Here are three stocks going up and three going down following the Vikings 35-32 loss to the Broncos Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave
Musgrave called a really good game, finding and exploiting the weaknesses in the Broncos' secondary, as the Vikings were able to attack Broncos CB Andre' Goodman with success and create big plays by getting Percy Harvin in space. Musgrave also eliminated the outside-runs that they ran too often with Toby Gerhart last week, opting for more runs between the guards and exploiting Gerhart's strengths.
WR Devin Aromashodu
Aromashodu had his best game since Week 16 in 2009, making six grabs for 90 yards and was targeted 15 times. He usually lined up against Goodman and was able to beat him to the inside multiple times on slant routes. Outside of Percy Harvin, the Vikings have not had a receiver who scares opposing defenses, so they need another player to emerge on the outside to help Christian Ponder's development.
RB Toby Gerhart
Gerhart looked very pedestrian against the Falcons, as his lack of explosiveness was on display. But against the Broncos, it was a much different story, as he showed the downhill, power style that made him a star at Stanford. He ran through tackles better, creating yards after contact that are so vital for a back like Gerhart, who can't run around or away from defenders. His 21 carries for 91 yards added needed balance and helped to take pressure off of Ponder.
Coverages that leave opposing wide receivers wide open deep downfield typically aren't a good idea. Coverages that do it four times are moronic. There seemed to be a communication issue that allowed Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas to run freely downfield on multiple occasions. It looked as if the corners were playing cover-2 while the safeties were expecting them to play man and it led to disastrous results. For a team that plays a lot of cover-2, which is designed to prevent big plays, it was unacceptable.
Christian Ponder's decision making
The Vikings lost by three points, and three Ponder turnovers cost the team 13 points (two interceptions that led to 10 Broncos points, including the game-winning field goal and a fumble in the red zone that prevent the Vikings from kicking a field goal). He had done a good job, for a rookie, of avoiding turnovers, with only four in the four previous games. But he predetermined two throws against standard coverages vs. the Broncos and it cost him. It's something he'll have to improve on. Otherwise, he had a very strong game.
Leslie Frazier's decision making
Though he did a good job winning his two challenges on the day, one decision cost his team an opportunity to win the game at the end. The Broncos had 1st-and-goal from the four-yard line with a little more than a minute remaining and the Vikings out of timeouts. Instead of letting Denver score and giving the offense a chance at a game-tying touchdown, the Vikings forced the Broncos to run two plays that allowed the clock to run all the way down before Denver kicked a game-winning 23-yard field goal as time expired. Frazier did not play the percentages well because the chances of the Broncos missing a short FG attempt are much lower than Ponder leading the offense downfield for a touchdown against a defense that struggled all afternoon.