As we all know from watching yesterday's. . .ahem. . ."performance," the Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 on the young NFL season, which is at least one game worse than many of us expected this team to be at this point. The fact that the Vikings have lost their first two games ordinarily would not, in and of itself, be reason to panic. However, the way they've lost their first two games certainly hasn't been pretty. While Minnesota's defense has, for the most part, played incredibly well despite being short-handed in the backfield, the offense has been nothing short of terrible, save for the impressive play of running back Adrian Peterson and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
The culprits are numerous on this team, but I'm going to narrow it down to three main ones. And, before you read any further, be forewarned that this is going to be an overwhelmingly negative and possibly overly cynical look at the current state of the 2010 Minnesota Vikings. If you want rainbows and kittens and meadows and such. . .just skip this one. Make no mistake. . .I think that this team has the potential to turn things around in short order, and I'll reflect that going forward.
But right now? It's time to vent a little bit.I'm going to start off with Brad Childress and his amazingly crappy play calling. It started with the very first drive of Sunday's game, and kept going right on toward the end. On Minnesota's first drive, they moved the ball very well with a nice mix of runs and passes, and took it down to the Miami 25-yard line, where they wound up facing a 4th and 2 situation. Keep in mind, we're five minutes into the game here. Also keep in mind that Minnesota has a kicker that's pretty much automatic and in field goal range from the moment he parks his car at the Metrodome and starts walking to the locker room.
Keep in mind, this wasn't 4th and a couple of inches. . .this was fourth and a full two yards. The Vikings were in this situation with an offense that struggled to put points on the board in the season opener and had a chance to put their opponents in an early hole to start the game. But rather than take the automatic three points by Ryan Longwell. . .and, yes, I'm at the point where I just automatically put a "3" on the board every time I see Longwell take the field because, hey, that's what Ryan Longwell does. . .Childress decided to attempt to send a message to the Miami defense by trying to convert and continue the drive towards the end zone. That message was rudely returned to sender, as Miami defensive lineman Randy Starks batted Brett Favre's pass down at the line of scrimmage, and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs. A little less than five minutes of game time later, Chad Henne completed Miami's one significant offensive drive of the afternoon, finding Brian Hartline for a 5-yard touchdown pass and giving the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.
With last year's Minnesota offense, going for it in that situation might have been the right idea. But this isn't last year's offense, as we've seen thus far, and it's not even close. . .this more closely resembles the offense from the first year of the Childress regime, particularly the ineptitude of the passing game. When an offense is struggling to score points like Minnesota currently is, you need to take the points when they're available. Teams know full well that the Vikings, at this point in time, have exactly one competent receiving threat, and that's how they're defending this offense. The problem is, they're absolutely not making adjustments to that change. They still seem to be under the impression that things that worked last year are still going to work. . .sorry, folks, until we have the same players we had last year, changes are going to have to be made.
One last thing on Childress' play-calling, and it's the same thing I've been saying for the entire Childress era. The Vikings have, approximately, eleventy billion dollars invested in the left side of the offensive line between Bryant McKinnie (who probably doesn't deserve it) and Steve Hutchinson (who absolutely, positively does). You also have a guy in Jim Kleinsasser who is capable of crushing anything and anyone he sees as a blocker. Why, on the biggest play of the game, do you insist on running behind Anthony Herrera and Phil Loadholt rather than lining Kleinsasser up next to McKinnie and Hutchinson and plowing into the end zone? Yeah, the other team might be able to see that coming. . .what, exactly, are they going to do about it? Nine times out of ten, the answer is "not a damn thing."
Speaking of receiving threats, we know that the entire group has been putrid through the first two games. Percy Harvin has had a myriad of problems, including a strained hip that was found in an MRI on Monday. Greg Camarillo is still getting a grip on the playbook. Greg Lewis is. . .well, he's Greg Lewis, people. Seriously. Nice guy and everything, but he's not a guy you rely on. But there's one guy that, from all that I've seen and heard, has absolutely, positively no excuse at this point in time.
Bernard Berrian has been a slug through the first two games of this season. Nothing short of utterly pathetic. In fact, there was one play in particular yesterday kind of summed up Berrian's new attitude, and that of the Viking offense in general. It came in the fourth quarter, right after the Vikings had forced the Dolphins to punt and Camarillo had gotten a decent return to the Minnesota 34. Favre took the first snap of the drive, rolled to his right, and heaved one deep for Berrian.
