EDEN PRAIRIE —
If the Vikings are going to be able to break through against the Niners the way their NFC North counterparts have failed to do, they have to find a way to get the ball deeper down the field, like they did so often with Moss around the turn of the century.
With speedster Jerome Simpson suspended for the first three games of the season, the offense doesn't have the player to stretch the field that keeps opposing safeties honest.
Percy Harvin has been successful thus far, but opponents are able to key on him in the passing game and leave other receivers such as Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins single covered on the outside because they're not concerned with getting beat deep.
That leaves Ponder with Harvin underneath and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson, a prized offseason signing who has yet to catch a pass this season, as his top targets.
"If we get a certain look from a defense, we will take the shot," Ponder said. "But right now we're not getting those looks."
Jacksonville kept two safeties back for much of the season opener, surprising the Vikings considering that Simpson was out and Minnesota figured to try to keep the ball on the ground with Peterson.
But in Indianapolis, they started to see more of the single-high safety look as the Colts moved their other safety closer to the line of scrimmage to concentrate on stopping the run.
That mean more one-on-one coverage outside for the receivers, but the Vikings rarely made the Colts pay for it. Ponder couldn't connect on a deep throw to Jenkins and another to Harvin, and the Vikings lost 23-20.
"We'd like to take advantage," coach Leslie Frazier said. "That's one of the things you'd like to think you can benefit from is having a good run game and being able to connect on some plays down the field. We tried in that game against Indy and weren't able to connect and we're going to try again this week if we get people crowding the line of scrimmage."