The Minnesota Vikings lost a heart-breaker to the Chicago Bears on a last second touchdown, but early on in the game it appeared the Vikings would struggle to keep up with the explosive Bears offense. Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff for a quick six points for the Vikings, and the second touchdown the team scored was off a Brian Robison fumble return for another six.
Christian Ponder then promptly threw his lone interception on the day, and with Adrian Peterson failing to show any glimpses of promise through the first half it seemed like it would be a gloomy day for the Vikings’ offense. Greg Jennings, however, was finally able to get his hands on the ball as the game progressed, and although his five receptions for 84 yards don’t imply a dominating performance, it was the yards after catch that made him the most important player in the Vikings’ pass attack.
Through two games this season Jennings has proved to be worthy of the five-year, $45 million contract he signed with the Vikings this offseason just based on the importance he has had in Ponder’s success this year. Last week against the Detroit Lions Jennings made the catch of the year so far when he was running a slant route and had to turn 180 degrees and reach down by his calves to make a simple 10-yard catch.
Ponder’s lack of accuracy has hurt other receivers on the team, but Jennings has made some spectacular catches which have gone somewhat unnoticed. Jennings had another impressive catch against the Bears this past Sunday when he made a catch and run for a total of 22 yards to pick up the first first down as well as gaining an additional 15 yards for a horse-collar tackle.
It is these simple plays that have separated Jennings from any other receiver on the team. Even though Jerome Simpson has played well, it is the play of Jennings and other wide receivers that have carried Ponder so far. It is obvious this is the make it or break it season for Ponder as the Vikings starting quarterback, and although an 0-2 start isn’t what he had in mind, if his play increases at all the offense could take great strides forward.
Teams continue to stack the box in anticipation of Peterson running the ball, and that is all because of the lack of respect defenses have for Ponder’s passing ability. The wide receivers, and Jennings especially, have carried the Vikings’ passing attack so far this season, but that means there is plenty of room to improve if Ponder can take a step forward in his third year in the NFL.