ReFo: Vikings @ Packers, Week 13
Even a rather muted Packers display was enough to overcome a 200+ yard day from Adrian Peterson because, as the year progresses, Christian Ponder is getting worse, not better. To be fair to him, his receiving corps probably wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows if they’d been announced as the Jets practice squad but, as Russell Wilson keeps proving, a good quarterback makes talk of issues at receiver disappear faster than Mark Sanchez up his right guard’s bottom.
Obviously, this is a rather different Green Bay team than the one that dominated last year’s regular season. They seem as if they are just holding on, knowing full well that what they currently have won’t be enough against playoff caliber teams, but expecting to have their injured fire-power back soon. This was a generally good all-around display, but they do have issues in their defensive front seven and at kicker.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
Support for the King
While Peterson is so good he could even get yards running behind the PFF analysis team (well, as long as he didn’t run to Khaled’s side) he has been getting good help, not the least of which comes from his right tackle, Phil Loadholt (+6.1). The ‘giant one’ started his career as a better pass protector than run blocker but has turned that around and in 2011 was our top-rated tackle in the running game. While he hasn’t quite emulated that this year what we have seen is a better balanced player, with all facets of his game now firmly ‘in the green’. This game may well have been his best, as he gave up nothing protecting his quarterback and opened huge holes for Peterson. If you have the chance, watch the ease with which he tosses aside one of the stronger players in the NFL, Mike Neal, with 6:03 left in the third.
Anything but Ponderous
I think everyone is now aware why we weren’t getting caught in the Christian Ponder (-5.6) hyperbole early in the year. Let’s be honest, defensive coordinators would have had to have been blinder than some of the fans not to have seen how to combat the sophomore signal-caller’s initial ‘success’. How many times do you have to dump something off underneath and let talent take over before people realize that’s all you have.
Here Ponder went deeper than nine yards 11 times and completed only two, which was as many interceptions as he threw over the same distance. His passes sailed, went out of bounds and even some that were caught looked destined for the turf if not for Kyle Rudolph.
The only positive thing that could be said for Ponder was how decisive he was; it’s not for him, staying in the pocket and taking unnecessary sack thingys. On one play he bolted only two seconds after the snap. This is not a bad offensive line. If he wants to know what that’s like he could try playing for Chicago, but I suspect they don’t need him just at the moment.
What the Fusco?
There are certain decisions that have ‘coaches favorite’ stamped all over them. Why on earth, when you have one of the better guards in the NFL in Geoff Schwartz (+0.9 in 16 plays), do you rotate him with someone playing as poorly as Brandon Fusco (-1.2 in 39 plays). Unless of course you drafted Fusco and want to prove what a talent spotting whiz you are. So far this year Schwartz has looked good in limited action every time he’s played and is grading a healthy +5.2 — Fusco, a less than stellar -7.2. See how easily Mike Neal gets inside Fusco with 2:05 left in the fourth if you want an indication of the issue. As for Schwartz, watch him get outside on Peterson’s touchdown run and seal the edge.
Green Bay – Three Things of Note
Finley on Track
His grade (-0.1) may not be the best, but the Past three weeks have been a significant step forward for Jermichael Finley — 40% of his yards, and one of his two touchdowns have come in that span. In this game he was the go to guy when Aaron Rodgers needed an out and his catch rate of 86% was his second best of the year. Add to that the fact that over the second half he blocked well too, and you have a player that may be still some way from his best but moving in a positive direction.
When Don Barclay (-3.1) came on for the injured T.J. Lang we feared the worst, and while it didn’t descend to ridiculous levels, he did not play well. He gave up four hurries (one on a play negated by penalty) in a scheme deliberately designed to get rid of the ball quickly (or at least get the QB out of the pocket) and was also called for a couple of holding penalties. All of this came against Brian Robison who has something of a reputation for feasting on the NFL’s poorer tackles.
However, perhaps his worst moment came when he attempted to cut MLB, Jasper Brinkley (8:41 gone in the third), went far too early and allowed the Viking to tackle James Starks for a 1-yard loss.
When you are drafted fifth overall much is expected, and it’s fair to say that when it comes to A.J. Hawk (-0.9) little (other than longevity) has been delivered. He has played somewhat better than in previous campaigns, but that’s a) damning with faint praise and b) predicated on one excellent game against the Colts.
The one thing you need your inside linebacker to do is fill holes and here he notably failed, regularly being bullied by fullback, Jerome Felton. The pick of the plays came with 13:50 left in the second on a run over right guard. Not only did Felton stop the Packer but drove him backwards 4 yards and put him on his backside. While this was the most dominating of the encounters between the two players it was indicative of the overall outcome — a significant win for the Viking.
– Until there was only 2:55 left in the game, Christian Ponder hadn’t completed a pass to a wide receiver.
– In an effort to get Mistral Raymond on the field more often, he was rotated with Jamarca Sanford. According to the commentators this was because Leslie Frazier had told them Raymond was better in coverage.
– Mike Neal picked up his highest percentage of snaps for the year, with 56%
PFF Game Ball
The best player on the field (and probably in every game he’s played in this year) was Adrian Peterson. Without him this would have been over by half-time.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil