Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vikings' Game Plan: KISS

Last week, the Minnesota Vikings opened their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a quick hit to Kyle Rudolph for fifteen yards.  They did not go back to Rudolph until there were under five minutes remaining in the first half.  At that point, Ponder threw to his big tight end on successive plays for 17 yards.  Ponder had but one attempt to Rudolph between Rudolph's third reception and the end of the third quarter, when the quarterback connected with his big tight end for 29 yards.

In the lengthy interval between second- and third-quarter completions to Rudolph, the Vikings conducted drives during which the ball went almost exclusively to running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart or wide-receiver Percy Harvin.  Rudolph had one more reception in the game--a six-yard catch that put the Vikings in position to make a game-tying field goal.

On the Vikings' first two forays inside the Jaguars' five-yard-line, they gave the ball to Peterson.  Peterson rewarded this confidence with two rushing touchdowns.  On the Vikings' next trip inside the Jaguars' five-yard-line, Peterson, inexplicably relegated to decoy duty, did not touch the ball.  The Vikings settled for a field goal.

The offensive lessons from week one should be apparent.  The first is that, when inside the five-yard-line, the Vikings ought to feed Peterson.  Then feed Peterson again until a touchdown results.

The second lesson is that, when not inside the five-yard-line, a steady, consistent, rotated diet of Peterson, Harvin, and Rudolph is in order.  These are the Vikings' three playmakers and all pose difficulties for opposing defenses.  Gerhart has shown an ability to pick up yards and Michael Jenkins is the most dependable third-down, sideline receiver that the team has had since Cris Carter wore purple, but these two, and all other offensive players currently on the squad, are ancillary pieces and not primary targets.

Against a Colts' team that is arguably more challenged on defense than the Jaguars, the Vikings can and must rely on their big three.  If they do not--if they eschew the simple for a combination of the mundane and absurd (Gerhart on successive plays to start the second drive of the game after a four and out on the first drive)--the Vikings can hope for no better than a tight game against a fellow challenged team.  If they force the Colts to defend Peterson, Harvin, and Rudolph every down of every series, however, the Colts could be in the rear-view mirror by the end of the third quarter.

Up Next:  Post Game.

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