Mark Craig's Five Extra Points

  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 12:00 AM
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Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder dove into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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1. First drive's fine for Ponder

Christian Ponder, not Adrian Peterson, carried the Vikings on their first possession of the game. Peterson had minus-3 yards on five carries, yet Ponder put together a 45-yard touchdown drive by playing decisively and aggressively, two things he has shown little of recently. He went 3-for-3 for 38 yards to three different receivers. He threw an 11-yard pass through tight double coverage to Jerome Simpson. When coach Leslie Frazier decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 7, Ponder knew exactly when to take off and run for 3 yards. And on third-and-goal from the 5, he ducked under a certain sack by Robert Quinn and ran for the TD. "I got slapped right in the face [by Quinn] and just kind of reacted," Ponder said. The quarterback wasn't nearly as good the rest of the game, completing 14 of his 21 other passes for 93 yards.

2. Bradford hates pressure

Bradford is no Ben Roethlisberger when it comes to staying upright and delivering the ball in traffic. No, Bradford is kind of the anti-Ben. The Rams quarterback seems to drop to the ground at the slightest of hits. Maybe that's why the Vikings brought more pressure than they typically do. The Vikings sacked Bradford four times. Chad Greenway, Christian Ballard, Erin Henderson and Brian Robison got to him. "Looking at the percentages, this was one of the lowest-percentage [blitz] pressure teams that we had faced," Bradford said. "They hadn't shown a lot of pressures, but they heated us up pretty good today."

3. Sherels adds to his value

Marcus Sherels is a classic NFL overachiever. The former Gopher made the Vikings during a rookie free-agent tryout in 2010. He won the punt return job in 2011, but then most of us expected him to be replaced in 2012 because he's too much of a liability from a depth standpoint at corner. But he not only made the team, but he had to step in for an injured Percy Harvin as a kickoff returner. On Sunday, he returned one kickoff for 24 yards and one punt for 15 yards. Not bad. But that's not all he did. When Frazier decided to rest 35-year-old corner Antoine Winfield late in the game, Sherels saw time at corner. He pressured Bradford on fourth-and-10 from the St. Louis 49. He blitzed and got a hand on Bradford's throwing arm, causing the pass to flail harmlessly away. "It should have been a sack," said Sherels, whose one career sack came against Aaron Rodgers. "But we got off the field, and that's all that matters."

4. Too cautious before the half?

Yes, the Vikings led 30-7 at the half. But one couldn't help but think they were too cautious to play for a field goal right before the end of the half. With first down at the Rams 24, the Vikings let nearly 20 seconds run off before calling time out for Blair Walsh's 42-yard field-goal attempt, which he made as time expired. Even if the four extra points weren't necessary, it would have been nice to see Ponder get some experience trying to work the ball into the end zone. Or give Peterson another chance to run the ball. Said Ponder: "It would have been a pretty small chance of us getting a touchdown. [St. Louis] missed that [57-yard] field goal, so it was just important for us to turn that into points, especially since we got the ball to start the second half. To get the ball back with a minute left and to get points was important."

5. Momentum dies on screen to Carlson

Chad Greenway's NFL-high 11th fumble recovery since 2007 gave the Vikings the ball at the Rams 28 with 10:52 left in the second quarter. It was quite the gift that Bradford delivered when he fumbled the snap from center with the Vikings up 14-7. So what did the Vikings do? They called a screen to John Carlson. Not surprisingly, it was unsuccessful. Carlson was dropped for a 4-yard loss and the momentum vanished. The Vikings settled for a 50-yard field goal on a "drive" that went 4 yards backward.

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