3rd Down – The Key To Success?

So, as I watched the last couple of games, I noticed (didn’t have to hit me with a 2*4) that when it comes to 3rd down, our team appears to be bad.  How bad was really the question though, so this morning, I decided to do some checking.

Now, bear in mind, I don’t think it is the offense or the defense that is bad on 3rd down, but my thoughts were that they are both horrible on 3rd down.

We are 36 of 94 for 38.3%.  That is good for 15th in the league.  Much better than I would have thought, given all the complaints about our offense.

  • New England – 32% – Good for 29th in the league
  • Green Bay – 46% – Good for 3rd in the league
  • Detroit – 43% – Good for 8th in the league
  • Denver – 51% – Good for 1st in the league
  • Jacksonville – 30% – Good for last in the league
  • Kansas City – 37% – Good for 16th in the league

Admittedly I was surprised that we had converted so well on 3rd down, but I do think our offense is more efficient than others would lead you to believe.  Does this mean I think our offense is rock solid?  Not at all, just surprised that we sit about in the middle of the league.

Now, how about that defense.  I am beginning to think teams are in four down territory all the time with us.  I am not sure any team has as many 4th down attempts as the Vikings.  Just line up and go for it.

So, where do our Vikings sit?  Dead last.  53 for 104 for 51%.  Yep…..51%.  To give you an idea, Cleveland is 5 points ahead of the Vikings at 58 for 125 for 46%.  Ouch.

  • Kansas City – 25% – Leading the league
  • Detroit – 29% - 2nd in the league
  • Green Bay – 36% – 10th in the league
  • Denver – 38% – 16th in the league

So, just as we have always suspected, good teams convert on third down, and get off the field on third down.  Great teams do both well.  Some teams can be so so at one, and suck at the other, but they are not good enough at either to make up the difference.  I think that is where our Vikings sit.  We are so bad defensively, and sitting in the middle of the pack offensively, we just cannot overcome.  Until we become more centered, our team will continue to struggle this season.

**Stats from ESPN.com

QB Carousel

Here we are at Week 7 of the 2013 NFL Season, and the Vikings will be starting their 3rd QB of the season.  How did we get to this point?  Allow me to give you my opinion on this matter.

Going into the season, Ponder was the guy.  The staff stood by his side, never once wavering.  To shore up the position, during the off season they signed veteran Matt Cassel, in large part because the Joe Webb experiment was officially killed during the playoff game last season.  Everyone at that time realized that Webb was probably never going to be an NFL QB, so enter Cassel.  In my opinion a very wise signing.  Someone to push Ponder, and someone to fill in to avoid another Webb collapse.

Ponder struggled in each of his starts, though the offense was able to put points on the board.  Aside from play calling, offensive line play, or anything else that may or may not have an effect on QB play, Ponder never really passed my eye test.  I thought he abandoned the pocket early, floated passes, and missed receivers.  He has always floated his passed, and never really had the zip on his passes I thought was necessary to succeed as an NFL QB.  I supported him up until this year, when my support slowly went the way of the dodo bird.

Enter Matt Cassel and the hapless Pittsburgh Steelers.  My wife and I had the opportunity to attend that game, and I can tell you things felt and looked different.  The offense seemed to have tempo, passes appeared to have more zip, and we looked like a different team.  I will be the first to say that Cassel was helped immensely with a couple of picks that were dropped, and a nice run by Jennings that led to a TD.  But still, a win is a win, and Cassel got us there.  I never believed for a moment that Cassel was the long term answer, but I did secretly hope that either Ponder’s ribs did not heal, or that the coaching staff would go with the guy that put them in the W column.

After the bye (and plenty of time for ribs to heal) Carolina comes into the dome, and by all means should be a very winnable game.  We played about as flat as 5 week old potato chips, and we were throttled, and Cassel looked very Ponder like.  Not at all what I was expecting.  As a pro athlete, fighting for a starting job, that is what I would call a statement game.  Unfortunately, Cassel made the wrong statement.

Fortunately in the meantime the front office decided to go after recently released Freeman, a move which I supported (even after my wife defined him as “fine”).  I had seen him play twice, and he absolutely destroyed the Vikings.  Freeman brings a stronger arm and has zip to his passes.  His pocket presence looks stronger, and I think he is an upgrade over either of our previous QB’s.  He needs to hit the field sooner rather than later, and we need to know if he can be our QB of the future or not.

If the Freeman experiment is successful, we can focus our draft on other positions of need, allowing us to continue to build for the future.  If Freeman is not the answer, we will likely be drafting a QB early in the draft, ignore other positions, and set us back another year.  I for one hope the Freeman experiment works out, and I will gladly get my wife a Freeman jersey for her to wear proudly.

 

 

Our Defense is Offensive

If only we had a QB we could be so much better.  If our coaching staff would just do their job we could have a winning record.  Give AP the ball more often and we will start winning more often.

How about this one though?  If our defense could make some stops, we would be a much better team.  At this point that is where I am going to focus my attention, so let me explain my thoughts a bit.

First off, AP is ahead of pace as compared to last year.  Through 5 games this year he has 102 rushes for 483 yards.  This year he is at 96 rushes for 420 yards through the same number of games.  He also have 5 touchdowns this year as compared to 2 last year through the same number games.  Granted, our offense may not be the same as it was last year, but no sense in blaming AP or how the coaches use him.

We are currently 10th in the league in offensive point production with 125 points, or an average of 25 points per game.  I don’t know about you, but I will take that production on average week in and week out.  And remember, that includes the 3 point performance against Carolina.  Take that out and we are averaging 30.5 points per game.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have complaints about our offense, but a quick glance at the numbers really doesn’t support it.

Now, moving on to the defense.  Here is where I place the blame, and let me tell you why.

1.  We get no push up the middle anymore.  Back in the day when we had the Williams wall, we had players demanding double teams, allowing our linebackers to make plays.  We were able to disrupt the QB, and plug holes.  In the terms of a friend of mine, the Vikings need a Warpig in the middle of our D line, and I am beginning to agree with him.

2.  The play of our linebackers has shown serious drop off in recent years.  I love Greenway, but he needs another player back there to help him out and allow him to make plays.  Erin Henderson is good, but he is certainly not EJ.  After that, we become very weak in the LB corps, and certainly could use some work.

3.  Our secondary should all be fired with the exception of Harrison Smith.  He is the only player who deserves an NFL contract at this point.  Sanford does a better job show boating than making plays.  Josh Robinson may be the most picked on DB in the league, and right fully so.  I will say I still have hope for Cook, though he better turn it around shortly.

So, where do we go from here?  No where but up after the performance against Carolina is the obvious answer.  Allow me offer a slightly different approach.  We know what we have on the roster in our veterans.  Time to audition the young guys.  Get Floyd and Rhodes on the field and see what they can do.  Certainly cannot be worse than what we have seen at this point.

At this point, everyone is auditioning for their job for next season, and to a certain extent, to earn playing time this year.  It is time for our coaching staff to shake things up, and send a message.  Fans want to see this, and fans deserve this.

0-3

Well, here we sit at 0-3 with a bunch of questions to “Ponder”

As normal, I attended the home opener, and like most fans expected to see our team break out of the 0-2 slump and whoop up on a team that we should whoop on.  Someone forgot to tell the Browns our thoughts.

So, what went wrong?  In a word, just about everything, but I am going to sum up some of my thoughts for you to digest.

Our QB play started out well, but as usual, Ponder struggled.  When he missed Webb in the endzone, I came to the finality that maybe we do not have the QB of the future.  I had tried to support him, but that was a crucial throw, and he flat out missed it.  If that was his only miscue of the season, I could forgive him, but too many other things combined with that throw have let me to believe we need to look elsewhere.  I can also tell you that elsewhere is not the Cassel chants that were echoing through they dome at times, as I am not sure he is any better.  If he were, he would not be backing up the Vikings.

Along the lines of Ponder looking poor, it is hard to look good when the offensive line is not even attempting to do their job.  I am not sure if players are hurt, not properly coached, missing assignments, or what, but wow.  Talk about a turnstile.  Hold someone for gods sake.  Make an attempt to protect the QB.

As long as we are talking about lines, lets talk about the defensive line.  Just no pressure there at all.  I am starting to believe that we really just do not have that big ass guy in the middle that can eat up blockers and allow others to make plays.  That guy is otherwise known as Phat Pat.  I could play that position (more along the lines of Phat than anything else).

Now, lets move on to Frazier.  I personally do not care that he was penalized on the muffed punt challenge (I will blog about that later) as I HATE instant replay.  I think he should have thrown the flag just so the media could ask him about it after the game, and he could rip the rule.  Isn’t the purpose of instant replay to get the call right?  Than get it right!  More on that later.  At any rate, I think our coaching staff is lacking motivation and originality.  The Cover 2 and run first offense are great thoughts, but they are not what wins games in the NFL anymore.  Time to come up with some new wrinkles.

Right now our the Vikings have done some things right (takeaways) but cannot come away with the W.  In my opinion this boils down to a couple of very simple things.  Getting off the field on third down late in the game, and sustaining offensive drives late in the game.  Really, when you look back at the Chicago and Cleveland loss, if you correct those to simple things, we are 2-1 instead of 0-3.

Next week or Vikings head to London to take on the Steelers.  I will try to blog at some point as we will be there, as well as update my twitter account.  If you wish to follow me in twitter, simply follow leonsenn on twitter.

Skol, and hope to see you in London!

 

Start of the NFL Season

Each year, about this time, I get excited for the start of the NFL season.  Admittedly, I do not like winter, but I do like the start of football season.

As the start of the season draws nearer, I will be putting my thoughts out here for people to view.  They may be about football, or they may be about life in general.

With that, I am out of here.  Please check back for updated posts.

 

Vikings Finish 3-13

Yep, we matched the worst record ever for a Vikings team.  It has been a long season.

As we normally do, our family made the trip down for the Bears game on New Years Day.  We all hoped for a Vikings victory, but I had no idea what to expect, so please allow me to talk to you about my day.

First off, it was the final home game for Sauce.  Yep, Jim Kleinsasser was calling it a career after 13 years as a Vikings.  The Kleinsasser jerseys were everywhere.  As the starting lineups were introduced, everyone knew that Kleinsasser would be the final offensive player announced.  The last introduction is usually reserved for a “star”.  Someone like AP, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, etc typically occupies this spot, to fire up the crowd.  Jimmy K may not be “star” material, but the Metrodome sure did erupt when he was the last Viking introduced.  Thank you Sauce for your years of punishing blocks.  You will be missed.

Making the trip with us to the game this time was my oldest daughters boyfriend.  He had never been to a Vikings game before, so this was a new experience for him.  He had a great time according to what he told us, but I am sure that he would have rather had a win.  He wore his brand new Jared Allen jersey that my daughter got him for Christmas, as she loves Jared.  As he opened it, he exclaimed, “Oh, you got me your boyfriends jersey!”  He wore it with pride anyway at the game.

Behind us at the game was a family of 4 from Mitchell, SD decked out in Bears gear.  They had a couple of young girls who were obviously Bear fans.  Now I love my team, and will certainly jaw back and forth with an adult fan from the opposing team, but I draw the line on hacking on the opposing team with little kids.  We did do some good natured ribbing back and forth, and everyone once in a while one would tap me on the shoulder and proudly state “We’re still winning!”  I had nothing to come back with.  She was right, and so darn cute about it.

