Jerome Simpson (Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire)
Jerome Simpson wasn’t sure what was going on with his left leg, but he said any time he’s injured his level of concern is “always high.” Plus, notes and quotes on an aggressive moment, Christian Ponder overcoming interceptions and injury, Antoine Winfield’s reduced role and injury, Adrian Peterson’s ankle injury and more.
Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson wasn’t sure what to make of his lower leg injury after the game, but he didn’t seem ready to rule out anything.
“Just being injured, my level of concern is always high. I’m pretty sure I’ll get through this and just keep the faith and just do what the doctors say,” Simpson said after starting the game but playing only sporadically the rest of the way.
Simpson wasn’t sure what the injury was, but said he will be getting it tested Monday.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he believed the injury was more in the ankle area.
“We are still trying to figure out exactly what is going on with his lower leg,” Frazier said. “Some of you may have seen us working him out early, trying to figure out if he was going to be able to go or not. We decided to let him play and he did a pretty good job, but he wasn’t himself.
“… He wasn’t able to really push off and didn’t feel like he had the strength in the lower leg. We have to try to find out why, why is that the case.”
Simpson said the injury loosened up some during the game, but he “didn’t have that elusiveness about me.”
The Vikings had nine players catch passes, but Simpson wasn’t one of them. He played in only 35 percent of the offensive snaps.
BEING THE AGGRESSOR
Leslie Frazier was ready to go into conservation mode midway through the fourth quarter of the team’s 30-7 win and work the clock, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave talked him into one more shot at the end zone. It turned out to be a successful one with Kyle Rudolph catching a jump ball for a 15-yard touchdown.
“I had just talked to our coaches on the headset about using the clock was more important than a touchdown,” Frazier said. “Then Bill said, ‘Well, we got a touchdown on this play, we can get it.’ Okay, call it, and we scored. I turned around and looked at him and said, good job, Bill. So much for using clock and running the ball. But it was a great play by Christian (Ponder) and Kyle and a great job by Bill and the rest of the offensive staff.”
Said Rudolph: “Christian noticed that we had man coverage. He threw the ball up expecting me to make a play and I went up and got it.”
PONDER BOUNCES BACK
After going 144 passes, dating back to last season, without an interception, Christian Ponder threw two in a row – on his final pass of the first half and his first of the second half.
“Good thing was, with both of those interceptions they weren’t bad decisions, they were bad throws,” Ponder said. “The first one, Kyle (Rudolph) was wide open, threw it a little high and it bounced around. And the second one, I should have waited like a half-second more to let Jerome clear that backer, but I shook it off and moved on. That’s part of the role, part of the job.”
Ponder was the last starting quarterback in the league to not have an interception and said “it might happen again, probably will happen again.”
Both of Ponder’s touchdowns – a 10-yarder to Percy Harvin and the 15-yarder to Rudolph – came after he threw the interceptions. He finished the game completing 25 of 35 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and an 87.5 rating.
“I told him what I was so proud of was the way he bounced back from those two picks,” Frazier said. “A year ago I don’t know if he would have been able to stay as engaged as he was after the second pick. It shows a sign of maturity because he came back, he didn’t have any drop-off and he had great confidence.”
Ponder injured his knee against the Detroit Lions and was limited in Wednesday and Thursday’s practice because of it. He wore a sleeve on right knee Sunday.
“It swelled up (during the week), but it wasn’t bothering me that much,” he said.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield had the Vikings’ lone interception, but he curiously didn’t make the start in the team’s base defense. Instead, rookie Josh Robinson started in the base defense and took some snaps away from Winfield.
“They came to me Wednesday and said they were going to roll Josh in there a little more and try to get him some experience,” Winfield said. “I’m cool with that.”
We pointed out Sunday that Winfield hadn’t played less than 94 percent of the snaps in a game so far this year, playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in two of the team’s first four games.
