I was as stunned as you were.
When Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff for a 103 yard touchdown, I was stoked. The defense was playing well, the offense was clicking. Adrian Peterson was hitting the hole, the offensive line was protecting McNabb pretty well, for the most part, and at halftime the Vikings were up 17-7.
Then reality hit like a Mike Tyson to Marvis Frazier uppercut. Donovan McNabb was terrible, the offensive line was terrible, and while the defense hung on for a long time, they eventually got gassed in the Southern California sun and gave up the game winning touchdown with a few minutes remaining.
It was one of the most schizophrenic games I've ever witnessed as a Vikings fan--and that's really saying something. It was like Bill Musgrave took the second half off and let Brad Childress make a cameo appearance, because the Vikings offense that was exciting and unconventional in the first half was plodding, predictable, and lifeless in the second half.
They turned me into a man of constant sorrow...
I've seen trouble all my day...
SMR, after the jump.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Adrian Peterson, RB: Adrian Peterson was the only consistently good offensive weapon the Vikings deployed all day. He had 98 yards on 16 carries, and on the Vikes lone TD drive he broke one for 46 yards. When he was stuffed, he still gained positive yards, and when the Vikes needed to find some rhythm in the second half, he started to provide it...until Minnesota deployed their Wildcat package, which we'll talk about later. Momentum killed, drive over, and then pretty much game over after that. Memo to Bill Musgrave: when Adrian Peterson starts rolling downhill, give him the damn ball.
Jared Allen, DE: With the defensive line undergoing a lot of change and transition early on this year, I wrote that Allen needed to step up and play great, and he did on Sunday. He had a sack, was disruptive from the outside almost the whole game, and had a highlight reel pick in the second quarter that snuffed out a potential San Diego scoring drive.
Chad Greenway, LB: So there's a reason that Zygi Wilf made Greenway, Peterson, and Allen three of the highest paid players on the team. Greenway was all over the place in the first half, stuffing the run, minimizing damage in the short passing game, and being generally disruptive all day. But as the second half wore on and the Vikes offense couldn't stay on the field, he wore down with the rest of the unit, but he still had a standout game.
Michael Jenkins, WR: Jenkins only had 3 catches for 26 yards, but two were for first downs and the third was for a touchdown. Why he wasn't targeted more I don't know, as he seems like a go to guy on a third and seven-type situation.
Mike Singletary, LB Coach: I've liked the look of the Vikings linebacking corps since training camp opened, and that hasn't changed one bit. I've already mentioned Greenway, but Erin and E.J. Henderson had good games as well. The Vikings linebackers were one of the main reasons the Chargers couldn't really get much going on the ground, other than a couple of runs, and I liked their aggressiveness throughout the game.
Fred Pagac's Defense: Well, at least for three quarters. It was fast, aggressive, and the Vikings were getting after it. Pagac seemed to let up on the pressure in the fourth quarter, and I think a lot of that had to do with how tired they were, since they never really got off the field. Pagac seemed content to drop back into a zone and try and play bend but don't break, and it worked until the very end. If the Vikes offense could stay on the field longer I think Pagac calls a more aggressive second half, and things might have turned out differently.
First Half Offensive Line: The front five was blowing off the ball, making holes for the running game and giving McNabb enough time to make some plays. McNabb was under pressure, but it was manageable. The veteran had time to go through his progressions and make some reads, and when there wasn't anything there, he had a lane to step up in and get some yards running the ball.
The Second Half Offensive Line: Good God, they were terrible. McNabb was under fierce pressure, Charlie Johnson got bull rushed several times, and there wasn't much room for AP to run. I don't know what happened at halftime, but that was unacceptable play. I'm not ready to call this unit terrible, because they were pretty decent in the first half, but if their true identity is the second half performance, it's going to be a very long year.
Donovan McNabb, QB: 39 yards passing is pathetic. Adrian Peterson had more yards rushing in one run than McNabb had passing all day. I can think of one time, off the top of my head, where McNabb went downfield more than 20 yards, and one time between 10 and 20. The dink and dunk stuff is okay if it's working, but if the defense is sniffing it out, maybe...just maybe, you could try something else. Did the Vikings run any play action at all on Sunday? If they did, I can't recall. I'm not ready to cut bait on McNabb yet, but a couple more showing like this and the Christian Ponder era will begin.
