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

Lambeau Lumps

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 6, 2013 - 12:52 AM

Wrapping up the game and the season from Lambeau early Sunday morning:

-Wrote my column about my primary observation, which is that if the Vikings had stuck with running the ball and the zone option, they may have been able to keep the game close. The Packers were on their heels during the first drive.

The Vikings' first eight plays were running plays. They marched easily down the field. Webb's first pass, on third-and-7, was an embarrassing ground ball. The Vikings settled for a field goal.

After the defense forced a quick three-and-out, the offense had a chance to dominate play and time of possession for all or most of the first quarter. Instead, the Vikings pretended they had a pocket passer. Webb threw two incompletions as the Vikings went three-and-out.

As they continued to steer away from the running game and rely on Webb in the pocket, the game got out of hand. I don't know if Webb could have won the game with his legs. But he lost it with his arm.

-When a baseball team loses in the playoffs, there's an air of sadness because the guys spend so much time together. When a football team loses in the playoffs, there is a sense of sadness because NFL players, especially those on good teams, give so much of themselves.

Everywhere you looked Saturday night, there was pain. John Sullivan had his right arm and shoulder heavily wrapped. Jared Allen was talking about offseason surgery to repair his shoulder. Antoine Winfield still had his broken hand wrapped. And everywhere were bruised, tired bodies. GM Rick Spielman walked around the lockerroom, thanking players, looking grim.

And careers are so short in the NFL that everyone knows the same group won't be back next year. Those NFL players who can play for a decade and earn big paychecks have good lives, as long as their bodies and brains and bank accounts hold up. But the sadness is real, because they don't know if they'll be back to the playoffs, or how many of them will be together even if they win a championship down the line.

-I think like most fans in this regard: I would be highly disappointed in Christian Ponder if he had any chance to play through the pain and passed. But he couldn't throw with any velocity in pregame warmups, and he had trouble even moving his right arm after the game.

We can critique his play and question his future, but I see no reason to question his toughness or character. I have no doubt that he desperately wanted to play.

-We have gotten to the point where Adrian Peterson can rush 22 times for 99 yards, a 4.5 average, and we can be disappointed. He's set quite the high bar.

-It was a lousy day of football. The Bengals and Texans were close to unwatchable. Webb's passing made the Packers game far less entertaining than it should have been. Sunday should be different. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson might be, as a group, the three best rookie quarterbacks we've ever seen.

-I like the way the Packers play. I like their receiving depth. I like the fact that they found DuJuan Harris, a speed back, to exploit defenses spread out to cover their receivers. I like the way Aaron Rodgers plays with such intelligence and poise.

But I'm just not seeing the Packers as a Super Bowl champ this year. I don't like their defensive line, or their linebackers outside Clay Matthews. I think they're too dependent on Rodgers to beat a high-quality team. I'd pick the 49ers to beat them next week.

And if that happens, don't be surprised if Colin Kaepernick running the read option, just the way Webb did on that first drive tonight, isn't a big key.

-My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'm running SundaySportsTalk on 1500ESPN with Tom Pelissero Sunday morning from 10-noon, and I'm on the station at 2:05 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I'm also on WJON at 7:15 a.m. every weekday morning.

I'll have a season wrap-up column in the Monday paper, in which I'll attempt to put this season into some kind of historical context. Thanks for reading.

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.
 
 

Latest LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 19, 2012 - 8:37 AM

Time for the latest edition of the Local Power Rankings, my highly irrelevant look at the key revenue Twin Cities sports teams. Things are looking up:

1. Minnesota Vikings

Overachieving at 8-6, they have a chance to make the playoffs at least one year ahead of a realistic rebuilding schedule.

2. Gopher basketball

This is not only a good team, it's a team that quite obviously likes to play together. Andre and Austin Hollins play together like twins, even though they're not.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

What's one common thread between the two local basketball teams? Both rid themselves of a big man who contributed next to nothing. The Wolves got rid of Darko, to their benefit, and the Gophers got rid of Ralph Sampson, to the same effect.

The Wolves are struggling to score at the rim and from the three-point line. While that's troubling, it's also somewhat due to Kevin Love's struggles to regain his shooting touch. That will come in time.

4. Gopher hockey

The boys are talented but slightly underachieving. They can be better than this.

5. Minnesota Twins

I know, I know, you want them to spend more money. But that's not the issue. Over-spending on a pitcher just to prove you're willing to spend money will not fix what's wrong with this team. Terry Ryan's plan is obvious and logical: Try to get through the 2013 season with a rotation that gives the team a chance to compete, and then be set up to win in the following years as the best players in the farm system reach the majors.

That plsn isn't guaranteed to work, but neither would have over-paying Anibal Sanchez have guaranteed success.

6. Gopher football

Jerry Kill might have caught quite the break, with Wisconsin changing coaches. Then again, Barry Alvarez seems to know what he's doing.

7. MInnesota Wild

It's a terrible negotiation when someone who is terrible at his job (Gary Bettman) sits down across from someone who is very good at his job but cares more about his legacy than the sport (Donald Fehr.) I feel for all the businesses and working-class people who are taking a financial hit because these fools can't cut a deal.

 

I'll be at Winter Park today for Vikings interviews, then will join Reusse&Mackey on 1500espn at 2:05. I'm also on WJON in St. Cloud every morning at 7:15 with Jay Caldwell. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

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