecutive week the Vikings reached the end zone on their opening drive. In each of those games, they've led the rest of the way, propelling a late-season surge that now has them one win away from the postseason.

"It's been impressive," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's exactly what we've needed. We've talked all along about being able to start fast. And we've gotten that done of late."

Grand openings

Like Jenkins' big catch -- his longest this season -- the offensive priorities remain simple. Far more equipped to protect a lead then rally from behind, the Vikings continue underscoring the importance of scoring right out of the gate, while coordinator Bill Musgrave has delivered successful scripts in the past three wins.

"It's not anything complicated," fullback Jerome Felton said. "Coach Musgrave has given us a good plan. And more than anything, I think we've been aggressive."

Ponder's overall production during the three-game winning streak registers as ordinary. In those victories, he's 44-for-71 for 396 passing yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. But the second-year quarterback has at least been poised and assertive on opening drives.

Against Chicago in Week 14, Adrian Peterson did most of the damage on the first series, rushing for 69 yards during an 80-yard TD march. But Ponder's 11-yard dart to Jerome Simpson on third-and-9 from the Chicago 28 proved crucial in extending the drive.

In St. Louis, with Peterson held to minus-3 yards on the first possession, Ponder picked up the slack. His 13-yard third-down completion to Stephen Burton was key. And his 3-yard scramble on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 7 may have been the game's biggest play. Three snaps later, he avoided a Robert Quinn sack and scored on a frenetic 5-yard run.

Last week, the 32-yard pass to Jenkins was sandwiched between two completions to Rudolph -- a bootleg dump-off that netted 27 yards and later the short scoring pass.

Ponder's passing stats on the opening drive the past three weeks: 7-for-7, 111 yards, one TD.

Said Felton: "I do think it's been notable the way he's had more control of the huddle, getting us in and out and establishing the tempo where we want it."

Added Ponder: "We have to treat it the same way this week. It is important for us to start fast and set the tone for the rest of the game."

Stay in control

As the Vikings drill deeper into this week's game plan, the coaching staff will remind Ponder of how an upset bid four weeks ago in Green Bay disappeared.

With Ponder's skittishness at an all-time high, the Vikings went without completions on eight of their first nine possessions. Most notably, Ponder's two interceptions -- one in the end zone, the other at the Packers 14 -- turned a winnable game into an agitating loss.

With that, the Vikings squandered Peterson's 210-yard rushing effort and had convincing evidence that their young quarterback is more valuable when he avoids fatal mistakes than when he makes big plays.

"When we don't turn the ball over," Jenkins said, "that's when we win games."

Indeed, the Vikings are 6-1 this season when they've had one turnover or fewer. They're also 5-1 when they score a touchdown on their opening series.

Coach Leslie Frazier believes a winning strategy to beat the Packers is well within reach. He's also confident Ponder constructively absorbed his Lambeau Field letdown and has made strides to avoid a repeat.

"It was a tough day in a lot of ways in that first game against Green Bay," Frazier said. "He bounced back from that with a very efficient game against Chicago. And he's continued that progression right on through."

  • VIKINGS WEEK 17

    Up next: 3:25 p.m. Sunday vs. Green Bay • Mall of America Field • TV: Ch. 9 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close