As expected Jared Allen came out loaded for Bear.  He had a couple of sack records in his reach, and he was gunning for them.  Every sack brought the crowd to their feet, knowing they could see a Vikings record, and possibly a NFL record fall.  He did not disappoint at all.  He had to work hard for each of his sacks, facing double and triple teams.

I am hoping we have not seen our last home game for the Minnesota Vikings.  As a two year season ticket holder, I have a different perspective on game day now.  Perspectives that involve memories.  Going to the game now is part experience, part game.  My hope is that all Vikings fans get to experience the game day experience live at a game.  As you may have noticed, this blog was not so much about the game itself, but rather the experience of being at the game.

 

Vikings Thanksgiving

Well, here we sit at 2-8, so you may think to yourself, what do the Vikings have to be thankful for?  Well, let me attempt to shed some light on that.

We Are Not The Colts

The only thing being the worst team in the NFL wins this year, is the Suck for Luck campaign.  Though it may be too early to throw the towel in on Ponder, I have seen enough from him so far that I would not mind giving him a couple more years.  With the number of holes we have to fill, I think we can hold tight at QB and get him some protection and see where we sit at that point.

We Are Not The Packers

Aside from the obvious of just being anti-Packer, picture this if you will.  The Lions are playing tough, and the Pack D is struggling.  I see the Pack losing on Thanksgiving day.  At the very least, I do not see them going 16-0.  I do see them going 15-1 though if you will.  I see them in the NFC Championship game, where the Packers decide to go conservative on offense.  Near the end of the game, Crosby will come on for a sure fire field goal, only to miss wide right.  At that point the opposition marches down the field to put up the winning field goal.  Good bye Super Bowl.

We Are Not The Chargers

The typically slow starting Chargers usually find a way to come on strong at the end, and make a playoff push.  Not so this year.  Rivers is struggling, and the team just does not look like it is ready to make that push this year.  They have had some injuries, and lost some players, and I think that has hurt them this year.  The Chargers will be watching the playoffs from home this year.

We Are Not The Bears

Though it appears Orton is heading to the Bears, and should be a fine replacement for Cutler, no team wants to see it’s QB go down, especially on a play that really had no bearing on the game.  Cutler should have done his best impression of attempting a tackle, and let him go.  We will see what effect that has on the Bears season.

We Are Not The Redskins

I think the arrival of Shanahan accelerated the downfall of the Redskins.  I am not sure of the identity of that team, and I don’t think Shanahan has any idea either.  At least when Snyder was making the player personnel decisions, you could always expect to see some player be signed for more than he was worth.

We Are Not The Buccaneers

Talk about the sleeper pick of everyone going to sleep.  This team was predicted to make the playoffs, and possibly make some noise in the playoffs.  I like the Bucs, and what they have going for them, but they may be a couple of years out still.  They play in a though division, and they just have to learn to win consistently.  At that point, they could become a favorite to run deep in the playoffs.  Until then, they will continue to improve, and knock off a few teams here and there, and learn from their mistakes.

We Are Not The Eagles

Hey, at least the Vikings were not expected to be all that great.  Vince Young and others declared this the Dream Team and punched tickets to the Super Bowl before they played a single snap.  Looks like this dream is turning into a nightmare.

We Are Not The Seahawks

Could be a bit like cheering for the Vikings.  Jackson to Rice?  Enough said.  I liked Rice, but he needed to demonstate to everyone that he could be a stellar receiver for a full year, without someone named Favre.  Maybe he can do that, but right now I am not so sure.  And sure Jackson may have had a rough time in Viking Land, but is he really a starting QB?  I think that question has been answered.

We Are Not The Broncos

Tebow, really?  I like the kid, and think he has “it”, but I am not sure he will be the type of QB that NFL fans like to see.  His team will probably win games, and he will do everything he can (except pass) to make that happen.  But who wants to see the option at the NFL level?  Rumblings even have it that the Broncos are hoping he fails, so they can move on.  I congratulate the team for figuring out what they need to do to make Tebow and the team successful, even if it is boring football.  When they visit the Dome, I hope we can shut down the run, and take advantage of his passing skills.

