Monday, December 16, 2013
Upon Further Review: Vikings Week 15
By Ben Goessling
MINNEAPOLIS -- A review of four hot issues following the Minnesota Vikings' 48-30 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday:
Cassel starts again: Coach Leslie Frazier said after Sunday's game there are "no questions" about the Vikings' starting quarterback for next Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals after Matt Cassel threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another one. That means, at most, Josh Freeman will get one more chance to play this season, and at this point it seems highly unlikely that will happen. What's probably more interesting now is what happens between the two quarterbacks the Vikings have under contract for next season -- Cassel and Christian Ponder. Cassel can opt out of his deal after this season, but if the Vikings draft another quarterback next spring, they might be well-served by keeping Cassel and letting him start the season until -- or unless -- the rookie is ready.
Wright emerges: Second-year receiver Jarius Wright, who had been a forgotten man after a solid second half in 2012, had his biggest game of the season on Sunday, catching four passes for 95 yards. Wright began the season as the Vikings' third receiver before becoming their fourth option in recent weeks as Cordarrelle Patterson's role in the offense grew. But Wright hauled in a 42-yard pass from Cassel on Sunday, and looked like the kind of downfield slot threat he was at times last season.
Patterson shut out on kickoffs: The Eagles went into Sunday's game clearly wanting to avoid Patterson on kickoffs, but the Vikings might take the alternative; Philadelphia's short kicks helped Minnesota start four drives at its own 30 or better after kickoffs, and though the Vikings didn't get a chance to let Patterson break a big return, they got more consistent field position than even the rookie returning dynamo likely would've been able to provide. Frazier said the Vikings could toy with the idea of putting Patterson on punt returns next week, simply as another way to get the ball in his hands.
Thin secondary survives: The Vikings were missing their top three corners -- Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson -- on Sunday, but they held up reasonably well against an Eagles offense most expected to burn Minnesota's thin secondary. Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles threw for 428 yards, but had only 144 at halftime and got many of his second-half yards after the Vikings had built a big lead. Cornerback Shaun Prater had the first interception of his career, and safety Harrison Smith returned from a two-month layoff to post eight tackles in his first game back from turf toe. Cook, meanwhile, missed Sunday's game after a knee injury cropped up late in the week. His frequent injuries could prevent him from landing a big contract when he hits the open market next March. And while Prater got his first pick on Sunday, Cook is still waiting for his, four years into his career.