Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Monday, November 5, 2012
Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

By Kevin Seifert

After the Minnesota Vikings' 30-20 loss to the over the Seattle Seahawks, here are three issues that merit further examination:
  1. Free Head Exam
    I don't think you can objectively look at the Vikings offense, given their limited personnel at receiver and the clear problems they've had in pass protection, and blame quarterback Christian Ponder for everything that's happened recently. And I also agree with those who want to see the Vikings exhibit patience in developing a franchise quarterback. In the big picture, it usually requires tolerance of mistakes and sub-par play. With that said, however, the Vikings must be careful about how differently they treat Ponder relative to the rest of the roster. He hasn't just been unproductive recently. His yardage total of 63 on Sunday and 58 two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals are two of the three lowest totals in Vikings history for a quarterback who threw at least 17 passes in a game. Part of development is accountability. No NFL player should keep his job as a rule when playing at historically low levels. To me, that point is no less important that developing a starting quarterback if you're going to build a successful program.
  2. Teammates have to buy into the development of a quarterback, and from the outside it appears that receiver Percy Harvin is struggling with that at the moment. His sideline fury, some of it directed at coach Leslie Frazier, was evident for all to see. Harvin is talented and skilled enough to have an entire offense built around him, as we saw earlier this season, but he's also impatient and emotional enough to let it knock him off his game. Was it a coincidence that Harvin's least productive game of the season -- two receptions for 10 yards -- came on the day he appeared most frustrated? No. More than most players, those two factors -- frustration and production -- are intertwined with Harvin.
  3. My initial thought from afar was that the Vikings missed an opportunity to continue pounding tailback Adrian Peterson after his 144-yard first half. But after closer inspection of the play-by-play, I understand why that happened. The Vikings faced a manageable 20-17 deficit at halftime, but the Seahawks' early-down defense put the Vikings in positions where they had to throw the ball. Peterson lost a yard on each of his first two carries of the third quarter and also was stopped for no gain on another play. If anything, it shows how far the Vikings are from being able to succeed in passing situations. With Peterson limited, their only points of the second half were a 55-yard field goal by place-kicker Blair Walsh.
And here is one issue I don't get:
Why can't the Vikings get the ball to tight end Kyle Rudolph? Sunday, Rudolph played all of the Vikings' 54 snaps on offense and was targeted only twice. Both passes fell incomplete. He has gone without a catch in two of the Vikings' past three games and had two receptions in the other. When the season began, most of us figured Rudolph would be a nice complement/primary target alongside Harvin. But he's suddenly invisible, despite missing only six snaps over those three games, and it's not clear why. You would think that a tight end with Rudolph's wingspan would provide a comfort zone for a sometimes-inaccurate quarterback who doesn't have much time in the pocket. I guess opposing defenses have realized the same thing. And maybe that's why the Vikings signed free agent John Carlson, who continues to be sidelined by a concussion. I'm not sure.