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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Green Bay _ There is a simple way to look at the Vikings' overtime loss at Lambeau on Sunday.
When they were lucky enough to play against Scott Tolzein, they dominated, and enjoyed having the superior quarterback.
When they were forced to face a career NFL backup with some level of cmopetence, their defense collapsed.
The result was a cmopletely unsatisfying result for both sides: A 26-26 tie that reminded the Vikings of all their flaws.
If you liked dynamic running, the game was a treat all along. Eddie Lacy broke seemingly dozens of tackles on his way to a monster game, and Adrian Peterson showed little signs of being slowed by his nagging groin injury.
Peterson rushed 32 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. Lacy rushed 25 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 48 yards.
The Vikings gave up the game's first score, on a wild scramble by Tolzein, then scored the next 23 points.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy brought in Matt Flynn, the fourth quarterback the Packers have used this month, marking the first time they've used four quarterbacks in a season since 1995.
Flynn immediately sparked the Packers, throwing with more accuracy and rhythm than Tolzein, and the Packers tied the score on a field goal with :46 seconds remaining.
The Packers won the coin flip and took the overtime kickoff. They drove for a feld goal.
The Vikings kicked their own after Toby Gerhart filled in admirably for Peterson.
With Jacksonville and Tampa Bay winning on Sunday, the Vikings are now a half-game better than the teams with the worst records in football. Jacksonville, Houston and Atlanta are 2-9.
Could a tie against the Packers keep the Vikings from the first pick in the draft?
There are rational reasons for starting Christian Ponder on Sunday.
I'm just not sure the Vikings are employing any of them.
Here are possible behind-the-scenes explanations for starting Ponder, or at least not starting Josh Freeman:
1. If Freeman has looked lost in practice. It would be hard for an NFL head coach to believe that a quarterback who has trouble running the offense or completing passes in practice would be able to do so in games, especially on the road.
2. The Vikings have decided to tank the rest of the season to obtain the highest possible draft choices. I could see the front office wishing for this outcome, but Leslie Frazier is incapable of trying to lose a game. A coach would tank only if he was assured of coming back next year, and there's no way the Vikings can be making assurances to their head coach given the ineptitude of this team.
3. The Vikings' offensive coaches don't know what they're doing.
Starting Freeman is the most logical decision, but if he's not ready to start, then it's tough to figure out why the Vikings wouldn't start Matt Cassel. Cassel has given the Vikings their best-quarterbacked game of the season, against Pittsburgh, and would give them their best chance to win on Sunday at Green Bay.
I can't think of a good reason for starting Ponder. Worse, the feeling in the Vikings' lockerroom is that starting Ponder is an embarrassment.
Frazier has done much to build trust and respect in the Vikings' lockerroom. He's sabotating his credibility by starting Ponder when everyone knows Ponder's career is effectively over in Minnesota.
For all of their problems, the Vikings have continued to play hard even as their season has slipped away. It's tough to put your body on the line when your bosses keep handling the most important position on the team so poorly.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay to discuss this, the Wolves, the Wild, and the Gophers.
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.
For the second time in three seasons, the Vikings staged a comeback to beat Washington, earning a victory that damaged their draft position.
In 2011, the Vikings’ victory at Washington cost them a chance to draft Robert Griffin III. Thursday, their second-half pass rush beat up Griffin, enabling the Vikings to pull out a 34-27 victory at the Metrodome.
Someday, the Vikings may regret this. Thursday night, just like Christmas Eve 2011, the Vikings ignored what might be best for the franchise and won in impressive fashion.
Christian Ponder played his best game of the season before leaving with a left shoulder injury. Adrian Peterson scored two touchdowns. John Carlson ably replaced Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph. And Kevin Williams recorded 2 ½ sacks – his first two-sack game since 2009 – to help the Vikings’ defense dominate the last 25 minutes of the game.
It was a strange, surprising, and maybe costly victory.
By Jim Souhan
The Vikings fell to 1-7 on Sunday after threatening to win a game that would have threatened their position in the 2014 draft.
The secondary saved them. The secondary played admirably most of the day, holding down on of the league’s best passing offenses, but again failed in the waning minutes, for the third time costing the Vikings a victory in the late going.
Tony Romo led the Cowboys on a game-winning, nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive, torching a depleted Vikings secondary. On a day when the Cowboys looked lackluster and vulnerable, they did just enough to win.
The Vikings did plenty to lose. Kicker Blair Walsh missed an extra point, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder fumbled in his own end zone to give the Cowboys an easy touchdown, and Ponder threw an inexplicable interception on one of the rare times the Cowboys pressured him.
The Vikings’ defensive line played an impressive game and Adrian Peterson rushed for 140 yards and an inspiring late touchdown, but by the end of the game the Vikings still looked like a team looking for a quarterback.
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