The Vikings got a huge win Sunday, coming-from-behind to defeat the Panthers in Charlotte, 24-21. Christian Ponder directed the Vikings' go-ahead drive with some clutch throws and Adrian Peterson ran with his customary ferocity and explosion to carry the offense for most of the game. Now it's time to look at the risers and sliders on the Vikings following their second win of the season.
LB Erin Henderson: He can be overshadowed by his older brother and team leader, E.J., but right now Erin is the better football player. He made a huge tackle on Panthers QB Cam Newton on a 3rd-and-4 designed run, forcing a critical punt. After the punt, the Vikings' offense marched down the field and scored the go-ahead field goal. Erin has been a solid tackler all season and has improved greatly in pass coverage, evidenced by his two passes defensed. He's currently the second-best 'backer for the Vikings behind Chad Greenway and has helped to make the group one of the stronger ones in the league.
WR Percy Harvin: Even though he was dealing with a rib injury, Harvin made plays throughout the game as the game plan featured him heavily. He scored the opening touchdown of the game on the ground from the tailback position and was also involved in the passing game, with four catches for 58 yards. He also made a critical 22-yard reception on a crossing route on 2nd-and-15 on the Vikings' go-ahead drive, showcasing his great speed in turning the corner and getting the first down. Health is always an issue with him, but when he's playing he needs to have a role like he did Sunday.
Fourth-quarter Christian Ponder: Two weeks in a row, Ponder has led impressive scoring drives in the fourth quarter. After bringing the team within one score last week against the Packers, he led the game-winning drive this week against the Panthers. It wasn't pretty and they leaned on Adrian Peterson for a lot of it, but he converted a key third down inside his own 20 to start the drive and dug himself out of a 2nd-and-15 hole with a good throw to hit Harvin in stride after taking a first-down sack. Ponder looked unsettled in the pocket early in the game, looking to run too quickly in his reads instead of standing tall, but he calmed himself and made plays when they mattered most.
DT Kevin Williams: Since returning from his suspension, Williams has not been the dominant player he once was. He hasn't gotten good push in the running game, something that was exposed during the final Packers drive. Also his pass rushing, once his biggest strength, has been nonexistent. Sunday against the Panthers, Newton was able to stand tall in the pocket and step up without much interference to makes throws down the field, especially in the first 35 minutes of the game. The defense needs more from Williams to help take pressure of DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison.
OLT Charlie Johnson: Johnson struggled against one of the premier pass rushers in the league in Charles Johnson throughout the day, allowing Charles to get a sack, two QB hits and two tackles for loss. Charles was able to beat Charlie multiple times off the snap, allowing for quick pressure that forced Ponder to move and expect pressure constantly. His struggles continue to be exploited in pass protection.
Man-coverage defense: Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac played way too much man coverage early in the game with a depleted secondary, and it allowed Cam Newton to establish a rhythm with Steve Smith and Greg Olson. On both of Newton's touchdown passes, the defense showed a blitz look with a single-high safety and press coverage against the receivers. That left little help in the middle of the field, which allowed Olson and Smith, after they beat the press at the line, to run unabated to the endzone. With Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook, their best cover players, out, the Vikings should have played more coverage and gave more help to the secondary. Because they didn't, the Vikings fell behind early.