Well fans, it has now become crystal clear that the Vikings’ many shortcomings start with their woeful offensive line which has barely the vigor to cash a paycheck. Who would ever suspect that we would miss fat old Bryant McKinnie in place of the left tackle, Charlie Johnson, who supposedly went to the Super Bowl to protect Peyton Manning’s blind side? Sunday made it perfectly clear that the early hopeful chirping about the play of Joe Berger at right guard was mere laughing gas, and Phil Loadholt should be issued a sidearm if he is ever to match up to the superior athletes he faces Sunday after Sunday. The others along that line don’t bear mention, being perfectly mediocre.
And then there is the defense which gives up yardage cheerfully and complacently. Do you need third and sixteen – no problem! Our defensive backs are here to serve you! It’s like a fast food joint with great service. Of course, the run defense always melts away when the game is on the line, too. This defense has gone from being stout in recent years, to a patsy when the game is on the line.
It was ironic that two Vikings cast-off cornerbacks should appear in this game, Bennie Sapp, recently released from the Dolphins, and Lito Sheppard, the man who made him expendable in Minnesota, but then failed to contribute enough to be retained beyond that season. As near as I could tell, Sapp played fairly well, but Sheppard led the Raiders with six unassisted tackles. You wonder how a player could fizzle here, which Sheppard obviously did, and then go somewhere else and stand out. Perhaps it points a finger at coaching that cannot figure out how to best utilize individual talent within a scheme? In any case, coaching that cannot discipline players to avoid ten penalties a game should be rearranged.
Just when it seemed an early exit was the best fan strategy, the Vikes clawed their way back to make a game out of it. You are tempted to speculate that, had Adrian Peterson not gone down, the Vikes might have pulled this one out in spite of everything. Christian Ponder, although showing why it is best not to have to play a rookie QB with the three untimely interceptions, showed plenty of grit, though not enough to fashion a winning drive on the last possession. Still, he makes the game interesting enough to keep the TVs on and the fans in the stadium. He took a fearful pounding, however, and you worry about his future without Adrian Peterson to take some of the pressure off the quarterback position.
Word has it that Peterson suffered the infamous high ankle sprain last Sunday. I fear a scenario that casts him and Ponder in the roles of Robert Redford and Paul Newman at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.