We here at Lombardiave caught up this week with The Viking Age editor, Clint Starks, to ask him about the Minnesota Vikings and especially about how they are viewing Sunday’s game with the unbeaten Green Bay Packers.
Our exchange is below.
Q. The Donovan McNabb multi-million dollar experiment is seemingly over. How
does it affect the mindset of the team the rest of the season … Or does it?
"A. Adrian Peterson recently came out and said he didn’t think Donovan got a fairshake. However, that was after, earlier in the year his coming out and saying thateveryone knows what the problem is (implying it was Donovan). I don’t believe thatthe change to Ponder will be polarizing in any fashion. I think this team has beentaken to the woodshed and beat and then taken back there again to get beat againjust for good measure. This team knows who they are when they look in the mirrorand that is a non-playoff team. By and large players, are not looking at singleseasons (that the difference between fans and players) but they are trying to getbetter every week. This Vikings club will continue to get better individually and so Istill look for them to compete and not roll over on Sundays.More questions and answers after the jump …"
Q. The start of the Christian Ponder era begins Sunday … Does he have what it
takes to command the huddle?
"A. There is only one thing we have heard over and over about CP7 and that is the kid does not lack confidence…at all. He is very sure of his abilities and has never doubted that he is an NFL quarterback. I look for him to take command of this offense and move the ball a little. I have said in the past few weeks that Donovan isn’t not giving us anything that Ponder can’t give us. Ponder will give us a little more in the way of quarterback scrambles. Ponder is running on spring chicken legs while Donovan was running on late autumn/early winter legs. So, look for Ponder to be full of confidence come Sunday afternoon."
Q. Injuries seem to have taken a big hold on the Vikes. Who’s in and who’s out
Sunday and which missing players will have the biggest effect?
"A. Loadholt is out and his backup Pat Brown will take his place. That is not good as Clay Matthews will be lining up on that side and Brown could be in for a long, long day. Also, center, Jon Sullivan hasn’t practiced all week and is most likely out with a concussion. Most everyone else should be good to go to play but we have lots of guys banged up and will play at less than 100%. Not exactly the way you want to head into the Packer game."
Q. Going against Aaron Rodgers and the unbeaten Packers Sunday will be a challenge for the Vikings’ defense … What’s the strategy for stopping the world champs?
"A. The Packers offense is a juggernaut. Do you commit to a gameplan that is geared toward slowing down the pass and watch them gouge with Starks and/or Grant? Do you commit to stopping the run and take your chances against the pass? I can’t even say that getting pressure on Rodgers is key because even if Allen and Robison can penetrate, Rodgers is so good stepping out of the pocket. Often times when he does that he delivers a big play.The bottom line is you cannot stop this offense but you have to limit their opportunities. The only way to slow the Packers’ offense down is to keep them on the wood. So the Vikings are going to have to control the clock with long, time consuming drives. The defense is going to have to commit to trying to strip the ball when they can. These are things that to date, the Vikings have not been able to do."
Q. Offensively, do the Vikings come out with rookie Christian Ponder throwing against the Packers porous pass defense or do they lean on their star, Adrian Peterson, to try and shred the Packers strong run defense?
"A. I think we have to be able to run the football in this game to have any chance. We need to control time of possession and keep this game close for as long as we can and then get lucky with a turnover or something of the like. I think the Vikings need to make a living on getting Peterson the ball with counters, screens and draws along with power isos and then use play action to deliver the ball to Percy, Shank, and Kyle Rudolph."
Q. Jared Allen and Brian Robison have had a banner year with 14 sacks between them. Do you see them having more success against the young Packers offensive tackles?
"A. They will get penetration because they have all year. But will it matter? Rodgers if he is not the #1 QB in the league he is 1A. The little I have watched of the Pack this year it seems no one can get a lick on this guy. He feels the pressure, avoids the pressure, steps up to deliver a pass that puts the pressure on the defense. The dude is one of only a couple QBs in the league that puts pressure on the defense. He is really phenomenal and so while I expect Allen and Robison to get there, I also expect Rodgers to allude it and deliver some strikes. The couple of sacks we will get in this game will only be for 1 or 2 yard losses as Rodgers, as I said, possesses this unique ability to avoid the big loss."
Q. Do the Vikings still feel they have postseason chances at this point or is it time to circle the wagons, play their rookie QB, and look toward 2012?
"A. You know what teams with 1-5 records in the first six weeks have lots of in January? Free time. So there is no question. Coach Frazier tells us that by putting Ponder in that it is not a move that signifies throwing in the white towel on the season but what else can he say? The playoffs are out of the picture and now we see what we have in the future. Say, the Vikings suck so bad that they are in the Luck sweepstakes. Yet here you have the QB that you took in the first round last year. What to do? Should you showcase young Ponder’s skill set in case you have to trade him because you are taking Luck? I would think so. Say you play young Ponder and the kid lives up to the hype and with some development he is going to be a top shelf NFL QB. Now you can trade out of that pick and get a pretty penny (or two or three) all the while knowing you have Ponder as the QB of the future. So all in all I like the move and I honestly look forward to the Vikings future with a great deal of anticipation."
Q. Prediction for the game with a final score?
"A. It’s not going to be good for the Vikings unless they can control the clock with Peterson and stop going 3 & out so much. To date they have been unable to do that. The Packers are simply a dangerous football team offensively and they can jump on you 24-0 without breaking a sweat. I keep asking people to point out a weakness on the Packers offense and nobody can come up with any.For crying out loud, the Packers can afford to miss tackles on defense, their offense can get into 3rd and long and it doesn’t matter. The Packers offense can cover a multitude of ills. To beat them a team has to be playing their A-game and be nearly flawless in every aspect."