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By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - You're not alone if you left the Minnesota Vikings opening preseason game in San Francisco a little worried about the team's offensive productivity. Already missing one of their biggest weapons in Adrian Peterson, the first team offense stalled in the redzone last week and failed to score a touchdown on either of their first two possessions. Well, it didn't take long Friday night for them to set the record straight and get on the board.
Coming out of the gates firing, Christian Ponder led the Vikings first team offense on an 8-play, 80 yard opening drive down the field and put their first touchdown of the preseason on the board.
"I thought we came out very focused in pre-game and we knew that we wanted to score early, and score often," Ponder said after the game. "We got a touchdown which we wanted after last week...The offense is clicking and doing really well."
Ponder, who left the game after finishing out one drive into the second quarter, finished the night 10-of-13 passing for 136 yards and one touchdown. Through three drives on Friday night he accumulated a 135.4 passer rating. Compare that to his passer rating at the end of last year (70.1) and we're starting to see improvement from the second-year quarterback out of Florida State.
"Things are going well," Ponder said. "I know where I want to go with the ball pre-snap and the receivers are doing a great job of getting open and the o-line is doing a great job of blocking where I can get that third or fourth read."
Jumpin' Jerome Simpson brings highlight reel plays to Mall of America Field...
By now we've all seen Jerome Simpson's front-flip touchdown that he scored with the Cincinnati Bengals last season (if not see it HERE), but did you know that even in Vikings Purple, Jerome Simpson still has highlight reel leaps in his game? On the fourth play of the Vikings opening drive, Christian Ponder found Jerome Simpson open on a quick slant and from there Jerome did the rest. Sprinting down the center of the field, Simpson dodged a Stephon Gilmore tackle only to see FS Jairus Byrd closing quickly. I'm not sure how he saw it happen in real time, but Simpson saw Byrd starting to go low for the tackle and displayed his 40-inch vertical as he hurdled the lunging defender and continued down the field! Bills defenders eventually caught up to Simpson before he could score but the play resulted in a 33-yard gain and will surely make the top-plays lists Saturday morning.
Simpson ended the night with three catches for 43 yards. He was targeted five times.
Offensive line struggles early but eventually settles in...
One of the big questions heading into the season surrounded the play of the Vikings offensive line. Largely made up of young players, three-fifths of the offensive line shifted or changed heading into 2012. Christian Ponder was sacked twice on the first drive and narrowly avoided two more sacks in the first quarter. Rookie Matt Kalil and second-year player Brandon Fusco seemed to struggle to get up to speed with things early, but the line as a whole came around as the quarter wore on. In fairness, on plays outside of the sacks, they did give Ponder good protection and they also opened big holes for Toby Gerhart to run his way to an easy 30 yards. I'd still like to see more consistency from Kalil and Fusco but it was good to see Phil Loadholt hold his own out there against Mario Williams.
Blair Walsh bounces back and has a record setting night...
The Vikings big-legged rookie kicker took on the dome at Mall of America Field for the first time last night and despite missing a 49-yard field goal try in the second quarter, he bounced back and showed that he has some gusto.
After going 2-for-2 in the swirling winds of Candlestick Park last week, Walsh returned to the controlled environment of the Dome and seemed to like it. Walsh hit his first try from 22-yards but missed his second from 49 when the snap might have been a bit off. Not six minutes later and Walsh was back on the field successfully knocking one in from 47-yards.
"We're confident that he's the right guy for us," Frazier said after the game. "Even after the miss, to come back and kick as strong as he did, that's a good sign. We just expect him to continue to get better but we don't have any concerns regarding Blair right now."
Walsh went on to kick three more field goals (45yds, 40yds and 30yds), a feat which set the team record for most field goals in a preseason game (5) and tied him with Oscar Reed and Dave Osborne as the players with the most points (18) in a preseason game.
Harrison Smith 'has a chance to be a pretty good safety' in the NFL...
On first impressions, Leslie Frazier and Alan Williams were very pleased with Harrison Smith's performance in his first NFL start.
"I thought he did an excellent job," Frazier said. "His presence and the fact that he can take good angles and understand situations, that's a big deal when you're trying to [stop] big runs along with big passes."
Smith played deep into the second quarter and ended the game with two tackles and a big deflected pass on a safety blitz. Smith saw most of the reps at the free safety position while Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford split time opposite Smith at strong safety.
"We're counting on him to be a starter," Frazier continued. "I haven't seen anything, without looking at the tape, that would upset that...He has a chance to be a pretty good safety in our league."
Rookie LB Audie Cole 'splashes' in a big way on defense...
I won't go into great depth due to my previous post, which can be found by CLICKING HERE, but rookie LB Audie Cole became the first player in team history to return back-to-back interceptions for touchdowns. It truly was incredible, highlights can be found at Vikings.com.
Mayhem breaks out at MOA Field as Vikings fans invent "The Wave 2.0"
It was a moment that could only happen during the NFL preseason. A lethal combination of fans bored with watching backups and free gameday programs prompted fans to improve one of sports' oldest traditions. Thus, "The Wave 2.0" was born.
I'll do my best to describe the scene, but it needs to be noted that this was something that could have only been experienced in person.
Following a Stephen Burton fumble in the third quarter, the third string defense ran onto the field and fans grew restless. As is the case during the doldrum periods of most sporting events, fans started doing "the wave." It wasn't until fans realized that they were basically given free confetti prior to the game that "the wave 2.0" was born.
CLICK HERE to view some video I shot from my iPhone, but you can see fans chucking torn programs into the air like a ticker-tape parade as the wave circled the Dome. Quite honestly it looked pretty cool but this went on for darn near 30 minutes and resulted in over the top (likely intoxicated) fans chucking programs, planes and bottles onto the playing field resulting in a public address announcement being made and then 75% of the fans heading for the doors once the fun had ended.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN
*Photo - AP Photo: Jim Mone