Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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I'm not sure I've ever seen a finishing flurry quite like the one in the Vikings' 29-25 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
It's remarkable how hard the Vikings hsve played in the weeks since it seemed their season was doomed. What I'll explore in my Monday column is why it took so long for this coaching staff to put its best players on the field. With Matt Cassel at quarterback, Cordarrelle Patterson starting at receiver and Xavier Rhodes starting at corner, this is a competent team, a team that could be at or near .500 and theoretically in the playoff race if those players had started earlier this season.
This was a Vikings team that made all those dramatic plays with its backup quarterback, backup running back, and a lot of backup defenders on the field.
We'll have extensive coverage in the Monday paper and on startribune.com, complete with videos.
We'll also update Adrian Peterson's health as soon as possible after the game, Indications now are that he has a sprained ankle and nothing more. It will be interesting to see whether Leslie Frazier plays him next week, or lets Toby Gerhart have a start.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Devoted my column to Percy Harvin, so here I'll state the obvious: Christian Ponder should be done as a Viking.
Josh Freeman's horrific performance against the Giants gave everyone pause. It made sense to back off the Vikings' original plans of testing him for the rest of the season. It made sense to allow him to recover from the concussion the team says he had, and to give him time to work on the mechanics that failed him.
Now that Ponder has written a coda to his Minnesota career with a scattershot performance in the Vikings' 41-20 loss at Seattle, it's time for Freeman to give it another try.
The way the Vikings hve handled backup Matt Cassel is proof that they think of him the same way the rest of the NFL does - as a nice backup and nothing more.
Freeman hasn't offered much evidence this year, in Tampa or Minnesota, that he can regain the form that made him a solid NFL starter. But he's still more promising than Ponder and Cassel. Even if there is a one percent chance that Freeman can use the rest of this season to reestablish himself as a quality starter, that puts him ahead of Ponder and Cassel.
And now the Vikings have the perfect opportunity to break Freeman back in: Against a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers.
I get into this a little bit in the column, but the feeling in the Seahawks' lockerroom was that Harvin will make a very good team great.
Russell Wilson has moved himself into consideration as the best of the league's young quarterbacks. Andrew Luck gets the nod from most experts, but Wilson may be closer to Luck than most are willing to admit.
He's accurate, athletic, smart, tough. He's a great leader. With Harvin, he'll have a downfield threat that will torture safeties who want to creep toward the line of scrimmage to stop Marshawn Lynch. He can return kickoffs, take handoffs and catch short passes, but it's his speed that will make the Seahawks a markedly better offense.
``The thing about him is, he draws attention,'' Wilson said. ``It's hard to stop him because he's so fast, he's so electric, he loves the game, he's so physical. He's the type of guy who's so fast - he runs a 4.3 40, easy - he can make guys miss, but he also wants to be physical with you. It's tough for defensive players to know how to cover him.''
I think Adrian Peterson is hurting. Either that, or his offensive line has made him gun-shy.
He just doesn't hit the hole the way he did last year. That's either because he's dealing with injuries (including the groin problem that bothered him this week) or because he doesn't expect to get through the first wave of defenders cleanly.
He averaged 3.1 yards per carry on Sunday, and while he didn't have many openings, he also didn't attack the way usually does.
If Ponder does get benched, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph should go on strike. Ponder's strength as a quarterback was getting the ball to the tight end. Cassel and Freeman are both more likely to look to their wide receivers.
Is everyone still excited about turning Joe Webb into a receiver? Sunday, in his most extensive playing time, he caught two passes for nine yards. Every time a talented athlete fails at his initial position in the NFL, everyone says, ``Turn him into a receiver!''
It's not that easy. Webb is still a spectacular athlete and a wonderful runner, but he hasn't built up a lifetime of repetitions at receiver - running patterns, accelerating out of breaks, reading coverages, catching the ball under duress, building up a rapport with a quarterback. It may take years, and guys who are on their second position don't have years.
The Vikings had little chance to win on Sunday, and Ponder made a bunch of mistakes, but I thought the key moment in the game might have come late in the first quarter. It was 3-3. The Vikings faced third-and-9 from their 37.
Peterson snuck out of the backfield on a screen pass. He was wide open. He had blockers in front of him. He may have scored. He certainly would have gotten the first down and more. And Ponder misfired on a simple throw.
