In Week 6 of NFL action, the Jacksonville Jaguars were a 28-point road underdog, traveling to face a team in the Denver Broncos that is on track to be, potentially, the greatest offensive machine in the history of the National Football League. They went into the locker room down just two, outscoring the Broncos in the second quarter 12-0, before eventually succumbing to Peyton Manning and company by a final of 35-19.
In Week 6 of NFL action, the Minnesota Vikings were a 2-point home favorite, coming off of a bye week, preparing to host a Carolina Panthers team that was coming off of a game where they allowed their quarterback, Cam Newton to be sacked seven times. Newton threw three interceptions during that game, and the Panthers were outscored 19-0 in the second half by the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings went into the locker room down 11, and didn't get any closer, with only a garbage-time touchdown allowing them to reach double figures as they fell 35-10.
This was as listless and lifeless a performance as I think I've ever seen this team put on. And I know I'm going to be the 83rd person to make this comparison, but it was eerily similar to the 2010 contest at the Metrodome against the Green Bay Packers, the game that ultimately got Brad Childress his pink slip and allowed Frazier to ascend to the role of head coach. Leaving the emotion of Adrian Peterson's situation out of it, the fact that the Vikings were coming off of a bye week should have been to their benefit, but again it was not.
As someone pointed out in the comments section of my initial recap, this is the third post-bye week game that the Minnesota Vikings have played under Leslie Frazier. The results of those games have gone like this:
2011 - 45-7 loss at Green Bay
2012 - 28-10 loss at Chicago
2013 - 35-10 loss at home against Carolina
That's a total combined score of 108-27. . .or, if you're into averages, 36-9. That is embarrassing. That is ridiculous. That is inexplicable. That is inexcusable.
I like Leslie Frazier. . .honestly, I do. And I really thought that he was going to do well. But if today's performance is any indication, then it appears that it's time for him to go. The problem, as Kyle said in his post from a little earlier, is that there really is nobody to replace him with at this point. You're not going to be able to bring in an "outside guy" in mid-season, so any replacement is going to have to come from "in house." And really, who are the in house options at this point?
Bill Musgrave? Yeah, like anyone's going to take that seriously.
Alan Williams? We'll get to Alan Williams' defense in a minute, but the short answer is "no," while the slightly longer answer is "hell to the no."
Mike Priefer? He might be the only realistic shot, but if you take him he's (likely) still going to be saddled with Musgrave and Williams.
Mike Singletary? Okay, now you're just trolling me.
No, this coaching staff will be gone at the end of the season, but we're stuck with them for the rest of the year. But we may be at the point where if the front office thinks they can get something. . .anything. . .for parts of this team in the form of draft picks, it needs to seriously start exploring it. Particularly for guys that aren't going to be back in 2014 anyway.
This team has so many issues, but we'll start. . .as we always do, it seems. . .with the quarterback position. At this point, we don't really know what we have in Josh Freeman (though I suspect we're going to find out starting on Monday night), but apparently Christian Ponder isn't the answer, and we damn sure know that Matt Cassel isn't the answer. I recall after I put up the Pro Football Focus grades to compare and contrast the loss to the Cleveland Browns (where Ponder started) and the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (when Cassel started). The general thought seemed to be that, despite Cassel's performance against the Steelers being graded as the worst performance by a Vikings' quarterback through the first quarter of the season that the grades didn't matter any more, because Matt Cassel good blah blah blah Christian Ponder awful blah blah blah same old story same old song and dance.
Well, let's be honest with ourselves, folks. . .Cassel was, in reality, two Ike Taylor drops and about eight broken Greg Jennings tackles from having the same sort of performance that he had today against the Panthers, and the same sort of performance that Ponder gets lambasted for on a regular basis. On Sunday, Panthers' safety Mike Mitchell caught the two passes that Cassel hit him right in the chest with (unlike Taylor's two drops in London), leading directly to 14 Carolina points. Against a defense that was actually able to get pressure, unlike the Steelers two weeks ago, Cassel looked like. . .well, he looked a lot like Matt Cassel. Or, to borrow another modern day phrase, he was what we thought he was.
But Cassel's performance today brought to light the gigantic elephant in the room, one that people were a bit reticent about during the first three or four games of the 2013 NFL season. . .and that's the fact that this just might be the worst defense in Minnesota Vikings history.
Think I'm exaggerating or engaging in hyperbole? Well, I took a look back at the Vikings' defenses over the years, particularly since the advent of the 16-game schedule. Since 1978, the most points the Vikings have given up in a full 16-game season (excluding years where there were strikes and/or games with replacement players) is 484. That was the figure given up by the 1984 Minnesota Vikings, generally regarded as the worst team in franchise history and a team that outright quit on their reviled head coach, Les Steckel, about halfway through the season.
The 2013 Minnesota Vikings' defense is on pace to be worse.
The Vikings, through the first five games, have allowed 158 points, an average of 31.6 points per contest. If they keep up that clip for 16 games, they will allow opponents to put up over 500 points (506, to be precise) for the first time in franchise history. For some perspective on that, the record for the most points allowed since the advent of the 16-game schedule is 533, currently held by the 1981 Baltimore Colts. The 2008 Detroit Lions, the 0-16 outfit, allowed 517 points during that season. Such a pace would make the 2013 Vikings only the third team in NFL history to allow more than 500 points in a 16-game season. (The 1966 New York Giants allowed 501 points, but that was in a 14-game slate, which is even worse.)
Nobody seemed to want to discuss the defense very much when Christian Ponder was the starting quarterback. . .but we pretty much have to talk about it now, as it's continued to be horrible. This defense is awful at every level, with only a few guys that should be allowed to collect their paychecks on a weekly basis. This team has allowed at least 27 points in every game this season (and, yet, was still in position to win a couple of those games if they could have made so much as one play), the defensive line isn't getting nearly the pressure they should, the linebackers are at least a step slow, if not more, the secondary can't cover anybody, and Josh Robinson has been so awful they should just give him a jersey that says "Serwanga" on the back.
And yes, we can lament to loss of Antoine Winfield all we want, but it's Week 6 of the NFL season and, as far as I know, Antoine Winfield is still watching games from his couch every week. If he wanted to come back, he could have, I'm guessing. . .but I'm also guessing there's no way he comes back to a dumpster fire like this.
But make no mistake. . .the team that took the field today at the Metrodome was exactly the same team, with exactly the same flaws, that we saw in the first four games of this season. It is what it is. They had one game where they caught a couple of breaks and fooled us into thinking that they might be turning the corner. But if they had, in fact, turned the corner, the only thing today served to do was to drop a piano on their heads like something out of a Looney Tunes short.
And remember. . .this was supposed to be the easy portion of Minnesota's schedule. Things weren't supposed to get tough until the second half. Isn't that awesome?
This is a bad team, ladies and gentlemen. It's a bad team from front to back, top to bottom, and everywhere in between. And it's probably going to be that way for the rest of this season.