Leaving no margin for error, Vikings offense strikes twice in 4th

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 16, 2012 - 11:31 PM

INDIANAPOLIS - The Vikings had some questionable clock management in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Colts. Down two touchdowns with 10 minutes left, Christian Ponder and the offense sure seemed to take their sweet time on the Vikings' third-to-last possession.

For a team that had only scored six points on its first seven drives, the pace was non-urgent. Yet slowly but surely, Ponder pecked away on a 10-play, 54-yard drive that culminated with a fluke 7-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Burton.

That series took 5 minutes, 3 seconds to complete. After a defensive stand, the Vikings got the ball back again with 2:50 left. And this time, they went 47 yards on nine plays, scoring their second touchdown on a 6-yard Ponder pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Just like that, the score was tied at 20 with 31 seconds left. So while the Vikings' slow-and-steady approach had left them with no margin for error, they also capitalized to tie things up.

Ponder was asked to explain the balance needed between hurrying without rushing.

"Knowing you just have to score," he said. "And if you don't score, then the hurrying up doesn't really mean anything. So we knew we had to score, and execute and play well. If you start rushing things, you're not going to perform well. We know there was a sense of urgency, but we kept calm and we executed."

Deep impact

Somewhere in the Twin Cities, suspended receiver Jerome Simpson has to be getting increasingly antsy with the Vikings' hesitance to take many chances down the field. Simpson won't be able to play until a Week 4 trip to Detroit. And without him, the passing attack has lacked vertical explosion.

Ponder's longest completions Sunday were a pair of 20 yarders -- one to Percy Harvin and another to Adrian Peterson -- that were both short passes turned into long gains with impressive runs after the catch.

But other than that, the second-year quarterback didn't throw downfield often.

For one thing, receivers weren't getting open consistently. For another, the Colts' defensive alignment kept Ponder cautious.

"A lot of the time they had two deep safeties and were playing really high," he said. "So there really were no options to get down field. I think their objective was to take away the deep ball."

Sack watch

With the Colts' offensive line beat up as badly as it was -- starting right tackle Winston Justice and left guard Joe Reitz didn't suit up and center Samson Satele left the game for good in the first half -- you'd have expected the Vikings to record more than two sacks on quarterback Andrew Luck. But Luck was poised under pressure and consistently found ways to escape. He also rushed for 21 yards on four attempts.

"If we were flying a jet, we wouldn't have gotten to him," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "He was throwing the ball quick."

Linebacker Erin Henderson recorded the Vikings' first sack in the third quarter. The Vikings also got their first sack of the season from a defensive lineman with 3 minutes to play from Everson Griffen. Griffen's takedown came after Brian Robison just missed nailing Luck and resulted in a loss of 22 yards, forcing Indianapolis to punt from its own 16 and setting up the Vikings with great field position for their game-tying drive.

Health watch

The Vikings came out of Sunday's game with no notable injuries. Harvin experienced cramping that forced him to leave the game twice in the closing minutes.

Starting safety Mistral Raymond left the field dehydrated in the second half, needing to go to the locker room to receive an I.V. Raymond struggled with hydration on multiple occasions last season as well.

Same old story

The Colts converted six of their first nine third downs, including three on their opening drive, which ate up 80 yards over 13 plays. For the day, Indianapolis was 7-for-16 on third down. But only two of those conversions came on plays of third-and-5 or longer.

Both of the Colts' touchdowns were scored on third-and-3 plays -- a 3-yard Luck to Dwayne Allen pass in the first quarter and a 30-yard Luck to Reggie Wayne dart with 7 seconds left before halftime.


• The most notable inactive player was Colts rush linebacker Dwight Freeney, who was held out with a high ankle sprain.

• Blair Walsh kicked a 51-yard field goal on the game's opening drive and became the first Vikings kicker since Fuad Reveiz in 1992 to kick field goals of 50-plus yards in each of the first two games of a season.

• Through two games, the Vikings have 13 points in the first half and 33 after halftime.


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