By Tim Ryan
January 1, 2013
Vikings vs. Packers Game Gallery: http://www.ihigh.com/mnscore/gallery_98599.html
There’s no question the 10-6 Vikings exceeded expectations this season after taking the last NFC Wild Card spot by beating the 11-5 Green Bay Packers 37-34 on Sunday at Mall Of America Field. Many football experts predicted an equivalent record of 2011. Even ESPN’s John Clayton stated the Vikings would finish 2-14. Ultimately the Vikings didn’t exactly shine all season and in some cases barely played well enough to win. However they did win and has shown some promise of what we can expect in the near future.
1. 2012 NFL Draft – Head Coach Leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman had an exceptional 2012 Draft. There were a lot of questions picking K Blair Walsh in the 6th round but Walsh was a key in several of the Vikings victories this season and kicked the last second field goal to lift the Vikings over the Packers to put them into the playoffs. Walsh kicked an NFL record 10 FG’s over 50 yards this season and was named the NFC’s kicker for the Pro Bowl. Number one pick, OL Matt Kalil had made a few mistakes this year but chalk that up to the learning curve. Overall Kalil has been outstanding in his rookie year. The Vikings saw something in Safety Harrison Smith by trading up to the first round to grab him. Smith has played well all season and cemented himself into the starting backfield. Corner Josh Robinson has also had a steady season and is showing he has the ability to be a permanent starter. With the injury to WR Percy Harvin, Jarius Wright has shown some flashes of talent as well. We would have loved to see what Wright’s college teammate at Arkansas Greg Childs could have done in 2012. In the off-season the Vikings also signed TE John Carlson to a 5-year / $25 million contract that hasn’t exactly panned out this season. Fourth round pick TE/FB Rhett Elleson has shown his offensive ability this year as well.
2. AP “All Day” – Running back Adrian Peterson has almost single handedly carried the Vikings offense on his back all season long. After a remarkable recovery from a severe knee surgery and reconstruction during the off-season, AP has contended for the NFL MVP this season after running the Vikes into the playoffs and from falling just 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s 1984 single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. AP hasn’t been shy of his bid for MVP and has come out to state that he’s gunning for Dickerson next year. It’s given fans something else to cheer for in 2012 along with the hopes AP can continue throughout the playoffs.
3. The Vikings wouldn’t have won on Sunday if it wasn’t for QB Christian Ponder and the clutch throws he made down the stretch. After a hot start to the season the, “serviceable” Quarterback fell into a severe slump and ultimately single handedly took the blame for the 1 – 4 stretch mid season. One can blame lack of targets and some breakdowns in protection for some of the issues but overall Ponder’s play was far from average. Minnesota came back winning four straight games to end the season with one of Ponder’s best performances in the final game against Green Bay. Hopefully this is the sign of things to come for Ponder.
Many aspects of the Vikings game has improved over the stretch into the playoffs. The defense has had a philosophy of bend don’t break has come on as well as a much improved secondary. While fans are wishing for a Super Bowl title, Minnesota has exceeded all expectations this year and has put together an unlikely season. We can only hope for the run to continue.