Grading the Minnesota Vikings in their Week 1 Loss

So by now you’ve had a chance to sleep on it, a chance to get some rest and maybe wake up to realize that it was all just a bad dream, maybe the Vikings really won in San Diego.  Well, they didn’t – and just like the real team it’s time for you as a fan to get the focus pointed toward next week’s game.  As Chiefs Coach Todd Haley said in his postgame presser, “Half the teams won and half the teams lost.  Our focus is on getting to 1-1.”  Not every team lost 41-7 like his did, and the Vikings actually looked good in several aspects of the game.  Handing out grades is our way of finding out who did well, who was just okay, and who really needs to step it up for Week 2.  The Buccaneers will be coming into town looking to rebound from their home-opening loss to Detroit, and it will take an improved Vikings squad over yesterday’s group to send them back home at 0-2.

Here are our grades for the Vikings positional units in Week 1:

Quarterback: C-

                This is mostly a grade of Donovan McNabb’s almost amazing inefficiency, and it would be lower except for a couple of things.  One, you had to assume that McNabb would be off to a slow start with limited offseason time to adjust to both the playbook and the receivers around him, veteran or not.  Two, McNabb’s seemingly awful 28 net yards passing came on only 15 passing attempts, and it’s not his fault that the staff seemed afraid to throw the ball throughout the afternoon.  If this keeps up his grades in future weeks will go down, but for now this seems fair.

Running Back: B+

                Not a whole lot to fault here.  Adrian Peterson wound up covering 98 yards on the ground, and while he didn’t score, he set up the short TD pass to Michael Jenkins with a 46-yard run.  It will be nice to see Toby Gerhart picking up more carries as the season goes on.  He looked very solid (2 carries, 16 yds.) in very limited action yesterday.

Wide Receiver/TE: D-

                No one in this group gets a pass.  I’m not even including Percy Harvin’s contributions here because he picked up his yardage on special teams and running plays.  Michael Jenkins was the star of show, bringing in 3 catches for 26 yards and a score.  Bernard Berrian was completely AWOL, save for one block on a long running play.  Not a word heard from Shiancoe, Kleinsasser, or Rudolph.  This unit was never supposed to be elite, but it has to be better than embarrassing, and it was embarrassing on Sunday.

Offensive Line: C+

                I give the O-Line a lot of credit for what they did in the first half, opening solid running lanes and keeping the offense moving.  In the second half, they provided almost no running room, and they were also the protection responsible for a -8 yard passing attack.  The offense was under siege from halftime onward, and this group did little to move the piles when it really mattered.

Defensive Line: B

                Good showing for this group, especially considering that they were without DT Kevin Williams.  Jared Allen had a nice interception, and he and Robison managed to split a sack.  This group will have better days for sure, but this was a nice overall start to the season for them.

Linebackers: B

                I really liked Erin Henderson’s performance on Sunday.  9 total tackles, 3 of them for loss, and a sack to go with it is a very productive outing.  Chad Greenway responded well to his new 5 yr, $41 Million deal, showing up for 8 tackles, 2 of them for a loss.  EJ Henderson provided decent support in the middle, and I think that this group could wind up being one of the most consistent for the Vikings throughout the 2011 Season.

Secondary: C-

                The reason that Antoine Winfield had 10 total tackles is because the Chargers weren’t afraid to go his direction.  Same thing goes for S Jamarca Sanford, who registered 9 stops on the day.  Add Abdullah and Griffin’s numbers to those, and you get 31 total tackles made in the secondary.  The opportunities to make 31 stops came from the fact that the Chargers would’ve gone back there 131 times if the clock allowed it – this group must improve in order for the defense as a whole to get better.

Special Teams: A

                You watched the game.  You saw the Percy Harvin 103-yard kickoff return for a TD, and you saw Longwell’s easily made 33-yard field goal.  Add in a 48.2 yards per punt average for Chris Kluwe, and this group did just fine on Sunday.

Coaching: C

                The gameplan was good.  The adjustments were not.  Leslie Frazier had to know going in that this would be a stout test on the road.  He also had to assume that should the Vikings take the lead, they would have to find creative ways to keep the clock moving and continue holding the Chargers off in the second half.  Instead, the great calls that built a 17-7 lead evolved into a limited and unoriginal plan for the second half, and the Chargers calmly and consistently ran down the Vikings until they had the win.  Because he failed to adjust much of anything on the road, I give Coach Frazier and the staff a C.  Had this all been at home, the grade would have been even lower.  I still maintain that I’m a Leslie Frazier supporter, but they’re just not there yet when it comes to full gameplans on Sunday.

Look for the team as a whole to rebound well in their home opener against Tampa Bay.  We will begin looking toward that game tomorrow.

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