Vikings left a few tricks in the bag in season's first half

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2013 - 12:22 AM

The Vikings struggled through the first nine games, leading to nagging developmental questions.

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Cordarrelle Patterson’s 2-yard reception off a Christian Ponder pass Thursday was his first touchdown catch as a pro.

Photo: ANN HEISENFELT • Associated Press,

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As the Vikings take the rare Sunday/Monday off following Thursday night’s win over the Redskins, we take this opportunity to ask the following questions regarding three areas of the team that could have helped the Vikings do better than 2-7 through nine games …

1. Could Cordarrelle Patterson speed it up?

After Adrian Peterson, the next best pure playmaker on the team is rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. It took Patterson seven games to tie an NFL career record for most touchdowns of 105 yards or more, including an NFL-record 109-yarder. But both of those plays came on kickoff returns.

When it comes to receiver, Patterson’s learning curve has been even slower than advertised when he came out of Tennessee with only one year of major college experience.

But have the Vikings been too cautious with an obvious playmaker?

“The pace that we are at is, I think, about what we could have done,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “I don’t know if we could have accelerated it. … I think the way we’ve done it is about the best way you could have done it.”

Thursday night, Patterson caught multiple passes on the same possession for the first time all season. And the resulting eight-play, 73-yard drive was perhaps the most efficient possession that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has called and quarterback Christian Ponder has executed this season.

On the first catch, Patterson lined up to the right, ran a simple route and caught a deep ball for 20 yards. Four snaps later, he lined up to the left, motioned right, released into the right corner of the end zone and caught a 2-yard touchdown, his first as an NFL receiver.

Patterson played a season-high 39.6 percent of the offensive snaps. He also had more snaps than receiver Jarius Wright (21-18) for the first time this year. But he still only caught those two passes.

“We’ve been adding a few things here and there as the season goes on,” Frazier said. “Just keep bringing him along, just keep devising ways to utilize his talents. I think Bill is doing a good of doing that, and we are doing it at Cordarrelle’s pace.”

2. Why not K-Will, Sharrif from the get-go?

When the Vikings invested the 23rd overall draft pick on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and then expressed complete shock and utter joy that he fell from a top-10 projection into their laps, it was easy to assume that Floyd and Kevin Williams were to team’s top two playmakers at defensive tackle.

When asked if something could be done to get both of them on the field at the same time even though they play the same three-technique position, the Vikings said that wasn’t in the plans. Neither was a nose tackle and, besides, Floyd would be part of a rotation that would protect the older Williams from playing too many snaps.

But along came the Redskins game. Forced to play at nose tackle because of injuries to Letroy Guion and Fred Evans, Williams responded with 2½ sacks in his best game in five seasons.

Floyd played 60 percent of the defensive snaps, so Frazier was asked if this should have been the starting combo from the get-go.

“We felt good, and we still do, about Letroy and Fred at [nose tackle],” he said. “The injuries occurred and all of the sudden you’re forced to do it. In Sharrif’s case, we wanted him to be able to come along. Kevin was still playing solid at the three-technique so there wasn’t a need to force [Floyd] to be a starter at Day 1.”

3. What happened to Joe Webb, playmaker?

After Peterson and Patterson, Joe Webb might be the third-best pure athletic playmaker on the team.

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