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 Percy Harvin

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.

 

Minnesota: The State of Football

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 9, 2012 - 6:29 PM

The Gophers and Vikings are a combined 3-0.

Of course, they should be, given the level of competition.

I'm not sure exactly what to make of the Vikings' 26-23 victory. They had awful lapses and struggled to beat a lousy team at home, but there were these high points:

-Adrian Peterson, the subject of my Monday morning column, carried 17 times. That's 17 times more than I would have given it to him and about five more than the coaches wanted to, but he looked remarkably healthy and spry. Without him, the Vikings lose this game.

I hope for his sake he doesn't spend the rest of his career on bad teams. He is a rare competitor and deserves to play for championships.

-Christian Ponder looked shaky early, but got better as the game went on. I thought the best thing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave did was call a few quick passes to Percy Harvin late in the first half. That loosened up the Jaguars' defense, and calmed Ponder, who was at his best in clutch situations late in the game and in overtime.

-The defense was lucky that Blaine Gabbert missed a wide-open receiver for a touchdown and that Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't at full speed. Chris Cook should have played the Jags' go-ahead touchdown pass much better, but how can a receiver get that much space in that situation?

-Chad Greenway made a couple of key plays in pass defense, a good sign from a player who has to be more than just a solid run-stopper for this defense to thrive.

-Jared Allen spent a lot of time on the sideline in the first half looking very angry. He's done that before, but it's ominous this early in the season.

-Kyle Rudolph is going to have an excellent career if he stays healthy and Ponder remains the quarterback.

-Second-guess time: Peterson had two rushing touchdowns on which he was barely slowed as he got to the end zone. Vikings have the ball inside the Jacksonville 5 in the fourth quarter. Twice, Peterson is sent left as a decoy. Both times, the Vikings wound up with a muddled-looking pass play and no open receivers.

Don't over-think it. Give it to Peterson.

-Blair Walsh was awfully impressive. He nailed all four of his field goals, including the 55-yard that sent the game to overtime, and he boomed his kickoffs.

I don't know anybody who doesn't like and respect Ryan Longwell, but Walsh is making Rick Spielman look pretty smart today.

-Only six of Ponder's 20 completions went to wideouts. That's probably wise, but it also indicates that this offense is going to be very limited.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Rare NFL draft that's better than expected

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 26, 2012 - 11:08 PM

Let me tell you a secret: Most sportswriters hate the NFL draft.

It requires months of work, much of which proves meaningless to the local team. It's often over-hyped and over-discussed and becomes fertile ground for bad rumors, like the funny one going around this afternoon about the Vikings really wanting Morris Claiborne or, funnier, Justin Blackmon.

Thursday was different. My Friday column explores Rick Spielman's first draft as Vikings' GM, but I'll get in a few quick hitters here:

-This was actually an interesting draft both nationally and locally.

Nationally, the NFL had two tremendously talented yet dissimilar quarterbacks go with the first two picks. Locally, we had the Vikings fooling a lot of national media people about their intentions, then trading down to get the fourth pick, and later trading back into the bottom of the first round, ending up with Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, two players they had targeted all along.

-While many people have rightly obsessed about cornerback, I love the fact the Vikings took the best safety available. In the Tampa-2 scheme, you need a safety who can drop into the box and make tackles, and prevent big pass plays. And while you can game-plan around a good cornerback, you can't game-plan around a safety.

Think of the impact safeties on good teams in recent years: Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders, LaRon Landry. They intercept passes and blow up running plays and generally make more impact plays per game than even great cornerbacks.

-I love both picks. Kalil, to me, was the safest pick in the draft, given the number of sure-thing quarterbacks who flame out. Before the draft started, I thought Smith would be ideal for the Vikings but didn't think he'd fall to them, or that they'd be able to trade up high enough to take him.

-Kalil sounded genuinely excited about playing for the Vikings. With Kalil, Christian Ponder, Percy Harvin, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, the Vikings have an intriguing core of young offensive players. Their success will be dependent on Ponder's development, but he'll have a better chance to develop with a bunch of talented young players around him.

-I think Spielman had a very good day, and he left little doubt that he'll target receiver and cornerback during the rest of the draft. He admitted that the draft room worked much better with one person in charge. ``It went a lot smoother,'' he said.

Hard to disagree.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Friday to discuss the draft. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

How did the Wolves pass the Vikings?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 18, 2011 - 4:43 PM

Remember 23 months ago when the Timberwolves were the funniest joke in town and the Vikings had maybe the best team in football?

This weekend, the franchises passed each other, the Wolves heading up, the Vikings landing with a splat.

