Mark Craig's Five Extra Points

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2012 - 12:02 AM

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen took Bears quarterback Jay Cutler down by the ankles for the sack, but Everson Griffen hit him high and was called for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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 1. Allen causes huge penalty

Jared Allen didn't have a sack, but he did have one of the most influential plays that helped determine how the first half unfolded. The Vikings were leading 14-0 when the Bears' Jay Cutler completed a 23-yard pass to Brandon Marshall. The ball should have been placed first down at the Vikings 18-yard line, but it wasn't because left tackle J'Marcus Webb was flagged for holding Allen. Instead, the Bears faced a second-and-20 from their 49. They punted two plays later. The Bears were called three times for holding, including two on Webb, one of which was an offsetting penalty. The Vikings had two sacks and put much more pressure on Cutler than they did in Chicago two weeks ago. "Our pressure today was valuable pressure," said Allen (left). "Instead of him running around and making plays like last week, we were able to make him uncomfortable when he scrambled. We made him run on our terms this time."

2. Third-and-7 goal: Mission accomplished

Two weeks ago, the Bears converted 11 of 19 third downs primarily because 14 of those situations were shorter than third-and-6. Sunday, the Bears converted just seven of 17 third-down situations primarily because their average third-down yardage was 7 yards. Both Vikings interceptions came on third downs. But those weren't the only outstanding plays by a defensive back on third down. Midway through the third quarter, Cutler hit Marshall on what could have been a conversion on third-and-8 from the Chicago 37. But cornerback A.J. Jefferson, who had tight coverage most of the game, punched the ball out of Marshall's considerable grip.

3. What's up with the false starts, Mr. Loadholt?

The Vikings have to be a little concerned about right tackle Phil Loadholt and how he'll handle the crowd noise over the next two weeks at St. Louis and Houston. The big fella had not one, not two, but three false starts, unheard of for a home game. Loadholt was flagged on second-and-10 at the Bears 45-yard line in the second quarter. The Vikings punted. Then, on the Vikings' first possession of the third quarter, he was penalized twice in four snaps, including once on third-and-6. The Vikings punted again. "That's on me," Loadholt said. "Just a lack of focus. I'll leave it at that."

4. Jenkins shows life on third down

A week ago, the wide receivers went nearly 57 minutes without a catch in a loss at Lambeau Field. Sunday, receiver Michael Jenkins had a key third-down catch on the fourth snap of the game. "It was exciting to be involved in the game and make some plays," he said of the 11-yard catch on third-and-9 from the Chicago 28. The Vikings scored two plays later. Jenkins finished with four catches for 36 yards. Three of the catches converted third downs. Early in the fourth quarter, he had catches for 8 yards on third-and-7 from the Vikings 4 and 10 yards on third-and-6 at the Vikings 46-yard line. With those conversions, the Vikings were able to use up 4 minutes, 47 seconds before punting at the Chicago 41. "That feels more like the way our offense should be running," Jenkins said. "With the way Adrian [Peterson] is playing, we should be able to make plays down the field in the passing game. To have that balance, it's going to be big for us down the stretch."

5. Hang on to the ball, Christian

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder got away with another careless play inside his own 20-yard line. Kind of. He was 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage and being dragged down by defensive end Corey Wootton when he flung the ball to his left in an attempt to avoid the sack. The officials ruled that his forward progress had been stopped, giving Wootton a sack to the Vikings 17 yard line. The forward progress explanation didn't make sense for a quarterback dropping back in the pocket. Ponder easily could have been called for grounding. It also was unwise to risk a fumble or an interception by letting go of the ball at that point. "When something like that happens, I just have to get rid of the ball and not get negative yards," Ponder said.


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