Tag Archives: Motor City Kitties

Would The Real Christian Ponder Please Stand Up?

If at the start of the 2012 season you had asked Vikings fans for their reaction to the squad being 5-3 at the halfway point, excitement would have been the resounding response. And we are not talking just regular ole, the drive-through guy gave me an extra burger excitement, we are talking just noticed my numbers match the Powerball numbers excitement. Considering that was our mind set, as fans, coming into this season, why are we all so disappointed about the team going into this Sunday’s game?

Ponder is the rock the team’s success is built on. As he goes, so goes the team.

The obvious answer is because of how good we looked through the first four games. In particular, how good Vikings QB Christian Ponder looked through the first four games. The quality of that play through the first four games has been even more apparent when contrasted with his less than quality play in the previous four games. Here are the splits:

First 4 Games:                                                                                                                                    Comp   Att    Yards    TD   INT    Rating                                                                                       84          123    824        4        0         96.5

Last 4 games:                                                                                                                                   Comp   Att    Yards    TD   INT    Rating                                                                                        87          139    919         6        7         70.3

At first glance, one thing jumps out immediately. Seven interceptions. Okay…so it does not hurt that I bolded the number. But, I am not sure you needed the help. It sticks out like Lindsey Lohan in a convent. What is worse, of those 7 INTs, more than half of them occurred in the red zones. INTs in those critical areas of the field sting even more. They either kill your drive or put your defense at a disadvantage. Worse yet, those kind of turnovers also usually result in points on the board for the wrong team.

What is probably most infuriating about Ponder’s INTs is that many of them are not bad decisions. The receivers he is targeting are usually open, but his execution (of late) has been less than stellar. And while the surprisingly strong Vikings defense has bailed him out in some of those games, think DET, TEN, and ARI games, the turnovers inside the 20s have killed the Vikings.

So where do we go from here?

With the Kitties potentially in Tom Petty mode, the Vikes need to lock up a big win at home in two weeks.

The schedule is about to get really hard. They have winnable games against the Kitties (who are in Tom Petty mode: “Yeah I am freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…) and the Seachickens. Win those games and the rest of the season will be an enjoyable discussion about whether or not the Vikings can make the playoffs. Lose, or even split, those games and the rest of season will likely be spent gnashing teeth and wondering how soon the other shoe is going to drop.

In today’s NFL, the quarterback’s play is usually the factor that will swing the pendulum one way or the other. In Ponder’s case, which Ponder shows up will be the difference.

Now, there could be one saving grace regardless of how these next 8 games turn out: Ponder’s continued maturity. When you stack up last season’s numbers with Ponder’s numbers through the last 4 games, it really has not been as bad as you might think. That is promising. It has not been a true regression. More like a two steps forward and one step back. So, even though the remaining schedule is literally the most difficult in the league, there is room for continued improvement.

If Ponder can continue to demonstrate the leadership qualities and solid decision making abilities that he has shown through the first 8 games, even a losing record would not sting so bad. Another strong draft and a few key agent signings (come on down Dwayne Bowe), and the Vikes could be a real contender. But if Ponder regresses back to 2011, all bets are off.

Personally, I think the improvement will continue. I think the real Christian Ponder will stand up (including this weekend). And Vikings fans are in for a real treat.

Vikings 21 Seachickens 17

The Golden Fundamental

Vikings strong safety Harrison Smith started his career as a linebacker at Notre Dame. His sophomore and junior year he played a mix of both strong safety and linebacker. In his senior season, he was finally slotted for good as the Irish starting strong safety. Always a little undersized at linebacker, Vikings fans ought to be thankful for the decision to keep him at safety.

While Smith has a ways to go to catch up to the hard hitting, ball-hawking Dawkins, their styles of play are very similar.

Through his first 4 NFL games as a starting strong safety, the Notre Dame rookie and first round pick has been fundamentally sound. He has not made a ton of flashy plays. But, he has also not done anything to hurt the Vikings defense. As a rookie, playing a difficult NFL position, he has lived up to his billing. He takes good angles to make tackles. He fills gaps with a gusto. And, when need be, he can absolutely lay the wood on an opposing receiver, tight end, or running back.

At Notre Dame, Smith was a steady performer who had 90 tackles in his senior season. He was also team captain and leader of a pretty stingy Irish defense. It is those intangibles that have been contagious on the 2012 Vikings defense. Smith’s presence in the Vikings secondary has helped transform a pass defense that last season was one of the worst in the league, into one of the league’s better pass defenses.

The Vikings have not had a strong safety of this quality since Robert Griffith roamed the secondary. And while Smith has not yet displayed Griffith’s nose for the ball, Smith has shown a tenacity and toughness that you cannot teach. The guy is just nails.

Last week’s game against the Motor City Kitties is the perfect example. With the Kitties trying to comeback, Fat Stafford threw a deep post to All-Universe WR Calvin Johnson. And yes, Johnson is every bit of 6’5″ and 230 lbs. The guy is a beast. Johnson was supposed to be covered by 5’9″ Antoine Winfield and 5’10” Jamarca Sanford. Sanford blew his coverage and, last year, it would have been a pitch and catch TD for the Kitties. See here if you need proof. This year, the Golden Fundamental, Smith, came to the rescue. He cheated back into the play and delivered monster hit on Megatron. We are talking Mack truck.

No, that is not a Kitties’ receiver, that is Alligator mississippiensis.

That hit served two purposes. First, it jarred the ball loose and took seven points off the board. But second, and maybe more importantly, it set the tone for later in the game. When the Kitties were trying to come back in the 4th Quarter and, it seemed like on every down field pass, the Kitties’ receivers were pulling a Qadry Ismail and short-arming their attempt at catching the ball. The sudden appearance of alligator arms was likely because of Smith’s looming presence in the secondary.

This week the Vikings face a Tenessee Titans squad that has been beaten by 20+ points in three out of their four games. The Titans offense has looked Rip Torn-mug shot bad and their defense has looked worse — think James Brown’s police photoshoot. Even though Matt Hasselbeck is a seasoned NFL QB, okay fine, maybe he is a little over-seasoned, Smith and the Vikings defense should be able to hold the Titans offense in check.

Provided the Vikings offense can put up a few scores against the Titans, the Vikings should have no issues getting win number four. Especially with the Golden Fundamental laying the wood on anyone brave enough to go after a pass in his secondary.

Vikings 23 Titans 13