We’ve seen this movie before. The Vikings have an opponent they should be able to handle, but for whatever reason come out flat as old tires on offense and uninspired at best on defense. The result, another head-scratching loss. The latest flopperoo, a 20-13 defeat by the Detroit Lions, meant little in the grand scheme of things: The Vikings were not fighting to get into the playoffs, were not even scratching their way back to .500. They were playing mostly for pride, and to avoid the shame of finishing last for the first time since 1990. A few guys were playing for contracts. Joe Webb was playing for an opportunity to be in the quarterback mix in 2011. In the end, none of this added up to sufficient motivation. Instead, the Vikes played like they just wanted to get their long, agonizing season over with and go home for the winter.
The Vikings fell prey to the same issues that dogged them all year: A porous offensive line not allowing enough time for their quarterback, shaky execution even on those occasions when the quarterback had time, questionable play-calling (a screen to Jim Kleinsasser on third down deep inside the red zone?), lack of reasonable effort by a few repeat offenders (so long Bernard Berrian), inexplicably poor tackling from a unit that was once among the league’s best in that area, atrocious cornerback play…the whole list. For much of the game, the Lions’ defensive line totally dominated up front, stuffing Adrian Peterson and with their pressure helping make Joe Webb look every bit the rookie. Offensively, Shaun Hill again showed his usual competent-if-unspectacular form, making plays to keep drives alive, picking on the right over-matched defensive backs (so long Frank Walker) and, most importantly, handling the Vikings’ pressure with an aplomb Michael Vick can only stand back and envy.
There were no heroics to be had for the Vikings. Adrian Peterson never ripped off the big run, Joe Webb never made the big throw, Sidney Rice was not on the field to make the big catch. Jared Allen did for a moment deliver a potential game-changer by picking off a Hill pass and returning it for a touchdown but the Vikings never really seized the momentum after this play. In the end Detroit looked more energetic, and frankly more talented. The Lions may not have a franchise quarterback on-hand, but they have a franchise defensive stud in Ndamukong Suh, a big-time backfield threat in Jahvid Best and some pretty solid complementary pieces scattered around the offense and defense. Yesterday’s game taught us little we didn’t already know about the Vikings, but it taught us plenty about the Lions, namely that their days as doormats of the division are over. If the Vikings are to turn things around in 2011, it looks like they’ve have three division contenders to climb over instead of two.
Thank goodness the Buccaneers aren’t still around.
Site5 and Fansided Holiday Season Charity Drive: Give to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.