Sid Hartman: A lot of positives for Vikings go to waste

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 16, 2013 - 6:41 AM

Christian Ponder played better in the second half and the Vikings made some big plays, but it wasn’t enough.

It’s unfortunate that the Vikings lost Sunday’s game at Chicago 31-30 to the Bears, because they did so many good things, including a strong second-half performance by quarterback Christian Ponder.

After going only 6-for-14 in the first half for 81 yards and an interception returned 44 yards for a touchdown, Ponder went 10-for-16 for 146 yards in the second half. His quarterback rating was 56.0 in the first half but 92.2 in the second.

Jay Cutler was not very crisp for much of Sunday, and the Bears quarterback said that he knew the team was lucky to get a victory.

“Four turnovers is too much for this offense, especially three on me,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “There’s a lot to clean up. We’re grateful for the win, we’ve just got to get better.”

But Cutler did make the big plays at the end, including the 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds to go. Cutler completed 28 of 39 passes for 290 yards and a 97.2 rating, while Ponder was 16-for-30 for 227 yards and a 75.3 rating.

Brian Billick, the former Vikings offensive coordinator who was the color commentator on Fox for the second week in a row, was very positive when it came to Ponder in the second half, describing one pass he completed to Greg Jennings as being like a “laser-guided missile.”

But Ponder talked after the game about what a letdown the finish was.

“It’s a very disappointing loss. I think everyone fought hard to the very end, and I’m proud of the guys,” he said. “Those guys in the locker room, we’re a family, and it’s tough to see when guys are hurting after a loss like that. It’s frustrating. But we know we can learn from it, and we’re going to move on. I’m proud.

“We’re a great team. Chicago is a great team. It’s tough to win in Chicago, and for us to take it all the way down to the last play is something to be proud of. We’re not proud we lost, but there’s a lot of positives we can take and learn from it and apply to the rest of the season. We have 14 more games. We’re 0-2 on paper, but we’re a better team than how we’re playing.”

There were other highlights for the Vikings, including the 61-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by defensive end Brian Robison, the 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game for rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, and the fact that Jennings showed some of his Packers catching prowess by contributing five receptions for 84 yards.

And then there was the tipped interception in the end zone by Kevin Williams, who returned to action after missing the opener at Detroit because of an ankle injury. You could also add the 56.7-yard average on three punts by new punter Jeff Locke, who had a less-than-stellar debut in the 34-21 loss to the Lions.

However, one of the big negatives that lost the game was that the Vikings allowed Devin Hester to account for 249 yards on five kick returns. Hester had returned 24 kicks for a total of 621 yards last year.

Ultimately, all the positives the Vikings accumulated Sunday mean little, as all that counts is the standings, and the Vikings now have lost their past five games in Chicago.

The Vikings are 0-2 in the division, and the history of the NFL shows that not many teams win division titles after starting out with that record.

Blames self

It was interesting in the postgame news conference on television that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was very critical of his play-calling and took the blame for the loss.

“The last two-minute sequence I could have done some things different,” he said of the Bears’ final possession. “I told our players after the game as a staff we couldn’t have asked for any better preparation or better fight from our team. Personally, I have to do a better job in guiding our team in the last sequence.”

On the Vikings’ last offensive drive, they had a three-point lead and first-and-goal from the 6-yard line with 3:33 left. A touchdown likely would have sealed the victory.

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