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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Posts about Vikings off the field

Sunday superlatives

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 30, 2012 - 9:31 PM

Some numbers produced during what might have been the best football game I've seen in the Metrodome:

Adrian Peterson...

-Finished with 199 yards and the second-best rushing total in NFL history, 2,097 yards. Eric Dickerson retains the record of 2,105. Peterson was nine yards shy. ``I know Eric Dickerson is stoked,'' Peterson said with a smile.

-Set an NFL record for most rushing yards in December, with 861. Clinton Page of Devner had 672 in 2002.

-Set an NFL record for most rushing yards in any month. Chris Johnson of Tennessee had 800 in 2009. (Month not provided.)

-Tied an NFL record for most 150-plus yard rushing games in a season, with 7. He's tied with Earl Campbell, who did it in 1980.

-Set a team record for most rushing attempts in a game, with 34.

Also...

-Matt Kalil tied a record for most starts by a rookie tackle, at 16, with Todd Steussie.

-Blair Walsh tied an NFL record for most field goals made in a season by a rookie, with 35. Ali Haji-Sheikh of the Giants did it in 1983.

-Walsh finished the regular season with 141 points, most ever by a Vikings rookie and second among Vikings kickers all-time to Gary Anderson's 164 points in 1998.

-Walsh tied a team record for most field goals made in a season, with 35. Anderson had 35 in '98.

-Walsh set an NFL record for highest field-goal percentage in a season by a rookie, with 92.1. Richie Cunningham of Dallas had a 91.9 percent in 1997.

-Walsh set an NFL record for most 50-plus yard field goals made by a rookie in a season, with 10.

-Christian Ponder became only the sixth Vikings quarterback to start 16 games in a season. The others: Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper (3 times), Warren Moon, Tommy Kramer, Fran Tarkenton.

Tale of two teams:

The Packers finished the season with 4,049 net yards passing. The Vikings had 2,751.

The Packers finished the season with 1,702 net yards passing. The Vikings had 2,634.

They wound up one game apart in the standings.

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Yes, I do think Frazier is the coach of the year. The Colts tanked on purpose last year, and were rewarded with one of the most advanced rookie quarterbacks of all time. The Vikings won three games on merit, while winning just enough to lose a chance to draft Luck or Griffin, and improved by seven games.

I also think Peterson is the MVP. As much as I revere Peyton Manning, he took over a team that won a playoff game last year. He improved the offense dramatically but stepped into a great situation. Peterson was the dojminant figure on an offense with few alternatives, and he performed even better once Percy Harvin went out.

As frequent readers know, I don't champion locals unless I think they're deserving. I think Frazier and Peterson are deserving.

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I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Vikings are 9-6? Vikings are 9-6

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 23, 2012 - 6:24 PM

Win or lose next week, make the playoffs or not, the Vikings are overachivers this year, and the way they manhandled two of the league's best teams lends credence to Leslie Frazier's approach.

The Vikings manhandled the 49ers at home. They manhandled the Texans on the road.

When Christian Ponder doesn't lose the game for them, the Vikings tend to win.

They're 9-6 now, and one victory away from the playoffs, and winning with a style that seems sustainable and a  young roster that seems capable of growth.

Ponder and the defense should get much of the credit for the victory. I think the coaching staff should get a game ball for this one. Chad Greenway said the game plan was to choke off the Texans' running game, which woulid hamper their ability to use play action and bootlegs. It worked.

While Andre Johnson caught passes in the middle of the field, he didn't hurt the Vikings' deep.

Offensively, Bill Musgrave designed another game plan that set Ponder up to succeed. He scripted easy throws early, and obviously encouraged Ponder to use his legs when appropriate. Ponder has looked like a much more confident quarterback the last two weeks, especially when on the move.

I know the Pagano-Arians pairing in Indianapolis will receive most of the coach of the year votes, and they have a great and emotional case. I think Leslie Frazier deserves consideration, it not a slew of first-place votes. This team looked hopeless last year, and he has this gorup of players playing with fire and cohesiveness.

As I've noted before this season, Frazier has also helped make this a class organization. I can't remember the last time I covered a winning Vikings team that was this much fun to be around.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 on Monday with Patrick Reusse, and on WJON in St. Cloud with Jay Caldwell at 7:15 a.m.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Ponder this

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 21, 2012 - 9:44 AM
By Jim Souhan
Christian Ponder traveled to Wisconsin on a December Monday to get married.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Other than the timing and the location.
It was the day after one of the most important games of his career. It was six days before what he calls the most important game of his career.
He is the Vikings’ quarterback. He plays a position synonymous with leadership, a position said to require more attentiveness and study than any other in team sports.
His team’s season hangs in the balance. So does his career. With two impressive performances over the next eight days, he could propel his team into the playoffs and establish himself as the starting quarterback for the 2013 season. With two poor performances, he could ruin a suddenly-promising season and force the Vikings to seek his replacement.
The nature of modern media, social media and the way sports intertwines with both means that the public would become aware of Ponder’s marriage and react strongly to the timing of it.
Why couldn’t he have waited until the end of the season, which might have required just two more weeks? Why the rush? Can he properly focus on the most demanding job in sports while tending to the details of a marriage, however perfunctory the ceremony might have been?
They’re all fair questions for an NFL quarterback, because to be an NFL quarterback is to invite attention and scrutiny.
Just because we’re entitled to inquire about the marriage doesn’t mean we should actually care.
Players do all kinds of crazy things with their time off. Many of them make headlines and police reports. I guarantee that while Ponder was driving to Wisconsin, an NFL player somewhere, and possibly in Minnesota, was getting irresponsibly drunk. An NFL player somewhere, and possibly in Minnesota, was getting stoned. An NFL player somewhere, and possibly in Minnesota, was breaking a more serious law, perhaps driving drunk or getting into a bar fight.
Ponder's timing may not have been great, or understandable, but there's no way his performance this week will be negatively affected by his trip to Wisconsin. If he throws an interception on Sunday, it won't be because he got married on Monday.
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I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 with Reusse and Mackey. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on Sunday morning. We'll be in Houston for the Vikings game and Joe Schmit from Channel 5 will moderate from the studio in the Twin Cities. And Dana Wessel will continue to have fabulous hair.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 
 

More on Vikings win

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 24, 2012 - 10:34 AM
 
I wrote about the obvious trust between Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph in today’s paper.
This might sound trite, but trust matters in the NFL. It matters a lot.
NFL teams ask their players to risk their health during short careers for the good of the franchise. For players to be eager to do so, it helps if they have reason to believe in the key people in the organization. And, during the season, the two people they have to trust the most are their head coach and quarterback.
Who knows whether beating the 49ers will mean anything in a few weeks? If the Vikings get whipped in Detroit, and that is a very real possibility, with Calvin Johnson facing a still-suspect secondary, then we may wind up viewing this victory as an aberration.
But it could matter no matter what happens this week, because Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder gave their team reason to trust them on Sunday. Frazier’s vision of a physical team that wins with a running game and a stout defense materialized against the NFL’s gold standard in those departments. And Ponder displayed the ability to make clutch plays and beat a good team in his 13th start in the NFL.
His peers on the roster – young teammates like Kyle Rudolph and John Sullivan – rave about Ponder’s leadership abilities. But if you don’t win, the whole team won’t buy in. Ponder and Frazier moved closer to instilling faith in the roster on Sunday.
-One of the reasons I wrote about Ponder's three touchdown plays today is because so many NFL games turn on one, or two, or three big plays. Had Ponder executed poorly, or made poor decisions, on his three touchdown plays, the Vikings could have wound up with three or six points. Instead, Ponder produced 21 points. That's how upsets happen.
And had Ponder's worst pass of the day turned into a 49ers' touchdown, we might be talking about a loss today.
That's why the NFL is so unpredictable. And that's why I don't bet on sports.
-I can't remember being less interested in a Yankee-Twins series since 2000.
-Stat geeks favor Mike Trout as the AL MVP. Players and old-school writers favor Miguel Cabrera.
I think Trout is the more valuable player in theory, because he does everything well while playing exceptionally well in the field at a pivotal position. But within the context of this season, Cabrera's more valuable, simply because Cabrera has been exceptional while playing in more games. He's simply produced more for his team.
It's not Trout's fault that he wasn't with the Angels from Opening Day on. But the time he missed made him a less-valuable commodity over the course of a six-month season. And while Trout is far superior in the field, Cabrera's willingness and ability to play third base, however poorly, opened up first base and DH for the Tigers, making them a stronger team. That mitigates his fielding woes.
Cabrera has produced far more runs that Trout this season. He has a higher slugging percentage. Their on-base percentage is a virtual tie. And while stat geeks are correct when they say that RBI is not a good statistic for evaluating offensive efficiency, it is a very important stat within the context of a season, and an MVP race.
Games are won and lost based on whether a hitter can produce runs. Cabrera has excelled in that category over six months. He's the MVP.
-I’ll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
 

