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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How crazy was the Vikings' 23-20, overtime victory over the Bears?
Blair Walsh won the game twice. The first game-winning kick in overtime was wiped out by Rhett Ellison's facemask penalty.
Walsh wound up trying three field goals in the overtime, and the second wasfted through the smoke from the celebratory fireworks after his first attempt, and fell short.
What will be remembered is that Adrian Peterson had one of the best games of his career. Amid the chaos, he rushed 35 times for 211 yards, and his running set up the game-winning field goal.
Peterson reached for 10,000 yards in his 101st NFL game. Only two backs have reached 10,000 faster - Eric Dickerson in 91 games, and Jim Brown in 98.
It was a relatively meaningless game between two bad teams, eventually involving two backup quarterbacks once Christian Ponder left with a concussion, and yet it was still a spectacle.
Peterson ran wild. And Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery set a Bears record with 249 receiving yards, twice beating Chris Cook deep. After the second touchdown catch, an amazing play on which Jeffery caught the ball over Cook's head and held it there as he fell into the end zone, Cook, angered by a previous call, bumped an official and was ejected.
He missed some good stuff, particularly Peterson's wild, stop-and-start 19-yard gain on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
That play seemed to set the Vikings, then trailing 20-17, up to at least tie the score. But backup quarterback Matt Cassel's pass to Rhett Ellison caromed off Ellison, then a Bear or two before it was intercepted.
I'm hoping Leslie Frazier is ready to give up on Ponder. He can play Cassel if he wants to win, or management can force him to play Josh Freeman if they want to play for a high draft pick. Expect the former.
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.
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.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has been getting beaten up from all sides this week.
If you want to criticize his hiring of coordinators, or clock management, fire away.
If you're really going to keep picking on him for the way he has handled his quarterbacks, you're so far off base you must be related to Nick Punto.
Freeman and his bosses were fully invested in giving Chrisitan Ponder every chance to be their quarterback for the next five years. He failed. He failed miserably. If anyone was going to give Ponder every benefit of the doubt, it was Frazier and GM Rick Spielman. If they gave up on him, you know he's not capable of running an NFL offense.
Frazier switched to Matt Cassel at the right time, when Ponder's rib injury created a natural opening to try out the backup, and Cassel played pretty well in beating Pittsburgh.
Then, when the Vikings had the chance to pick up a talented quarterback without sacrificing a draft pick, they signed Josh Freeman, and got him ready to play as quickly as possible.
Freeman played horribly on Monday night. He showed some poise in the pocket and generally threw toward the correct receiver. He just couldn't hit the broad side of Phil Loadholt with one of his passes. As Frazier noted, Freeman's mechanics are horrible, which led to him throwing too high or too long.
The result was terrible. That doesn't mean the decision was terrible.
In fact, the decision was purely logical. So is the decision to keep Freeman as the starting quarterback.
The Vikings know exactly what Ponder is. They know exactly what Cassel is. As poorly as he played on Monday, there is still a chance that Freeman could revive his career.
In his second year in the NFL, Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions. The talent is there. He has the ability to avoid turnovers under the right circumstances. He has a lot of work to do, but the Vikings are right to invest in a growth stock.
Blame Frazier for the Vikings' record, but not for his quarterback decisions.
I'll be on 1500ESPN today at noon today after doing interviews in the Vikings' lockerroom. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
This is the kind of game that gets coaches fired.
And we could say that two weeks in a row.
The Vikings were embarrassingly inept on offense, in part because of new quarterback Josh Freeman’s inaccuracy, as they fell to 1-5 with an ugly, 23-7 loss to an awful Giants team at MetLife Stadium on Monday night.
Freeman’s primary flaw, even when he played well in Tampa, was his lack of accuracy. He missed high on many passes, and overthrew a few long balls.
What was more surprising was the ability of a mediocre Giants’ defense to shut down Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who rushed for nine yards on eight carries in the first half, the fourth-worst half of his NFL career.
In their last two games, the Viking have been embarrassed at home by an average Carolina team, and embarrassed on the national stage by a terrible Giants team.
These are the kinds of months that get entire coaching staffs fired.
Before the game began, the Vikings could have taken solace in the mediocrity of their divisions, and in key injuries suffered by the Packers and Bears.
By late Monday night, the Vikings couldn’t pretend to be in contention for anything other than the first pick in the NFL draft.
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