The Vikings‘ wild roller coaster season came to an abrupt and disappointing end Sunday afternoon at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, who gave our boys a nice lesson in how a real team goes about its business in the playoffs. Hopefully the Vikings were paying close attention so that, if they make it in again next year, they will know how to utilize their big offensive weapons. Adrian Peterson was completely shut down in the second half; meanwhile, Brian Westbrook, who did almost nothing himself most of the game, caught a screen pass and ran 71 yards to score the touchdown that buried the Purple. They don’t call Westbrook a game-breaking running back for nothing. Peterson did his own game-breaking in the first half with a 40-yard touchdown run, but in the second half he might as well have been Adrian Zmed or Adrian the Wife of Rocky. Of course, Peterson’s own apparent tentativeness – don’t tell me the fumble talk hasn’t gotten to him because I know it has – was only part of the problem. The rest was the play of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson who, after looking like a real football player for a couple of weeks, reverted to the old T-Jack of bad overthrows, horrendous underthrows and balls so far behind receivers they’d have to have arms like that chick from The Incredibles to even get a finger on them.
Tarvaris was always the weak link in the chain, but at least for awhile he seemed to be improving. Now it becomes apparent that his success was at least partly a product of the defenses the Vikings were facing in those games down the stretch. The Cardinals, Falcons and second-string Giants presented much less of a problem than the Eagles, who play D with a ferocity not seen since Kirstie Alley last hit the buffet. Jackson couldn’t find an open receiver to save his life, so he threw to covered ones – and miraculously only got picked off once, by Asante Samuel, who ran it back for a touchdown to give Philly a big first half lead. Tarvaris then impressed everyone by leading the Vikes on a snappy answering scoring drive, punctuated by an Adrian Peterson TD run – but that was the last time Jackson would give the impression of being a viable playoff quarterback. He spent the entire second half looking more lost than Miley Cyrus in a library. Not that his receivers, running backs or coaches did him any favors. This loss was a total team effort, an act of collective inadequacy. Even the normally stalwart defense got in on it by electing not to tackle Brian Westbrook after he caught that screen pass.
The defense does deserve plenty of praise, that one bad play notwithstanding. We wouldn’t even have been in the game if it hadn’t been for Leslie Frazier‘s squad. We spent the whole first half giving the Eagles great field position, because our punting game is flat-out atrocious, and the defense kept holding them to field goal attempts. The leader was once again Jared Allen, who must’ve been the best off-season acquisition in the league with the possible exception of Michael Turner. Jared played like a wild, uncaged beast in his first ever playoff game, notching two sacks and forcing Donovan McNabb into a critical fumble. That forced fumble would’ve gone down as the play of the game if only the Vikes had been able to cash in on it with points. Changing momentum doesn’t mean squat if your offense can’t hold it and build on it. The defense, for much of the season, looked like a better-coached squad than the offense, and such was the case on Sunday too. This is why so many Vikings fans are calling for Brad Childress to be fired and Leslie Frazier promoted to head coach…before some team like the Lions or Jets snaps Frazier up.
Childress spent the whole season irritating fans with his game-planning, personnel management and overall handling of game situations, and Sunday’s loss only raised more questions. Chilly already had a long list of head-scratchers on his resume before his odd decision to run on first down with the clock running out and one time out left, the kind of thing you do if you’re looking to just surrender and go into the half, then throw on second down as if he suddenly decided to get aggressive. Maybe he thought running on first down would make the Eagles relax and give up a big pass play? I don’t know. The Eagles of course were not fooled and the Vikings ended up having to punt – a very bad result given the problems they’ve had all season covering punts. Thankfully Philly didn’t score, otherwise the drumbeat for Childress to be fired would be louder than the noise of a thousand Bernard Madoff cronies shooting themselves in rapid succession. It’s already pretty loud as it is. And the availability of such former Super Bowl-winning coaches as Mike Shanahan and Brian Billick will only add to the cries for Zygi Wilf to make a change. Unfortunately for the Chilly-haters, Wilf seems to have already made up his mind. Childress will be the coach next year, and all indications are that Tarvaris Jackson will still be the quarterback. For Vikings fans, the angst never ends.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Asante Samuel, Brad Childress, Brian Billick, Brian Westbrook, Donovan Mcnabb, Jared Allen, Michael Turner, Mike Shanahan, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Tarvaris Jackson, Zygi Wilf