On their home opener, in front of a raucous sellout crowd, the Vikings jumped all over the Buccaneers with an efficient passing attack, explosive runs by Adrian Peterson AND Toby "Phenom" Gerhart, and solid defense. They went into halftime with yours truly feeling excited to see them continue to play superior football and write about it afterward. Two weeks into the regular season, I'm already feeling a little repetitive. During the first half, I'm all like ZOMG THE VIKEZ R AWSOM!!1! But then the second half starts and the Vikings are all, FFFFFUUUUUUUU.
The Bucs came out and stopped us on our first drive (thanks in large part to a very questionable holding penalty on what would have been a converted 3rd down) then promptly marched 44 yards in two plays for a touchdown. After the ensuing recovered surprise onside kick, there was a feeling of an impending collapse in my gut. In true Minnesota Viking fashion, we allowed Tampa Bay to drop 24 points on us (including 14 in the final seven minutes) and pry the victory from their brittle, fatigued little Viking fingers. Pundits and talking heads from the the axis of evil may say that we have been "out-adjusted" during halftime the past two games. I call bullcrap. How much can a coach do in 15 minutes to render an entire offense stagnant and a defense largely ineffective? This is a matter of sound decision making on the part of the players in clutch situations, a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball, and endurance. I'll elaborate further after the jump.
Alright, now that we're down here, this is where I would usually start my "Things I liked/Things I didn't like" bit. I'll get to that in a minute, sort of. Feel free to let me know how you feel about this in the comments, but I have decided to change the name of the section to be a bit more theme-oriented. The sections will now be titled "Things That Caught My Eye/ Stink Eye". I felt the need for making a small paragraph dedicated to this explanation because the term "stink eye" may not be universally understood in the same way I might understand it. My mom always uses the word stink eye to refer to how you look at someone when you don't like them, so there's your explanation if ya didn't know. OK, now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Things That Caught My Eye:
The Run Game.* - This part can go for the offensive line and Phenom as well, asterisk included. The offense asserted itself against a young Bucs defense with plenty of holes to exploit. AD had 2 touchdowns on the ground and could have had 200 yards were it not for a few shoestring tackles. Toby busted a pitch play around the corner for a 31-yard gain and also had a 42-yard catch and run on a screen play that was very well blocked.
Jared Allen.* - Jared had a disappointing 2010 campaign and appears to be hell bent on redeeming himself as one of the great pass-rushers of his generation. By all accounts he was abusing Buccaneers LT Donald Penn all game, to the tune of 1 sack and 3 QB knockdowns. He did, however, play an integral part in a certain roughing the passer penalty that immediately preceded the Arrelious Benn touchdown catch pictured at the top of this entry.
Donovan McNabb.* - With definite improvement from last game, he spent the first half dissecting the Bucs defense and moving our offense behind an outstanding rushing attack. Donny left some to be desired, though, as he is yet to throw his 1st touchdown pass as a Viking and made less than accurate throws at crucial points. Specifically chucking the ball at Shank's feet causing us to settle for a field goal and that deep fade to Aromashadu, like WTF?! The pass was not near a completion, but moreover, why are you throwing a fade to your 3rd or 4th string wideout on a 3rd and 6 in the fourth quarter? Gotta make better decisions like that if you expect to win close games.
*Only applicable to the 1st half. In the second half of this game, we absolutely crapped our pants. That's all I have to say about that.
Special Teams.- Our inaugural Stink Eye goes to our entire special teams corps. In my humble opinion, they lost us this game. It started with allowing the surprise onside kick, then Chris Kluwe's punting was below average in the second half when we needed it most and allowed the Bucs a short field to operate on. The last two kickoff returns of the game were god-awful. The first involved Lorenzo Booker taking the kickoff from 7 yards deep in the end zone and getting taken down at the 10 yard line. Memo to Mr. Booker: You are not Percy Harvin. When we are up by a touchdown with six minutes left, we do not need your backup kick returning a** to try to make a play when all we need to do is control the ball to win. The 10 yards he lost us on the return had he taken a knee not only further demoralized our squad, it allowed the Bucs that much better field position for their eventual game-winning drive. After said game-winning drive, Percy Harvin went on to muff the kickoff and pin us deep to start the second consecutive drive effectively dash any logical hope for a comeback. People often want to discount special teams, but these are one play sequences that can make or break games if they aren't played soundly. The Vikings did not do so on Sunday and they paid the price.
Tyrell Johnson. - Despite all of the team's efforts to lose this game, Tyrell Johnson still had a chance to make everything right. With the Bucs marching down the field for the eventual game-winner, Josh Freeman threw an ill-advised pass down the middle and right through Tyrell's hands. This is the second week in a row this bust has dropped a potential game clinching interception. These are not even plays which he has been forced to go up in traffic, dive or even jump to make the catch and he simply is not capable of doing it. It's like Troy Williamson was reincarnated and put back on our defense. (By the way, when searching for the video for that link, "troy williamson drops" come up ahead of "troy williamson highlights". Nice legacy, buddy.) Oh, and to make matters worse for Tyrell, he picked up a DWI last night. At least he knows how to catch a buzz.
Everyone in the 2nd Half.- Everyone sucked in the 2nd half. I can't even believe I spent so much time writing a new entry about the exact thing that happened last week. Either we really are somehow getting outcoached in the second half of games or we have a serious stamina issue. One way or the other, it needs to get figured out or this guy is going to run out of energy writing about a terrible team.
Next week, we have the Lions at home. They are currently on an 11-game losing streak at the Metrodome, but are favorites in this week's game. Let me repeat that. On an 11-GAME LOSING STREAK. If the Vikings can't right the ship in what is already being billed as a "must-win game" by some of the players, we might be looking at a very long season. All we need to do is learn how to close as a team and control the ball in the second half of games and we look like we can be a winning team. I'm not predicting anything for next week's game, I just hope it doesn't go the same way as the first two games.