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The Morning After: Five Observations From The Vikings 31-27 Loss To The Browns

Photo – Adam Bettcher (Getty Images)

By: Aj Mansour |

Minneapolis, MN – So the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Cleveland Browns 31-27 yesterday. So they’re defense got carved apart by a third string quarterback. Just when you think that it couldn’t get any worse, you take a look at the schedule and remember that this is supposed to be the easy part of the schedule!

Nobody expected the Vikings to start the season 0-3, but when you look at the long and the short of it, there are some things that both expected and unexpected issues that are adding to Minnesota’s struggles. Here are five observations from Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

What is going on with the offense line?
One year ago, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line paved the way for Adrian Peterson to etch his name into the record books. One year ago we were applauding Rick Spielman for seeing the bigger picture and locking up Sullivan, drafting Kalil and snatching Matt Kalil. So far this season, the offensive line has been down right offensive!

Chalk this one up in the unexpected column, for which reason it may be the most troubling of the Vikings early season woes.

“It seemed like Cleveland was in our backfield a lot,” Frazier said following the game. “They got a lot of pressure on our passing game with their four guys rushing and sometimes five. It’s going to be hard to function as an offense if we can’t protect better.”

Christian Ponder was sacked six times again yesterday against Cleveland. Adrian Peterson was dealing with backfield pressure all day long and it wasn’t just one offensive lineman that was struggling. We saw Loadholt having issues and Sullivan getting worked, two veteran players who we normally don’t have to worry about.

Two Minute drills (on both sides) leaving much to be desired…
For the second straight weekend, the Vikings carried a lead into the final two minutes of play only to see the opposition move the ball down field at will on their way into the endzone for the victory. Last week stung but at least it was understandable. It wasn’t a gigantic surprise to see the still undefeated Bears led by Jay Cutler drive down the field for the win. But this week it was the hapless Cleveland Browns led by third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer, are you kidding me?

“Our two-minute drill terrible right now,” a frustrated Jared Allen said after the game. “We had an opportunity, they weren’t in the greatest field position, they got the ball at the 50 yard line and needed a field goal, but we gave them the touch down. Our two-minute drill is actually terrible right now and it cost us, in my opinion three games.”

You have to look at the whole picture and realize that Minnesota was playing with their third and fourth string cornerbacks as the Browns drove the field near the end, but they’re still the Cleveland Browns.

On the other side of the ball, the offensive two minute attack was nearly as bad. For whatever reason, Christian Ponder’s go-to play with time running out is a dump down pass to the running back in the middle of the field. This is a problem of time management, it’s a problem of decision making and it’s a problem of simply not using your head. The way they are playing as of now, Ponder and the Vikings offense leave you no hope for a come-from-behind victory.

The Vikings are forcing turnovers, still finding ways to lose…
Recent history has not seen the Minnesota Vikings force an exorbitant amount of turnovers. So far, this year is different. The Minnesota Vikings are second in the league in takeaways with six interceptions and five four fumbles recovered. The other two teams with double-digit takeaways (Chicago & Seattle) have a give/take ratio of +6. Currently, despite their ten turnovers forced, the Minnesota Vikings are even at 0 in the give/take.

Worse yet, despite forcing four turnovers yesterday versus the Browns, the Vikings only managed to put 10 points-off-of-turnovers on the board.

“We want to score every chance we get, especially when there’s a turnover,” Christian Ponder said. “Our defense played well and we have to make sure we do a better job of that and make sure that we don’t turn the ball over. The defense played well and we had the opportunity to put up more points than we did.”

It’s been a full team effort on this side with Ponder throwing five interceptions, Adrian Peterson dropping to rock and a team that is generally speaking, not taking care of the ball.

Cordarrelle Patterson added to the mix…
After seeing rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson on the field for only 11 snaps through the first two weeks of the season, Leslie Frazier was true to his words and “rectified” the problem that was Patterson on the sidelines.

Unofficially, Patterson played right around 15 snaps on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. He was targeted four times and was able to reel in two catches for 49 yards including a 37-yard deep pass where the rookie wide receiver had to readjust and come back for the ball.

In the return game, Patterson was average on Sunday. With two returns for 59 yards, Patterson averaged 29.5 yards per kick return.

It was nice to see Patterson in the mix more, but without a quarterback who is able to get him the ball, his offensive value continues to be nullified.

It’s probably time to make the switch…
I’ve stuck by his side for nearly three seasons but after yesterday’s game against the Browns, I can no longer support the idea of Christian Ponder as the quarterback of the future here in Minnesota. I’ll get into this much more later today but it’s time to move on and see what else you may or may not have in Matt Cassel and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

In his third year as quarterback, we’re still seeing Christian make some of the same mistakes that he made as a rookie in 2011. We’ve come to the point where Ponder’s presence on the field may be more detrimental to this team then beneficial.

Stay tuned to later Monday afternoon for a more detailed breakdown on why now is the time to make the switch with Ponder.

Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN

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