Although the 14-3 start certainly should come as no surprise to Vikings' fans, the utter lack of performance by the Vikings should give rise to concerns about next year, as it suggests that the Vikings, rather than progressing, are going in reverse.
After yet another false start penalty by the Vikings, radio color commentator Joe Sensor declared that he could not understand how anyone could blame the Vikings' coaches for the Vikings failures this season. "It's the penalties that have doomed the Vikings," Sensor protested, "not the coaching."
When a team continues to make stupid mistake after stupid mistake, the blame most certainly rests with those overseeing those making the mistakes. In this case, the blame falls squarely on the Vikings' coaching staff. And, as last week's fatal 4th quarter drive was a microcosm of the season, the Vikings have one-upped that one-drive performance by performing miserably for nearly the entire first half.
Fourteen points in the first half by a team averaging about that for an entire game? A quarterback rating nearing the century mark for a quarterback with a season rating near the bottom of the NFL? An offensive output of a single field goal and drives stunted by penalties and curious playcalling from a team purportedly capable of blowing out any team in the NFL? Leave it to the Vikings. And, more specifically, leave it to the Vikings' coaching staff for putting inadequate rookies in critical positions.
Jeff Dugan and Other Mistakes
Trailing 7-0 with the ball on Washington's 1" line, the Vikings brought in an extra tight end to block what was certainly going to be a running play. That extra tight end was little used, error prone, Jeff Dugan. Predictably, Dugan jumped the play count for a false start and the Vikings, unable to convert from the 7 on third and goal, were forced to convert a chip-shot field goal.
But why was Dugan even on the field? In the few instances in which Dugan has played this season, his number has been called often. And his number has not been called by the Vikings, but by the officials, usually for holding or a false start. I've said it before and I'll say it again, had Dugan not lettered at Maryland and were Dugan not a tight end, Tice would have never considered him for a spot on this team. Just another indictment of the poor decision-making by the Vikings' personnel staff this year and for years prior. And this indictment begins with Tice.
But personnel decisions, as wide and varied as they are, are not the Vikings only glaring sore spot in this game. Mistakes by the usual suspects are equally culpible.
Not to be outdone by a 56-yard return on the Redskins' first kick return, the Vikings' special teams permitted another long return to midfield on the second kickoff. The cherry on the top of the Vikings' second kickoff was an offsides on the Vikings.
When the Vikings' were returning kicks, the result was equally as abysmal. On the Redskins' second kickoff of the game, a lousy return in its own right, rookie Dontarrious Thomas was flagged for an illegal block in the back and the Vikings were backed up near their goal line. That the field position did not result in a safety, as it nearly did, was merely an atavistic blip. That Thomas made a mistake in a game, sadly, was the norm.
And even when the Vikings were not officially making mistakes they were making mistakes. On Kevin Williams' interception, Kenechi Udeze clearly hit Washington quarterback Patrick Ramsey late. The officials missed the call. When Daunte Culpepper faced a blitz in the second quarter and threw the ball away despite being in the pocket and, therefore, still subject to the grounding rule, the officials demurred, opting to flag Washington for a very questionable roughing-the-quarterback penalty. And, on the lone occasion that Brian Williams made a tackle--albeit after an easy 15-yard gain--the officials looked the other way when Williams nearly wrenched off the receiver's head with a brutal facemask.
From a critic's perspective, these mistakes, mistakes that the Vikings continue to make week after week, is on the coaching staff. There apparently is no accountability, and there is certainly poor preparation week in and week out, on this team. That should give Red reason to eat Tice's $1 million contract and hire Gregg Williams, Jim Fassel, or someone who can prepare a team to play and coax the team to follow the lead.
The Vikings cannot win today playing as they did in the first half. No team could. Not at any level. Not against any caliber of opposition. But if a miracle strikes, and the Vikings pull their collective heads out of their collective derriers, the Vikings might yet pull this one out.
I won't be holding my breath.
Up Next: Post Game.