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Minnesota Vikings: Five Stars from Week 9 vs. Dallas Cowboys

A Renaissance from Christian Ponder and a Return to Health from Adrian Peterson Were Encouraging Signs After Another Loss

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COMMENTARY | It was another week and another loss for the Minnesota Vikings as they fell to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9. Some Viking fans will debate that this was the team's best performance in several weeks with Christian Ponder putting together a complete game and Adrian Peterson looking like his 2012 MVP form for the first time in several weeks.

Still, the Vikings were able to find a way to let another potential victory slip through their grasp as a lack of playmaking on the defensive side and some poor decisions by the coaching staff sealed their fate.

Even as the Vikings dropped to 1-7 on their disastrous season, there were several players who stood out in an effort to complete the upset.

Christian Ponder

Ponder played his best game since the end of last season in Week 9. He completed 25-of-37 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception while giving the Vikings the competent effort from the quarterback position that Josh Freeman or Matt Cassel cannot give them.

Ponder also put his legs on display for the second straight game as he ran in a six-yard touchdown to go with 29 yards.

Is the light bulb finally turning on for Ponder? I don't believe that to be the case.

The Vikings no longer have expectations to make a playoff push, so the pressure for Ponder to perform has been off for a while. Looking back to last year, he also played his best football when the team was considered to be fading at 6-6 before ripping off a four-game winning streak.

The optimist will look at Sunday as a positive step in the right direction, but the evaluation progress has already ended as far as general manager Rick Spielman is concerned. For now, Ponder is the best option the Vikings have, but any late-season surge won't be enough to save his job.

Brian Robison

The Vikings' defensive line has had trouble getting to the quarterback all season long, and this week was no different.

The "strength" of the Viking defense was only able to sack Tony Romo three times on the afternoon. This lead to a solid 337 yards through the air for the Cowboys' quarterback, but at least one defensive lineman did his job.

Robison was recently signed to a four-year, $28 million contract extension and he proved his worth on Sunday by getting two of the team's three sacks. He's starting to become more of a complete defensive end as his career has progressed, and he's starting to outplay his highly-paid linemate on the other side of the line, Jared Allen.

Robison has just three sacks on the year, but a lot of that could be contributed to the overall bad play of the defensive line. He could be in for a big second half.

Kyle Rudolph

Rudolph didn't post a massive stat line, and he missed the fourth quarter after injuring his foot. However, he did show that he can be a key part of the offense by hauling in a 31-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

The Notre Dame product hasn't had the same role as he had a year ago when he had nine touchdown receptions, but he was starting to come on as of late with two of his three biggest receiving efforts coming in the three games prior to Week 9.

Hopefully, the injury to Rudolph's foot isn't serious and Ponder (or whoever the quarterback might be) can continue to lean on him to move the change and be the effective red zone target he was a season ago.

Cordarrelle Patterson

Once again, Patterson didn't do much in the passing game, but he made a big impact on kickoff returns.

Entering the game as the leading kickoff returner in the NFL, Patterson had four opportunities to return a kick and busted one for 45 yards in the first quarter. He has video game moves, but somehow hasn't been able to overtake Jerome Simpson for the starting receiver spot opposite Greg Jennings.

Nobody really knows why Patterson's video-game moves haven't made it onto the field, especially when Simpson was able to turn five targets into just two receptions for 24 yards. There's a possibility that he hasn't been able to pick up the playbook, but maybe the Vikings' staff would be best suited to call simple plays like a go route to get his big play ability into this offense.

Patterson's time will come, but it's taking a lot longer than expected to become a regular in the Viking offense.

Adrian Peterson

There was concern over Peterson coming into the game as he had only received 38 carries in his previous three games. This could have been for plenty of reasons including the fact the Vikings were behind for a majority of the past three weeks and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave being way in over his head.

The most concerning possibility was that Peterson was dealing with a balky hamstring. If the Vikings feared the injury was severe enough, it was possibly an effort to limit his carries as the team trudged through a 1-6 start heading into Week 9.

Fear no more.

Peterson exploded for the Vikings as he took the ball 25 times for 140 yards and a beastly touchdown run in the fourth quarter. For extra icing on the cake, he also made three receptions and turned that into 37 yards for an offense that was unleashing the fury of the three-yard pass.

There are plenty of things to worry about the Vikings right now, but it's now OK to cross Peterson's health off that list.

Chris Schad is a lifelong Vikings follower that has seen triumph and heartbreak for the franchise over 27 seasons. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.

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