Monday, December 07, 2009

Paisley Park


In the immediate aftermath of clearly the worst Vikings' effort since their home, playoff defeat at the hands of the underdog Philadelphia Eagles, there is no other equally appropriate initial response.

From the 9:47 mark of the first quarter when head coach Brad Childress successfully challenged a call of no touchdown, the Vikings did virtually nothing right in their first game against a winning team since they faced, and lost to, the now .500 and falling Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Vikings’ awful performance played out so slowly, so methodically from the Cardinals’ point of view, that vomiting was never implicated. Some nausea, yes, but no vomiting. Vomiting is reserved for games like the loss at Washington in Tice’s next-to-last season, the losses at Chicago and Arizona the year before that, and, of course, the 1998 loss to the Falcons.

Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals seemed too much like a replay of several games last season to support a sudden vomitous sensation. But the duration nearly qualified it anyway.

How bad was the game? The Vikings were favored by five and one-half points, lost by 13, and were saved from a more serious beating only by Arizona's late-game indifference.

The Vikings entered the week with the league's seventh-best rushing attack and faced the league's twelfth-best run defense. Against that opposition, an opposition that had yielded 104 rushing yards a game despite playing in the NFC West, the Vikings, with purportedly the best running back tandem in the NFL and the heir-apparent to Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Emmitt Smith, Chuck Foreman, John Riggins, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, and Marshall Faulk, all rolled into one, mustered a mere 62-yards rushing and three rushing first downs.

Though tempting to excuse the Vikings' poor rushing totals as the function of the Cardinals large lead over Minnesota, the numbers suggest the culprit is more diverse--falling at the feet of Adrian Peterson's Greg Jennings/Vincent Jackson impersonation, the offensive line's increasing inability to open holes, and play-calling that, when bad, truly is gut-wrenching to watch.

Some in the Vikings' organization predicted that this nonsense was all behind the team--the Vikings would play hard on the road, execute sound game plans, read and react to the defense more in play-calling, and demonstrate both ability and patience along and behind the line of scrimmage. At a minimum, Vikings' fans had come to expect, those bad tendencies--the tendencies that led to the Vikings' ouster from the playoffs in the first round last year--would be stayed until the departure of quarterback Brett Favre.

We now have confirmation that that is not the case. When Favre is off, the Vikings are a mess on offense. McKinney's inability to move laterally is magnified, Sullivan's inability to open a hole is magnified, Cook's inability to play at the NFL level is magnified, injuries are magnified, Peterson's stunning regression is magnified, and the staff's inability to marshall the troops when things turn south is magnified. These are not the qualities that winning teams--Super Bowl aspiring teams--want to have magnified.

Where do the corrections begin? Clearly, they begin with returning Peterson to the role of dominate rusher that he was last season. But that appears increasingly more problematic.

While other running backs such as Chris Johnson, Cedric Benson, and DeAngelo Williams are on the upswing--despite playing for inferior teams with far fewer offensive options--Peterson looks broken down and incapable of doing the thing that most matters to his livelihood, holding on to the ball.

Last season, Peterson rushed for 1760 yards. This season, Peterson has 1103 yards through 12 games. And nobody outside of the Vikings' organization justifiably believes that Peterson will approach last season's mark even if the Vikings make an effort to given Peterson the ball more often.

If something's not wrong with Peterson, the Vikings might want to reconsider the guarded-approach they have to considering whether to re-sign Chester Taylor this off-season. And they may want to consider how number 11 looks coming out of the backfield.

Up Next: When It Rains...


Cabrito said...

That, VG, was one of your most eloquent and insightful postings. You have summed everything up perfectly, and I have nothing to add. The phrases "a mess on offense" and "stunning regression" are particularly apt. In a recent Trib blog, one contributor noted that Chili and company had better take note of what Arizona did to us, as we'll be facing a lot more of the same in the weeks to come. This is, as the saying goes, a copycat league. If the Vikings can remedy some of their ailments in the upcoming game against the Bengals, I'll breathe easier. If they can't, I fear the worst. I pray they don't have to play the Packers again in the playoffs.

Aston said...

The Vikings coaches did not have the team ready to play last Sunday. Also, every team has a bad game (except for the ’72 Dolphins). The Saints had a horrible game and if not for overwhelming luck, would have obviously lost. While all your points in regards to the Cardinal game are highly appropriate, they do not apply to the rest of the entire season thus far. At one point or another, Adrian, Peterson, the offensive line, coaching, even the defensive secondary, have come up big. This notice is good as a warning of how the Vikings might drop but to this point, this has thus far been one of the best Viking seasons in my thirty years as a Vikes fan. They have overwhelming talent and have shown they are arguably the best in the league when the train is running right. I know it’s tough to not let the cynical Viking stigma of years past creep in but I say, let’s take note of the Cardinals game and how we can improve, put it behind us, get back on track, and focus on how great this Viking team can be if focused, prepared, and driven.

vikes geek said...

Cabrito and Aston,

This is where coaches earn their keep--at least during the regular season. While there was no excuse for the display in Arizona, there will be even less for anything remotely similar at home against the Bengals. We will find out Sunday whether the Arizona game was evidence of the Vikings simply playing poorly against a team that played well or a sign that the Vikings 10-1 record was as much about their league-softest schedule as of their offensive growth over last season.