Nightmare In Lambeau

The Minnesota Vikings were riding high Monday morning. They had just defeated the San Diego Chargers, a playoff team from last year, in decisive fashion. Their star running back Adrian Peterson was making national headlines after setting the all-time single-game rushing record. Despite being 3-5, they were a team that looked like it had a lot to be optimistic about.

The Vikings have, however, developed a certain talent for taking good vibes and turning them into nausea. That sick feeling set in again mid-week when news broke all over of the team’s decision to dock receiver Troy Williamson a game check for choosing family obligations over team ones. The Vikings were portrayed as heartless, mean and petty by the national media, and quickly rescinded the decision while offering mealy-mouthed excuses. Instant karma seems to have already gotten the Vikes – because today they took their 3-5 record into Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, and left with a 3-6 record and, even worse, an injured Adrian Peterson.

It would be an understatement to say the Vikings were thoroughly dominated by the Packers – in fact they were neatly folded up, slipped gently into an envelope and mailed to their mamas. The final score, 34-0, indicates this in a way that needs little further elaboration. But we’ll elaborate on it anyway, just to convey the full egregiousness of the beatdown. First the offensive stats: Green Bay amassed a total of 488 yards, while the Vikings managed a paltry 247 (much of that coming after the Packers had gone into prevent mode). That vaunted Viking run defense? Gashed to pieces in the first half by Ryan Grant, who nearly had a hundred at the intermission, and ended up with 119 and a TD. The Viking pass defense that looked so good against Philip Rivers and the Chargers? They reverted crashingly to form, surrendering 351 yards and 3 TDs to a sprightly Brett Favre.

And then there was the Viking offense, which really doesn’t deserve to be described as an offense, except to the extent that it gives offense to anyone who enjoys watching football. In the first half, starting QB Brooks Bollinger managed to rack up a staggering total of 7 yards – but to blame this all on Bollinger would be unfair, given the absurdly unimaginative nature of the game-plan he was called upon to execute. The Vikings tried only 6 passes in the entire half – partly a reflection of Brad Childress’s commitment to run Adrian Peterson at all costs, partly of the failure of the passes that were thrown to gain the yards necessary to perpetuate drives. The Childress plan consisted largely of running Adrian right, running Adrian left, then trying a desperation pass on third-and-long. Sometimes Childress even ran again on third-and-long. Instead of even trying to attack the Packer defense, Childress seemed only to be praying Adrian would break a big one and save his useless hide. He didn’t.

The Packers, despite their dominance, had shot themselves in the foot enough times to only lead 13-0 at the half. Viking fans might have deluded themselves then that Adrian could come out with another post-intermission Cavalry-charge performance like he had against San Diego – but instead of leading a stirring comeback, Adrian would find himself being helped off the field after an apparent knee injury. The sight of Adrian writhing in pain on the turf after being upended by Al Harris made the fact that we were losing seem insignificant. Our horror was relieved somewhat when Adrian was able to walk off, albeit with assistance, and later when he could be seen jogging up and down the sideline in an effort to loosen up and get back out on the field. But Adrian’s day would be through, and good thing too, for there was no comeback in the cards for this thoroughly defeated group of increasingly disgruntled Vikings.

Now the question will be asked: Has Brad Childress lost his team? Was the Troy Williamson pay-docking debacle the last straw for veterans who were already down on Chilly? Was today’s sometimes lethargic performance the sign of a team that is in an active state of revolt against its coach? And if so, what can be done? Certainly Zygi Wilf would not fire Childress in the middle of the season. Somehow, the team will have to pull itself together, and transmute their animosity toward Childress into some kind of motivation to go out and kick someone’s butt. Not that any of this would matter in the end anyway. The best the Vikings might hope for now is to finish strong and maybe make it to 7-9. Quarterback controversies seem irrelevant now – Brooks Bollinger is as bad as Tarvaris Jackson is as bad as Kelly Holcomb. And with AD dinged up, who knows how much we’ll be able to get out of even him. Add to this a defense that often seems clueless, and you have yourself a recipe for a miserable exercise in running out the string.

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