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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In real time, sitting in the press box at the Georgia Dome, I didn't like the Vikings' play calls on their four-down series inside the Atlanta 5-yard-line in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
But is it possible I didn't like the play calls simply because they didn't work? And didn't one of them essentially work, in that Percy Harvin found himself in the end zone with the football and at least one referee telling him that he had scored?
The Vikings are 2-9. Their coaches are easy targets right now. But with the benefit of time spent thinking about this, I'm not sure they messed up Sunday, even if Leslie Frazier blamed himself for not kicking the field goal.
First-and-goal from the 3: Christian Ponder rolls right and gets sacked. It's not really a bad play call. Using Ponder's speed on a rollout makes sense. I question having only one receiver in the area that Ponder could have easily thrown to - Devin Aromashodu - but the rollout itself wasn't a bad idea.
Second-and-goal from the 5: Percy Harvin runs up the middle. This may not not seem like an ideal play call, but Harvin runs with remarkable power for someone his size, and the play essentially worked, with the offensive line moving the pile and Harvin gaining three yards.
Third-and-goal from the 2: Harvin smashes up the middle again. And again, you can question why Harvin is running power plays at the goal line, except that, like the previous play, this one pretty much worked. Harvin, according to himself and a lot of people watching the game with benefit of more replays than I saw, seemed to score. So if he essentially broke the plane of the goalline with the ball, can we really second-guess the call?
Fourth-and-goal from the 1: Frazier is kicking himself for not kicking the field goal and cutting the Atlanta lead to 7, but doesn't it make sense to try to score when you're on the 1, and your last two running plays worked as designed? This is another easy second-guess I'm not sure we should make.
Toby Gerhart never had a chance on the play. I'd rather question the design of the actual play, which required pulling offensive lineman, than the idea of going for the touchdown, or handing it to Gerhart. If Gerhart is going to have value, it's going to be in backing up Adrian Peterson and running hard between the tackles. On an obvious running down, though, you might want to rely on simplified blocking schemes.
In hindsight, I don't think the Vikings' coaches should be taking so much heat for this sequence.
I spoke with Harvin after the game, and asked if he's still bothered by migraine headaches.
``That's all behind me,'' he said. ``I haven't had a headache, don't look to have one again. The training staff has been doing great on following all the protocols if anything pops up...but nothing has. We're going to keep with the menu we have and hope for the best.''
The Vikings lost again on Sunday, but what struck me were a few positiives: Harvin's incredible talent and competitiveness, Jared Allen's willingness to long-snap and his hustle while covering punts, and Christian Ponder's poise.
A couple of Viking employees told me that when veterans started expressing frustration on the sideline or in the huddle, it was Ponder who calmed them.
I asked Allen about beating his teammates down the field to force a fair catch, after he served as the long-snapper. ``Don't give me too much credit,'' he said, laughing. ``It's my strategy to beat everyone down there so I don't get blindsided.''
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today and every day this week with Reusse and Mackey, and probably joining Tom Pelissero tonight on his show between 6-8.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Charlotte, N.C. _ Yes, they ultimately won because the Carolina Panthers committed a silly penalty that erased a chance at a winning touchdown and led to a missed field goal that should have tied it, but the Vikings did show some signs of life on Sunday, in their 24-21 victory.
I give most of the credit to the Vikings' first road victory since December to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, and he's the subject of my Monday column. It's funny how much better the Vikings' offense looks in the second half since Ponder replaced McNabb. McNabb was at his worst in clutch situations - third downs, third-and-longs, fourth quarters - and that's where Ponder has been at his best.
I'm especially impressed with the way Ponder has handled himself throughout his brief Vikings career. Here's a kid breaking into the NFL without the benefit of offseason workouts or tutoring from his NFL coaches, and he's not only played well immediately, he's handled the demands of being an NFL quarterback extremely well. He's smart, he has a sense of humor and he never seems to be overwhelmed by any situation.
I caught Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on his way to the bus on Sunday night, and he is almost giddy, feeling he's found his franchise quarterback.
-Kudos to Percy Harvin for being one of the toughest players in a league filled with tough guys. I don't know how you play football with bad ribs, and I especially don't know how you make spin moves and fight off tackles with bad ribs, but Harvin did it, and his spin-o-rama in the fourth quarter was the key to the game-winning drive.
