The 2012 Minnesota Vikings are definitely not ready for prime time. They played in front of a deafening home crowd and a national television audience on Thursday Night Football, and it was evident from the opening gun that the Vikings had brought a butter knife to a gun fight. Minnesota was outplayed, overpowered, outhustled, and outcoached in a 36-17 loss to a Tampa Bay team with a rookie coach, a 2-4 record, and the NFL’s 31st ranked pass defense.
My dad would have explained the Vikings’ loss this way. Whenever Alan Page, Carl Eller, and Fran Tarkenton underachieved and lost to a lesser opponent, he said that it was because they were “reading their own headlines.” The team’s early season success has caused the players to focus so much on updating their twitter feeds (Chris Kluwe), perfecting their big play poses (Josh Robinson), and dating supermodels (Christian Ponder), that they forgot to play the game. Good teams don’t lose on Thursday Night Football when they have home field advantage. The Vikings managed to stink up the Metrodome despite an otherworldly performance by Adrian Peterson, three blocked passes from Brian Robison, and a WWE-worthy blood and drama smackdown from Jared Allen.
Despite having a reportedly tough run defense, the Vikings have given up big numbers to two undersized running backs on successive weeks. Rookie running back Doug Martin hadn’t run for 100 yards in his brief NFL career. On Thursday night he had 100 yards by the end of the first half. The defensive line put good pressure on Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, but managed only two sacks, one being the epic effort by Jared Allen after his nose was gashed. The Vikings’ defense looked slow, out of position, and underprepared. It looks like they had been reading their own headlines.
Here’s a question for Vikings’ fans to ponder. Why is it that almost every time another team blitzes Minnesota, its players seem to get free untouched and kill our quarterback? Then when we blitz, it almost always is detected and the opposing quarterback throws to the spot from where the blitzing defender just came. This has been going on since Childress was coach. The Vikings’ blitz success has got to be the worst in the NFL. Part of the problem is Adrian Peterson. Teams have been crowding the box to stop his runs, but they bring the house when we try to pass. Despite being such a formidable physical specimen, Peterson is a horrible blocker. In his defense, he has never been in the headlines for his blocking ability.
Christian Ponder has been doing his best “deer in the headlights” impression over the last two weeks, but who can blame him? He is a smart guy, with two master’s degrees. When he sees half a ton of defensive linemen bearing down on him with every snap, a smart man focuses on survival…not pass completions. The Vikings need to fix their offensive line problems now, or we’re going to be experiencing the Joe Webb era soon. The team is officially entering the “tough” part of its schedule, playing the Seahawks next week and the Bears and Packers looming. The offense has to become less predictable, and attempt a vertical passing game. The league has officially caught on to the Vikings’ “dink and dunk” offense. Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff are going to have to teach this young team to compete in today’s NFL. Otherwise, they’ll be looking at headlines…in the employment section.