Slipping and Sliding in December: Vikings Get Crushed in Carolina

There's something about Sunday nights...

Once again, the Vikings laid an egg in primetime. I don't get it. The two worst games of the season for the Vikings have come on Sunday nights, and it's not even close. Two weeks ago in Arizona, the Vikings had a thoroughly disastrous game that involved an absolute thrashing by Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, a bumbling missed-tackle fest on defense, and a complete inability to utilize this team's many offensive weapons. This week, it was largely the same story -- but the caliber of the opponent was just much worse.

A single poor game in Arizona is unfortunate -- but it probably isn't worth getting too worried about. However, when the same issues emerge against a team not nearly as tough as Arizona, you have to start wondering.

The offensive line? It got shredded by Julius Peppers. Favre's performance? If it's any indication, Jim Kleinsasser was his leading receiver for quite a bit of the first half. Sidney Rice, Visanthe Shiancoe and Percy Harvin once again pulled a vanishing act. Adrian Peterson? When he actually had the ball, which wasn't terribly often, there was no room to run. The defensive performance? It had a very tough time handling Matt Moore, a scrub who made high-percentage throws and was only sacked twice. The tackling was ugly, the pass rush belonged on the side of a milk carton, and it's no surprise that Carolina's offense controlled the time of possession battle. Jonathan Stewart slipped out of countless tackles, exposing just how tough the loss of E.J. Henderson is for the Vikings.

But look, despite my gripes about the defense, the offensive performance was horrendous. Absolutely horrendous. The #1 thing you can do to get beat by a mediocre team is allowing them to hang around early in the game. That's just what the Vikings did in this game. Check out their first four offensive drives of the game:

  1. 5 plays, 8 yards, 2:31 elapsed
  2. 3 plays, 0 yards, 2:23 elapsed
  3. 4 plays, 4 yards, 1:29 elapsed
  4. 3 plays, 8 yards, 1:53 elapsed

Embarrassing. Let me run some first half stats by you: 66 total yards, 1/5 on third downs, Matt Moore passes for double the yards that Favre did (98 yards to 48 yards), and Peterson is held to 3.1 yards per carry.

But wait, there's more. Things didn't get any better in the second half.

  1. 3 plays, 5 yards, 1:05 elapsed
  2. 4 plays, 23 yards, 1:28 elapsed
  3. 3 plays, 4 yards, 2:34 elapsed
  4. 3 plays, -3 yards, 0:57 elapsed
  5. 5 plays, 16 yards, 2:23 elapsed
  6. 4 plays, 15 yards, 1:10 elapsed

When you perform incompetently in the first half and come out and perform just as incompetently in the second half, you're an offense that stopped caring. You're an offense that faced adversity and flopped.

Some might call this a trap game, and some might say the Vikings got complacent after clinching an NFC North title earlier in the day. I'll call it something else: Getting crushed. Don't make excuses for this Vikings team, because they don't deserve it. I don't care that the field was in lousy condition, I don't care that the game was outdoors, and I don't care about what was happening around the division. The Vikings got killed out there.

What's most disappointing of all is that they seemed to be on the right track just one week ago. After having quite a few problems exposed by the Cardinals, the Vikings responded in a big way against Cincinnati. They were controlled by the Cardinals, and they responded by controlling the Bengals. Antoine Winfield was a nightmare for Carson Palmer, Adrian Peterson had a pair of touchdowns, and the victory was rarely in doubt. But the Vikings are now back to where they started from two weeks ago, coming off that devastating loss in Arizona.

Don't call it a fluke when it happens twice in three weeks. The Vikings are slipping at a time when they need to be building momentum, and suddenly, a first round bye is hardly a sure thing. But when you're a team that gets absolutely dominated against a team like the Panthers, it's hard to argue that anything is a sure thing.

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