Let's say Peterson scores there. At the very least the game remains competitive for a longer period of time.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. (5:15 Seattle time!) and on 1500ESPN during the Judd&Dubay Show. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Against Detroit, the Vikings' defense didn't seem prepared to handle the multiple ways the Lions used Reggie Bush.
Against Chicago, the defensive players intimated they were out of position on the Bears' game-winning drive.
Against Carolina, Jared Allen left some doubt in his postgame interview as to how much confidence he invested in the defensive coaching staff.
Against Green Bay, the Vikings got shredded for 182 rushing and 285 passing yards.
``The Green Bay Packers rushed for about 200 yards on us,'' said defensive end Jared Allen. ``When does that ever happen? When do the Green Bay Packers rush for 200 yards? We've got to stop the run. That was awful. I didn't see that coming whatsoever.''
So I asked linebacker Chad Greenway on Sunday night whether the defensive players were being put in position to succeed.
Read his answer and interpret it any way you like:
``You know what?'' he said. ``The reality is, the call comes into the huddle, we’ve got to make the play. I don’t want to get into a finger-pointing situation. It's not about that.
``When you go through some things, you see there’s more to life than football. This is what we do. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be known as someone who pointed the finger and tried to put it on somebody else. I want to be known as someone who has integrity and want to put the onus on getting better and finding a way. That’s reality. We are where we are.''
I'll be on 1500ESPN from 9-1 tomorrow with Judd Zulgad.
My Monday column deals with the confusion and raw emotion surrounding the Vikings' loss at Soldier Field, so in this post I'll address a positive:
The Browns come to town next week.
And another positive:
The Vikings get to play the in-decline Steelers in London after that.
And another positive:
The Vikings then get a bye week in which to prepare for an 0-2 Carolina team.
The sky isn't falling. It's just raining a little.
I know the favorite statistic of the national media is that since 1990 only 12 percent of teams starting 0-2 have made the playoffs.
But most of the teams that start 0-2 had little hope before the season began.We're talking about Jaguars and Browns and the like.
The Vikings did win 10 games last year. They stil have the MVP. Their defense started showing signs of life on Sunday, creating four turnovers. And their quarterback played his best half of the season in the second half on Sunday.
More important is who the Vikings play. They didn't figure to be better than 1-1 at this juncture, because they hardly ever win at Chicago. So they're one game behind schedule with the Browns, Steelers and Panthers coming up. If they could put together a three-game winning streak, they'd be in contention.
And while their schedule after that seems daunting, Washington isn't nearly as difficult a matchup as it was considered to be before the season began.
Starting 0-2 leaves the Vikings with little margin for error, but it's not over until it's over, or unless you lose to the Browns.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. to talk about the Vikings game and other stuff. I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay.
Also, I haven't received any feedback on my Jerry Kill column. If you'd like to let me know what you think, please send all emails to SHartman@startribune.com.
While there are many ways to analyze a draft, here's the way I look at Rick Spielman's moves the last two years: He positioned himself to land five players in the first round. The first two, Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, are very good players at positions of great need. The three Spielman took on Thursday could be just a valuable.
I'll be honest, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes is the biggest mystery for me. The Vikings have not fared well when drafting cornerbacks. The Asher Allen experiment was particularly troubling. Chris Cook hasn't fulfilled his potential yet. Josh Robinson is talented but needs to make progress this year. The Vikings need Rhodes to be a starter, replacing Antoine Winfield.
The other two picks, I think, are perfect for this team. Sharrif Floyd should start in Game 1, and should be the kind of active defensive tackle the Vikings need, at the second-most important position (defensive line) in football. I believe the Vikings when they say they had no idea he could fall to them at No. 23.
And Cordarrelle Patterson is a fascinating pick. He's big and fast, can return kicks and punts, and I think will be able to both play Percy Harvin's old role in the offense and be a deep threat on the outside. He's not polished, but the Vikings rely heavily on receivers coach George Stewart, and he has a lot to work with in Patterson.
Covering the draft is such a strange journalistic experience. Nobody can say for certain which players will be good and which won't. We can't ever forget that Joe Montana went in the third round and Tom Brady in the sixth, and that some draft analysts favored Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning.
But, as I wrote in my Friday column, Spielman has done very well with first-round picks, which tells me the more time he spends studying a player, the better Vikings fans should feel.
I wasn't thrilled with the Harvin trade or the team's willingness to lose Winfield, but Thursday's decisions could lessen the impact of those losses.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow to discuss the draft and other stuff. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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