On a serious note, I am thankful for my family and many friends.  Like many people, I could maybe take more time and tell them that.  Too often we forget to take the time to tell our loved ones how much we appreciate them.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember what Thanksgiving is really about.  Enjoy your time with family and friends, eat your wonderful meal, enjoy some football, and be thankful.

 

Packer Week and Family Memories

My life as a Viking fan began many years ago.  I was born November 13, 1966.  On that day the Vikings lost to Detroit 32-31.  I guess dealing with the losses has been part of my life from the beginning.

I was a Viking fan, my dad was a Viking fan, my dad’s best friend was a Viking fan.  How could I not be a Vikings fan?  We spent our Sundays around the TV, watching the game.  Trips to visit Grandpa and Grandma were planned around games.  Deer hunting stopped at noon, so we could watch the game.

I remember sitting there as a young child, thinking how sweet it would be to go to a game, but I knew it was probably never going to happen.  Minneapolis seemed so far away, and that seemed like something only rich could people could afford to do.  I asked a couple of times, and the response was “We’ll see”.  I knew that it probably would never happen, but I held out hope.  I continued to hope that some day I would get a chance to go to a game with my dad.  That seemed like the ultimate day for me.  That day never came.

Fast forward.  I am married to a wonderful woman and have two beautiful daughters.  I still watch the Vikings every Sunday.  I am fortunate.  My wife loves football, as does my oldest daughter.  I attnended a couple of games here and there, and took my wife to a couple.

My wife had said a couple of times to me that we should purchase season tickets, but I never gave it much thought.  Too much travel, too much money I thought to myself.  She kept on my until I finally gave in.  It was the summer after the Magical Favre season, and I thought what the heck.  Time to pull the trigger.  I ordered up four season tickets, and my dream had started to be realized.  I was finally going to get to enjoy a Vikings game with my family, just like I had hoped as a little kid.

I remember the first game.  Standing at our seats with my wife and daughters.  I felt like the luckiest guy in the world.  They were about to experience something that I never had the opportunity to.  The Vikings lost that day to the Dolphins 14-10, and though I cared, I was more excited to take in my first game as a family.

We had some exciting moments that year.  Our first win came the next week against Detroit.  The Dallas game stood out, as we made a family trip  and stayed downtown Minneapolis.  The overtime game against the Cardinals was a great game.  We were all hoarse after that game!  There was also the game against the Packers, which was a first for all of us.  I knew that game would be a blast, and though we lost, it was still the Packers.

We renewed our season tickets this year, and though my oldest has moved out of the house, she still comes when she cans.  My youngest is not a football fan, but she loves the excitement, and she knows it is important to me.  My wife, well, she is amazing.  She convinced me to take the plunge, and I am so glad we did.

Why do I write about this?  Because, life is short.  I lost my dad to cancer, so we never had the opportunity to go to a game together.  A few years ago my wifes family decided we should take in a game, and we took my father in law.  He sat near us.  He was a very happy man.

So, as my family gets ready to head down to the cities on Saturday, and take in another Vikings-Packers game, I can’t help but be excited.  We may or may not win, but no matter what, we will have fun, and another Senn Family memory will be made.  I would like to thank both my daughters for taking part in  these memories, and my wife Laurie for being the catalyst for these memories.  I am a very lucky man.

SKOL!

Week 4 Thoughts

Well, after missing a couple of weeks, I think I am back on track.  I want to thank my family and therapist for helping me get through the depressing start to the season.

Detroit Game

How do we dominitate the first half again, and lay an egg in the second half?  There is plenty of blame to go around, so I don’t feel I can single out any one aspect of our game.  On the flip side, Detroit has done some positive things after getting rid of Millen, and their team is looking good.  I guess having a top draft pick several years in a row allows you to build your team through the draft.

