The Vikings continued their tour of Bizarro World by going into Soldier Field, scoring 41 points on the Bears and losing. Only the Vikings could squander their best offensive performance of the season in such a particularly frustrating way. This time most of the meltdowns happened on special teams, the unit that was also responsible for nearly blowing the New Orleans game by magically transforming Reggie Bush into Devin Hester. The real Hester was in the middle of it yesterday – and he didn’t actually do anything. Hester’s presence alone was enough to damage the Vikings. His looming shadow spooked us into getting cute on kick-offs – a strategy that blew up in our face so badly that we would’ve actually been better off just kicking it out-of-bounds and taking the penalty. And speaking of people who should kick the ball out-of-bounds…Chris Kluwe got in on the act again, only this time we didn’t have to worry about him kicking the ball to the dangerous return man – we had to worry about him even being able to get a punt off. The game turned into farce when Kluwe fumbled a snap and still tried to kick it even after it had landed on the ground. Kluwe’s panic move resulted in an easy touchdown for Garrett Wolfe and more fodder for Brad Childress in his on-going campaign against Guitar Hero’s psyche. How many punters will Chilly bring in this week? 8? Will he grab Greg Coleman from his KFAN job and stick him in uniform too?
Childress might want to audition punt returners as well, after Charles Gordon‘s muff-job resulting in another easy Bears score. Gordon may argue that he was only trying to do the right thing by blocking the gunner after letting the ball bounce inside the 10. Others may argue that, from the time you enter Pee Wee Football, they start pounding into the return team’s head the necessity of staying away from a punted ball that has hit the ground. Gordon somehow stumbled into a gray area – such are the ways of Bizarro World – and the ball bounded up and hit him on the hand and a few seconds later the Bears had another 7-point gift.
You Live by the Break, You Die by the Break
I’ve argued for the last couple of weeks that a team can’t get used to getting the breaks – that good teams have to make the game about execution and not hoping for flukes. The Vikings got big breaks against New Orleans and Detroit, especially in the officiating, but that evened out in a big way against the Bears. A case in point: Vinny Ciurciu‘s interference call in the endzone, which killed the Vikings’ hopes of a tough goal-line stand in that situation and gave the Bears a 1st and goal inside the 1 (which they of course easily cashed in). Had the Vikings’ previous luck held, Ciurciu would not have gotten the interference call and the defense would’ve held on and forced the Bears to kick a field goal. Had that model been in force late in yesterday’s game, Gus Frerotte would not have thrown his fourth pick to end it, but instead there would’ve been yet another interference call to keep a drive alive. Sometimes, though, you have to make the plays. There were chances for the Vikings to make more plays on offense and defense and turn the game in their favor. For instance: What if Jared Allen, who had dropped back into zone from his defensive end position, hadn’t made a mockery of the very concept of coverage in blowing right by Marty Booker, opening the door for Booker to dust our entire defensive backfield and score a touchdown? And what if Darren Sharper could actually run anymore? Might he have chased Booker down on that play? We’ll never know…
Opening Up the Offense: The Pros and Cons
The angry-fan mantra during the Tarvaris Jackson Experiment was, “We have to open up the offense and let these guys play.” Jackson then got benched in favor of Gus Frerotte, and almost immediately, passing became a viable part of the game-plan again. Unfortunately, when you pass the ball more, you open yourself up to more turnovers. That became glaringly obvious yesterday when Gus Frerotte threw four interceptions. And these were not four picks of the bad luck variety: These were real honest-to-goodness why the bleep did he throw it there jobs. Of course, despite these four horrendous turnovers, the Vikings still managed to score 41 – a number they would’ve had no hope of approaching under the former super-conservative approach. So where does that leave us in the argument between the more-open offense and the not-open offense? I doubt there are many fans who would seriously call for a return to the ways of the T-Jack days, when the simplest forward pass felt as exotic as a crazy gadget play. I’d rather lose guns a-blazing than go down with a pathetic running-on-third-and-8 whimper. Of course I’m not the one who has to answer all the questions in front of the press the next day. Come to think of it, no one has to answer the questions. Least of all Brad Childress, who prefers psycho-babble and pseudo-philosophical piffle to actual coherent responses.
Is This a Good Team or Not?
The most frustrating thing about yesterday’s loss was that, yes, there were times when this actually looked like a pretty good football team. Let’s give the team credit for this at least: Despite all the implosions and the Bears continuing to put up points at unheard-of rates, never did it seem like the air had gone out of the Vikings’ balloon. They never packed it in. Even when Gus was throwing away scoring chances. Even when the special teams were handing the Bears short fields and easy points. Even when the defense was watching Kyle Orton and his tight ends slant-route them to death (Chad Greenway clearly can’t cover a tight end one-on-one). The Vikes showed tenacity. In the end, their good play wasn’t good enough to overcome the gaffes and boners and self-inflicted wounds. And that continues to be a big story of the season: Good play ruined by unforgivable lapses. Now’s the time to go into glass half full mode and say, “They’re only a game out of first and they get both Green Bay and Chicago at home.” That optimism will only bear fruit if the team learns to get out of its own way.
Adrian Peterson ran for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chester Taylor had 82 combined rushing and receiving yards and scored a TD.
The Vikings introduced some new wrinkles to their offense. They ran AD out of more single-back sets, which seemed to work. They lined Adrian up at receiver a couple of times and ran him on an end-around once. They lined AD and Chester Taylor up in the backfield together in a goal line situation and Chester ended up diving over the top for the touchdown. Who says Brad Childress lacks creativity?
Bernard Berrian continued his solid play, catching 6 balls for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Visanthe Shiancoe has erased nearly all memories of his previous butterfingers reputation. He caught four balls for 68 yards and a TD yesterday.
Cedric Griffin led the team with 9 tackles. This makes sense as the Bears continually threw to his side, forcing him to bring down receivers he had not actually covered. Antoine Winfield, by contrast, had only 2 tackles – and one near-interference call when he tried jumping a route and basically ran over the receiver.
Vinny Ciurciu started at middle linebacker but Napoleon Harris got a lot of the reps. Harris finished with 5 tackles to Ciurciu’s one. Neither will make anyone forget E.J. Henderson.
Jared Allen had 2 sacks and a forced fumble. He sucks in coverage though.
Adrian Peterson went over 2000 yards for his career yesterday – the third-fastest in history to that milestone.
Peterson now leads the team with 5 TDs. Berrian and Shiancoe are tied for second with 3. Guess who’s third with 2? Yup – Antoine Winfield.
I’m pretty sure Sidney Rice was in uniform yesterday. He may even have played. He caught zero balls for zero yards.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Bernard Berrian, Brad Childress, Cedric Griffin, Chad Greenway, Charles Gordon, Chester Taylor, Chicago Bears, Chris Kluwe, Darren Sharper, Detroit Lions, Devin Hester, E.j. Henderson, Garrett Wolfe, Green Bay Packers, Greg Coleman, Gus Frerrotte, Jared Allen, Kyle Orton, Marty Booker, Minnesota Vikings, Napoleon Harris, New Orleans Saints, Reggie Bush, Sidney Rice, Tarvaris Jackson, Vinny Ciurciu, Visanthe Shiancoe