Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published November 25 2012
Schlossman: Paltry passing game plagues Vikings once again
That’s why Minnesota’s 28-10 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field was another reminder of the major problems the Vikings face in their attempt to become a playoff team.
Peterson, the best player in the NFL, cannot do it alone.
In order to beat good teams in the NFL, you need to be able to throw the ball down the field. The Vikings cannot.
Christian Ponder and his receivers were once again inept whenever they would try to do so against the Bears, and it’s a big reason why the Vikings are watching their playoff hopes fade away.
Ponder was 22 of 43 for 159 yards against the Bears. He completed just one pass for more than 15 yards. It was a 1-yard out to tight end Kyle Rudolph where the Bears blew the coverage and allowed Rudolph to rumble up the sideline for 25 yards.
Whenever Ponder attempted to throw down the field, it was a disaster waiting to happen. In the first half, the Vikings called a pass 20 yards down field, Ponder sailed it over intended target Devin Aromashodu and Bears defensive back Chris Conte picked it off and ran it back to the 13. Chicago scored a touchdown on the next play.
After that, the Vikings rarely attempted to throw the ball down the field, instead relying on passes in the flat to a tight end or check downs to Peterson.
Against top teams, that’s not enough.
Peterson has rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight games, yet the Vikings are 2-3 in that span because they cannot sustain success through the air.
Ponder is now 32nd in the NFL in yards per attempt with 6.08 yards. The only players with worse marks are Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert and Arizona’s John Skelton. He has averaged just 150 yards passing during the last five games with a one-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Ponder struggles going through his progressions. He struggles even more throwing on the run. And the opponents know it and will continue to exploit it.
Of course, it’s not all on Ponder.
His top receiver, Percy Harvin, missed his second straight game with an injury. Without Harvin, the Vikings have been forced to dress something called Stephen Burton at wide receiver, while their big offseason pickup, Jerome Simpson, dropped more passes than the full-costume mascots during the halftime show.
Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins have been afterthoughts, and the only reliable wide receiver the Vikings had in the lineup Sunday was rookie Jarius Wright, who first dressed in an NFL game two weeks ago.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Vikings. Their final five games are against the Bears, Texans, Rams and two against the Packers. Only the Rams have a losing record in that group.
That’s bad news for the Vikings, who are 5-1 this season against teams with losing records and 1-4 against teams with winning records. The Vikings have lost by at least 10 points in their last three games against teams with winning records.
Peterson will continue grinding out the yards, the big-plays and the highlight-reel runs.
But if the Vikings can’t find a way to pass the ball down the field, they may as well start planning for the 2013 NFL draft right now.
Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald