The Minnesota Vikings earned their first victory of the 2013 NFL season this past Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wonderful city of London. The Vikings knew early in the week they may be without starter Christian Ponder because of a rib injury, but what not many Vikings personnel knew was that backup Matt Cassel would shine for the team on Sunday.
Cassel completed 16 of his 25 passes on Sunday for 248 yards and also kept from turning the ball over, an issue that has plagued Ponder all season. While it was unusual to see a quarterback in purple excel on a Sunday throwing the ball, it was the offensive attack that coordinator Bill Musgrave implemented that really caught me off guard.
Whether it is Ponder checking down or Musgrave calling a more conservative game, the Vikings have mainly thrown shorter safer passes in the past, which has ultimately hindered the success of the offense and limited the opportunities for Adrian Peterson.
Against the Steelers, Cassel was throwing the ball down the field, which allowed fans to see a competent Vikings offense that could score on almost any team in the league. Yes, the Steelers are currently rebuilding their defense, but they still have plenty of talented players and the Vikings were able to do almost whatever they wanted on offense throughout the game.
This new vertical offensive attack is what the Vikings need to stick with for the rest of the season as it allowed for them to gain some serious yards through the air, and gave Peterson the opportunity to break a big run and finish with 140 rushing yards. As a unit, the offense totaled 393 yards, which is a new season-high and is a reason to keep attacking on offense as opposed to the usual conservative run-run-pass game plan.
The Vikings now enter their bye week before taking on the Carolina Panthers on October 13, and all the focus will be on who starts at quarterback in two weeks. Cassel showed that he can still play the position, but the team made a first-round investment on Ponder and may not be ready to give up on him just yet. Either way, the next two weeks should be very interesting for a Vikings team on the rise.