Bullying the bullies

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 23, 2012 - 6:50 PM

The Vikings' 24-13 upset of San Francisco might have been their most impressive performance since they beat Dallas in the playoffs in 2009. Their upset of Philadelphia in Philadelphia in 2010 was surprising, but those Eagles turned out to be a very flawed team, and with the game being postponed by weather, it never felt like a normal game.

This was different. This was the Vikings beating the 49ers at their own game. Here's what stood out to me:

1. A young Vikings roster that I don't think is talented enough yet to play with the league's big boys took it to the 49ers. They ran the ball. Percy Harvin, as usual, took it to defensive backs. Christian Ponder played with poise. The defense stifled the 49ers' power running game and pressured Alex Smith.

This is the way Leslie Frazier wants to win, and Sunday marked the first time you could see his vision played out on an NFL field against a superior team.

2. Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season. I know, I know, he's had a few dropped, and the 49ers could have changed the game by holding onto Ponder's one terrible throw in the fourth quarter,

Good quarterbacks thrown interceptions, too, though, and good quarterbacks have apparent interceptions dropped. The numbers, in this case, are accurate. Ponder has been careful with the ball and has completed 70 percent of his passes. After 13 NFL starts, he looks about as good as the Vikings could have hoped at this stage of his career.

3. Randy Moss looked like he didn't want to get hit. He short-armed a high throw and didn't appear interested in another pass that whistled by his head. He played sparingly in the fourth quarter of a game where the 49ers were desperate for a deep threat.

After all this time, Moss is pretty much everything everybody has ever said he is. He's a great receiver. He's one of the most unique talents in NFL history. He's a pain in the butt. And he is untrustworthy.

4. Ponder held a weird postgame press conference. He sounded like he wanted to pretend to be mad at everyone who didn't pick the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. But he's such a nice, reasonable guy, that he couldn't maintain the fake anger and kept making jokes.

He did keep bringing up the Super Bowl. Make of that what you will. I do think that Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan, Matt Kalil and the other young offensive players believe they're building something here. The question, for me, is whether they will be ready to win big while Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin are still healthy and in their prime.

Even in a game we all know if violent, Peterson and Harvin are exceptions. They run with exceptional effort.

5. Chad Greenway is having an outstanding season. He's shown up in the pass rush and in pass coverage. He's been a strong performer against the running game for years, but the man does work at his craft and you can see improvement across the board this year.

6. Sportswriters and radio hosts pick games because picking games can make for interesting copy and fodder. But we really shouldn't. We don't know who's going to win. If we did, we'd all live in Vegas. In penthouses in Vegas.

We don't. I proved that again today. I thought the 49ers would win by about 10.

Please don't ever take the advice of a sportswriter when betting. Nothing good will come of it.

Other stuff:

-Restaurant recommendation of the day: Lola's Pizzeria in Southwest Minneapolis, on Xerxes. Great food and atmosphere.

-Tailgated outside TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Nice atmosphere. Not as rowdy as some college campuses, but I think that's a good thing. People were friendly and calm, and the band sounded great.

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m.

-Luckily for me, I'll be covering the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week. It's one of the few things I haven't done as a writer that I had always wanted to do. Next wish: The British Open at St. Andrews one of these years.

 

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