Whatever scant playoff hopes the Vikings may have harbored likely went out the door today, with the team losing at home to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-16.
“Scant” may actually be too mild a word to describe the slimness of the team’s post-season chances going into today’s match-up with Philadelphia. The Vikings really were only holding on by the fingernails – and their prospects were not significantly improved by the insertion of Kelly Holcomb as starting QB, given Holcomb’s less-than-stellar performances in relief of Tarvaris Jackson earlier in the year. Holcomb did manage to lead the Vikings to an early score, capped by his 9-yard TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe. But, Viking fans have gotten used to our offense scoring easily on opening possessions only to sputter for the rest of the game. Such was the case again today, as the Vikings, after taking an early 7-0, found themselves thereafter kept out of the end-zone.
The Eagles took control in the 2nd quarter and did not relinquish it. Down 7-3 after a David Akers field goal, the Eagles blazed their way through a typically soft Viking D, the big play being a 30-yard connection from Donovan McNabb to Reggie Brown, and the capper coming on McNabb’s shovel pass to Brian Westbrook for the TD. The Eagles later extended their lead on a 1-yard Westbrook run set up by a 33-yard slant pass from McNabb to Kevin Curtis. A Viking field goal cut the deficit to 17-10 going into the half.
The second half began in disastrous fashion for the Vikings. Rookie kick returner Adrian Peterson was forced toward the sideline by the Akers kick-off, but rather than let the ball bounce either out-of-bounds or into the end-zone, Peterson opted to field it inside the one, then saw his foot slide out-of-bounds meaning the ball would be spotted there. Brad Childress threw a challenge flag, attempting to argue that Peterson had received the ball after it was out, but the original ruling was upheld and the Vikings had to start on their half-yard line. This horrendous gaffe by Peterson killed any chance the Vikings may have had of establishing momentum in the second half. They quickly gave the ball back to Philadelphia, and only a heroic defensive effort held the Eagles to a field goal, instead of the touchdown that would’ve likely sealed the game then-and-there.
It was an undistinguished game overall for emerging star Peterson. Besides the terrible error on the kick return, Peterson saw himself facing 8-in-the-box situations all day, and was largely held in check by the sure-tackling Eagles. The stagnant Viking offense was only shaken to life at all after a third quarter injury to Kelly Holcomb necessitated the entry of Brooks Bollinger, the much-maligned third-stringer who was elevated to first back-up status after Jackson was demoted to emergency QB. Bollinger completed his first three passes, two of them for first downs. This sudden success through the air did loosen things up a bit for Peterson, who was then able to break off some longer runs. Moving the ball didn’t equal points however – the Vikings managed only a pair of field goals after Bollinger’s entry, and the Eagle pass-rush eventually overwhelmed the Vikings’ shaky offensive tackles, snuffing out any spark Bollinger may have provided.
The loss drops the Vikings to 2-5, dead last in the NFC North, and well out of playoff contention. What became clearer than ever today is that Adrian Peterson alone can’t save this offense – the Vikings must mount something of a consistent pass attack if they expect Peterson to have any space to operate. Brooks Bollinger did look better, in his short stint, than either Tarvaris Jackson or Kelly Holcomb have looked at any time during their own stretches at QB. It’s likely that Brad Childress will now turn the team over to Bollinger, with Jackson and Holcomb both injured. He has little choice – we have no other quarterbacks. The best thing for Bollinger may be the fact that, with the team now all-but-eliminated from contention, there should be little pressure on him. The pressure has only mounted on Childress, however, whose job must now be considered in serious jeopardy.