Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vikings vs. Bills Analysis

Audie Cole interecepted two
passes and took
both to the endzone for touchdowns in the
4th quarter Friday vs. the Bills.

The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Buffalo Bills 36-14 in their preseason home opener. The Vikings avenged a preseason opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Friday night. We saw vast improvement from a performance where the Vikings allowed nearly 213 rushing yards, compared to only 54 yards from the starters alone last night. Players were in better positions and completed the tackle, which resulted in the run defense being improved.

Christian Ponder looked as effective as we have ever seen in game action. Ponder had pinpoint accuracy finishing 11 for 13 with 136 yards and a touchdown pass to fullback Jerome Felton. He also made a nice connection with Jerome Simpson across the mid-section of the field which brought the Vikings into the redzone on the first drive of the game. Simpson broke several tackles and made a fantastic leap over a defender in the process of the big gain. We saw the athleticism that Simpson will bring to the wide receiver group when he returns from suspension.

The offensive line struggled in the first drive, allowing two sacks of Christian Ponder. Marcell Dareus bull-rushed John Sullivan up the middle and Sullivan ended up bumping into Ponder in the process. This resulted in a loss of 9 yards, which later would have no effect, as the Vikings reached the endzone. Kyle Williams also received a sack, which was caused by a breach in the assignments on the offensive line. During the next two drives, we witnessed little issue with pass protection or running blocking, so this issue was fixed immediately.

Harrison Smith made his first start of the season alongside Mistral Raymond in last night’s action. Smith looked impressive, busting through the line of scrimmage causing a pass deflection. He also didn’t allow any passes over the top and made a nice tackle in run support. Mistral Raymond helped his effort to defeat Jamarca Sanford in the safety position battle. Raymond made two very nice tackles in run support and nearly made an interception on a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jamarca Sanford later had an opportunity to receive an interception, but couldn’t execute the play. He was in excellent position, but couldn’t execute, much like we saw last season from our safeties. These are the type of plays that our safeties need to execute each week, if the Vikings are going to be successful on defense during the season. 

Josh Robinson made his debut with the second team defense and impacted the secondary. He displayed his coverage ability and nearly made a leaping interception of an out route. Robinson has the potential to be an impact player for the next few seasons, but he just needs more experience in this league. We saw the pathetic tackling cornerback Chris Carr displayed, which gives Robinson a chance to become the potential nickel cornerback.

Stephen Burton again made the coaching staff wonder if he is a suitable option at wide receiver. He hauled in a nice reception from Joe Webb for a large gain, made the catch, but preceded in fumbling the football. I just wonder if Stephen Burton is viable option for this roster because of his inconsistency. He will be in a battle with two possible players including Devin Aromashodu and Manny Arceneaux. Aromashodu had several opportunities, but they were out of bounds near the sidelines. Arceneaux made a nice 45 yard reception from Sage Rosenfels, which was a great catch in traffic. I would like to see Arceneaux become more involved in the offense to better evaluate his role on the roster.

Audie Cole made his presence known in the game last night, intercepting two passes in a matter of two defense series. He read the quarterback’s eyes, shaded over the tight end, hauled in the interception and took it into the endzone for a touchdown. Later he followed the same sequence, intercepting the pass in nearly the same location and he sprinted into the endzone for his second touchdown. This fired the whole roster up, as Chris Cook, Jared Allen, and Mistral Raymond (all out of the game), ran into the endzone to celebrate with the rookie. With the energy Cole has shown he can inject, it will be interesting to see if he pushes himself onto the roster. With his performances over the last two weeks he should make this roster and could be of assistance this season.

Blair Walsh looked great on Friday night executing on 5 of 6 field goals all between 30 and 49 yards. He did miss a field goal from 49 yards, but the snap was low causing a mishap in timing. Walsh received great game experience last night and he will be ready to execute when the regular season comes along.

Overall, the Vikings looked very impressive in every category on Friday night. They made almost all the tackles, improved the run defense, and the first-team offense moved the ball and made plays. All the keys to success were displayed and it will be amusing to see if this trend continues over the next few weeks. We will keep you posted with the last information this week, leading up to the third preseason game on Friday night versus the San Diego Chargers.  

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