Throw out whatever qualifiers you want about the Wolves' exhibition opener - facing a bad team, exhibitions are meaningless, etc. - but that was entertaining basketball we were treated to on Saturday night. Rick Adelman, Derrick Wililams, Ricky Rubio, J.J.Barea and a slimmed-down Kevin Love give us five good reasons to care about the Wolves.

And that's not all. You could see Michael Beasley having an excellent year offensively in this system, and at least paying attention on defense. I think this team's biggest challenges will be figuring out what to do at center and shooting guard. Darko and Wes Johnson haven't proved themselves yet.

At center, Love playing inside might often be the answer. The problem for Johnson is that if he can't shine in this system, he's probably not an NBA player. He's got to prove himself quickly.

While the Wolves looked more promising than they have for years, the Vikings embarrassed themselves. This is becoming a trend. They got Brad Childress fired last year with a pathetic performance against Green Bay at the Dome. Now they've turned in three stinkers this season, at Chicago, at Green Bay and now at home on Sunday against the Saints.

I came to Minnesota in 1990 to cover the Vikings. This is easily the worst Vikings team I've ever seen in person. W'hich is amazing, considering this team has three stars in their prime in Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Percy Harvin.

I'm about to start working on my column for the Monday paper, and I believe this is the question that needs to be answered: Should anybody's job be safe right now? Leslie Frazier's? Christian Ponder's? Any coach's?

This was a pathetic display. Frazier said after the game that he took responsibility for his team not being prepare. He also said he wants to see how Ponder performs the last two weeks so he can judge him on a larger body of work.

I think Frazier and Ponder both will be trying to save their jobs the last two weeks, even if noone wants to admit that.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday and every weekday with Reusse and Mackey. Thanks to Terry Ryan for his bluntness when we had him on Sunday Sports Talk this morning.

 

Bad day of coaching

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 5, 2011 - 6:54 AM

Big picture: The Vikings are much better off losing these games and landing the second pick in the draft, and facing their shortcomings, than they are winning meaningless games and making themselves feel better as the end of the year looms.

Small picture: That was a poorly-coached team that lost to the Broncos on Sunday.

Writing opinion for a living can make you look pretty silly. My column in the Sunday paper made the point that while the Vikings' coaching staff hasn't distinguished itself, it's a lack of personnel and depth that is the Vikings' biggest problem.

I'll stick with that opinion, but the Vikings' coaching staff failed in pretty much every area on Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave often left Kyle Rudolph, perhaps his best possession receiver, on the sideline on obvious passing downs. He sometimes even left Percy Harvin, the best player on the field, on the sidelines, too.

It's always hard to tell who's at fault when a unit collapses, but the defensive backs having no idea what their responsibilities were is frightening, considering that Leslie Frazier was a cornerback and defensive coordinator Fred Pagac has plenty of experience in the league and with this group.

And Frazier once again allowed his faith in his players to overwhelm logic. Saying that he didn't allow the Broncos to score because believed his players could block a short field goal attempt, well, that defies logic.

The Vikings probably wouldn't have won the game if they had allowed the Broncos to score quickly, but at least they would have a had a chance, and at least they would have had some control over the outcome. Instead, they played for a block of what was essentially an extra point. How often do extra points get blocked?

Almost never.

Frazier is a man of faith and likes to believe in his players. But the NFL is a game of probabilities. Frazier needs to learn how to play the odds, and he may have to learn within the next four games, to give Zygi Wilf a sign that he's making progress on the job.

Wilf takes losses hard, and I don't know if I've ever seen him more ashen-faced than when he left the lockerroom on Sunday. Frazier should take note.

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The Wild had another comeback win on the road last night, beating Anaheim, and Josh Harding was outstanding in the third period.

The Wild now has more points than any other team in the NHL, but what I'm watching is the point total for the eighth-place team in the West. What's really important is for the Wild to make the playoffs, and it has an eight-point lead over the teams tied for eighth in the West.

As far as they've come, that doesn't give them a tremendous margin for error.

Their goals differential is plus-9, the fourth-best mark in the West. They're tied for sixth in the conference in goals scored. To stay near the top of the conference, they'll eventually have to score more goals.

So far, they have far exceeded expectations, and on a team without any true stars, it's hard not to give most of the credit to Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo.

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About the only criticism remaining of Aaron Rodgers was that he has led relatively few fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, compared with the great quarterbacks with whom he statistically compares.

Did you see that drive on Sunday? It was surgical.

I've been saying all year that I think the Packers can go undefeated, not because they win easily every week, but because their offense seems to be able to score anytime it needs to.

What I wonder is if the mental wear and tear of trying to remain undefeated could cost the Packers in the playoffs. It's hard to play under pressure week after week.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today and every weekday with Reusse & Mackey.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

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