In an offensive performance Sunday that resembled a UFC ground-and-pound attack far more than a Cirque du Soleil aerial show, the Vikings had at least two opportunities to stretch the field deep against Chicago. Both times, they failed to capitalize.
The first came with 6:39 left in the second quarter when Christian Ponder used play action and uncorked a long ball to Devin Aromashodu on a post.
Ponder, who had slipped away from Lance Briggs on a blitz, threw a pretty ball. Yet just a split second before the pass arrived, Aromashodu seemed to stumble. The ball hit him in the right shoulder and bounced away.
Instead of a 45-yard touchdown that would have given the Vikings a 21-0 lead, the play went into the box score as an incompletion.
With a slumping young quarterback and the NFL’s least productive passing attack, that is exactly the kind of missed opportunity that drives Leslie Frazier crazy.
“That would have been a huge play for us on offense,” Frazier said. “It would have really changed the complexion of the game in a lot of ways. We didn’t connect.”
Frazier is anticipating similar opportunities to be available this weekend in St. Louis with the Rams likely to install the only defensive philosophy that makes sense against the Vikings, marching safeties close to the line of scrimmage for run help and using their corners in press coverage outside.
“And we’re going to need to hit some of those shots,” Frazier said. “We need to complete and make a catch down the field to get people to loosen up. The challenge will be there again this week.”
The wrong Wright
Ponder was to blame for the Vikings’ second failed bomb attempt in Chicago. That one, on the final series before halftime, was picked off by Bears safety Major Wright. Ponder had spotted an ideal match-up with speedy rookie Jarius Wright flying down the middle of the field with linebacker Nick Roach in his wake. But Ponder didn’t step into the throw, let it about 8-10 yards short and Major Wright easily slid over for the pick.
“I kind of threw off my back foot,” Ponder said. “It wasn’t a mistake to throw the ball. The decision was fine. I just have to throw the ball farther and let him run out and get it.”
Jarius Wright, Ponder admits, is much like Percy Harvin in that his speed makes him almost impossible to overthrow.
“I’ve got to trust that fact and just let the ball go,” Ponder said.
More honors for A.P.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after gashing Chicago for 154 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Peterson amassed 104 of those yards and both scores in the first quarter. He’s now up to 1,600 rushing yards for the season with 10 touchdowns and a per-carry average of 6.0 yards.
The next big step
Ponder talked briefly Wednesday about his need for greater pocket presence, a big part of his struggles the past month-and-a-half.
Too often the second-year quarterback has either vacated the pocket early or just generally appeared jittery as he tries to go through his reads.
Ponder acknowledges his need for greater patience.
“And when I do move in the pocket, not to move out but to find ways to find a different lane in the pocket to throw to and different things like that,” he said. “But staying in the cylinder rather than getting out of the pocket.”
Jefferson still not cleared
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson will miss this afternoon’s practice as he continues to go through testing for the concussion he suffered late in Sunday’s win. If Jefferson isn’t cleared to play this week, Josh Robinson would likely start alongside Antoine Winfield at cornerback with Marcus Sherels slotted to be the third corner in nickel packages.