Let’s say you were the kind of person who got enjoyment out of deducing the winners of football games by looking at the stat-sheet and not the score. Were you to quickly peruse the numbers from yesterday’s Vikings–Falcons game, you might conclude that the Vikings had won – perhaps even handily. These stats in particular might lead you to assume the Vikings had indeed prevailed:
First Downs: Vikings 24, Falcons 18
Total Yards: Vikings 350, Falcons 222
Passing Yards: Vikings 195, Falcons 124
Rushing Yards: Vikings 155, Falcons 98
Penalties: Vikings 3-15, Falcons 6-70
Time Of Possession: Vikings 32:55, Falcons 27:05
And then you would get to the turnover line and probably adjust your decision (the squeamish might want to look away now):
Fumbles: Vikings 7, Falcons 1
Lost: Vikings 4, Falcons 0
Seldom can one summarize an entire afternoon of football with two simple stat-lines, but in this case, you almost have to. Turnovers told the story. The first, a muffed punt by an apparently gun-shy Bernard Berrian (that’s what fair-catches are for Bernard) seemed a mere gaffe at the time, but it was in fact a harbinger of doom. The second, an all-too-characteristic cough-up by the ever-more-unreliable Adrian Peterson, was already enough to have the faithful puking in their nachos.
The AD Issue
Adrian’s first fumble of the day came in the second quarter with the Vikings down 14-7 but driving deep into Falcons territory. Often, when Adrian gags it up like this, he is bailed out by a lucky bounce or a replay but not this time – it was a legit fumble and the Falcons got on it. Atlanta was unable to cash in this particular turnover for points, thanks to the Vikings defense which would end up spending much of its day rescuing the butterfingered offense from its own ineptitude. Not long afterward, Peterson would follow up this gut-churning mistake by failing to clamp down on what appeared to be a perfectly good hand-off from Tarvaris Jackson with the Vikings again in Falcons territory. Jackson got credit for the fumble by rule but the replay showed it was all Adrian’s fault.
A lesser back would’ve been benched about then, but the Vikings have convinced themselves that their fortunes will rise or fall with Peterson no matter what, so he remained in the game. The wisdom of this move would ultimately come into question, thanks to Peterson himself, who was clearly not content with 1 credited fumble on the day and so puked up another one without even being hit by an opposing player (he glanced off Bryant McKinnie, which is apparently enough to dislodge the ball from his arms). This one would end up being recovered by Peterson himself – good news, as the Vikings were behind at the time and there were only 2 minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, the good break would prove meaningless as the Vikings were unable to complete their comeback.
The Tarvaris Jackson Issue
It’s pretty easy to evaluate Adrian Peterson’s day overall – he wasn’t good. The matter is somewhat more complicated with Tarvaris Jackson however because, for much of yesterday’s game, T-Jack looked just as solid as he did against Detroit and Arizona. His final stats indicate an excellent effort: 22/36, 233 yards, 2 touchdowns; plus 8 rushes for 76 yards, several of said rushes resulting in critical first downs. But then you factor in the snap that went right past his head – maybe Matt Birk‘s fault, maybe not – and the hideous fumble while being sacked – entirely Jackson’s fault – and things become murky.
Clearly, Jackson’s play, coupled with the outstanding defensive effort, kept us in the game in spite of all the stupidity. But you can’t just ignore the turnovers – and you can’t ignore Jackson’s inability to exploit the Falcons’ defense with any kind of deep attack at all. Also hard to ignore: The apparent utter discombobulation of the Vikings while attempting to execute the two-minute offense while down 7. When you only have one time out left, you can’t be spending it because the play clock is running out. Jackson may be better than he was at the start of the season, but his performance yesterday showed that he still has a long way to go before he becomes a legitimate, consistent, championship-caliber quarterback.
The Darren Sharper Issue
The Vikings didn’t have many chances to turn momentum yesterday, but there was one big one: Matt Ryan, apparently suffering from a momentary attack of mentalness, decided to go airborne while trying to score a touchdown and, predictably, fumbled. Darren Sharper had a chance to pounce on the loose ball, keeping the Falcons from scoring and perhaps reversing the whole tide of misfortune for the Purple, but instead he had his own mental attack and attempted to scoop it up and run. The end result: Falcons fall on the ball, get the touchdown and take a 24-7 lead. Obviously, Mr. Sharper’s first instinct is to try for the highlight reel play rather than the smart play, a condition no doubt compounded by the fact that he’s been almost invisible in the Vikings’ defense this season, making him even more eager to get himself on ESPN. Sharper’s tenure with the Vikings is coming to a close and I for one can’t wait to see him on television engaging in lame banter with some buffoon like Chris Berman instead of sucking ass on the field.
No Issue With Visanthe Shiancoe
The Vikings have a tight end they can rely on, especially in the redzone, and his name is Visanthe Shiancoe. If Visanthe keeps playing like he did yesterday – 7 catches for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns – he will begin being known for his on-field performance instead of his occasional tendency to air out his genitalia on national television.