Vikings report card: mistakes in all areas of game
Minnesota was seconds away from its first victory before falling? How did it grade out?
By BRIAN HALLFS North
Jay Cutler's touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left pushed the Chicago Bears to a come-from-behind 31-30 victory against the
Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.
A slow start was overcome with Minnesota finding some offensive and defensive rhythm, but it was undone and ultimately not enough when Chicago drove down the field with 3:05 left after the Vikings had taken a 30-24 lead. Coach Leslie Frazier took the blame for the final defensive series and Minnesota was unable to take advantage of four Bears' turnovers
The Vikings are now 0-2 facing a home game next week against the 0-2 Cleveland Browns.
There were positives to go with the negative finish Sunday. Here's how Minnesota fared in each phase Sunday:
Pass offense: C
Quarterback Christian Ponder's slow start and the offense's inability to get into the end zone in the second half is factored in, but the Vikings did show consistency in the passing game in the second half Sunday and for the first time this season. Ponder started 4 of 12 for 52 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown and the same issues from last week were popping up again.
Then Ponder went 12 of 18 for 175 yards and a touchdown the rest of the game. Before the second half was up, Ponder hit tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 20-yard touchdown. He also hit receiver Greg Jennings for a few key third-down completions. Jennings led the team with five catches for 84 yards. The offensive line found a rhythm and was blocking better in the second half. Ponder was only sacked once Saturday, taken down on the team's second offensive possession.
Minnesota did take the ball out of Ponder's hands at the end. Facing a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, the Vikings ran running back Adrian Peterson for no gain and the team settled for a field to take a 30-24 lead. Ponder had missed Rudolph on a pass play on second down, but two plays earlier had hit Jennings on a 22-yard completion, placing the ball between defenders for Jennings. Minnesota finished 7 of 16 on third down, converting five of its final 10 chances. Ponder connected with eight different receivers on his 16 completions. He was 16 of 30 for 227 yards.
Run offense: C
Peterson is held to high standard after last year's MVP season. And he even noted this week that reaching 100 yards rushing is "easy." Well, Peterson hit 100 yards exactly Sunday and it didn't look too easy. At the start of the game, he didn't have much room or success, continuing the struggles from last week. But Peterson started getting room. He had a big 36-yard run on the way to Rudolph's touchdown. He was well over 100 yards in the fourth quarter, but then was stopped for a 13-yard loss as he tried to make something happen late.
Peterson is ahead of his pace from last season after two games. He finished Sunday with 26 carries for 100 yards, just a 3.8 yards per carry average. Peterson also had a fumble. The Vikings also missed a chance to put Sunday's game away when Chicago swarmed Peterson on the third-and-goal carry for no yards.
Pass defense: D
There were improvements in the second week from Minnesota's pass defense, but the defense allowed Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler to easily move down the field on two key possessions. On the final drive of the first half, Cutler went 63 yards in 1 minute, 11 seconds for a Robbie Gould field goal. Cutler connected with Earl Bennett for a 16-yard reception and hit Brandon Marshall for 31 yards on the drive. On the game-winning drive, Cutler was 7 of 11 passing, including a spike, for the entire 66 yards and the touchdown to Bennett.
Cutler, working behind an offensive line with four new starters, was sacked just once, but it was costly. Jared Allen had a strip-sack and Brian Robison returned the fumble recovery 61 yards for a touchdown. Cutler also threw an interception in the end zone after Everson Griffen tipped a pass. Vikings' safety Harrison Smith added another interception.
Run defense: C
Another area where Minnesota showed progress from last week, but Sunday wasn't a dominating performance, by any means. Bears running back Matt Forte averaged 4.7 yards per carry with 19 carries for 90 yards. With receiver Alshon Jeffery running twice for 30 yards on end-arounds, Chicago finished with 129 total yards and a 5.0 yards-per-carry average.
But the Vikings started tracking down Forte. He only had 15 yards rushing in the second half as Minnesota's defense stiffened. After a 38-yard run on his first attempt, Jeffery was pulled down for an 8-yard loss on his second rushing attempt, a smart play by Allen diagnosing the play and staying in his spot.
Special teams: C
The two rookies led the way for the Vikings special teams. Returner Cordarrelle Patterson started with a bang, taking the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. Patterson had three returns for 149 yards. Punter Jeff Locke kept Chicago rookie Devin Hester from affecting the game on punt returns. Locke had three punts for a 56.7-yard gross average and 50-yard net average and Hester didn't have a return.
But Hester did have an impact on kickoff returns. Hester had five returns for 249 yards, a 49.8-yard average. He had returns of 80, 76 and 42 yards, giving the Bears the edge in field position. Hester has long given Minnesota trouble and it continued Sunday.
The Vikings had a very limited opportunity after Bennett's touchdown, but John Carlson's return on the ensuing kickoff lowers the special teams grade as well. Chicago squib-kicked the kickoff with just 10 seconds left and Carlson picked the ball up and tried to advance. Carlson ran time off the clock and then fumbled trying to lateral, ending any chance Minnesota might have had at a desperation bomb and field goal.
Frazier really placed the emphasis for the game-winning drive on his shoulders and said he needed to "be better" to help the team in the 2-minute, defensive situation. Cutler took Chicago right down the field and Frazier clearly had an issue with the defensive scheme being run. The Vikings haven't won in Chicago since 2007 and had a real chance to end the streak Sunday -- which is now 12 losses in the last 13 games at Soldier Field -- but the defense at the end of each half and settling for field goals in the second half allowed the Bears to survive four turnovers.