Ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 Minnesota Vikings' season in a nutshell.
104 yards worth of kick return. . .zero points. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Once again, it would have been really easy for this team to throw in the towel at halftime of this game, but they did not. They came out and put together a couple of very successful second half scoring drives (sans the best running back in the National Football League), and they played very good defense in the second half, too. It's not even that the defense in the first half was really all that bad. . .the Falcons simply held on to the ball for huge chunks of time, and the offense didn't do a whole lot in the first half.
The Vikings went into this one without Adrian Peterson, without Kyle Rudolph, and without Husain Abdullah. By the time the first half was over, they were also without Asher Allen and Tyrell Johnson. Even long snapper Cullen Loeffler wasn't safe, for crying out loud. But it didn't make any difference. The Vikings continued to battle until the final gun with what they had available. The Atlanta Falcons are a good football team, and got off to a huge early lead in front of their home crowd (although it didn't appear it was much of a crowd, from what I could ascertain from the broadcast), which would usually be a recipe for disaster. But say what you will about Leslie Frazier and his shortcomings as a first-year head coach. . .and there are a couple of things that need to be questioned. . .but this team plays their asses off for the man.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time killing Frazier or Bill Musgrave or Fred Pagac at this point. In his first full season, Frazier's record currently sits at 2-9, at least partially because he's presiding over one of the few true "blow everything up and start over" scenarios that the Vikings have had in their history. In Bud Grant's first season as the Vikings' head coach, he had a record of 3-8-3. In Jimmy Johnson's first season as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, his team went 1-15. In five seasons as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Bill Belichick had exactly one winning season and
zero one playoff win s. (Thanks for the heads-up on that, folks.)
This team needs players, ladies and gentlemen. It's as simple as that. Yes, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen and Kevin Williams and so on are nice to have on the team, but that accounts for four of the 22 starting spots on an NFL team, to say nothing of the depth behind them. This team simply needs more talent and more time.
Oh, and while I'm at it. . .if you watched today's game and are still under the impression that Christian Ponder doesn't have what it takes to be a very good (if not great) NFL quarterback, then I'm going to put this as flatly and politely as I can.
You're an idiot.
Playing behind what might be the worst offensive line in the league and without a whole lot of talent in the receiving corps outside of Harvin, Ponder played with poise and confidence way, way beyond his years. He has the mobility, the accuracy, the touch. . .and a short memory, coming back from his three-interception performance against Oakland to putting together what might have been his best performance as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Just like Frazier, Ponder is going to need some time, and I'm glad that he's getting that time now rather than wasting away on the bench. But at least you know the potential is there, and you'd have to be pretty thick in the head to attempt to deny it.
It's all about time, folks. It's running short for this season, to be sure, but like I said. . .most of us have never been through a complete team reboot before. Is it going to hurt? Yeah, it is. . .hell, it hurts already. But if the effort this team continues to put forth despite being outmanned and outgunned is any indication, I think we're going to like the results when it's all said and done.