The atmosphere in the dome is still strong, leading me to believe that we really could hold on against Detroit, and turn the corner and pick up a win.  Alas, enough mistakes were made that allowed Detroit to mount a comeback, dealing another defeating loss to our beloved Vikings

Kansas City Game

I considered going to this game, since it was fairly close, and I really thought we would get our first win.  We have to get in the W column sometime, right?  Turns out that both teams played well enough to lose, but the Vikings managed to look just a bit worse, coming out of Kansas City with an 0-4 record. 

Pondering Ponder

If Ponder was the most pro ready quarterback according to the Vikings, is it time to bring turn the team over to him and see where things go?  McNabb is struggling, and I can guarantee you that if he struggles on Sunday, the boo birds will begin calling for Ponder.

Though I thought bringing in McNabb was the right answer, the time has come for me to admit I was wrong.  McNabb is done in the NFL, and it is time for him to ride off into the sunset. 

The Ponder era should begin.  It is time to see what he has, so that we can begin evaluating where we stand next year.  Yes, you can argue that McNabbs years of experience gives him the best chance right now, giving all the other problems on our team, but other QB’s have played on horrible teams and survived, and yes, others have failed.

If McNabb struggles against the Cardinals on Sunday, I truly expect we will see Ponder.  The Cardinals are not a strong team, and we should be able to move the ball on them, with either QB.

With teams stacking the box against us, we need to make them pay.  That comes down to QB, offensive line, and receivers.

Is Our Offensive Line “Offensive”

I am not even really sure where to start here.  Loadholt has regressed, and Johnson is not performing at all where I expected him to.  Without good line play, we will struggle.  We have not taken an offensive lineman early in the draft in recent years, and it shows.  Hutchinson is not the player he was, though he is still the leader of that line.

Johnson has had costly penalties, and has missed several assignments, both of which have put us in poor situations.  Situations that with our offensive struggles we cannot afford to be in.

Jim Kleinsasser

The man is playing like he is 10 years younger.  He is destroying people on blocks and busting his butt.  I will be sad to see him leave.  They don’t make many like him anymore.

Defensive Line

This may be the lone bright spot of our team.  Allen and company are having a very solid year, though their play in the second half has not been as strong as in the first half.  Getting Williams back has certainly helped.

Robison has certainly stepped in and played well.  Certainly very easy to forget about that Ray characted that vacated our team.

I write this as I am getting ready to head down to the Arizona game.  Though I would like to see a W this week, more importantly I would like to see improved play from our team.  I have resigned myself to the fact that we would not be very good this year.  I thought going in we would get maybe 7 to 9 wins.  Though I believe this team is talented, we are weak at some key spots, and we really don’t have much depth.  This is hard for me to admit, but it is the sad truth.

Second Half Struggles

Sorry this post is late this week, but been a pretty busy week.

The second half struggles continued once again for the Vikings in their home opener against Tampa Bay.  After controlling the first half, the Vikings managed to slip into a coma in the second half and allow Tampa Bay to mount a comeback victory.

After two games, the Vikings have been outscored 44-3 in the second half.  Strangely, I believe that the blame lies on both sides of the ball, as the offense cannot sustain a drive, and the defense is unable to make a stop.

Though McNabb did look better, there is still room for improvement.  The tight ends were almost invisible, Harvin was absent, and our receivers struggled once again.  Berrian dropped another pass, sending my lovely wife into a frenzy once again.  She is leading the charge to have Berrian released.

I do have a couple of observations as the game progessed.  The “We Want Ponder” chants started, and though I believe Ponder has a future with our team, I am not sure I am ready to turn the reins over to him as of yet.  I think McNabb and the offense will turn things around, and we will see better things against the Lions.

The second oberservation was the booing.  I have never been a fan of booing my team, and really do not care for it.  I understand there may be frustrations with the team, but booing probably will not solve the problem.  I prefer to cheer my team on no matter how things stand.

Hopefully things click this week against the Lions, and we put W on the board, or it could be a very long week for Vikings fans, and maybe a long year.