Notebook: O-line seeing a switch

Geoff Schwartz (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

With the Vikings' pass protection shaky at times, Geoff Schwartz was part of two of the team's longest drives and got more snaps than Brandon Fusco. One drive in particular showed the struggles of the offensive line. Plus, Adrian Peterson is in elite Soldier Field history and other Vikings notes.

The basic statistics don't always tell the whole story. Christian Ponder was sacked twice for 15 yards against the Chicago Bears.

However, a look at the offensive line on tape and snaps counts tell a different story. Ponder, the Vikings' second-year quarterback, continues to struggle finding a consistent pocket that holds up long enough for his receivers to become open, and even when the pocket is there Ponder at times drifts into trouble.

One drive in the Minnesota Vikings' 28-10 loss told the story. The Vikings were trailing 18-3 and backed up to their own 11-yard line with four minutes to play in the first half. A long touchdown drive would have brought them within eight points, but instead a breakdown of protections on three straight plays helped the game get out of hand before halftime.

The Vikings picked up one first down with an 8-yard pass on third down to Kyle Rudolph, but Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton slipped around right guard Brandon Fusco and laid a hit on Ponder after he released the ball. On the next play, Chicago's Israel Idonije slipped in between Ponder and right tackle Phil Loadholt and forced Ponder to throw away the ball in a hurry as he got knocked down again. When Ponder got pressured from the left side of the offensive line on the next play, he badly overthrew Devin Aromashodu and safety Chris Conte returned the interception 35 yards. One play later, a 13-yard touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth, and the game was basically out of hand with the Bears holding a 25-3 lead.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier admitted that Fusco is struggling at times and explained why.

"More the footwork and sometimes getting top-heavy, leaning a little bit too much one way or another and just losing some of his fundamentals as an offensive guard," Frazier said. "There's some things that technically he'll get off of at times and it creates problems for our offense, whether it's the run game or the pass game. But, when he's on, he's a very good player. But there are moments where he's just little bit off from a fundamental standpoint."

The Bears continued to run tackle-end stunts to try to confuse the Vikings' blocking schemes and it seemed to work.

"They were running a lot of games all over the place. They have a really good pass rush, so that's just how they play," center John Sullivan said Monday. "I don't think they were targeting one side or the other, necessarily. There were line stunts going on throughout the game on both sides.

"There were a lot of line stunts, but that's also because they're up by so much, we're forced to pass the ball. It's a byproduct of how the game is going. When a defense like the Bears can get you behind, and they can just pin their ears back and pass rush, it can be a pretty tough group to deal with."

The Bears were officially credited with two sacks and seven quarterback hits, but the Vikings made a significant adjustment as the game wore on. They had been rotating Geoff Schwartz with Fusco at right guard in previous games, but on Sunday Schwartz actually ended up with more snaps – 36 to 30 – than Fusco.

In the first half, the Vikings had only one drive that went longer than five plays, a nine-play drive that ended with a blocked field goal. Fusco was part of that extended drive, but in the second half Schwartz was part of the two longest drives of the game – a 15-play drive that ended on downs and a 12-play drive that also ended on downs.

Asked about the difficulty of playing next to rotating right guards, Sullivan said all of the offensive linemen need to block better.

"We need to do a better job protecting (Ponder), especially when we see movement on the defensive line, when they run stunts with each other," Sullivan said. "We need to do a better job of keeping the pocket clean, making him more comfortable, giving him some alleys to step up into. That falls on us. As offensive linemen, we're always just looking for what we can do better, how we can help the team win and we put it squarely on our shoulders."

IMPRESSIVE PETERSON

Adrian Peterson continues to lead the league with 1,236 rushing yards (Arian Foster is in second with 1,064), and tied the Vikings' all-time record with five consecutive 100-yard games.

But there is another impressive feat that came out of Sunday's game for Peterson.

His 108-yard performance was Peterson's fourth 100-yard game against the Bears and his third at Soldier Field. According to Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 328 regular-season NFL games played at Soldier Field, but only one other visiting player had as many as three 100-yard rushing games there – Barry Sanders with five.

NOTES

  • The Vikings likely will seek clarification from the league on the pass interference call that went against Antoine Winfield in the end zone while Brandon Marshall was keep him at arm's length. "When I saw it, I debated the call and I told the officials I'm looking forward to seeing it on tape over the naked eye," Frazier said after the game. "I thought Antoine was in great position. I thought he was in position to battle and got shoved, but the officials didn't see it that way. But that's the way it goes."

  • The Dallas Cowboys signed former Vikings CB Reggie Jones to their practice squad. Jones was with the Vikings during the offseason and had a strong start to training camp, but he wasn't making the same impact later in camp.

  • Colts receiver Reggie Wayne passed former Vikings receiver Cris Carter for consecutive games with at least three catches. Wayne had eight receptions for 102 yards against the Bills, his 59th consecutive game with at least three catches, according to Elias, while Carter went 58 straight games with three catches from 1993 to 1997.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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