Larry French - Getty Images
Vikings start strong, go sightseeing for the middle quarters, come to life late but fall short.
When I was in the Army (Oh Jesus, here we go) going through warrant officer candidate flight school, it was a process, because hovering a helicopter is one of the most difficult things a human being can learn to do. The first time I tried to keep the UH-1 within the entire state of Alabama, and failed miserably. Everyone does. Every time you make in input with the collective, an equal and opposite one needs to be made with cyclic and pedals, and if they're not all working in harmony, you get something akin to a monkey, fornication, and a football.
But slowly, you get better. The area required for you to maintain control of the aircraft dwindles, little by little, and one day you pick up the aircraft, and BOOM---solid. You put it at three feet, and it stays. Not two feet 11 inches, not three feet 1 inch...three feet. And you're feeling pretty good about yourself. You got it nailed. You get better and better, and then one day you have a bad day--for whatever reason, you can't hover that day. Your IP is chirping in your ear, yet no matter how much you grind and battle, you just can't get it. When you land, your IP throws his arm around you and says 'welcome to the world of being a helicopter pilot. These days happen. You just grind through it, put it behind you, and come back ready tomorrow.'
And it is. And you get better. And better. And pretty soon, it becomes second nature.
Much like learning to fly is a process, so is learning to win in the NFL. Last year, the Vikings were comparable to me trying to hover for the first time--none of the three controls, in this case the offense, defense, and special teams, reacted well when one of them made an input, and the whole season went careening out of control, much like my Huey used to do near Ft. Rucker, AL. But somewhere along the way, let's say the San Francisco game, the Vikings figured it out. Three feet. Not 2'11", not 3'1", but three feet. Balls on. And it...was...glorious.
And then today happened. They battled, but they were all over the place. Because they're still learning to fly, isn't that right, Mr. Petty?
Well, some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there
I'm learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down
I'm learning to fly but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
I'm learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down
Your training wheels SMR, after the...damn it. It follows below.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Percy Harvin, WR: When the Vikings offense hums, Harvin is heavily involved, either running out of the backfield, taking short passes and getting huge YAC, or making catches 15 to 20 yards downfield. When the offense can't hover within the state of Alabama, it's because they're not getting the ball to Harvin. Is that a coincidence?
Blair Walsh, K:
Jeff Greg (whatever)Zeurelein, the rookie kicker in St. Louis that no one will shut up about, missed all of his FG attempts today. Walsh, the rookie kicker in Minnesota that no one is really talking about, save for week one, nailed all of his. This is where I insert this video here:
Suck it, NFL. I'll take our kicker over anyone.
Antoine Winfield, CB: Winfield is a freaking beast. An Ohio State beast (c'mon, you knew I'd throw that in there). He was bringing it all day long, made a ridiculous interception that the offense failed to convert into a TD, and tied for the team lead in tackles. Winfield is in the sunset of his NFL career, and I can think of just a few defensive players that are as good well into their 30's as they were when they came into the league. There's Ray Lewis, Winfield...and who? I would love for the Vikings to send him out with a ring. No one in the NFL deserves it more. I know that players come and go, but I'm going to miss watching him play when he's gone.
Adrian Peterson, RB: The Terminator found lots of room early, and not much room for the rest of the day. He still managed a respectable 77 yards on the ground, and 50 yards receiving, though. But after the Vikings got down by three scores, they had to go to the pass almost exclusively, negating the run game.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: Rudolph had an up and down day. He had a big catch on the Vikings opening drive, then dropped a few passes, then made some big catches during the 4th quarter comeback attempt. He ended up with 6 catches for 56 yards, a TD, and a sweet 2 point conversion, but had trouble getting off the line and getting open for significant parts of the game.
Michael Jenkins, WR: Finally, a good game from a wide receiver not named Harvin. Jenkins was able to sit down in zones and make some plays, to include a big TD that got the Vikings comeback started. Like Winfield, Jenkins is also from Ohio State (WOOOOO), and also like Winfield, he doesn't have a lot of years left in the NFL. But he made some plays today and had a good game.
