First of all, I hate losing, even on the road against a very good Chicago team where we were not expected to do well. It just sucks. But you know what I hate even more than just losing? I really hate losing after a BYE week. The Vikings used to be very good after a BYE week, and teams generally should be better after a week off. Players are better rested, coaches get an extra week to gameplan for the opponent, and they both get extra practice time to work on execution. However, there is also the potential for the BYE week to derail momentum, routine and discipline. And if not handled well, teams can easily come out of a BYE looking flat, sloppy and lack execution. That describes the Vikings perfectly today. I’m not sure who to pin that on, but here are a couple fun facts: from 1997 – 2009, we had only 2 losses after a BYE. Since 2009, we’ve lost the last three games in a row after a BYE. Read into that what you will.
Today was particularly bad in all phases of the game. The players lacked discipline and execution, and looked sloppy and rusty. Where does the fault lie? It’s in our nature here at DN to over-analyze, dissect and discuss the team, and the criticisms fly even more after a loss. I took some notes all during the game, and I’m going to break this game down by quarter in an effort to reach some conclusions. Granted, these are just my own opinions….feel free to agree or disagree.
-Brandon Fusco is playing terribly the past few games. The sack on the first play of the game was totally on Fusco missing his block. It contributed in a major way to a 3-and-out. He doesn’t seem like starting material to me. The Bears took advantage of this for the rest of the game as they sent pressure on the right side of the line all afternoon, and Fusco and Loadholt couldn’t keep up.
-Chad Greenway is playing at a Pro-Bowl level, and his fumble recovery set up the offense perfectly. Erin Henderson however, is not playing well enough to earn a big contract. He missed a crucial tackle later in the game, and had awful coverage most of the afternoon. It’s obvious, but we need to upgrade our LB corp.
-Jerome Simpson is garbage. He can’t catch, and he lacks focus and discipline. Injuries aside, he’s provided exactly nothing to the Vikings offense when he’s been on the field. His first of many drops on the afternoon happened in the 2nd drive at another crucial moment. The athleticism is there, but the talent is not. I hope he’s not in Purple next season.
-Adrian Peterson is a beast, and a man among boys, but HOLD ONTO THE BALL. His first of two fumbles killed another drive in the 1st quarter. This was just another example of poor execution and general sloppiness.
-After Kluwe shanked another punt, the writing was on the wall already. The team played sloppy and didn't execute…and as it turned out, it was the start of more terrible things to come. This marks bad play on all three phases of the game. Apparently the players must have wanted another BYE week, because this is just inexcusable.
-The tackling by the defense was god awful. Even Antoine Winfield was missing tackles. I don’t know what’s going on there, but this is the type of defense we saw during the 3-game losing streak, and if they don’t address fundamentals and execution, we might not get another win all year.
-What would our secondary be like without Harrison Smith? He made a great tackle on Hester on the punt team as the first man down the field, and was maybe the only guy in the secondary that was able to man-handle Brandon Marshall. Too bad he left the game with an injury later on. I really hope we don’t have to find out the answer to my question next week when we face Aaron Rodgers. This has the smell of 2011 all over again.
-We finally got the play action passing game working with a nice play to Kyle Rudolph. We hit this play several more times in the game.
-Blocked Field. More bad juju.
-The penalty on Winfield in the endzone on Marshall was a terrible call. He barely had his hands on him, and they both were playing the ball. The refs handed the Bears a score there by setting up the Bears at the 1-yard line. Add this to the very long list of moments the Vikings have gotten screwed by the refs. It might not have made a difference, but every point impacts the play-calling and flow of a game, and this put the Bears up by 10.
-Ponder didn’t have a great game. The first INT before halftime was all on Ponder. His pass was way behind Aromashodu. He was just one more member of a complete team implosion.
-A 25-3 score is a tough one to overcome, but not impossible. So, F*** You FOX for cutting away from the game for a “more competitive” game. Curt Menefee can rot in hell. His little wink and chuckle when he said “more competitive” makes it clear what his thoughts are of the Vikings. I watched the rest of the game in a rather illegal fashion online, so sue me.
-Winfield made up for some poor tackling and a penalty in the 1st half, with an INT in the 2nd, which lead to a TD off another successful play-action pass to Rudolph. We cut the lead to 15 with that score and it was at this point that I was laughing at FOX for cutting away. Not competitive?
-So. How about double-teaming Brandon Marshall? The guy was un-guardable, but we didn’t start double-teaming him until late in the 3rd quarter (that I could tell). And even then, he was still catching everything tossed his way (practically). I don’t know if Cook could have handled him better, but the rest of our secondary sure couldn’t.
-After two more drops by Jerome Simpson, I imagined Musgrave saying to himself, “F*** it, just hand the ball to Peterson from here on out.” And he sort of did, except when it would have made the most sense…
-4th and 2. We really needed something there. With no weapons in the passing game, Musgrave called a pass play to the endzone. Here are three plays that would have been better:
1. Field Goal (hey, look at that…it would have been points!)
2. Hand off to Peterson…your best weapon on offense…should be able to get 2 yards and setup a 1st down at about the 5 yard line.
3. Quick Short Pass. Ponder throws those better than anyone, and would have been another way to get a 1st down.
-Ponder’s sack on 3rd down on the next possession was pathetic. Were there no receivers open downfield? Why hold it so long? How about throwing the ball away at least.
-Rudolph concussion? Great. Maybe we should just play with all our running backs on the field, since we don’t really have anyone left to throw it to. At this point our only reliable receiving options were rookie 4th rounder Jarius Wright and a 30-year-old Michael Jenkins. How did our WR corp get this bad?
-The 2nd INT, that wasn’t, by Ponder was not his fault. If Jerome Simpson is garbage, Stephen Burton is the rotten compost that garbage becomes. He’s even more worthless. Yeah he's young, and still developing, but I have seen exactly nothing out of him in an actual game. The pass went right through his hands, and tipped into the defender’s hands. Thankfully it actually hit the ground, but if Burton is going to be a Viking for any length of time, he’s gotta make that play. He always seems to miss big plays like that one.
-Jarius Wright is a pale imitation of Percy Harvin at this point. Sure, he caught 7 passes today, but he doesn’t have the YAC ability that Harvin does, as he only racked up 49 yards.
-At the end of the game, the D-line had exactly 1 sack, and that was only credited to Fred Evans because Cutler tripped on his own guy. How is that even possible? By the 4th quarter, the Bears O-Line was down 4 starters. FOUR STARTERS. This is totally unacceptable, and while I understand Letroy Guion didn’t play, where was Jared Allen? Where was Kevin Williams? If even they can't take advantage of a bunch of backups and practice squad players, then we need to reload on defense in a major way heading into next year.
So, where does the fault lie?
-WR's dropped balls
-Peterson fumbled, twice
-QB played poorly
-Missed tackles by entire team
-Secondary couldn’t cover Marshall
-Lack of pressure by D-Line
-Allowed over 100 yards rushing
-Lack of touchbacks
-Questionable play-calling, again
This was an entire team implosion. If they want to make the playoffs, they are going to need to execute better than this. If they want to be labeled anything other than “pretender” they are going to have to play disciplined football, and other guys are going to need to step up when the starters go down. This was a pathetic display. So, where does the fault lie?