Well fans, the Giants brought an October surprise to the Hump, only part of which was the thoroughgoing 34-13 dismantling of the Vikes. Anyone predicting that the Purple could manage five sacks against New York in a season where their greatest failing has been pass defense, and still manage to disgrace themselves, would have been laughed to scorn. Yet the Purple made substantial improvements on defense and regardless, were never competitive after the first quarter.
It was a bad omen when Mike Nattiel was called for holding on the opening kickoff, but the real culprit in Sunday's loss was the formerly world-beating QB, Daunte Culpepper. Surely, Mewelde Moore suffered brain lock in failing to cover the dropped swing pass which turned out to be a backward lateral/fumble, but it is Culpepper who missed the simple throw behind his receiver, and then went on to miss passes all day long, several which should have been TDs. The INTs were on Daunte, as were most of the three and outs. The timing of the Purple passing attack was off all day long, as he looked like the old bad Culpepper of two years ago who couldn't make a decision and threw the ball late and off-target to open receivers who then got hammered -- it is lucky that Marcus Robinson was only dinged, not fractured.
It may well be that this team needs a different personality without Randy Moss at full speed, as Mike Tice said. The first part of that would be someone else at wideout if he can't run. It is one thing to preserve Moss' string and force opposing defenses to game plan for his presence, but playing him past the point where it is obvious he can't contribute, and is likely to aggravate his injury, is stupid. Better to put a Moss halloween mask on a rookie, someone at the position the defense must at least account for.
It is disheartening, after the passage of a year, to arrive at exactly the same bad place at the same juncture in the season, following a date with the Giants. At least last year, hardly anyone anticipated the magnitude of the coming Purple collapse. Now, everyone fears the worst, and protestations to the contrary by Mike Tice and his minions seem like whistling past the graveyard on All Hallows Eve. Still, the offensive breakdown last Sunday seemed mostly an aberration, a bad outing for Daunte Culpepper; surely the Vikes miss Moss, but that doesn't mean Culpepper should miss all the rest of his receivers. If that doesn't happen, the Vikes have a chance to get the running game going, and can hold the ball and score some points.
The trip down to Indianapolis will be fraught with peril, and will tell a lot about what this team is made of. Manning and the Colts, at least, have shown signs of human frailty this year, and if the Vikes can mount a pass rush for the second week in a row and get their offense back on track, perhaps they can put their season there also. However, don't count on Moss' return, based on what he looked like last Sunday. For the Vikes to beat the Colts, they will have to run the ball well, and spread it around equally to the competent receivers they have on the roster other than Randy Moss.
More than anything else, they will have to avoid mistakes, make plays under pressure, and not panic or collapse when things don't go well. Now, it is character they need, to go along with their obvious talent.