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Updated: December 2nd, 2012 7:20pm
Notebook: Vikings receivers at a loss about continued struggles

Notebook: Vikings receivers at a loss about continued struggles

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The fact Christian Ponder completed a pass to Jerome Simpson on the Minnesota Vikings' second-to-last drive on Sunday did not come as a surprise. The Vikings were trailing by nine points and needed to go to the air.

What was surprising, however, is that when Simpson caught the 18-yard pass at the Packers' 31-yard line, it was the first reception all day by a Vikings wide receiver.

Simpson finished with two receptions for 25 yards. Rookie Jarius Wright had one for 13 yards. Other than that, the Vikings wide receivers were blanked.

"I don't want to make it sound bad, but never in my life have I been a part of something like this," Wright said. "I don't even know how to say it."

Michael Jenkins, Stephen Burton and Devin Aromashodu were targeted a total of five times and did not have one catch. Simpson was Ponder's target seven times.

"We've got to find a way to fix it," Jenkins said. "If we want to make the playoffs, we have to fix it fast."

The Vikings' leading receiver was tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Ponder finished 12-of-25 passing (48%) for 119 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. But through three quarters, he had only completed five of 13 passes for 36 yards.

All five of those completions came on the Vikings' first scoring drive, which ended early in the second quarter. Four of the passes went to Rudolph, including the touchdown, and the other went to fullback Jerome Felton.

While Ponder certainly had another poor day, there also was the issue of the Vikings wide receivers not seeming to get consistent separation.

"With all the man we played, we really felt going into the ballgame that we would be able to exploit some of the things they were doing," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We anticipated them playing a lot of single-high. But obviously, we did not take advantage and we've got to determine why, because it'll be the same way next (game). They're not going to play us a whole lot different."

Ponder's longest completion of the afternoon went for 21 yards. That was made even more remarkable when you consider running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries, meaning the Packers' attention on stopping the run should have opened up plenty of opportunities in the downfield passing game.

"You'd think you'd be able to do whatever you want down the field with a guy rushing like that week-in and week-out, but it just hasn't materialized for whatever reason," Jenkins said. "So, just find a way to buckle down and if we have to narrow down the offense pass-wise or what."

Jenkins said that nine years into his NFL career he has never "had it like this" when it comes to the passing game but attempted to deflect some of the blame from Ponder. So did Wright.

"I can't call it," Wright said, when asked what has gone wrong. "It's not Christian. You just can't point your finger at Christian and be like, 'Oh, it's the quarterback's fault.' He's not the only guy on the field.

"Everybody has to do their job at one time. On offense, you need all 11 guys to play as one at one time. On defense, it's different, because everybody can mess up and one guy can make a great play."

Time to make a play

The Packers capped the first drive of the game when receiver James Jones caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers on a play where Jones seemed to take the ball away from cornerback A.J. Jefferson.

Rodgers picked on Jefferson several times early in the game. Frazier made it clear he would have liked to have seen Jefferson win the battle for the football.

"If you're there, this is the National Football League -- their guy made a play," Frazier said. "We didn't. You've got to make those plays. You can't draw that on a board and ask for it to be any different than the position that A.J. is in. They came down with it and we didn't. But in our league, you have to make that play, and sometimes it comes down to that -- who's going to make a play?"

Questionable call

Vikings end Jared Allen intercepted a Rodgers pass in the second quarter and returned it to the Green Bay 16-yard line to put his team in a perfect position to build on a 14-10 lead.

The only problem was that, while Packers offensive lineman Don Barclay was called for holding, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen was called for roughing the passer. The offsetting penalties kept the ball in Green Bay's possession.

Griffen's hit on Rodgers was solid, but the Vikings sideline was livid, thinking referee Ed Hochuli's crew had erred by throwing a flag.

"I was told that it was a hit around the head," Frazier said. "I haven't seen the play. Just going by what officials said, it was around the neck area. That's what I was told."

Frazier did not deny the call was a big one.

"Huge, huge, huge and the way the game was going and where we were on the field," he said. "It was huge."

Said Allen: "I've got to look at that. I didn't see when (Griffen) hit him but that's a turnover inside the red zone. That's huge. That could be seven points right there."

Give 'em credit

The Vikings had a major issue with defensive offside penalties on Sunday. Officially, they were called for the infraction three times but two others were declined.

Defensive linemen Kevin Williams, Christian Ballard and Jared Allen were called for the infraction. Letroy Guion and Griffen also drew flags, but those were declined.

"They do a good job with the cadence," Frazier said. "It's something we talked about and worked on throughout the week. They do a good job with it. We're going to see them again, so we've got to make sure we get it corrected, because it happens."

Still sitting

Receiver Percy Harvin missed a third consecutive game because of a sprained ankle.

For the second game in a row, Harvin did not travel with the team and was downgraded to "out" on the injury report on Saturday.

Frazier said there was "no chance" Harvin could have played.

Asked about Harvin's potential return for next Sunday's game against Chicago, Frazier admitted it would be "hard to say" if the playmaking receiver will be on the field.

Taking the blame

Rookie Blair Walsh missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt wide right with the Vikings trailing 23-14 in the fourth quarter, keeping them from making it a one-score game.

"That was me," Walsh said. "I just cut across it and it sort of faded off to the right. It's got to be a better kick. Especially when we need it."

Walsh is now 24-for-27 on field-goal attempts this season.

Quick hits

• The Vikings had at least a little good news Sunday as Frazier said there were no injuries to report after the loss.

• Linebacker Chad Greenway was credited with 16 tackles for the Vikings.

• Packers WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and RT T.J. Lang (ankle) suffered injuries during Sunday's game and did not return.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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