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Monday, October 17, 2011
Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

By Kevin Seifert

After the Minnesota Vikings' 39-10 loss to the Chicago Bears, here are three issues that merit further examination:
  1. Head Exam
    Following their loss to the Bears, the Vikings take a seat in the examination room.
    It's easy to overanalyze a rookie quarterback's debut in the fourth quarter of a game the opponent has well in hand. So I'll just say that I thought Christian Ponder carried out the play calls he received with confidence. He caught the snap, stepped and threw with accuracy and decisiveness. The Vikings got in a rhythm, perhaps because the Bears weren't challenging them at the moment, but it was encouraging nonetheless. It's not yet clear who will start Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. But I think we can agree on this: The Vikings are 1-5 and Ponder clearly was not overwhelmed Sunday night. That combination of factors will make it awfully difficult for coach Leslie Frazier to justify going back to veteran Donovan McNabb at this point.
  2. The Bears couldn't have telegraphed their intentions on offense last week any clearer. Quarterback Jay Cutler publicly pleaded for quicker passes and more protection. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz agreed. That's exactly what the Bears did, and the Vikings seemed to have no answer. Cutler had all the time he needed to let Devin Hester get open for a 48-yard touchdown, even as the Vikings blitzed on the play. To me, the Bears' approach exposed the Vikings' weaknesses in the secondary. When they outnumbered the Vikings' active offensive line with extra blockers, Cutler diced them up.
  3. Injuries left the Vikings' offensive line a mess and is at least a consideration when it comes to determining Ponder's short-term future. They ended the game with Patrick Brown playing for Phil Loadholt (knee) and Joe Berger playing center for John Sullivan (concussion). Loadholt isn't expected to miss any time, but it's reasonable to think that Sullivan might not return immediately.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
It's difficult to say where the Vikings are in terms of roster building. Are they at the tail-end of a closing window? Are they rebuilding? Or are they trying to maximize both opportunities at the same time? I kind of feel it's the latter. Even if Ponder takes over at quarterback, he'll be playing behind an offensive line that has perhaps two starters who would be considered long-term answers at their position. He'll be throwing to a mostly veteran group of receivers and matched up with a defense with too many primary players over 30. There won't be any quick fixes here.