Vikings pass on moments of truth

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2012 - 6:55 AM

Multiple solutions for a deep threat just haven't worked out.

On April 24, a day after signing free agent Jerome Simpson, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman beamed about the receiver's speed and athleticism, lauding Simpson as "a genetic-type freak."

Certainly, at that time, Spielman figured Simpson would roll into mid-December with more than 15 catches and 176 yards.

In early June, after the Vikings had augmented their receiving depth through the draft, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave assessed the skills of rookie Greg Childs and saw a guy who could become a match-up headache.

"He's got the speed to get down the field," Musgrave said. "But he also has the size to muscle little DBs at the same time."

Certainly, Musgrave had no way of knowing Childs would rupture the patella tendons in both knees during training camp, killing his 2012 season.

And in early August, as a crowded position battle was unfolding in Mankato, receivers coach George Stewart noted how Devin Aromashodu had stepped forward, saying that the seventh-year veteran was "still ascending."

"We've talked to him about making those great moment-of-truth plays down the field," Stewart said. "What those are is that ball is in the air, the fans are out of their seats, 'Is he going to catch it? Is he not?' It's the moment of truth."

Yet in a moment of truth last Sunday, Aromashodu couldn't haul in a 45-yard touchdown pass, continuing a disappointing eight-game stretch in which he has had only two catches for 44 yards.

It's been a struggle all season for the Vikings to ignite their deep passing attack. For myriad reasons, the solutions they thought they had haven't worked out. Now, they will enter the final three games trying to steal a playoff berth with an offense that has been one-dimensional.

A long story short

The Vikings travel to St. Louis this weekend with the NFL's worst passing offense, averaging only 172.6 yards per game.

Since the season's midpoint, the numbers are even more abysmal, with the Vikings averaging 120 passing yards and their wide receivers combining to contribute seven catches for 70 yards per contest.

With Percy Harvin now on injured reserve, the Vikings will likely suit up five receivers on Sunday -- Simpson, Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton -- who have 75 catches, 887 yards and three TDs for the season. Combined.

For perspective, nine NFL receivers have topped those totals.

Even as opponents continue to march eight and nine defenders toward the line, often using only one deep safety and daring the Vikings to test them long, the success down the field has not come.

Christian Ponder's longest completion against Chicago last weekend was a 16-yarder to Wright after the rookie went in motion into the backfield and then caught a flare at the line of scrimmage.

A week earlier at Green Bay, Ponder's longest connection to a receiver covered 18 yards -- to Simpson, in the final 3 minutes with the Packers using loose coverage.

Health problems

And so the chicken-and-egg debate continues. Are most of the passing struggles attributable to Ponder's inconsistency? Or is his slump greatly affected by not having enough dynamic receivers?

The injury bug has bit that receiving unit. It's not just losing Harvin the final seven games with a sprained ankle. Simpson has battled a back issue since October. His season totals: 15 grabs, 176 yards.

"You can't get around the injury," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Thursday. "It's definitely had an effect on his play. So we're doing the best we can."

Frazier seems resigned to the idea that Simpson will not be at full force this season and is instead asking the receiver to "give us whatever he can."

It has been clear to Frazier that Simpson's speed has lessened and that he is having difficulty cutting.

"Coming out of his breaks," Frazier said, "you can see he's not as crisp as he was before that injury."

On the run

So Frazier is seeing not only the run-first offense he always wanted but an attack that may need to adopt a run-first, run-second, run-third, pass-only-when-necessary philosophy.

That strategy worked against the Bears on Sunday. Adrian Peterson carried the ball on 12 of the Vikings' 15 first-quarter plays, racked up 104 yards and provided a 14-0 lead.

Peterson finished with 31 carries, the most he has ever had.

For obvious reasons, Frazier said he is not closely monitoring Peterson's workload, eager to ride the All-Pro back as much as possible.

Asked if there was a carry total he would identify as too much, Frazier grinned.

"Probably not," he said.

The passing situation being what it is, it's a logical answer.

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Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
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Long Island 69
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Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
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Bradley 80
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Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
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Ole Miss 71
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South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
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Pacific 69
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Howard 48
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UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
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South Dakota 115
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Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
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Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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