It’s hard to imagine a regular season loss being more frustrating than today’s Vikings defeat at the hands of the Colts. To go up 15-0 on a Colts team missing 3 offensive line starters – a team that couldn’t run the ball or consistently protect its quarterback – and end up surrendering 18 unanswered points to lose the game…that sort of loss can crush a team’s spirit before it’s even had a chance to get out of the gate. The frustration comes in realizing how many things you did well to even get the 15-0 lead in the first place. How persistently you pressured the QB. How thoroughly you stuffed the run. How brilliant your running back was in putting you in position to score. The Vikings performed so marvelously in so many areas – and yet, they lost. They failed to capitalize on scoring chances. They failed to carry their first half running game momentum into the second half. They failed to deliver the knock-out blow to an offense that was rocking back on its heels like a punchy heavyweight. They let the savvy Peyton Manning hang around, and eventually, Manning did what you would expect him to – find his weapons and move the ball down the field and stick it in the end zone. There’s a reason one team is always in the playoffs and another is almost always out of them. It’s not an accident. Peyton Manning knows how to run an offense. Tom Moore knows how to call an offensive game. Tony Dungy knows how to make the adjustments and coach a team back from certain defeat. And the Vikings?
Let’s assign blame for this soul-crushing defeat, and let’s do it well and know whom to spew our venom at. Let’s start with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who has taken over play calling duties from Brad Childress. Let’s ask Darrell a question: Why, dear Darrell, are you calling a running play on third and five? Why are you calling a deep passing play on third down when your quarterback hasn’t even proven he can complete an intermediate pass with any reliability (to a receiver with a bad toe)? Why are you calling Visanthe Shiancoe‘s number in the red zone when you know he has a good 50% chance of dropping the ball? Why are you calling two straight running plays with the clock winding down and the score tied, and following them with a roll-out so predictable even the idiot announcers knew it was coming? I bring up Darrell Bevell now because, of all the individuals responsible for today’s loss, he is the most expendable. You’re not going to fire Brad Childress, and as long as Childress is coach, you’re apparently not going to replace Tarvaris Jackson. So, if a change has to be made – if a fresh set of eyes has to be brought in – Bevell is the obvious man to replace. Maybe not after this loss – but if the offense continues to perform so ineptly? If there continue to be so many rip-worthy decisions made in the course of a game?
Maybe you’d only be scapegoating Bevell, but so be it. At some point someone’s head has to roll, and Bevell’s looks nice and round. And frankly I think the team could benefit by having a veteran offensive guru type come in and look over what’s being done. I doubt Brad Childress would enjoy having someone come in and check his work but I don’t care – Zygi Wilf needs to go over Childress’s head and make this happen. There must be someone out there with a significant NFL background who could work with Childress on this offense and tailor it to make better use of the talent on the field. Childress would clearly resent this but, again, I don’t care – he’s had his chance. It’s not working. Only the greatness of Adrian Peterson allowed the Vikings to move the ball with any effectiveness today – and by game’s end Peterson looked like one of those punchy heavyweights I was talking about earlier.
Not Going to Kill Tarvaris Jackson
The easy thing would be to call Tarvaris all sorts of names (loser, no-talent, quarterbacking hack, dumb-ass, etc.,) but I’m not going to. We all know what Tarvaris is: A decent talent who has had ample time to develop and is simply no longer developing. He’s reached his ceiling. What we saw today is all T-Jack will ever be – a guy who occasionally makes a play, but is overall unsound mechanically and by-and-large inept when it comes to the intricacies of the position. You can run him out there 10 more games and by the 10th game he will be no better than he was today. Of course, a clever coaching staff blessed with receiver talent could probably fashion a game-plan that would take advantage of Tarvaris’s strengths (mobility, strong arm, tenacity) while de-emphasizing his weaknesses (lack of footwork, inability to read a defense, lack of pocket presence) – but Tarvaris is blessed with neither ingenious coaching nor above-par receivers. He has coaches who think Visanthe Shiancoe is a pass-catching tight end. He has coaches who think 3rd and 5 is a running down.
Not Screaming for Gus
Another thing I won’t do is long for Gus Frerotte. I am simply not ready to fall into the nitwit-fan trap of thinking the #2 quarterback is some kind of savior. I will, however, gently suggest that if Tarvaris comes out next week against Carolina throwing the ball ten feet over his recievers’ heads, it might be a good idea to put Gus out there and at least see what he has. Just to relieve us all from the frustration of watching T-Jack spin his particular web of ineptitude. Just to see if maybe Darrell Bevell is able to then open up the stuck-together pages of his playbook and call the sort of play on 3rd and 5 that a normal NFL team with a capable quarterback would (e.g. not a running play or a high fluttering heave to a crippled “speed” receiver). At least, if Gus stunk it up as bad as T-Jack, we’d know where the problem lay. And what if the passing game suddenly started functioning? What if Bernard Berrian magically got involved in the gameplan and Sidney Rice became a red-zone threat and Visanthe Shiancoe started holding on to the ball?
Okay, you’re right – the third one is asking too much. But that’s why you have other players like Garrett Mills. That’s why you have Chester Taylor who is a good receiver out of the backfield. The Vikings have a lot of things they could throw at teams if only they’d figure out how to mix all that up effectively.
Fact is, this team is already in trouble. 0-2 after a tough road game and a winnable home game against a hobbled opponent. And now 2-0 Carolina coming in. People are saying, “Yeah, but the Giants were 0-2 last year and look what happened.” Hmm…so people think T-Jack has the potential to suddenly become Eli Manning? If the Vikings fall to 0-3 they can kiss the playoffs goodbye. Maybe after that kind of start they could scratch back to 8-8 but so what? All four teams in the NFC East could end up 9-7. The Packers will not finish any worse than 9-7. Point being, 8-8 won’t win you our division and it won’t get you a wild card. It will only get you another off-season of questions. So, Game 3 is a must-win. It has to be approached that way by the coaching staff and that means a quick hook on T-Jack. 0-3, Brad Childress has to understand, equals calamity. It equals his head on the chopping block and it equals likely veteran mutiny. The defense can’t play its ass off every week and watch the offense do nothing without grumbling. They’re probably already grumbling. They held Indianapolis down for most of the game and with any help from the offense they would’ve been able to finish the deal – but the offense left them out on the field and they got gassed and suddenly Manning’s awful line was giving him time to work. They might’ve squeaked out a win against a Jon Kitna or a Kyle Orton but not Peyton Manning. Leave the door open a crack and Peyton will storm through.
I’m giving my game ball to Jared Allen for showing the defense how to grind and fight and scrap right down to the last second. He made up for a nondescript game against the Packers by getting after it in All-Pro fashion. He only sacked Manning once but he was all over him the rest of the time. 2nd place game ball goes to E.J. Henderson and 3rd place to Adrian Peterson who ended up with 160 and would’ve gone over 200 again if the Colts had been forced to honor the passing game even a little in the second half. Kudos also to the O-line for mostly keeping Dwight Freeney and the Colts off of T-Jack – not that it mattered.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Brad Childress, Chester Taylor, Darrell Bevell, Dwight Freeney, E.j. Henderson, Eli Manning, Garrett Mills, Gus Frerotte, Jared Allen, Jon Kitna, Kyle Orton, Minnesota Vikings, Peyton Manning, Sidney Rice, Tarvaris Jackson, Tom Moore, Tony Dungy, Visanthe Shiancoe, Zygi Wilf