"Usually when you run the ball as well as we're running it, you get some easier route combinations that you can have success with because of the eight- and nine-man fronts that we're getting," coach Leslie Frazier said Thursday. "But it hasn't materialized for us. We're trying to figure that out and trying to capitalize on how well we're running the ball, which creates a lot of single-safety situations for our offense to see."
The problems are many. Receivers are having difficulty creating separation, Ponder has been woefully inaccurate with his throws and the Vikings (5-4) have struggled at times to pick up the blitz and keep their quarterback protected while losing three of their last four games.
Put quite simply, opposing defenses are not viewing the Vikings' downfield passing game as a threat. That means they're not biting on play-action fakes as hard as they did early in the season, not having to commit a safety to double-teaming any of their receivers and therefore are able to turn loose extra pass rushers to put as much heat as possible on Ponder, who has looked skittish in the pocket.
"It just comes down to needing to execute and be more balanced on offense," center John Sullivan said. "Obviously we're committed to running the football. We're going to do that in every game we play. Theoretically it should open up the passing game. That hasn't been happening. Our focus this week is trying to get the pass game going while continuing to do what we've been doing in the run game."
Peterson vowed to be ready for Week 1 of the season, but there were plenty of skeptics. He scored two touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards in the opener against Jacksonville, but it was apparent he was missing just a little bit of that top gear that made him so special before the injury.