Adrian Peterson missed the team bus to Soldiers Field on Sunday. He eventually arrived by taxi. Unfortunately, the rest of the team never showed up at all. Despite the fact that the Vikings were coming off a bye week and were in position to grab at least a share of the NFC North lead with a victory over the undermanned Chicago Bears, they played sloppy, uninspired football and lost 28-10.
You can say what you want about Mike Tice, but he sure had his offense ready to play against the Vikings. After a six-sack, revolving door performance by his offensive line in an embarrassing loss to the 49ers in front of a nationwide television audience, Tice crafted a line out of bubble gum and bailing wire. With Jay Cutler coming off a concussion, the timing seemed perfect for the ferocious Vikings’ pass rush to wipe that cheesy moustache off the Bears quarterback’s face. Tice’s game plan included extra help from the tight ends and backs, and plenty of quick hitting short passes to protect the quarterback. The result? One gift sack that happened when the Chicago center stepped on Cutler’s foot.
The Vikings’ defensive line obviously has trouble with mobile quarterbacks. They have now come up a day late and a dollar short in the sack department against Andrew Luck, Josh Freeman, RG3, and Jay Cutler. Cutler moved just enough to frustrate the pass rush, and had so much time to throw that he could have updated his Facebook page and made dinner reservations. He put the time to extremely good use. Brandon Marshall was Cutler’s primary target, and he had a marvelous performance despite being double- and triple-teamed. He did, however, benefit from an extremely questionable pass interference call that put the ball on the Minnesota one-yard line and effectively sealed the Vikings’ fate.
Adrian Peterson played with his usual violent energy, and at times seemed like the only player in a purple uniform who cared. He gained 108 yards on 18 carries for a 6-yard average, but coughed up the ball twice. He also didn’t get to touch the football on a crucial late game series when the Vikings had a third-and-two, and fourth-and-two on the Bears 8. Although his recent fumbling history brings back memories of past disasters, Peterson is clearly the only elite weapon in the Viking’s offensive arsenal.
It’s also crystal clear that Leslie Frazier and his offensive brain trust have no idea how to use him effectively.
Christian Ponder didn’t have a horrible game, but it is evident that he is on such a tight leash that he is predisposed to choke. He didn’t benefit from an offense designed to protect the quarterback, and was on the run all day.
His wide receivers also didn’t do him any favors, with numerous drops after being hit in the hands or numbers. Jerome Simpson officially lost his savior status with three drops and only one yard receiving. Kyle Rudolph was the only receiver who regularly got open, and he left late in the game with a concussion. At this rate we’re going to have to bring back the Veer T or Flying Wedge for the Packer’s game next week.
It’s hard to find a bright spot in this game. The Vikings’ coaches, offense, defense, and special teams all had terrible performances. Fortunately, the cheerleaders did a good job. The Vikings will be facing the Packers twice and the Bears once more before the end of the season, so there’s still hope for an NFC North title or wild card berth. However, after this week’s lackluster thrashing, you have to ask if Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder are the guys to lead the team to the promised land.