The Vikings struggled through the first nine games, leading to nagging developmental questions.
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.
When the Vikings demoted Webb from backup quarterback to receiver and then kept him on the roster despite his inexperience at the new position, it was assumed something special would be added to the mix to justify and maximize Webb’s roster spot.
Perhaps they would use some old “Blazer Package” gadgets with Webb at quarterback. Maybe line him up in the backfield next to Peterson.
Heck, considering the state of the quarterback position this year, maybe use him as a read-option change of pace to scratch out some first downs, find some rhythm, run some clock and keep an exhausted defense off the field.
Well, nine games into the season, Webb has zero carries, hasn’t run the read-option and the Blazer formation was sent in only once. And that was aborted after the Vikings were flagged for an illegal formation.
Meanwhile, Webb has three catches for 24 yards. All of them came in the fourth quarter of a 25-point loss to Carolina.
There’s never a good time to lose an Aaron Rodgers. But at least the Packers have the ability to run the football consistently. Whether they maintain that ability without the threat of Rodgers passing the ball, we’ll find out now that Rodgers’ collarbone is in two pieces.
But Packers running back James Starks has three touchdown runs of 25 yards or more in a four-game span. He’s the first Packer in franchise history to do that. He’s also the only player in the league with three TD runs of 25-plus yards this season.
• • •
Jay Cutler’s early return from a torn groin muscle could go a number of ways and produce a variety of ramifications for the Bears’ season and long-term quarterback situation. At least that’s one way of looking at Sunday’s battle for first place with the Lions.
Cutler is in a contract year and Josh McCown has the hot hand. Cutler could be accused of trying to rush things for personal gain, but it’s not like he’s living check to check and wouldn’t have many other teams interested in him. Cutler, however, says the doctors were wrong when they said he’d be out at least four weeks. “As soon as I got hurt, I thought that I would be back quicker than they thought,” Cutler said. “I kind of had that mind-set throughout.”
• • •
Matthew Stafford looks barely old enough to shave. But, at 25 and in only his 54th career start, he could break Bobby Layne’s career passing record for Lions quarterbacks.
Stafford needs 286 yards against the Bears on Sunday to surpass the 15,710 that Layne threw from 1950 to ’58. In his first meeting with the Bears, Stafford threw for a season-low 242.
Three observations …
• Watching what John Fox and Gary Kubiak have gone through the past two weeks has to make Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden even happier in their analyst positions. #theyaren’tcomingback
• This is no defense of Richie Incognito, but anyone who has been in an NFL locker room — even reporters who get limited access — knows that social norms of any kind cannot be applied to that arena.
• Percy Harvin is a great player. But here’s an odd stat: His teams are 13-3 in their past 16 regular-season games (Vikings 5-2 last year, Seahawks 8-1 this year) without him.
... and two predictions
• The Cowboys’ NFL record of allowing 400-yard passers in a single season will be extended to five when Dallas visits Drew Brees on Sunday night.
• The 49ers will win a rare NFL defensive battle when they play host to a Carolina team that also specializes in the lost art.
|San Antonio||8:00 PM|
|New Jersey||4:00 PM|
|NY Rangers||7:00 PM|
|St. Louis||9:00 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||67||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||74|
|William & Mary||66|
|Middle Tennessee||63||2nd Half 4:02|
|UNC-Asheville||76||2nd Half 6:32|
|Southern Utah||71||2nd Half 0:35|
|Utah Valley U||36||2nd Half 4:18|
|ULM||36||2nd Half 8:28|
|Bowling Green||31||2nd Half 14:23|
|Long Island||40||2nd Half 19:51|
|West Virginia||29||2nd Half|
|Holy Cross||31||2nd Half|
|MD-Eastern Shore||28||1st Half 6:49|
|Wofford||25||1st Half 1:01|
|Montana State||36||1st Half 2:25|
|Iowa State||40||2nd Half|
|Arkansas||19||1st Half 4:25|
|Missouri State||29||2nd Half|
|Nicholls||30||1st Half 0:01|
|East Tenn St||38||2nd Half|
|Coppin State||3:00 PM|
|San Diego||31||2nd Half|
|St Francis-PA||33||2nd Half|
|Oklahoma State||17||2nd Half|
|Virginia Tech||24||2nd Half|
|Bethune-Cookman||21||1st Half 5:31|
