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November 14, 2012

Rueda column: Hard to tell what to expect from Vikings

I don’t think any of us saw that one coming.

The Minnesota Vikings turned in perhaps the best overall performance of the year on Sunday in a 34-24 win over Detroit. The offense totaled 403 net yards, led by Adrian Peterson’s 171 yards on the ground, and the defense limited the Lions to 60 yards rushing on 17 carries.

Considering that Percy Harvin did not play at all in the contest, it was a surprising performance by the Vikings. Christian Ponder is still not lighting up the scoreboard —  he was 24 of 32 for 207 yards — but he did not throw an interception and had two scoring passes.

So what does Sunday’s game tell us about what to expect the rest of the way? Not a whole lot.

It was refreshing for Vikings’ fans to see rookie Jarius Wright make a contribution in the passing game. It was equally encouraging to see tight end Kyle Rudolph re-emerge as a target for Ponder. It was even unexpected to have tight end John Carlson involved in the aerial attack.  

But since opening the season with four wins in their five games, Minnesota has been inconsistent. The Vikings have just two wins in their last five games and the schedule is supposed to be tougher from here on out.

If the Vikings can play as well as they did against Detroit in the coming weeks, they’ll be competitive in every remaining game.

But it’s not realistic to expect Peterson to rush for 170-plus yards every week. That means Ponder will have to do more for the team in terms of keeping drives alive, gaining more yardage and finishing off drives in the red zone.

Four of the team’s final six games are against the Bears and the Packers. The defense will need to apply pressure consistently against Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers if the team is to have a chance at winning any of those games.

It’s a lot to expect but that’s what Minnesota did Sunday against Detroit.

With the expected return of Harvin after this Sunday’s bye, there’s still room for optimism among Vikings’ fans. Just don’t get those hopes too high.

 

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. He can be reached at 344-6381 or at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com.

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