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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Same problems, different preseason game for Vikings

Only the first play of the Minnesota Vikings’ 34-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday gave fans a glimpse at what the first-team, fully loaded, offense should look like this season.

Quarterback Christian Ponder faked a handoff to running back Adrian Peterson and overthrew receiver Greg Jennings, who was on a go-route and open downfield. Emphasis on the Ponder-Jennings connection, combined with the deep ball, shows the team has the right idea.

But the exhibitions are soon over and execution is needed.

Peterson, who played in his first preseason game since 2011, saw two snaps and didn’t receive a carry on either play. In fact, Peterson wasn’t touched by a 49ers’ defender at all on Sunday.

Against the defending NFC Champions, Ponder faced an uphill battle with an out-of-sync offense from the start. Knowing he would take the first-team offense into the third quarter, Ponder took baby steps in the right direction, but uncharacteristic mistakes flared while routine deficiencies continued.

In Buffalo, it was left tackle Matt Kalil stepping in the wrong direction that led to the opening drive sack on Ponder.

In San Francisco, Ponder stepped up at the wrong time as right tackle Phil Loadholt led his man inside, leading to a sack and lost fumble.

Ponder’s first three drives were three-and-outs on Sunday.

The first breath of life came when Ponder completed an 18-yard pass to Jennings on a seam route to put wheels on the fourth drive of the game.

But it soon ended after Ponder hesitated and threw a late ball to receiver Stephen Burton and Kalil was called for unnecessary roughness on the following down.

New look

The Vikings didn’t waste any time getting receiver Cordarrelle Patterson involved with the first-team offense. On his first offensive snap, Patterson received a handoff from Ponder on an end-around run for a modest four yards.

Ponder found Patterson on the next play to set up a 3rd-and-1, but inconsistency from the offensive line bit again when running back Toby Gerhart was slammed for a four-yard loss on the ensuing play.

Quarterback-turned-receiver Joe Webb also provided a fresh look for the Vikings, using his 6-foot-4 frame to catch a redzone touchdown pass from Ponder in the third quarter.

Webb made a strong case for the 53-man roster over receiver Stephen Burton, who has otherwise had an impressive preseason, but struggled on Sunday.

Burton forced a delay of game penalty in the third quarter when he didn’t motion after Ponder signaled him. Burton was also at fault for Ponder’s lone interception. Ponder threw to Burton on a slant route, but Burton didn’t get his hands up and appeared as if he didn’t know he was getting the ball.

Ponder’s pass sailed over Burton and into the arms of 49ers’ defensive back C.J. Spillman for the Vikings’ second turnover of the game.

Bad position

Cornerback Josh Robinson has had one of the more consistent training camps of any Vikings player, but was caught out of position and often peering into the backfield on Sunday.

After the Vikings forced two three-and-outs and 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick into a 1-for-7 start, Kaepernick dissected the secondary — and Robinson — on an 11-play, 84-yard drive for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Kaepernick was 6-for-6 on the drive, converting on Robinson’s way twice before completing the touchdown pass to receiver Quinton Patton over Robinson.

The Vikings remained in base defense for most of the game and Robinson’s poor play wasn’t limited to either his base or nickel roles.

Uncharacteristic mistakes

• After rookie fullback Zach Line caught his second touchdown pass of the preseason, 49ers’ return man Lavelle Hawkins took the kickoff back 105 yards for a touchdown. A year ago, the Vikings allowed the fewest points on special teams.

• The Vikings were called for six penalties on Sunday after only committing four in the first two preseason games. Frazier pulled Kalil out for a play after consecutive personal fouls so he could give his second-year tackle an earful.

Late hits

• Linebacker Desmond Bishop finally saw reps with the first-team defense on Sunday, finishing with a team-high nine tackles from the weak-side linebacker position.

• On 33 passing attempts, the Vikings targeted 11 different receivers even with receiver Jarius Wright (concussion) out. Ponder didn’t find his favorite target, tight end Kyle Rudolph, until his 12th completion.

• The game was briefly stopped at the start of the fourth quarter when fans ran onto the field at Candlestick Park. Receiver Jerome Simpson reportedly tripped one in an effort to stop the chaos.

by Andrew Krammer

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