Christian Ponder, QB: Am I jumping off the Ponder Love Train? No, not at all. But he had a bad game today, despite 352 yards passing and 2 TD's. His three turnovers were absolutely crippling, as Madieu Williams (wait, WHAT?!?!?!) returned an interception for a TD, and his LOLWUT fumble/interception/high comedy that Lorenzo Alexander picked up lead to another Redskins TD. His last WTF pick at the Washington 1 ended any chance of another miraculous comeback. It's becoming apparent that this team will rise and fall on the play of Ponder, and today they fell. As good as he's been so far, it's sometimes easy to forget that he has less than one full season in the NFL, and there's still a big learning curve for him sometimes. Today, he needed the state of Alabama to hover in, and couldn't do it. But next week I bet he'll peg it at three feet.
The Offensive Line: They struggled mightily today, as Peterson had a tough time finding holes, and Ponder was sacked 4 times. RG Brandon Fusco was pulled during the game for Geoff Schwartz, and more than one time Charlie Johnson and Matt Kalil were barking at each other about a missed assignment or something. The Redskins controlled the tempo at the line of scrimmage for most of the day, and consequently won the game.
The Secondary: For much of the game I felt that the offensive line and secondary I was watching was straight out of 2011. At times, the Redskins receivers were so open that there wasn't a Vikings player within purview of my TV screen. Other than Antoine Winfield, the Vikings played passive and with almost no aggression. What happened to the hard hitting Intimidators we saw the first five games of the year? Can they come out and play next week? Please?
Buy: The Game Attempt At A Comeback. For as bad the Vikings played, they still put themselves in position to win the game in the fourth quarter, after going down 31-12. All they needed to do was stop RG III on third and 4. That's it. They make that play, I'm convinced the Vikes were going to win.
Sell: The Need To Have To Make Such A Huge Comeback: Washington came into the game 28th in the NFL in defense. How in the world can the Vikings not move the ball for damn near 2 and a half quarters? And when you get into the red zone three times and come away with three field goals, that's a failure. Score two TD's there, hold on to the ball, and make some plays during the second and third quarters.
Buy: Percy Harvin As A Legitimate MVP Candidate. Harvin has developed into a one man offense. He had another 11 catches for 133 yards on Sunday, and can literally take nothing and turn it into a 10 or more yard gain.
Sell: Having To Use Harvin So Much. This seems like a contradiction, because earlier I wrote that the offense pretty much goes through Harvin. The problem with that, though, is that that means there isn't anyone else to go to to jump start the offense if they're in a funk. And what if Harvin gets hurt? I mean, dude treats his body like a battering ram. It's important to find someone in the receiving corps to balance things out.
Buy: Blair Walsh's Accuracy. We talked about it earlier, but if there's such a thing as special teams rookie of the year, Blair, I would think, became the odds on favorite today.
Sell: Kicking FG's In The Red Zone. Sometimes drives stall at the 20 or 25. I get that. But when you get inside the 10 three times in the first quarter and only come away with three field goals, eventually it's going to come back to haunt you. Well, Boo. If the Vikings go up 17-0 or 21-0, does that change the complexion of the game? Yeah, you bet it does. Maybe the Redskins start pressing, make more mistakes, and then maybe the rout is on. But we'll never know. Or maybe not, and the Redskins play like they did. If the Vikes do convert those into TD's, worse case it's 24-24, and we're at a game reset instead of a huge deficit.
Sell: Penalties. The referees suck. They were terrible in the Dallas-Baltimore early game, and they were worse in the Vikes game.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
Speaking of the refs, Marcus Sherels fielded a punt in the second half and damn near had his head taken off. His helmet went flying, and it was about as clear a helmet to helmet that there could be. Of course, no call.
"I don't know why everyone was griping about the replacement refs. The regular refs have been terrible since the 1970's."
Amen, Dad. Amen.
This was an ugly loss, but the Vikes are still 4-2 and still near the top of the NFC North. They have the Arizona Cardinals at home next week, and they've had a lot of success against the Cardinals in recent years, having won 4 of their last 5 meetings going back to 2006. Let's hope the Vikes can get back on track and go to 5-2.