Quarterback Christian Ponder called the interception he threw to Madieu Williams in the fourth quarter "a fluke play," saying the ball slipped out of his hand on what was supposed to be a 7-yard checkdown play. It was reminiscent of an errant pass he threw during an organized team activity (OTA) in May, one that suggested he was still in need of some polish. I think we can all agree Ponder has made significant progress since his rookie season, and perhaps we were all lulled to sleep by the remarkably efficient start to his season. But Sunday's wobbly and wild overthrow of receiver Michael Jenkins served as a reminder that he remains very much a work in progress. The way the Vikings are structured, Ponder needs to make the easy throws look easy.
A quick Monday morning review of the first quarter confirms the Vikings missed a chance to put the Redskins in a serious early hole. Three trips to the red zone yielded three field goal attempts, and a 9-0 lead quickly turned into a 17-9 halftime deficit. Several of you tweeted complaints my way about a lack of potential scoring shots, and here are the numbers: In nine plays after establishing a first down in the red zone, the Vikings threw one pass into the end zone. It fell incomplete in the general vicinity of receiver Devin Aromashodu. The Vikings' top three receivers in that situation -- tight end Kyle Rudolph, receiver Percy Harvin and Jenkins -- did not see a pass thrown their way. For the most part, the Vikings have done a nice job utilizing the strengths of their personnel, but those early red-zone plays fell short Sunday.
The Vikings' defense hasn't fared well against quarterbacks who can break the pocket. The Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck gained 21 key yards on four scrambles against them in Week 2, and the Redskins' Robert Griffin III ran roughshod over them Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 113 of Griffin's 138 rushing yards came on six unplanned scrambles. (He gained 27 yards on five designed runs.) Review of the video revealed that a Vikings defender didn't lay a hand on Griffin on five of the six scrambles. I don't blame them for being wary about blitzing him Sunday, and you saw what happened when they did: No one on the Vikings defense could chase him down after he broke through a six-man line on the way to a 76-yard touchdown run.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
What's going on with receiver Jerome Simpson? There appears to be some disconnect here. Last week, team officials didn't know until the morning of their game against the Tennessee Titans that he was experiencing back trouble that made his leg numb. Even so, medical officials cleared him to play against the Titans. More tests on Monday revealed no serious injury, and Simpson was allowed to practice Thursday and Friday. But coach Leslie Frazier told reporters that "I just didn't feel comfortable with what I was seeing in practice [from Simpson] in a couple different areas," and decided to deactivate him for the game. Simpson told reporters he was stunned by the decision. Is this a disagreement on physical condition? A motivational message? An expectation for a higher practice standard? It's difficult to tell at the moment.