1. Walsh’s injury a factor
Blair Walsh’s hamstring is in coach Leslie Frazier’s head. Frazier admitted Walsh’s lingering hamstring injury and the kicker’s first career missed PAT played a role in Frazier’s decision not to attempt a 54-yard field goal with the Vikings leading by three with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left. “It’s the first time he’s ever missed an extra point,” Frazier said. “It surprised him. It surprised us. But just knowing where he is physically, that did play into my mindset. He says he’s [healthy] now, but from where we were in the game, we decided not to try it.” Walsh, 12-for-13 from 50 yards and beyond in his career, said he would have felt comfortable from 60 yards Sunday. As for the missed PAT (his first after 57 makes), he said everything was good except he “just pushed it — I haven’t done that since my junior year in college. It’s one of those things that happens every so many kicks.”
2. New NFL, new go-for-it-on-fourth-down rules?
Frazier admitted last week that the ever-growing explosion of passing offenses in the NFL makes it tougher to punt late in tight games. He was facing that decision when the Vikings had fourth-and-5 from the Dallas 36 with 3:41 left. “I thought about maybe going for it there, but also [weighing] the field position we’d give the opponent,” Frazier said. “We decided to have to make [Dallas] drive a little bit further.” After failing to draw the Cowboys offsides, the Vikings took a delay-of-game penalty and punted 31 yards to the Dallas 10. That was a net of 26 yards from the original fourth-down line of scrimmage. Going for it — especially at 1-6 — would have been a defensible position.
3. Frazier: Ponder
to stay in lineup
Christian Ponder will make his third consecutive start Thursday against the Redskins, it appears. “I don’t see why we would make a change,” Frazier said. “Sometimes after ballgames you make emotional decisions, but I don’t see anything that tells me he shouldn’t start.” Asked if the team needs some stability at quarterback, Ponder said, “It’s what I need.” Ponder completed a season-high 67.6 percent (25 of 37) of his passes for 236 yards, one interception and one TD. Any good feelings must be tempered by the fact the Cowboys had allowed an NFL-record four 400-yard passers in just eight games this season. How awful is that? Well, in their first 53 years of existence, the Cowboys allowed just nine 400-yard passers.
4. Webb whiffs on second play
J’Marcus Webb, the Viking, looked a lot like J’Marcus Webb, the Bear. Right tackle Phil Loadholt left the game because of a concussion when Ponder scored on a 6-yard touchdown late in the first half. Webb played one snap before the half ended and then whiffed big time on his second snap — with Ponder throwing from his end zone. Defensive end George Selvie beat Webb handily and stripped Ponder of the ball. Defensive end Jarius Wynn clobbered Ponder from the backside and defensive tackle Nick Hayden recovered for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead. Frazier said Loadholt is unlikely to play Thursday, which means Webb would start. That will end a streak of 25 consecutive games the Vikings have started the same five offensive linemen.
5. Throwing from your own 5?
Webb is a player who really struggled in Chicago. Really struggled. He had just come in off the bench cold. And the Vikings decide to drop Ponder into his own end zone on first-and-10 from the Vikings 5-yard line. Isn’t that beyond too risky? “Obviously, when you look back, you will say risky,” Frazier said. “But we felt like we had something there because of what they were doing and we wanted to get them out of our end zone and we thought that the play would work.”