Monday, November 25, 2013
Upon Further Review: Vikings Week 12
By Ben Goessling
A review of four hot issues from the Minnesota Vikings' 26-26 tie with the Green Bay Packers:
More work for Patterson: Rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson saw his role in the Vikings' offense continue to increase on Sunday. Patterson again started at split end for Minnesota, but moved around the Vikings' offense, being targeted with a team-high 11 passes and catching eight of them for 54 yards. Coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this month that the Vikings couldn't have gone any faster indoctrinating Patterson into their offense than they did, but it's been clear in the last two weeks how much more comfortable with Patterson the Vikings are than they were a month ago. They've lined him up at a number of different receiver positions, and though he's mostly running simple in-breaking routes, he seems to be developing a better connection with quarterback Christian Ponder each week.
Cole impresses in debut: With Erin Henderson away from the team because of a personal matter, second-year man Audie Cole started at middle linebacker for the Vikings. He blitzed up the middle on the first play of the game, sacking Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien ("I wasn't mad about it when they [called the blitz]," Cole joked), and ended the day with 13 tackles, including 11 solo stops and two tackles for loss. He also recorded three other hits on the quarterback. Henderson has done a solid job at middle linebacker, and it would seem likely he will return to the spot when he rejoins the team, but Cole's performance could get the Vikings thinking about ways to use him.
Red zone issues resurface: Both the Vikings and Packers could have spent the night kicking themselves for failing to turn long drives into touchdowns, but for the Vikings, Sunday's game might have signaled a return to the trouble they had in the red zone earlier this year. The Vikings scored touchdowns on just seven of their first 15 red zone trips this year, and after getting touchdowns on eight of their next 11, the Vikings are 2-for-7 in their last two games. They were 2-for-5 on Sunday, but their inability to turn short field goal opportunities into touchdowns might have cost them the game. "We've got to make sure we score touchdowns in the red zone, rather than kick field goals," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "It's disappointing we had [the game] in our hands and it slipped out."
Vikings don't opt for free kick: The Vikings and Packers played to the first tie under the NFL's new overtime rules, which allowed both teams to possess the ball and kick field goals in overtime. The teams traded punts after that, and when Marcus Sherels fair caught Tim Masthay's final punt with a second left in the game, the Vikings could have opted to try to win the game on a free kick. But they would have needed to snap the ball from their own 34 and try either a field goal or a drop kick, and while Frazier said the Vikings considered it, he added, "where the ball was placed, it just wasn't a realistic option." The San Francisco 49ers tried the NFL's first free kick since 2008 earlier this year; the 49ers were also the last NFL team to make one, when Ray Wersching hit a field goal from 45 yards out.