When the NFL season kicked off last week, the excitement was sky high across the nation. There were huge expectations heading into the new season and Minnesota was no exception. Superstar running back and 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson has set lofty (yet, realistic?) goals for himself and the team this year and both the fans and the organization were eager to get started.
And then Peterson ripped off a 78-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Then Detroit’s ultra-talented wide receiver Calvin Johnson was held to only 37 yards and all seemed well in Vikingland. But then the Vikes lost by 10. How exactly did that happen, especially with Peterson totaling three TD’s on the day?
While Peterson may have had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history in 2012, he was also good enough to mask the holes within the Vikings’ roster. Sure the team made the playoffs, but that fizzled out rather quickly.
Sunday’s game against the Lions (the first of two straight against divisional rivals) proved one thing: the Vikings must be more than just the AP Show.
Quarterback Christian Ponder threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. Newly acquired wide receiver Greg Jennings only caught three passes for 33 yards. Rookie receiver and return man Cordarrelle Patterson was barely there for both of his jobs.
The NFL season is not only short but it is also very cruel. Losing games early on can cripple teams and it’s a tough position to come back from. Now, let’s be honest for a second. The season is far from over. But there are huge areas for improvement.
As much as the fans (and his fantasy owners) would love to see Peterson carry the ball on every down, it’s not a feasible option. There needs to be a passing game that the offense can believe in. Ponder was sacked or pressured multiple times on Sunday when receivers were open – specifically Jennings on a number of occasions. Jerome Simpson’s performance of 7 catches for 140 yards was nice to see, and Ponder has to continue down that road.
Once the passing game improves, the threat of Peterson will allow for the play action plays to actually work and help open up the offense even more.
Moving to the defensive side of the board, it’s difficult to see this group letting up 469 yards again this season. The Vikings defense is hardly a bunch of talentless players, and once they find their own they will be a much more productive group. Rookie defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd had just returned from a knee injury and still has plenty to learn.
Okay, let’s liven this up a little. Jared Allen had a sack, which was nice. Peterson had three touchdowns and 93 yards rushing. Ponder still had 236 passing yards and a touchdown despite the interceptions. This team has plenty of room to grow, but it also has the stars to take it farther than many other teams in this league. Week 1 was a very telling week and hopefully the players and team will bounce back and improve on that game.
Against the Chicago Bears in week 2, the Vikings will have their work cut out for them, but the Bears are also a great team to bounce back against. Peterson should be able to rip through the Bears a whole lot better than the Bengals’ RBs did in week 1, and Ponder should have a lot more time to think while not facing the Lions’ Ndomakung Suh and Nick Fairley. Also, there’s no way the Bears put up over 400 yards on this team. Not a chance.
Should be an interesting one. Whatever happens on Sunday, we’re going to learn a whole lot more about this Vikings team. Win and we know they have heart, lose and there will be plenty to take from back to back losses. Can’t wait.