Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 9/12/12

 

The Minnesota Vikings' defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-23 last Sunday, but considering their third down conversion rate on offense and defense, it is a surprise that they did so.  The Vikings' offense was a miserable 2-10 on third downs, while their defense yielded a surprisingly high rate of 9-18 on third downs.

 

This is a problem that cannot be ignored.  Yes, the Vikings had much fewer third down opportunities, which is good because that means that they performed superbly on first and second down.  Christian Ponder was part of that reason as he was 17-20 on first and second downs for 218 yards.  This includes 6-8 for 63 yards in the first half and 11-12 for 155 yards in the second half.  This is a great stat, and earlier in the off-season Ponder had mentioned that his goal was to throw 75% on first and second downs.  Well, he got that done as he threw 85% this past Sunday.  However, his rate on third downs was 3-7 for 52 yards.  This doesn't look great, but it is a small sample size.  Ponder was placed in a few third and long situations after a couple of ineffective runs, but yet again, small sample size.

As for the defensive front, the 9-18 number that was put up against the Vikings was embarrassing.  So many times the Vikings had the Jags essentially stuffed on first and second down, and then they would give up on third down.  That gives them a whole new set of downs and keeps the tired defense on the field, and the offense, the team that does the scoring, off the field.  Giving up a huge first down on third and long is absolutely demoralizing and can set the tone for the rest of the drive.  Not to knock on Jag's second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but he had some pretty awful numbers last year, and the Vikings made him look like a superstar.

What can the Vikings do to improve upon this as they enter next weeks game against the Indianapolis Colts?  They need to execute better on third and short.  Honestly, the Vikings got the job done on first and second as their average yards to go on third down was only 6.4 yards.  This means that Ponder needs to hit his medium to short routes on third downs, get the tight ends involved more and they need to hold onto the ball.  The running game will only get better and that needs to be led by Adrian Peterson as he gets healthier.  If Peterson can start running more effectively on first and second down, then not so much will rest on Ponder's shoulders.

As for the defense, they need to get to the quarterback.  Last year, the Vikings were tied for the most sacks.  Last game, they only managed one sack against Gabbert.  To get into the quarterback's head, they need to hit him hard.  The only person who recorded a sack was cornerback Chris Cook.  That is unacceptable.  Also, penalties were an issue as two sacks were voided due to poor plays.  Jared Allen's sack was taken away because he was offside (which might be how he got to Gabbert so fast) and Erin Henderson's sack was also taken away due to unnecessary roughness by nose tackle Letroy Guion.  While the Vikings were only penalized five times for 47 yards, those two penalties were huge.  Keep the penalties to a minimum, get to the quarterback.

The Vikings have a great opportunity as the travel to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis next Sunday.  The Colts' defense was far weaker than the Jags was last year which means the Vikings should have a field day on offense.  However, if the Vikings defense doesn't step up, they could be looking at a shoot out, and it might not be pretty.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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