-Ryan Longwell has been a tremendous kicker and a tremendous professional his entire career. He's yanked two kicks in two games, though, and his miss on Sunday could have cost the Vikings the game.
-Funny how with a smart, mobile quarterback, the offensive line doesn't look so wretched anymore, even with Anthony Herrera out on Sunday.
-Adrian Peterson might be the best he's ever been. I don't know what it looked like on TV, but from the press box, getting to see the entire field, it's remarkable how quickly he is sensing openings in the defense. On his catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter, most backs would have burrowed for a few yards; Peterson had the vision and burst to veer to the outside for what turned out to be an easy score. The guy is phenomenal.
-The lockerroom was loud after the game, and Frazier walked among his players, slapping hands and hugging them, and he took extra time when he got to Harvin. NFL coaches have to have their guys play hurt to survive, and Frazier had extra praise for Harvin.
-Tim Tebow stinks.
-Erin Henderson made a few key stops. He's acquitted himself well since joining the starting lineup.
-Jared Allen is having an amazing season. He and Adrian Peterson are two of the best players in all of football, which is why talk of rebuilding must drive the Vikings crazy. It's hard to rebuild when you have superstars on the payroll.
-Everson Griffin is an amazing athlete. He's 273 pounds and yet plays gunner on the punt coverage team, and regularly beats double-teams. I don't see why he can't become an excellent pass rusher.
-Upcoming: I'll be on with Reusse and Mackey on 1500espn every day at 2:05 p.m., and I'll join Tom Pelissero a couple of times this week, as well. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Crazy night in Charlotte. At dinner with the boys when I get a text from Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. They were about to take the stage at Spirit Theater a few blocks away.
So I head there with photos Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and videographer McKenna Ewen, and halfway there, I realize I'm wearing a Jayhawks t-shirt that I bought at their First Avenue shows this winter.
Great show, intimate theater, and we even had the pleasure of watching a drunk guy hit on two women sitting in front of us, before he passed out right in front of me and missed the encores.
This morning I'm in the press box at the Panthers' stadium. It's a beautiful day, and I'm about to start Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero.
Among the topics:
-Should anyone ever listen to anything Donovan McNabb has to say?
-If beating Iowa at home is such a big deal, why isn't Jeff Horton still coaching the Gophers?
-Yes, I really do like Jerry Kill, but I'm not backing off the notion that it was silly to give him a raise and an extension before he won a Big Ten game.
-Christian Ponder and Cam Newton are proof that a promising rookie quarterback brings more promise than anyone at any position in sports. These teams are terrible in terms of record, and yet I can't wait to watch this game. I did not feel the same way when McNabb was starting.
-Check out startribune.com later for postgame video as well as game coverage from me, Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig, plus the work of Holt, Gonzalez and Ewen.
-I'll live tweet as internet allows, at @Souhanstrib.
Yes, I'm a hypocrite.
I watched Christian Ponder run around the Metrodome, complete a low percentage of his passes and lose, and I was impressed.
I watched highlights of lowlights of Tim Tebow running around in Miami, completing a low percentage of his passes and lead a comeback victory, and I wasn't impressed.
Ponder can throw a pass quickly and accurately, with good mechanics, and I believe his charisma is a product of his athletic ability and confidence.
Tebow has terrible mechanics that will limit his ability to develop, and I believe his charisma won't matter if he can't complete routine throws.
As I noted in my column in today's paper, Ponder, after his horrific third quarter (0-for-5 with two interceptions), had the composure to rebound and, in the middle of the fourth quarter, convert five straight third downs, all of six yards or longer.
Colleague Mark Craig notes that Ponder converted five of seven third downs in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Donovan McNabb, whose statistics indicated he was more accurate, converted four of 15 in weeks 1-through-5.
And my radio colleague Tom Pelissero notes that 12 of Ponder's 13 completions went for a first down or touchdown.
So while Ponder needs to be more accurate, he has the guts, arm and athletic ability to make big plays. I'm impressed.
Aaron Rodgers finished 24-of-30 for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Packers dropped at least two passes, and he had another incompletion on a spike to stop the clock.
Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 712 yards. Jared Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5 (and while sacks aren't always a great indicator of effectiveness, in this case his stats accurately indicate just how hard and well he's playing).
Rodgers is second in yards behind Drew Brees, but leads easily in passer rating at 125.7. Tom Brady is second at 104.8, with Brees third at 104.6.
Rodgers is having one of the greatest seasons of a quarterback, ever.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. every weekday. I'll be on The D-List with Drew Olson in Milwaukee on 540 ESPN at 1:15 today. No appearance with Tom Pelissero tonight on 1500espn because the station is carrying the World Series.
I plan to write a little Gopher football and Wild hockey this week, as well as setting up the Vikings game at Carolina. I'll be at that game with Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig.
I'll also be tweeting about the Vikings today from Winter Park, @Souhanstrib.
Monday morning second-guessing (let's call it what it is):
-Logically, there is no reason for professional head football coaches to have to jog through the maelstrom of bodies on the field after an emotional game and offer a gratuitous and often insincere handshake. It's a silly custom.
Logically, the practice should be banned.
But I'm glad it exists, because it's brought us some great moments, like Bill Belichick dissing Eric Mangini and now Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz almost starting a brawl.
Here's the deal with Harbaugh and Schwartz: They were both wrong. Harbaugh was wrong to show up Schwartz, which he certainly did. Schwartz was wrong to escalate the situation by chasing Harbaugh down.
But I loved it. This is entertainment. It's also a win-or-bust business. Pro football is not for nice people. There are exceptions to that rule, like Tony Dungy, but they are rare exceptions. I love it when high-profile people bare their teeth and souls. So while I wouldn't want my kids or high school coach or even college coach behaving like this, in pro football, I love it when coaches break their usually cliche-ridden molds.
-I'm at Winter Park today, awaiting news on who starts at quarterback. I've been calling for Ponder since the Vikings fell to 0-3, but now I really don't think the timing matters much.
Start McNabb again, to save Ponder from facing the Packers in his first start? Fine with me. That's one of the reasons McNabb is here, to protect Ponder.
Start Ponder to introduce him to the NFL as quickly as possible, to prepare him for 2012 - or just to evaluate him? Fine with me. Why not?
Start Joe Webb? Fine by me.
When you're 1-5 and bound to lose and have so much of the season left, it really doesn't matter anymore.
-I fear for the Gophers. Their head coach is telling anyone who will listen that they're no good, and the players have every reason to believe him, and now they're facing a Nebraska team that will physically whip them. I fear not only for a 60-0 score, I fear for the players' safety. It's a hard game to play when your heart's not in it.
-To me, the Vikings' loss last night was predictable. They never play well in Chicago. Why would a bad Vikings team play well in Chicago when ever the best Vikings teams have struggled in that town and on that surface?
I am surprised it became a blowout so quickly. I keep thinking about all the quality players the Vikings have, but, then, these are the same players who seemed to quit under Brad Childress just a year ago. Maybe their talent level is overrated.
-Gov. Mark Dayton has been very even-handed, smooth and presidential in his handling of the Vikings' stadium debate. Now he's saying that a 1-5 record makes the stadium iniative less popular.
That's a blatant copout, and the kind of statement that makes us hate politicians. Noone, whether stadium proponent or opponent, should base a decision that will affect the state for good or ill for the next 30-plus years on how Donovan McNabb is playing this season.
The Vikings are a state asset. Different people will value their presence in different ways. I'm a sports guy. I value sports and think there are intangible benefits to having a team in state as well as tangible economic benefits. If you don't value sports, I don't expect you to agree with me.
But the decision should not be based on a win-loss record, whether the Vikings were 6-0 or 1-5. The decision should be based on the value of having an NFL franchise in our state. And if Dayton or anyone else wants to argue that we should let the Vikings leave because they're 1-5, I would argue that Minnesota eventually would decide to lure back an NFL franchise, and that acquiring another franchise will be much more expensive and complicated than building a stadium for the current franchise, which, for all of its faults and big losses, has been remarkably entertaining and competitive for decades.
-Since the start of the 2010 season, the Vikings are 7-15. That's the fourth-worst record
Here are the teams that are similar or worse during that span:
St. Louis: 7-14.
-My pick: Rangers in six. Other than Cris Carpenter, I don't think the Cardinals' pitching staff can handle the Rangers' lineup.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. with Reusse and Mackey, then on tonight, perhaps around 6:40, with Tom Pelissero. I'll also be on with Mike McFeely on KFGO in Fargo at 2:35.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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