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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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.
Catching up on the local sports scene:
-Vikings. I'm at the Dome, where I'm picking a typical grind-it-out victory for the Vikings. Tampa Bay has scary weapons in Doug Martin and Victor Jackson, but the Vikings have a number of advantages in this game.
Their defense has excelled at taking away the best skill-position player or players on the other team, with Larry Fitzgerald being the most recent example. The Vikings have been able to run the ball on pretty much everyone, and are smart enough not to veer away from their strengths, even though Tampa Bay is much better against the run than the pass.
Most of all, though, the Vikings appear to be the superior team at this juncture, and they're getting to play at home, presumably in front of a loud crowd, against a team that doesn't play often on turf. And the Bucs had to play on Sunday and spend Wednesday traveling. NFL players just don't bounce back that easily and quickly, not most of them.
My sure-to-be-wrong prediction: Vikings 23, Bucs 16.
-Twins: In September, I heard that the Twins would make major changes to their coaching staff. The only surprise, among the recently-announced changes, is that Terry Steinbach will be the bench coach. I hadn't heard Terry's name previously, and he wound up taking the position I had heard was reserved for Triple-A manager Gene Glynn.
This lineup makes sense. Glynn is very valuable where he right now, and Steinbach should be a good foil for Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire is hyperactive on the bench. He needs someone to slow him down and offer all of his options. Gardenhire's first instinct is to act. Steinbach's job will be to make sure Gardenhire has thought every move through thoroughly as possible.
Whatever the changes to the coaching staff, the success of the franchise will depend on finding pitching. With word that Scott Boras client Kyle Lohse may be looking for a $75-million contract, it's more apparent than ever to me that Terry Ryan is going to have to try to get lucky with trades or low-level free-agent signings that will not impress anyone initially.
-Wild: Remember when we had an NHL team in our town? Me, neither.
-Gopher football: I want to like Jerry Kill. I really do. He's making it difficult, though. I've already ripped the removal of North Carolina from future schedules. I'm also disturbed by the removal of redshirts from several key young players.
The last time I went to one of Kill's press conferences, he emphasized the importance of patience. Removing the redshirt from your freshman quarterback at midseason and telling him on Friday that he would be starting on Saturday is not patient. It's an act of desperation.
Jerry: Recruits can smell desperation.
-Gopher basketball: As tough as I've been on Tubby Smith on many fronts, I won't bash him because his son got a DUI. While I believe driving while intoxicated is absolutely wrong and reckless, I also know a million people who have done it at some point in their lives. Saul Smith made a terrible mistake, but let's not play the ``leader-of-young-men card.'' He's an assistant coach. Let's not pretend that an assistant coach getting a DUI is going to alter the lives of a dozen college basketball players.
-Here are a few notes on tonight's game, courtesy of Vikings media relations:
-Matt Blair will enter the Vikings' ring of honor tonight.
-Percy Harvin ranks second in the NFL in receptions, with 53. His 271 receptions rank second in franchise history for a player in his first four seasons. He's caught a pass in every NFL game in which he's played.
-Kicker Blair Walsh leads the league with 27 touchbacks. He's tied for third in the NFL with 16 field goals.
-The Vikings' 72 sacks and 25 forced fumbles since the start of the 2011 season are the most in the NFL.
-Jared Allen has a sack in five straight games.
-Kyle Rudolph is tied for the lead league among tight ends with 5 touchdown catches.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. I'll be on WJON at 7:15 a.m and 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow to talk about the game.
I wrote about Robert Griffin III, and the Vikings' view of him, for the Monday paper.
I could have written about Christian Ponder's struggles and Bill Musgraves' red-zone calls.
I've given Musgrave lots of credit this year for finding clever ways to run an offense dependent on Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. I've given him credit for helping Ponder look far improved from last year. But Musgrave has a flaw, and it's red-zone common sense.
Too often, as was the case on Sunday, he takes his best players off the field and goes away from his team's strengths near the goalline. Harvin and Peterson should be on the field, even if only as decoys. And Musgrave shouldn't abandon power running and quick hits to Harvin.
As for Ponder, he threw a lot of pitches that even Jim Joyce wouldn't have called strikes. He didn't blame the swirling wind in the stadium - Ponder isn't the kind of guy who makes excuses - but if it wasn't the wind, he merely had a lousy game.
Losing on the road to Washington is no shame, but it does increase the importance of the upcoming homestand. The Vikings will face Arizona and Tampa Bay in a five-day stretch. Sweep, and the Vikings are 6-2 at the break. Lose both, and they're 4-4 with the more difficult half of the schedule remaining.
One thing I marvel at when watching the Vikings live is how hard Harvin and Peterson run, and how often they're hurting when they go to the sideline. Both left, limping, at times on Sunday, and once Peterson went to the sideline shaking his head, then removing his helmet. I don't know if they can last the entire season taking the pounding they are required to take in this offense.
This team has to pray that Jerome Simpson can shake off his back problems. They need a downfield threat, especially when they fall behind. Simpson is the only player they have other than Harvin who can scare safeties.
-Mike Shanahan earned his 168th NFL victory, including playoffs. That ties him with Bud Grant for 14th on the all-time list.
-Griffin's 13 rushes was a career-high, and it came a week after he suffered a concussion.
-His 138 yards rushing marked a franchise record by a quarterback, breaking his record set in Week 2 of 84.
-The total was the fifth-most in a game by an NFL quarterback.
A smattering of notes from various sources before the Vikings-Redskins game:
-Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson won't play, according to Pete Bercich of the Vikings radio network. The Redskins are vulnerable to the pass. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings can make plays down the field without Simpson. They've thrived with power running and the short pass so far this season.
-There's no doubt that Robert Griffin III will start. Skins coach Mike Shanahan said as much last night on his TV show. Griffin, according to Jay Glazer, gathered the team together on Wednesday and apologized for being reckless with his body. So the Vikings will probably have to get their shots in while he's in the pocket today. Sounds like Griffin will be sliding when he runs today.
-Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is 4-14 at home since he arrived in Washington, and the Skins haven't won a game at home in 13 months.
-Skins running back Alfred Morris has gained more yards rushing in his first five games with the Redskins than any back since 1960.
-Beautiful day here. Enjoy the game.
-Had Terry Ryan on the radio show this morning. He said the team will be cautious with Kyle Gibson, following his Tommy John surgery, and probably will limit him to 140 innings or fewer. Ryan sounded like he wanted Gibson to spread out his innings so he could pitch into September.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday to recap the game. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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