On Saturday night I witnessed zombies crawling the streets of Minneapolis as a part of the largest and oldest zombie pub-crawl in the world. When I arrived at the Metrodome on Sunday morning it appeared as if the zombie pub-crawl had decided to go into overtime and spill into the stadium. The Vikings came off as more realistic zombies than most of the revelers out the night before. The result? Minnesota was left looking for brains after falling to the Carolina Panthers 35-10. The Vikings still stand at the bottom of the NFC North division with a record of 1-4. Coming out of the bye the team looked lackadaisical and unprepared. The secondary was atrocious, injuries have stricken the linebacker corps, and worst of all, the first signs of the team quitting on the coaching staff have appeared. In other words the Vikings are in serious trouble.
In every game in the NFL there are turning points and opportunities. These situations often make up the difference between a loss and a victory. The Vikings on Sunday managed to blow enough of these situations during the first quarter that the game quickly got out of hand. Three examples that come to mind are:
1. Toby Gerhart missing a block on a Cassel scramble on an attempted third down conversion that ended up a yard short.
2. Not being able to tackle and contain a scrambling Cam Newton on multiple third and fourth down situations.
3. Jamarca Sanford missing an interception that hit him on the numbers.
Each of these mistakes occurred during the first quarter when it was still a competitive game. These mistakes compounded and quickly had the Vikings looking up at a 14-0 deficit to start the game. The Vikings started this contest flat and unfocused. In the end their miscues in the beginning were too much to overcome.
Poor secondary play robbed the Vikings a chance to even be competitive in this game. Major errors can be attributed to nickel cornerback Josh Robinson, who should have been wearing a fire retardant suit for the amount of times he was burned in coverage. It wasn’t just Robinson who has been making the team look bad though. This season opposing teams have been able to easily carve up the Vikings secondary at their whim. Poor tackling, blown coverages, and a general lack of talent makes the secondary a major deficiency for the purple. It doesn’t appear it will be getting any better anytime soon with injuries this Sunday to Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. Look for the secondary to continue to struggle for the rest of the season.
The Vikings inability to stop teams on third and fourth downs is becoming a major issue for the defense. During Carolina’s first drive of the game they faced six third and fourth down situations. The Vikings managed to come up short on each of them. Not finishing series in the NFL is a cardinal sin. The defense strives to get to third downs, and coming up short once or even twice during a drive can be a total momentum-killer, let alone coming up short six times during one drive. Carolina’s first possession set the pace for the remainder of the game, and it seemed like the only way the Vikings got off the field was after a Carolina score.
The total lack of offensive production can’t be pinpointed to a single position. Quarterback play this season has been mediocre at best; however, one must look past quarterback to get to the root of the problem. The offensive line has been a sieve to pass rushers, the wide receiving corps have dropped balls that have hit them in the hands, and offensive coordinator Musgrave’s anemic play-calling has the offense struggling to find room to even take a breath. This combined with turnover-prone quarterbacks is a recipe for disaster. The Vikings offense is stuck in a paradox of sorts. They aren’t good enough to make up for their mistakes, and when they do make mistakes they end up making more of them trying to fix their errant ways.
Next week the Vikings travel to New York to play a winless Giants team. The glimmer of hope I expect to see from this game is that of Josh Freeman starting and possibly grabbing the reigns as the next anointed “quarterback of the future.” Look for a sloppy game between two teams that are struggling right now. The best part about next week is that it can’t get much worse then it did against Carolina. So that’s something… right?