In an offensive performance Sunday that resembled a UFC ground-and-pound attack far more than a Cirque du Soleil aerial show, the Vikings had at least two opportunities to stretch the field deep against Chicago. Both times they failed to capitalize.
The first came in the second quarter when Christian Ponder used play action and uncorked a long ball to Devin Aromashodu on a post. Ponder, who had slipped away from Lance Briggs on a blitz, threw a pretty ball. Just a split second before the pass arrived, Aromashodu stumbled. The ball hit him in the right shoulder and bounced away.
Instead of a 45-yard touchdown that would have given the Vikings a 21-0 lead, the play went into the boxscore as an incompletion.
With a slumping young quarterback and the NFL's least productive passing attack, that is exactly the kind of missed opportunity that drives coach Leslie Frazier crazy.
"That would have been a huge play for us on offense," Frazier said. "It would have really changed the complexion of the game in a lot of ways."
Ponder was to blame for the Vikings' second failed bomb attempt in Chicago. That one, on the final series before halftime, was picked off by Bears safety Major Wright. Ponder had spotted an ideal matchup with speedy rookie Jarius Wright flying down the middle of the field with linebacker Nick Roach in his wake. But Ponder didn't step into the throw, dropping it 8-10 yards short, and Major Wright easily slid over for the pick.
"I kind of threw off my back foot," Ponder said. "It wasn't a mistake to throw the ball. The decision was fine. I just have to throw the ball farther and let him run out and get it."
Jarius Wright, Ponder admits, is much like Percy Harvin in that his speed makes him almost impossible to overthrow.
"I've got to trust that fact and just let the ball go," Ponder said.
The final price tag for Vikings punter Chris Kluwe having voiced his opinion: $5,250.
NFL uniforms sported a patch celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday. Kluwe taped to cover the patch, then wrote "Vote Ray Guy" on it. His point was that no punters were in the Hall of Fame and that Guy deserves to be the first.
Kluwe knew the fine would be coming, and it was worth it, he said, though he did have to get his wife to sign off on the protest beforehand. "It got people talking about it," Kluwe said. "I heard the broadcast team talked about it for a bit. And hopefully people will realize, 'Hey, punters aren't in the Hall of Fame, maybe we should do something about that.'"
Next big step
Ponder talked briefly about his need for greater pocket presence, a big part of his struggles the past month and a half.
Too often the second-year quarterback has either vacated the pocket early or just generally appeared jittery as he tries to go through his reads.
Ponder acknowledges his need for greater patience.
"And when I do move in the pocket, not to move out but to find ways to find a different lane in the pocket to throw to and different things like that," he said. "But staying in the cylinder rather than getting out of the pocket."
• Running back Adrian Peterson was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago.
• Cornerback A.J. Jefferson (concussion) missed Wednesday's practice. If Jefferson isn't cleared to play this week, Josh Robinson would likely start alongside Antoine Winfield at cornerback, with Marcus Sherels the third corner in nickel packages. Winfield (knee) also sat out practice.
• Vikings limited in practice included Peterson (abdomen), LB Jasper Brinkley (shoulder), LG Charlie Johnson (ankle), RT Phil Loadholt (knee) and TE Kyle Rudolph (shoulder).
Staff writer Mark Craig contributed to this report.