When the Sun Goes Down, So Do the Vikings

By MikeBullock  |   Tuesday, December 29, 2009  |  Comments( 0 )

Minnesota Vikings
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After watching last night’s debacle in Chicago, it’s hard to really put a finger on who is to blame. But, these columns only write themselves once in a while, so this one shouldn’t be impeded by such things as a losing effort by the entire team.

Offensive line. For the second straight week the offensive line looked completely mismatched, out of sync and downright confused. Loadholt, Herrera and McKinnie were all unable to shut down their opponents and gave the Chicago Bear defense entirely too many shots at Brett Favre. But, they did achieve balance by failing to consistently run block in a manner one would expect from a line often referred to as one of the best in the game.

Running game. Adrian Peterson didn’t get moving until the second half, but when he did, it seems he wasn’t smart enough to stop or simply step out of bounds. Or, here’s an idea, how about holding the ball with more than one point of contact when multiple defenders are trying to tear it free. If nothing else, Peterson closed the door on any conversation about him being the best running back of all time. When you look at the list of NFL greats, none have come close to Peterson’s utter disregard for ball security. Eric Dickerson only dropped the ball seven times in 11 seasons. Barry Sanders lost the handle 27 times in 10 seasons. Emmit Smith was the worst of the best, losing it 54 times in 15 seasons. But, when you chart Peterson’s lack of security out to the same span, you land on a whopping projection of 95 fumbles. How many of those will happen in Vikings’ territory with the game on the line? While that remains to be seen, it’s obvious he isn’t going to learn how to stop fumbling anytime soon, if ever.

Passing Game. The first half passing game was nonexistent, unless you count the inability to pass protect from the offensive line, or the dropped passes by Peterson and Bernard Berrian. The second half brought some redemption, but even Sidney Rice’s last second heroics weren’t enough to overcome the rest of the team’s terrible performances.

Defensive Line. Without Pat Williams in the lineup, it’s amazing the Bears didn’t manage to run for more than 105 yards. The real travesty was the inability to get after Jay Cutler, a quarterback with a history of crumbling under pressure. While Ray Edwards and Brian Robison were able to pad their sack totals, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen were left floundering for much of the game.

Linebackers. Ben Leber once again pulled a Jekyll and Hyde act, looking pathetic on some plays (Who taught him to tackle by hitting an opponent with his shoulder and then falling down? There’s really a coach out there teaching that garbage? Really?) then looking like his old self on others. Greenway stepped up, as did Jasper Brinkley, but the rookie bug bit the former Gamecock on more than one occasion.

Defensive secondary. This was perhaps the most disappointing area for the Vikings defense. The normally stellar Antoine Winfield was once again victimized on numerous occasions, as if Steve Smith has suddenly joined the Bears, or at least coached their receivers on how to take advantage of Winfield. Madieu Williams joined the “I think tackling means to hit a player with my shoulder then fall down” club yet again. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier needs to take several of these players out to the Eden Prairie High School and have coach Grant show them how tackling is done.

Special Teams. This might be the worst special teams’ performance the Vikings have had in a long time. If Devin Hester had been returning kicks, this game would have been over long before halftime. Ryan Longwell’s inability to put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs has been masked by decent coverage all season, but last night that fell apart as well. Not to mention, when you have a blocked extra point, there’s no way you can call the performance anything but horrendous. Add in a 16 yard net punt from Kluwe and the entire group gets an F for effort.

Coaching. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevel may have been the key reason Brett Favre came out of retirement to join the Vikings, but his play calling may also be the key reason Favre regrets that decision. While Bevel did achieve a far better balance than he did in recent weeks, his vanilla “play calling for dummies” scheme was once again figured out by the defense. Bevel is obviously out of his depth and needs to return to the shallow end of the play calling pool. Maybe one of Eden Prairie’s opponents needs a quarterback coach. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier seemed to call the right plays, but still needs to share the blame for failing to prepare his players for the second straight week. The Vikings defense has coughed up 62 points over the last two games; hardly the type of play that upholds the tenant “defense wins championships”.

Officiating. Blaming the zebras for the outcome is a flight of folly. However, the amount of blatantly missed calls, on both sides, directly affected the game in multiple key situations. While the speed of the game may make it hard to officiate perfectly, the inability to even come close to perfection is inexcusable. The NFL Head of Officiating, Mike Pereira should take a serious look at whether or not this crew covers any of the playoff games, or even has a job next Sunday.

A few columns back, the Vikings’ inability to put together a perfect game was in question, after last night it’s clear they are capable of playing a perfectly horrible one. While they still have time to turn this ship around, the longboat is taking on water in too many places to expect it to remain seaworthy for the long voyage from Minnesota to Miami.

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