Here is what's trending up and down for the Vikings after their blowout loss to the Bears on Sunday night.
QB Christian Ponder
The fact that the first-round rookie wasn't completely overwhelmed by the Bears' aggressive play in the fourth quarter is a positive sign. He looked to handle himself well and he had the athleticism to get away from the rush when he needed to. He showed accuracy and a good arm, getting the ball to receivers with zip and hitting them in stride. Granted, his game action came in a blowout with no pressure to win so it's not a great predictor of future success, but for his first pro game, it was positive. He was the only good thing to come out of this game.
Injuries hurt the play of the line, but even before C John Sullivan (concussion) and ORT Phil Loadholt (knee sprain) left the game with injuries, the line did not play well. The pass protection allowed too much pressure up the middle and had both Christian Ponder and Donovan McNabb scrambling too often. Further, the line was unable to open any holes for Adrian Peterson, as he was forced to evade defenders in the backfield constantly.
The Bears set out to neutralize the Vikings' potent pass rush by using six, seven and even eight protectors at times. With QB Jay Cutler having a lot of time in the pocket, he was able to take big chunks of yards in the passing game. The middle of the defense with MLB E.J. Henderson and safeties Husain Abdullah and Jamarca Sanford allowed too much space for the Bears receivers' and gave up numerous pass plays in that part of the field, including the 48-yard touchdown catch by Devin Hester in the first quarter.
It seemed like the rule had been established that you don't, under any circumstances kick off to Devin Hester. On kickoffs, you should boom it through the back of the endzone and on punts, the ball should be on the sideline or out of bounds. But with one return touchdown and another one nearly taken back, Hester was allowed to make a big impact on the game in the return game, an obvious no-no. Add in a missed field goal during a disastrous sequence late in the second quarter and the unit had it's worst game of the season.