Now, don't get me wrong. . .this was a stupid, stupid throw for Favre to make. (Believe me, Favre wasn't blameless for yesterday's game. . .I just haven't gotten to him yet.) He knew from the second he got the play call in the huddle that, coverage be damned, he was going to go all Rex Grossman "unleash the dragon" on that play. As soon as the TV cameras panned to Berrian and we saw that there were two Dolphins in the picture, we knew just how dumb it was. However, there's an old axiom in football that I heard Phil Simms repeat on ESPN Radio this afternoon. . .it was about a different game, but the same thing still applies here.
Any deep pass that's intercepted is the fault of the wide receiver.
Why? Because as the receiver in that situation, there's a very simple flowchart you have to run through when a deep pass is thrown in your direction. You simply ask yourself, "Can I catch this pass?" If the answer is "yes," then you go up and make every effort to catch the pass. However, if the answer is "no," you go from trying to make the catch to trying to knock the ball down. Berrian made absolutely zero effort to do that. . .he just kept running as though the ball was magically going to find its way around the two Miami players and into his hands. And to make things worse, after the ball was intercepted by Jason Allen, rather than pursuing the play and trying to stop him, the first thing that Berrian did was turn around to the referee and start complaining for a flag.
Dude, you are not Randy Moss. . .you are not Andre Johnson. . .you are not Brandon Marshall. . .and, therefore, you are not getting that call. It doesn't matter if you were bumped, which is debatable at best, you're not drawing the flag there. Shut up and do your job.
Which brings me to Favre. Let's make no bones about this, people. . .#4 was freaking terrible yesterday. You can make all the excuses you want, but the guy was outright awful. He seems lost without Sidney Rice. . .which, after years of watching him make every schmoe receiver in a Packer uniform he played with look like an All-Pro, seems almost implausible. (Don't believe me? I've got two words for you. . .Bill Schroeder.) The arm strength may still be there, certainly, but in the first two games of this year, he really hasn't done a whole lot to show that 2009 was anything but a lightning in a bottle-type of season.
And the worst part? The only way that he could appear to be more disinterested is if he was standing back in the pocket thumbing through a copy of the most recent Field & Stream. There doesn't appear to be the hint of even a spark at this point, let alone the fire that was burning last season. And if that's the way he's going to look all season long, and the way he's going to attempt to make this offense work all season long, then he should pack up the tent and head on home. If he can come out and show that he's actually interested in leading this football team, then that's another matter.
Now, that part is going to anger some of you, because apparently criticism of our quarterback is verboten. But ask yourself this. . .without the racial component that got into one of the FanPosts yesterday (which, if it's revisited, is going to get you an insta-ban. . .you've been warned): If Tarvaris Jackson had thrown those same two interceptions in Berrian's direction that Favre did yesterday, you'd be shredding him right now, wouldn't you? You're damn right you would be, and with good reason.
I watched members of Packer nation make every excuse in the book for Brett Favre for a decade and a half. Of the numerous interceptions he threw in a Green Bay uniform, I believe that exactly three were his fault. (Well, until he was no longer a Packer, when that story changed, but that's something for another time.) I gave those people a measurable ration of crap for making those excuses. And, now that he's in Minnesota, I guess I'm expected to do the same. Well, to channel Dana Carvey channeling George H.W. Bush. . ."Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent! NAH GAH DAH!" If other people want to try to excuse this sort of play, that's fine. That's not a me problem. . .that's a them problem. I'll be grateful for the season that Favre put together in 2009 for as long as I'm a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. . .but it's now 2010, we're about a week away from getting this entire season flushed straight down the crapper, and Favre's play, particularly this week, is one of the bigger reasons for that as of right now.
So there you go. If you want to vent, that's what this is for. If you want to disagree, that's fine. Go right ahead. But that's the way I see things over the first two weeks of this season. . .a season that, just 11 days ago, had a ton of promise, and is now on the verge of going up in a big puff of purple and gold smoke. I'm not happy, and I know that most of you aren't happy, either. We damn well shouldn't be happy with the way things have gone thus far, and all we can do is hope that it turns around.