Bernard Berrian, WR: Between McNabb's 39 yards passing and Berrian's drop on a crucial third down play in the second half, I might as well been watching Tarvaris Jackson and Troy Williamson. Berrian disappeared for the entire game, and when his number was called, he failed. Again. Cut him and re-sign Jaymar Johnson, or promote Devin Aromashodu ahead of BB at this point. I think Coach Frazier made a bad call in going with Berrian.
The Joe Webb Wildcat Package: I'm not saying I'm not a fan of the possibilities it might bring, but I was absolutely gobsmacked at the point in the game that they decided to unveil it. The Vikings had finally gotten a first down on back to back Peterson runs, AP looked like he was a carry or two from busting one and changing the momentum, and then...Joe Webb on a read option keeper up the middle? Really? And if that wasn't bad enough, on second down it was a Webb to Harvin handoff up the middle? Two wildcat plays turned a 1st and 10 into a 3rd and 12, and whatever momentum the Vikings might have had was gone. That was the turning point of the second half, in my opinion.
Whoever is playing in place of Kevin Williams: For as poorly as the Vikings played offensively in the second half, they might've had one more chance to tie the game at the end if they could've gotten the ball back. Probable, no, but possible? Sure, football is a crazy game and weirder things have happened. However, Letroy Guion and Fred Evans, who are playing in place of Kevin Williams, jumped offside not once, not twice...but THREE FREAKING TIMES. HOW IN THE HELL CAN YOU JUMP OFFSIDE WHEN YOU ARE SIX INCHES FROM---AND STARING AT--- THE GODDAMN FOOTBALL? Those penalties kept that last San Diego drive alive, and it was game over.
Buy: Percy Harvin, Kick Returner. I know the Vikings went back and forth on using Harvin as a kick returner, and I can kind of understand it. Lorenzo Booker did a good job in relief of Harvin last year, Harvin's migraines might have been triggered by looking up into the sun, but Percy is just special, and he showed it. He took the opening kick 103 yards, and it was electrifying.
Sell: Anyone else kick returning other than Percy Harvin. One question: If Percy Harvin is so good, and now apparently healthy, why in the hell would you use anyone else? Although Everson Griffen scooping a squib kick and directing traffic was entertaining, Lorenzo Booker was not good. Just keep Percy in there, okay? It might be the only way the Vikings can score this year.
Buy: The First Half Offense. It was unpredictable, Adrian Peterson was running well, Donovan McNabb was doing a good job of making short throws to keep scoring drives going, and they were fun to watch. Heck, they even drew up a Percy Harvin draw play on third down, and it got the Vikes a first down. Great execution of a game plan that kept San Diego on their heels.
Sell: The Second Half Offense. So what the hell happened? Can anyone tell me, because right now, my working theory is that Brad Childress hit Bill Musgrave over the head when he went in to pee at halftime and took over the play calling in the second half. It was absolutely terrible.
Buy: Special Teams. Chris Kluwe boomed punts all day, both kick and punt coverage was good to spectacular, Percy was Percy, Marcus Sherels had a couple of solid punt returns, and Ryan Longwell was money. In short, a complete 180 degree turn from last year. That's what happens when you hire helicopter pilots to be your special teams coach, boys and girls.
Sell: Time of possession disparity. San Diego had the ball for over a staggering 37 minutes on Sunday, the exact opposite of what needed to happen if the Vikings were going to have a chance to win. Minnesota ran 18 offensive plays in the second half. 18, that's it. San Diego ran 37. That's more than a 2:1 ratio, and no defense can play that well for that long. If Minnesota can't find a way to sustain some drives, they'll be hard pressed to find more than 4 wins.
Buy: Brian Robison's pressure. I had a lot of concerns as to whether or not Brian Robison could be an every down defensive end, and on Sunday he made me eat my words. He was solid for most of the day, and was the catalyst for Antoine Winfield's interception that ended the first half. Well done, Brian.
Well kids, there it is. What looked so promising in the first half came crashing to earth in the second, so I'm not sure what to think. On one hand, I'm encouraged to see a team that can come out and put the wood to one of the better teams in the AFC in their house, at least for the first 30 minutes. But I'm troubled that a team that can look so good the first half can look just as terrible in the second. I saw little in the way of in-game adjustments in the third and fourth quarter, and that's disconcerting. I still feel that Leslie Frazier and staff are a significant upgrade over Brad Childress, but Bill Musgrave was very Childressian in the second half, and if the Vikings are that predictable, they won't win five games all year.