Following a suspect victory over the Chicago Bears last week, the Minnesota Vikings, while acknowledging their mistakes, congratulated themselves for showing resiliency in the face of adversity and perservering for a victory. Sunday, against a measurably better Washington team, the Vikings showed that all the mettle in the world is no match when faced with competency. And little mettle at all is even worse.
In the aftermath of a second, consecutive disappointing on-field performance, Vikings' head coach Brad Childress lamented his hesitancy to pass the ball down the field against a Washington defense clearly poised to stop the run and begging the Vikings to pass. Unfortunately, Childress' epiphany occurred to him only after the fact rather than when the game was still in reach. The result was a well-earned drubbing at the hands of Washington and what will probably be yet another season without even an appearance in the playoffs.
As Childress' laments suggest, the Vikings' problems on Sunday night were largely the consequence of the Vikings' inability and unwillingness to challenge Washington's secondary. Through one quarter, the Vikings had attempted but one pass of any meaningful distance beyond the line of scrimmage; an implausible way to stretch the defense and a particularly confounding approach to matching a defense that the Vikings understood prior to the game would stuff the defensive line of scrimmage to stop the Vikings' running game.
The results were predictable. The Vikings gained virtually no yardage in the first quarter and surrendered a safety. The second quarter offered more of the same with the Vikings building a tidy 0-22 deficit by half.
As coaches with job security are wont to do, Childress accepted responsibility for the conservative play-calling. As coaches with a sense of limited job security are wont to do, Childress refused to defuse questions about the play of his quarterback as a contributing factor in Sunday's meltdown.
There is no question that Jackson, for the second straight week, played below the level of that required of a starting NFL quarterback. Of course, that's often what happens to rookies, save for the truly exceptional ones. Unfortunately, as with his post-game epiphany regarding the team's offensive game plan, Childress has waited far too long to realize what most rightfully and readily recognized last Spring, namely, that experience at quarterback is a prerequisite to success at the position in the NFL.
What the 2007-2008 season will bring for the Vikings is anyone's guess. The team continues to lament its lack of depth at wide receiver, using the contention as a crutch to explain away everything from lack of offensive line protection for the quarterback to Tarvaris Jackson's spotty, sometimes poor play. The truth of the matter, of course, is that, as goes the quarterback, so goes the offense. And right now, the quarterback play is regressing.
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