Former Vikings offensive coordinator and Super Bowl-winning Ravens coach Brian Billick should be in a position to judge how good Minnesota is at this stage of the season.
Billick was the color commentator during the Vikings' 23-20 loss to the Colts on Sunday, and one thing he concluded was that Minnesota needs another playmaker besides Percy Harvin.
Billick also noted that another reason for the defeat was that the Vikings committed 11 penalties for 105 yards, many after the Vikings had made plays that could have won the game for them. The penalties included a 5-yard offsides penalty that put the Colts in better position to execute their game-winning 53-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in the game.
My opinion: The Vikings beat themselves.
"It was a hell of a game. You have to appreciate the Vikings coming back the way they did," Billick said. "They have to find a way to get more explosive. Right now, outside of Percy Harvin, they never really get a shot down the field. But you have to love the way they fought back and came back."
Harvin caught 12 of the 13 passes thrown to him for 104 yards, despite the fact that he seemed to be cramping up and needed treatment on the sidelines between plays.
"He is something special,'' Billick said. ''Every time he gets his hands on it you think he's going to do something special.
"I don't know that you can [compare him to anyone]. The fact that he can legitimately get in the I [formation] and run it like a running back or line up like an outside wide receiver, I don't know of anybody else in the league that can do it to the degree that he does."
Billick said he thought Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder did well without many weapons at his disposal.
"Cool, calm, he executed very well, but there, again, you have to try to find a way to make big plays down the field. Otherwise you just bleed to death slowly," Billick said.
About a Vikings defense that allowed Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to drive 40 yards in 23 seconds to set up the game-winning 53-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with 8 seconds left, Billick said: "The 2-minute [drill] is tough [to defend]. I thought they put decent pressure on Luck, the secondary held up pretty good. They're a young group. They held Reggie Wayne in check pretty good. It's going to happen. You get into a 2-minute and you have to give Andrew Luck credit for making the plays that he did."
Impressed by Peterson
Billick was impressed with Adrian Peterson, who rushed 16 times for 60 yards and had three receptions for 20 yards.
"I'll tell you what, he still looked pretty good. He made all the cuts," Billick said. "We had a lot of shots of him making those good side-to-side cuts and jump cuts. He may not be 100 percent, but he's good enough."
On the defense and Jared Allen: "I think he did well; he almost got home a couple of times," Billick said. "But [the Colts] left tackle is pretty good, he did a nice job, and they didn't have to help out a lot. [Defensive end Brian] Robison is OK, you need a nice complement on the other side. It looks like they did a lot of different things defensively."
Overall Billick feels like it will take awhile for the Vikings to become contenders.
"I look at your roster, and obviously you've added some key elements," Billick said. "You need an outside receiver to complement Harvin and [Kyle] Rudolph. It looks like Adrian Peterson is healthy, the offensive line, [Matt] Kalil was a good pick. You probably need to get a little younger on defense."
Billick said it won't get any easier next week when the Vikings face San Francisco, which he believes is the best team in football.
Gophers were prepared
Jerry Kill said that the Gophers were prepared to replace quarterback MarQueis Gray when he got hurt Saturday in second quarter of the victory over Western Michigan and Max Shortell was prepared to play when he came in.
"We always talk about the next man up, and there's going to be injuries in football because it's a physical game and you have to build depth," said Kill. "We prep our No. 2 quarterback and even our No. 3 a bunch in practice. I think part of that paid off. Max was ready for his opportunity when he was called on."
Kill added that offensively, "we didn't take the conservative approach, we attacked it a little bit to get him going, and we needed to get our team going, to be honest with you. I don't know what it was, but we weren't playing with much rhythm. He got in a rhythm and executed the throwing game very well, and the receivers were open and we put it on them."
However, Kill said Shortell will feel bad when he sees the video of the game.
"Max is a competitor," Kill said. "We had a couple more shots at the end zone if we had thrown the ball just a little bit longer or a little bit shorter.
"But for him coming off the bench and doing what he did, there's no question that if he doesn't do what he does, we're in trouble. He did a great job."
Kill said what Shortell did was a good example for a young team.
"That's something that is a good example for all our players on the sideline," he said. "You don't know whether you're going to get in the game or not. He was ready.
"He seized the opportunity and did a great job. The neat thing was we had a lot of people from Kansas City [Shortell's home] up, so it was good for him."
And unless Gray makes a quick recovery, with the report that he will be out two to four weeks, Shortell will get a chance to start a big game for the Gophers on Saturday night when Syracuse comes to town.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org