Mark Craig's 5 Extra Points

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2013 - 11:49 PM
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Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner broke a tackle by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder after picking off his pass Sunday.

Photo: JEFF WHEELER • jwheeler@startribune.com,

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1. Screens give Ponder too much trouble

The Vikings defense was in an early groove at one of the NFL’s toughest venues, giving up 3 yards in eight snaps on Seattle’s first two possessions. The score was tied 3-3 and the Vikings were facing third-and-9 from their 37. A screen to the left was set up nicely for Adrian Peterson. But Christian Ponder overthrew him. The Vikings went three-and-out and the defense was gashed for 78 yards and a touchdown on four plays. Yes, the defense was awful, but on this team, Ponder has to be an extension of the defense. Don’t turn the ball over, make the easy pass to the league MVP, get the likely first down and keep the defense off the field. Ponder did it again in the third quarter, but a catch likely would have resulted in a loss on second-and-long. His next throw should have been intercepted, but Bobby Wagner dropped a ball intended for Joe Webb. And, finally, Ponder’s first interception was thrown right to Wagner.

2. Kick turned the game

Yeah, we know Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he wasn’t going to put Percy Harvin back at kickoff returner in his first game. But coaches do tend to not tell the whole truth before games. So when Harvin sneaked back to receive a kick with 48 seconds left in the first half, one has to wonder if the Vikings even noticed he was the deep guy. If they didn’t, well, then shame on them. They should have squibbed the ball. Harvin took his first kickoff of the season 58 yards to set up a 46-yard touchdown drive that took just 38 seconds. It was the turning point of the game as Seattle led 24-13 at the half. “We realized he was back there,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “We thought we could cover the kick. We didn’t, and they ended up with great field position and ended up scoring. Big sequence.”

3. Ponder rolling left bad idea

It’s third-and-1 and the Vikings … have Ponder roll left and bloop a pass to John Carlson? Huh? That’s what the Vikings did while trailing 24-13 early in the third quarter. Rather than hand the ball to Peterson, Ponder rolled left and faced pressure. As he ALWAYS does when he rolls left. Ponder lobbed the ball over the pressure, which allowed the Seattle defense to close in on Carlson, who was dropped for a 1-yard loss. On Seattle’s next possession, the Seahawks faced third-and-2. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell went with Marshawn Lynch up the gut. Lynch got 12 yards and the first down.

4. Spread it out

The Vikings didn’t dip into their five wide-receiver formation until the Dallas game two weeks ago. One has to wonder, “Uh, why?” Why keep bunching up the offensive formations, which brings even more bodies into the box to stop Peterson? Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave used it some again in the victory over the Redskins. Musgrave used it again at Seattle, even though he didn’t have Greg Jennings. It still worked well. Ponder seems more confident in the shotgun with the defense spread out. One of Ponder’s throws to Patterson out of the five-wide formation led to a 23-yard pass interference call and a field goal right before halftime.

5. Here’s Harvin

Harvin’s greatest impact was felt on the kickoff right before halftime. But the third-and-10 catch he made — tipping a pass to himself and catching it as he’s falling for a first down in tight coverage — was a glimpse of what he will add to quarterback Russell Wilson, who is 13-0 at home in his first two seasons. Wilson also has 21 victories, one behind Ben Roethlisberger’s mark for most wins in a QB’s first two seasons since 1970. Harvin also forced a pass interference that offset a holding penalty on Seattle in the first half.

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