Safe to say it was not a memorable first start in purple for Josh Freeman. The final stats look brutal for the quarterback – 20/53 for 190 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT – but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story. No it was not fair to expect a great performance from Freeman having to go on the road with limited prep against a desperate Giants team that still has some nice defensive players on its roster, but Freeman still could’ve performed better. It wasn’t just that he missed receivers – he missed receivers badly. You expected him to be a little out of sync, but not so bad that he would consistently overthrow his targets by five yards.
Is it just a matter of getting Freeman more practice reps and developing chemistry with his receivers, or is Freeman so mechanically screwed up that there’s no hope of fixing him without a complete rebuild? That’s for Bill Musgrave and the Vikings staff to figure out. They certainly didn’t do Freeman any favors with the workload they put on him Monday night, but that was at least partially dictated by the Giants’ defense, which crashed the line of scrimmage all evening with the intent of stopping Adrian Peterson, forcing the Vikings to throw.
The Vikings’ pass protection was suspect all evening, which only added to Freeman’s woes. On the plus side for Minnesota, their defense did play fairly well against Eli Manning and the Giants. Not that the Giants have a formidable offense themselves. New York struggled to get on track all night and were only able to score 23 points with a lot of help from the Vikings. A pair of special teams fumbles, one by Marcus Sherels on a play where he went down without being touched and coughed up the ball, one by Sharrif Floyd as the up-man on a kickoff, gave the Giants short fields and helped them get their big lead.
Ineptitude abounded for the Vikings both on offense and special teams. Were there bright spots? Marcus Sherels’ punt return TD was certainly a highlight. But Sherels also hurt the team badly with his punt return fumble and a dropped INT that might have been returned for a TD. The Vikes had several chances to make big plays on defense, plays that might have turned the game around for them when there was still a chance to make it a game, but they were unable to capitalize. The defense played well enough to keep them in it but there were just too many mistakes in other areas.
We could talk about a lot of stuff, including certain coaching moves during the course of the game, but it all comes back to Freeman. Was it a mistake sticking him out there with limited prep? Maybe. But at the same time, if you’ve made up your mind that Christian Ponder is not the guy and you think Freeman may be the guy, you have to throw Freeman out there and see what he has. Freeman is not going to be benched after this game. They have already made up their mind that he’s their man for the rest of 2013.
And the people calling for Leslie Frazier’s head? I wouldn’t get too riled up. Rick Spielman and Zygi Wilf knew the risk they were taking by bringing in Freeman and throwing him into the fire. They won’t throw Frazier or Bill Musgrave under the bus for this performance. Everyone involved knew a game like this was a possibility given the circumstances. The worst-case scenario came to pass and now everyone must collect themselves and move on to the next game. Which happens to be against Green Bay in prime time next Sunday.