This past Sunday the Minnesota Vikings accomplished what was deemed by most of the league a huge upset. In a incredible win over the favorite San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings opened eyes around the league with emphasis on the exciting improvement of quarterback Christian Ponder. Outside of a few special teams gaffs, the Vikings all had a great performance on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, as well as special teams.
Christian Ponder, a second-year quarterback out of Florida State, has been nothing short of stellar this season, with the 2nd best completion percentage in the league (70.1%) and top 5 passer rating at 104.9. The young quarterback still has yet to throw his first interception and exceeded expectations against a bruising San Francisco defense. However, he picked them apart pass by pass. In the beginning of the season Ponder set a goal for himself wanting to achieve a 1st and 2nd down completion percentage of 75%, something Drew Brees couldn’t do last year even after breaking the record for best overall completion percentage of all time at 71.2%. Definitely a stat everyone will be watching, Christian Ponder is currently sitting at 73% on 1st and 2nd down, just a little bit under his targeted goal. The Dallas native has made a name for himself this year by putting up consistent stats and even making his way to the highlight reels. Some of the credit must be given to the terrific job of the offensive line, as they did not allow a single sack against one of the best pass rushing teams in the league. John Sullivan did a great job in double teaming superstar defensive tackle Justin Smith by not allowing him to bring Ponder to the ground. Matt Kalil, the Vikings 4th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, did great in his ability to stop Aldon Smith.
Adrian Peterson is back and more ready then ever to be on the football field. The Pro Bowl running back is still at peak-career levels despite his reconstructed knee, averaging 4.0 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns already. It’s also key to note that Peterson has been limited on the game field with Toby Gerhart trying his best to take some of the weight off of his shoulders. Currently Adrian is on pace for to finish the season with 1227 yards and nearly 11 touchdowns and we still have yet to see him reach his full potential.
The Vikings will be adding a new member to there receiving core this week with Jumpin’ Jerome Simpson coming off of suspension. In his final year at Cincinnati before Minnesota acquired him, Jerome had 4 touchdown receptions on 725 yards, including the longest reception of his career at 84 yards. The Vikings already have one of the best slot receivers in Percy Harvin, but the one thing they are missing is a deep threat. The Vikings seem to be solving the pieces to the puzzle in their receiving core, by adding the deep threat of Simpson, keeping the elusiveness of Harvin, and finding someone to look for in the red-zone. Kyle Rudolph has come up big the last 2 weeks by finding himself open in the end zone 3 times for scores. The former Notre Dame alumni is establishing himself as one of Ponder’s favorite targets with his incredible hands, versatility, and speed.
The defense held up very well against running back Frank Gore and the San Francisco offense, allowing only 13 points. The defensive line kept good pressure while defensive end Jared Allen recorded his first sack which resulted in a fumble. The linebacker work has been phenomenal through the first 3 games and most importantly last Sunday. Outside linebacker Chad Greenway has gotten off to a quick start this season getting himself a 3rd best reputation in the league with 33 tackles and 2 sacks, including one on San Francisco’s first offensive possession. The secondary is much improved as well with key rookie additions Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith. Robinson recorded his first career interception and the Vikings first interception of the year, ending quarterback Alex Smith’s 49ers record of 249 consecutive passes without an interception. To compare the yards per game from last year, the Vikings gave up an average of 358.2 yards per game for 21st in the league. The change in defense is clearly visible as the Minnesota defense is allowing an average of only 304.3 yards per game for an amazing 8th best in the league. No doubt the defense will be challenged against the Lions pass-first offense.
Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman must be given some credit for the progress of the organization. Everything from the defensive backs to the offensive line have improved this offseason and it’s only getting better. Going into the 49ers game just about everyone around the league already knew what the ending result would be. The unintimidated Vikings took the field knowing they could win this game and they did exactly that. This victory opened up the rest of the season for this Minnesota franchise by giving them hope. Sitting at 2 wins and 1 loss, the Vikings are at the top of the NFC North Division.
To close out the next 13 games of the season, the Viking’s opponent winning percentage of last year rests at .534, including all division games. The Vikings are no longer a team to be underestimated and will be no easy contest for any team. Next week the Minnesota Vikings will head to Detroit to play the 1-2 Lions and their questionable quarterback Matthew Stafford. The lay out of the remaining games include @Lions, Titans, @Redskins, Cardinals, Buccaneers, @Seahawks, Lions, @Bears, @Packers, Bears, @Rams, @Texans, Packers. Prior to the NFL season I had the Vikings winning 7 games but this last one changes things up as I now give the Vikings at 10 win season and their first playoff berth since 09′.
If you disagree or have projections of your own Tweet me @MJohnson_SNN