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Souhan on Sports

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan blog: Vikings lose to a good team, again, on the road

Denver -

The Vikings' 23-20 loss at Denver on Sunday was emblematic of their recent struggles.

They've lost five straight road games, and their only road victories the last two years were at Tampa Bay, which is and was horrible, and St. Louis, which is as bizarre and unreliable a team as there is in the NFL.

They also haven't beaten what you can honestly call a good team since the end of the 2012 season, when they won that epic struggle over Green Bay in the Metrodome.

So while losing close to a good team on the road is somewhat impressive, perhaps even encouraging, it's also old news. The Vikings will have to learn to win these kinds of games if they're going to be a playoff team.


The offensive line will come under fire for allowing the Broncos' pass rush to dominate the first half.

More blame should be placed on the Vikings' tight ends and backs.

The Vikings knew the Broncos had an advantage, and kept Kyle Rudolph and Adrian Peterson in to block frequently on pass plays. Neither did well. Rudolph had at least one complete whiff on a block that led to a Bridgewater sack. Peterson missed early and often, and his miss on a block of T.J. Ward caused the fumble that ended the Vikings' comeback.

Peterson took responsibility for that miss, but he's had a full NFL career to learn to pass block and has neglected to do so.


I'll say it one more time: The Vikings should have spent the money they gave kicker Blair Walsh on fullback Jerome Felton, who left for a contract with the Bills that is remarkably similar to Walsh's.

Felton would have helped Peterson run against quality defenses, and he could have helped in pass protection.


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Souhan blog: Was it a good loss?

Denver -

Unless an NFL team is trying to get its coach fired, what you find in a lot of postgame lockerrooms is players repeating themes emphasized by their head coach.

That was the case on Sunday in Denver. The Vikings played well enough to have a chance to beat a good team with an excellent defense in a difficult environment. After the game, you heard these themes from various players:

1. A young team lost a difficult road game but learned from it.

2. The Vikings' disappointment in the outcome was tempered by the way they played in the second half, when they stymied the Broncos' impressive pass rush until the final minute and allowed Teddy Bridgewater to get hot - he completed 13 of his final 15 passes.

3. The Vikings' improved blocking in the second half wasn't so much a function of scheme or the almost-always-overrated ``halftime adjustments,'' but of simply blocking better. And while the Vikings' offensive line is under fire, many of the missed blocks in the first half were the result of poor technique from backs and tight ends.

4. The Vikings have lost five straight on the road but feel they are better prepared to win on the road now than they have been for years, because of Teddy Bridgewater's poise and their defense's ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Other points and extra points:

-Ronnie Hillman's 72-yard touchdown run might have been the key play in the game. The Vikings intercepted Peyton Manning twice and sacked him twice. Had they forced the Broncos to methodically drive 72 yards, they might have forced another turnover or created another important sack. On that play linebacker Chad Greenway got cut-blocked, cornerback Terence Newman was either held or well-blocked, and strong safety Robert Blanton took a shallow angle, leaving nobody to cut off Hillman on the sideline. That can't happen.

-Punter Jeff Locke had an excellent day, averaging 43.0 net yard and putting three kicks inside the Broncos' 20.

-Blair Walsh missed a 38-yard field goal that might have been the difference. He half-joked that ``the man upstairs'' was testing him by giving him another 38-yarder from the same spot later. Kickers can't miss short kicks.

-Rookie Stefon Diggs was both as explosive and erratic as you might expect, catching six of his 10 targets for 87 yards, but fumbling twice. ``He did like I expected him to do,'' Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. ``He put the ball on the ground twice, which you can't do. He continues to learn.''

-Adam Thielen played well, catching everything thrown within reach for six receptions for 70 yards.

-Kyle Rudolph remains a bit of a mystery. The Vikings and team observers have been predicting a breakout season for him since he was drafted. Sunday he caught two passes for seven yards.

-Anthony Barr led the Vikings with six tackles. He also had an interception, a 32-yard return and a pass defense.

-The Vikings enter their bye week at 2-2. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season so far is their inability to beat what appears to be a poor 49ers team in the opener. They return to the field on Oct. 18 at home against the Chiefs.


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Final, 10/4 R H E
Kansas City 95-67 6 10 1
Minnesota 83-79 1 7 0

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