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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This is why we love the NFL, for its unpredictability and drama.
This is why workplace productivity takes such a hit on Mondays following the Sundays when the local NFL team loses.
At different times during the Vikings' 31-30 loss to Chicago, I expected Christian Ponder to be benched, Devin Hester to return every kick for a touchdown, Adrian Peterson to be ground into dust, and Jay Cutler to get extremely hot and dominate the game.
Instead, Ponder settled down after an awful first half and played the way he did last December, the Vikings' defense and special teams produce countless big plays and the Vikings set themselves up to win an almost-must-win game at a place where they hardly ever play well, Soldier Field.
Most interesting, they put themselves in position to win without a big game from Adrian Peterson, who outperformed most mortals but was hardly his dominating self because of the Bears' attentive defense and the slippery turf.
Then Jay Cutler hit Martellus Bennett with a touchdown pass with 10 seconds left, and the Vikings suddenly were staring into the abyss, at 0-2.
Again, that's why we love the NFL, and so many of you hate Mondays. Games and seasons can swing in a matter of minutes.
Teams that return a kickoff and a fumble for a touchdown in the same game have lost only 12 times since 1940. While Ponder played much better in the second half, his inability to take advantage of a Bears defense stacked to stop the run in the first half may have been the deciding factor.
OK, since I used my column to hammer Christian Ponder for an awful performance and not taking full responsibility for that performance, I"ll offer a positive thought in this space:
The Vikings' receivers are greatly improved.
Greg Jennings made two fine catches on poorly-thrown balls. Cordarrelle Patterson, in just a couple of cameos, showed off an impressive burst and cutting ability. Jerome Simpson looks like a new man. Jarius Wright, highly-praised in training camp, should be a worthwhile fourth option.
Given that Ponder looked so inaccurate and indecisive, the Vikings would be wise to emphasize a couple of the simplest routes a quarterback is asked to throw: The behind-the-line screen to the wideout that would showcase Patterson's skills, and the deep routes that allow a receiver to adjust to even poorly-thrown balls.
Patterson could emulate Harvin in the short passing game, and Simpson made two fine catches on less-than-perfect downfield throws on Sunday.
When asked to make multiple reads and find an open receiver, Ponder looked terrible.
It's silly to call for the starting quarterback's job after one game. So I'll wait a week.
I heard about Randy Moss saying, jokingly or not, that the Vikings were being disrespectful by allowing Cordarrelle Patterson to wear No. 84.
This from the king of disrepectfulness.
I might actually take Moss seriously if he didn't treat just about everybody badly.
This is the guy who, given free food in the lockerroom by a local caterer, said he wouldn't feed that food to his dog. (I've eaten at that restaurant. Great stuff.) This is a guy who, after being paid by the Vikings in a game in which he gave up on a catchable deep pass from Brett Favre, went to the Vikings' podium in New England's stadium and praised the Patriots.
I could give you far worse examples of his behaviour, but I wouldn't be able to quote him accurately, so I'll leave it to your imagination.
He's a classless jerk. A tremendous player, but a classless jerk.
This is a pet peeve of mine, TV stations giving jobs to athletes and coaches who were terrible with the media during their careers. Shannon Sharpe and Moss might be the two worst examples.
Congratulations to Lindsay Whalen on her contract extension.
She's all class and a great player. What a couple of years: Comes back to her hometown team, wins a WNBA title, plays an unexpectedly large role on an Olympic champion, and signs an extension.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:05 a.m. then on with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
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.
Watching the Vikings lose on Sunday, I started to wonder:
Would they be better off just handing the ball to Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin (when he's healthy) in all situations?
First down? Of course. Third and short? Of course. Third and 20? Why not? When a back averages almost 11 yards a carry against a good defense, and the quarterback throws for 44 net yards, wouldn't you be better off treating third-and-long as a running down?
Of course, that's not realistic. The Vikings are obliged to try to throw the ball. But it's not working right now.
Remember, through four games, Ponder was completing about 70 percent of his passes. Now he looks like he's afraid to throw a bubble screen to Harvin.
I still think Ponder has the arm strength and athletic ability to be a good NFL quarterback. His slump has made me question his fire and toughness. I think I'd feel better about his play if he was making mistakes of aggression, instead of looking tentative.
That's the subject of my Monday column.
I don't know if I've ever seen a game in person where two backs ran harder than Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch did on Sunday.
``To watch those two guys run the football, you don't see it too often in a lifetime,'' Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said.
Both dish out punishment. What's even more impressive to me is that they will subject themselves to so much extra punishment to twist for an extra yard, or push the pile forward.
Peterson might win the rushing title in his first season after major knee surgery. I'm having trouble comprehending that.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
My column deals with the details of the whipping the Vikings took on Thursday night.
Here, I"ll address a few other topics.
-The Vikings had been remarkably healthy this season. Even Adrian Peterson had played in every game after underdoing major knee surgery in the offseason. Their luck changed Thursday, when cornerback Chris Cook suffered a broken wrist.
Secondary depth and talent had been one of the reasons for the Vikings' 5-2 record. That depth is gone now.
-If the Vikings wanted to think of themselves as a playoff team, they needed to capitalize on all of their winnable games. Playing at home on a short week against a losing team should have given them an opportunity to go 6-2, giving them some margin for error during the difficult second half of the schedule.
Now they're 5-3. Their victories are against an awful Jacksonville team, a very good 49ers team, the woeful Lions, the not-very-good Titans and the fast-falling Cardinals.
They'll need to go at least 4-4 in the second half to have a chance to make the playoffs, and they'll have to beat some good teams to achieve that. Their remaining games: at Seattle, Detroit, at Chicago, at Green Bay, Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston and Green Bay.
That's not easy sledding even for a good team.
-Listening to Brian Robison and Leslie Frazier after the game, there are no illusions about their problems. When you pride yourself on physical play and defense and get run over by a small back two straight weeks, your pride is hurting. They are not happy.
-Peterson is having an amazing season. He's rushed 151 times for 775 yards, a 5.1-yard average and four touchdowns. He's caught 23 passes for 139 yards. He currently leads the NFL in rushing.
-Saw several fights in the stands tonight. This was a rowdy and often angry crowd. I understand booing when the team is getting blown out late, but the booing started in the first quarter. I find that strange.
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