However, on Sunday his role was reduced, at least some (to 87 percent of the snaps), but he didn’t seem bothered by it. He said the move wasn’t disciplinary, saying he has started 14 years in the NFL and it wasn’t a hit to his pride to take a step back.
“One of the things we want to be able to do with Antoine, and some of our other players, is be able to take some snaps off them at this point in the season and hopefully when we get to November, December we still have a fresh Antoine Winfield and a guy who can really continue to play at a high level for us,” Frazier said. “It is his 14th season in the league, so whenever we can take some snaps off him and get Josh a chance to continue to develop, we’re going to try to do that.”
Winfield and Robinson have the only two interceptions for the Vikings this season.
Like Ponder, Winfield was on the team’s injury report last week with a knee issue. He said it was a little swollen after the game.
CHEAP SACKS DENIED
The Vikings ended the Titans’ first drive of the game with a third-down sack by Brian Robison and finished off Tennessee’s final drive of the first half with a sack by Jared Allen. It was Robison’s first sack of the season and the third for Allen, which now ties him with Everson Griffen for the team lead, but Allen was hoping for more opportunities late in the game with the Vikings up 30-7.
The Titans appeared as if they might oblige when they began calling timeouts when the Vikings started their final drive by kneeling on the ball, but instead of waiting for something to set up downfield with backup QB Rusty Smith in the game, they went to a quick passing game that negated the rush of Minnesota’s defensive line.
“From a defensive standpoint, I’m trying to pick up cheap sacks,” Allen said. “I saw them put in a young quarterback and I’m like, ‘Oh, he might hold this one,’” Allen said. “(Veteran starter Matt) Hasselbeck was checking it down. Then I got mad. I’m like you guys called timeouts to check the ball down. This is stupid. You should have knelt on the ball and we could have been done with this thing.”
The Vikings only sacked Hasselbeck twice, but they pressured him often, even if they were credited with only three quarterback hits.
“We were getting to him. We were hitting him, we were getting in his face,” Robison said. “I don’t think he was ever really able to set his feet. Either he was running or stepping up into the pocket or doing things like that to create some time, but our guys were doing things on the back end, covering down on the wide receivers that it bought us some time to get to him.”
Kevin Williams also had two passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage and Allen added one more.
BLANTON ON BOARD
When Harrison Smith was ejected for shoving an official in the second quarter, rookie Robert Blanton was called into defensive duty for the first time this season.
Mistral Raymond, who was the starter until injuring his ankle in the second game of the season, still hasn’t practiced with the Vikings, and backup Andrew Sendejo was also inactive because of an ankle injury, leaving Smith, Jamarca Sanford and Blanton as to the only active safeties for the Vikings.
“You’ve got to come in with your experience and help him out,” Sanford said of playing alongside Blanton. “He came in today and he knew what he was doing. He did a good job preparing during the week. They brought us in and let the backup get at least a couple reps and be familiar with it. He did a good job filling in.”
Blanton said he was “pretty prepared” for his first opportunity and didn’t have any glaring mistakes.
Titans running back Chris Johnson had his first 100-yard game of the season last week against the Houston Texans, but he was nowhere near close to productive at Mall of America Field.
Johnson rushed 15 times for 24 yards, a paltry 1.6 yards per carry. As a team, the Titans rushed for only 52 yards.
“I wouldn’t say he was the focus. We knew we had to stop the run game and we knew he was going to try to bounce outside a lot,” Robison said. “We knew we had to keep the edges but also play stout in the middle. We did that today.”
PETERSON ROLLS ANKLE
Adrian Peterson said he was “out of whack” after having his ankle twisted on the second play of the game.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t play well the first half and that was just because of low energy and lack of focus,” he said.
“I was thinking about my ankle too much because it was tender. I had to come in second half and re-adjust. I did all right the second half, but I can do better than what I did.”
Peterson still finished with 88 yards on 17 carries, a 5.2-yard average, and had two of his longest runs of the season – 22 yards and 34 yards.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.