|St Francis-NY||18||1st Half 0:30|
|High Point||11||1st Half 16:02|
|Central Conn St||12||1st Half 7:54|
|Eastern Mich||3||1st Half 13:05|
|SE Louisiana||4:00 PM|
|South Dakota St||4:00 PM|
|Georgia State||4:15 PM|
|Old Dominion||4:30 PM|
|Arkansas State||4:30 PM|
|Texas Southern||5:00 PM|
|Tennessee St||5:00 PM|
|Jacksonville St||5:00 PM|
|San Jose St||5:00 PM|
|Florida A&M||5:00 PM|
|Loyola Marymount||5:00 PM|
|Miss State||5:00 PM|
|Savannah State||5:00 PM|
|Miss Valley St||5:30 PM|
|Alcorn State||5:30 PM|
|Prairie View||6:00 PM|
|George Washington||6:00 PM|
|Tenn Tech||6:00 PM|
|Stony Brook||6:00 PM|
|Western Ill||6:00 PM|
|Incarnate Word||6:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton||6:00 PM|
|Long Beach State|
|TX-San Antonio||6:00 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||6:00 PM|
|George Mason||6:00 PM|
|Austin Peay||6:00 PM|
|SE Missouri St|
|Murray State||6:00 PM|
|Ball State||6:00 PM|
|USC Upstate||6:00 PM|
|Grand Canyon||6:05 PM|
|Abilene Christian||6:15 PM|
|Coll of Charleston|
|Central Mich||7:00 PM|
|Boise State||7:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|St Marys-CA||7:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||7:00 PM|
|Sam Houston St||7:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||7:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||7:00 PM|
|Ga Southern||7:15 PM|
|Ark-Little Rock||7:15 PM|
|Grambling St||7:30 PM|
|Northern Ariz||8:00 PM|
|UC Davis||0||1st Half|
|New Mexico||9:00 PM|
|Idaho State||9:00 PM|
|Sacramento St||9:05 PM|
|UC Riverside||9:30 PM|
|UC Irvine||10:59 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|Sam Houston St||52||FINAL|
|Central Conn St||77||FINAL|
|East Tenn St||42||FINAL|
|Cleveland State||61||2nd Half 0:48|
|Arkansas State||74||2nd Half 0:12|
|South Dakota St||82|
|Tennessee St||70||2nd Half 0:33|
|Jacksonville St||82||1st OT 0:33|
|SE Louisiana||57||2nd Half 0:09|
|IUPU-Ft Wayne||53||2nd Half 1:14|
|Air Force||27||2nd Half|
|San Diego State||30||2nd Half|
|Fresno State||25||2nd Half|
|Florida A&M||23||2nd Half|
|Gonzaga||31||1st Half 1:57|
|South Florida||43||2nd Half|
|UCLA||24||1st Half 1:28|
|(3) Baylor||31||2nd Half|
|Miss Valley St||25||2nd Half|
|Tenn Tech||38||2nd Half|
|Texas Southern||27||1st Half 0:55|
|Santa Clara||28||1st Half 1:03|
|Savannah State||29||2nd Half|
|Alcorn State||3:00 PM|
|Eastern Washington||29||2nd Half|
|Weber State||23||2nd Half|
|Green Bay||20||1st Half 9:44|
|Oakland||5||1st Half 15:52|
|Austin Peay||8||1st Half 10:30|
|SE Missouri St||10|
|Wagner||13||1st Half 9:32|
|Mount St Marys||16|
|San Jose St|
|Stephen F Austin||4:00 PM|
|Incarnate Word||4:00 PM|
|Abilene Christian||4:00 PM|
|San Francisco||4:00 PM|
|Prairie View||4:00 PM|
|Chicago State||4:00 PM|
|Utah Valley U|
|Murray State||4:00 PM|
|Cal Poly||4:00 PM|
|Portland State||4:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara||4:00 PM|
|Western Ky||5:00 PM|
|Georgia Southern||5:00 PM|
|Ark-Little Rock||5:00 PM|
|(24) California||5:00 PM|
|(7) Oregon State|
|(21) Fla Gulf Coast|
|Long Beach St||6:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Oklahoma St||7:00 PM|
|TX-Pan American||8:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|North Dakota||8:00 PM|
|Northern Colorado||9:00 PM|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm||X||10-6|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm||X||30-28|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm||X||30-12|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm||X||19-3|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon||X||34-6|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon||X||30-7|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon||X||20-9|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm||X||41-28|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm||X||42-10|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon||X||17-3|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon||X||17-16|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon||X||19-13 ot|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon||X||29-26|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon||X||21-13|
|Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay||Noon||X||24-21|
|Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina||Noon||X||31-13|
|Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets||Noon||X||30-24 ot|
|Dec 14 - at Detroit||3:25 pm||X||16-14|
|Dec 21 - at Miami||Noon||X||37-35|
|Dec 28 - vs. Chicago||Noon||X||13-9|
Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?