Opener shows the Vikings have plenty of blame to share

Christian Ponder certainly struggled against the Lions, but his line’s play and coaching decisions didn’t help, either.

 

Criticism of Christian Ponder reached fever pitch Monday as Vikings fans fumed over the quarterback’s performance in the season opener.

The intense reaction was predictable after Ponder tossed three interceptions and fumbled once in a 34-24 loss to the Detroit Lions. His mistakes served as a symbol of a game that went haywire shortly after Adrian Peterson’s 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the season.

The Vikings problems didn’t just stop with Ponder, though.

Their offensive line struggled against Detroit’s physical front four, which turned the running game into rush-hour gridlock. And the coaching staff made some curious decisions that included limiting rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s playing time.

It was a shaky first step for an offense that returned its line intact and upgraded its talent at receiver with the hope of becoming more balanced.

“It was a tough day for our football team,” coach Leslie Frazier said.

Certainly for Ponder, but also for his line, which figured to be a team strength after it returned all five starters from a group that started all 16 games together last season. But the quintet looked out of sync in the preseason and lost its matchup Sunday.

“We count on our offensive line to be a dominant factor for us, and we were not [against the Lions],” Frazier said.

That left Peterson literally with nowhere to run. He gained only 15 yards on the 17 carries following his opening highlight. Center John Sullivan noted the mistakes but believes the problems are fixable.

“I’m not going to say things aren’t clicking,” he said. “Obviously we had one big [play]. We just need to eliminate negative plays. It’s not what you want to do as a running offense, having 4- and 5-yard losses a couple times on first down. We just have to clean up a little bit and things will be totally smooth.”

Left tackle Matt Kalil, in particular, has played below the standard he set as a rookie. Frazier cited Kalil’s fundamentals in critiquing his play.

“Just some basic things that he did so well a year ago that we’ve got to get him back to doing on a repeated basis,” Frazier said. “We’re going to have to do some technique and fundamental work to really get him back to a good foundation because we need him to play well every snap.”

The line’s ineffectiveness wasn’t the only head-scratching development. Patterson, the first-round draft pick, played only five snaps, according to official NFL stats. Patterson was limited in practice last week because of a back issue, but Frazier said that had no bearing on his playing time.

“He’s healthy,” Frazier said. “We’re going to try and get him a few more snaps, but we need to get a few more first downs and stay on the field longer with our offense.”

The Vikings ran only 53 plays so the playbook shrunk some, but Frazier called Patterson’s light workload strictly a “coach’s decision.”

One play in particular provided a snapshot of their struggles. Trailing 20-14, the Vikings faced third-and-1 at the Detroit 34 midway through the third quarter. Rather than put the ball in Peterson’s hands, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave tried for deception.

Ponder faked a handoff to Peterson and rolled out to his left. Nobody blocked Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, who had a free path to Ponder. Under pressure, Ponder rushed his throw, which sailed high and behind his target, tight end John Carlson.

The Vikings had to settle for a 52-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.

“Just the decision we made,” Frazier said of the third-down play call. “We could have done either-or. We chose to pass.”

The move backfired, which pretty much summed up the day.

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Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco - WP: G. Kontos 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 7
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 5
Washington - LP: D. Fister 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4
Arizona - LP: B. Ziegler 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: K. Quackenbush 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
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Northwestern
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Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
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Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
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(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
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(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
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Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96
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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 Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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