DATELINE MINNEAPOLIS: The Minnesota Vikings have announced that they have changed the primary corporate sponsorship naming rights of their home field. The Metrodome's playing surface will no longer be known as Mall Of America Field; the turf is now called the Hubert H. Humphrey Dominos Dome.
"It's the type of corporate synergy our stadium situation so desperately needs right now," announced Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. "With this new partnership, the Vikings will no longer require any public funding for a new stadium in Arden Hills. As long as our team adheres to the sponsorship guidelines, Dominos has agreed to pay for 40% of a new retractable-roof facility."
When asked about exactly what those sponsorship guidelines are, Wilf gave a brief chuckle and replied, "Well hasn't it been obvious through the first three games? Just like the popular pizza chain that now adorns our field, the Vikings guarantee 30 minutes or less every time."
DATELINE MINNEAPOLIS: Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was bombarded with questions after his team's overtime loss to the Lions. Harvin was seen on the sidelines throwing up into a garbage can late in the game, preventing him from taking the field in the game's most crucial moments. When asked by a beat reporter if it was the same flu bug that kept him out of practice on Thursday, Harvin stated, "Nah man, I was over the flu a couple days ago. I just couldn't stomach seeing Donovan McNabb run the offense in the second half again. In fact, I'm surprised most people in the stands weren't doin' the same thing."
Yep folks, that's what the 2011 season has come to already. Bad attempts at humor to deflect pain from the worst 0-3 start imaginable. And when I say "imaginable", I mean it--because you couldn't make this sh*t up. Seriously: outscoring your opponents 54-7 in the first half only to be outscored 67-6 after halftime?! And all of that incredible ineptitude without committing a single second half turnover? You couldn't even lose like that on purpose if you were playing Madden. We'd all be amazed if we weren't all so damn depressed.
But fear not, fellow Vikings fans. I'm giving you an out. I'm saying right here and now, before the calendar even turns to October, that it's OK to emotionally check out from expecting anything for the 2011 season.
Now before you jump all over me in the comments section calling me a sell out or a fair weather bandwagon jumper, let me explain. I'm still going to watch all 13 Vikings games that remain on the 2011 schedule, and I'm still going to vehemently root for them every step of the way. I'll still be extremely pissed when they lose and I'll still be overjoyed when they win. It's in my DNA, whether I like it or not. But I am officially done believing that this season will result in anything else but watching other NFC North team(s) in the playoffs after Week 17 is completed. It's awful to admit, but them's the facts, folks.
Let's take a look at how and why we got here so quickly. Hopefully there will be no walls punched or TV screens shattered during this process, but I can't make you any guarantees when we're only mere hours removed from the conclusion of this Trilogy of Suck.
The biggest reason why I've thrown in the mental towel so soon? Check the friggin' standings. We're already three games behind not one but two teams in our division. We've already lost a home game to one of them, and the other one just happens to be the defending Super Bowl champion. There's digging yourself an early hole, and there's throwing yourself all the way down a damn well.
Another large factor in my decision to sever emotional ties to the playoffs so soon has been our quarterback play. Or severe lack thereof. I really wanted to give Donovan McNabb a fair chance this year. I've always been a fan of his despite the fact that he played for one of my least favorite teams most of his career. He's been over-criticized at nearly every turn. I even thought his season with the Redskins last year wasn't as awful as everyone made it out to be. But holy hell has he been tough to watch in purple. If I wanted to see a quarterback play as inconsistent as rain in Las Vegas while misfiring on easy passes, I'd at least like to have the opportunity to chalk it up to rookie inexperience with Christian Ponder.
And with McNabb, it's not all the throws directly into the turf that have infuriated me the most (although I will admit a fair amount of f-bombs have flown after seeing those). It's the throws that could easily go for gigantic yardage if they were thrown on the money but are instead stopped cold because the receiver had to readjust. There were two classic examples in today's game. The first was a seam route to Percy Harvin that he had to dive for instead of catching in stride as he sped past the secondary. The second was a ridiculously great catch by Kyle Rudolph on a crossing route after McNabb threw it a good yard behind him. It's the little things that could, you know, prevent a team from vomiting away 47 points of cumulative halftime lead. Do I think Ponder is ready for the big time after a shortened preseason and just three weeks of real game preparation? Probably not. But I'm pretty effing sure McNabb is McNever going to take us anywhere.
While I find no pleasure in criticizing our quarterback so much already, it pains me even more to have to address my next objects of scorn: Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave. Look, I get it--they're new. Nobody expects them to have everything figured out yet. But if Brad Childress had called that second half today, he would have had death threats on KFAN after the game. Third and 1 and you pass from the shotgun instead of handing it off to the best running back in the world?! Unacceptable. Fourth and 1, that same best running back in the world refuses to get off the field for a field goal attempt, and you use him as a decoy?! Unfathomable. Just to drive the coaching point home, let's take a look at AP's stats by half:
1st half: 36 carries, 263 yards, 3 TD
2nd half: 22 carries, 66 yards, 0 TD
Um, maybe I'm new to football strategy or something, but aren't you supposed to pound the rock on the ground more when you have gigantic second half leads? Until this coaching staff can figure out how to get their team to quit playing not to lose, we shouldn't expect many wins.
I've spent most of my time today bashing the bad traits of a talented team, but there's one part of this team that I still refuse to throw under the bus: the defense. Yes, allowing 67 points in three halves is freaking awful, but it's hard to blame Jared Allen & company when they're on the field 90% of the time. They're not under-performing late in the game; they're simply running out of gas. Stopping the likes of Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, and Matthew Stafford is damn near impossible when you're required to do for 25 out of 30 minutes of game time because your team's offense can't stay on the field.
I hate giving up on my team's playoff hopes only 15 days after the season started, but unfortunately it's the only way I can think of to remain sane while covering this team for the remainder of the year. Is there still a remote chance that the Vikings can turn their season around? Absolutely. We obviously have the talent to beat good teams, and we do play the equally hapless Chiefs next week. But it's going to be all Dominos jokes and sarcasm from me until this team proves otherwise.