This is my take on why the Vikings lost to the Panthers 35-10. I do not think that what you witnessed on the field against the Panthers is something you should expect to see for the rest of the season. I believe that the Vikings were still in a state of shock and grief from what happened to Adrian Peterson's son. Mentally, they were simply not ready to play. And I can't say that I blame them. Even though he was not their son, Adrian Peterson's teammates are profoundly affected by this death. They are teammates and I'm sure some are close friends of Adrian's and something like this is going to affect them greatly and make it very difficult to focus on what they're supposed to do. I am not at all surprised that this last game was a blowout. How can you possibly get excited to play a game when your friend's two year old son has just been murdered? At a time like that, football doesn't seem as important as it was.
I watched the Vikings/Panthers game with a heavy heart because I know what he is going through. My situation was different, but I know what it's like to lose a son. I know what it's like to stand in a hospital room and watch helplessly as my son struggles to live. In April 2012, my son Samuel died a few hours after he was born. He was born 5 weeks premature with a condition that caused his lungs to be severely underdeveloped, and despite the doctor's best efforts, he died and is waiting for us in Heaven. I have not been the same man since then.
When I heard about what happened to Tyrese Ruffin, those emotions came flooding back. I feel for Adrian in a way that most people don't because I know what he is going through. There is something about the death of a child or a baby that makes it especially difficult. Someone that young and innocent should not have to die. Everyone goes through grief differently, but I know that Adrian is experiencing a pain right now that is beyond words, and he will be for a very long time.
I was not surprised to hear that Adrian was planning to play against the Panthers, but with the game only 2 days away from this terrible news, I knew that he would probably not be able to play at the level we've come to expect from him. When I lost my son, I wasn't much good to anyone for many weeks after. I went back to work after a couple weeks only because my wife and I had to pay the bills. I couldn't focus on work a lot though, and I wasn't very productive. Fortunately my boss was understanding about it, and it wasn't a problem. If Adrian were to say today, I need to take a month off from football, I would completely understand. But he needs to do what is best for him, and if playing football is what he wants to do, he should do it and no one should judge him for it.
The rest of the Vikings are going through grief right now also. It's not nearly as painful for them, but they are hurting for him, and grief makes it difficult to focus on your normal routine. Everyone on the team is affected to one degree or another. How long will this effect last? It's really hard to say. The players and coaches know that they need to continue to try to improve and go about the business of playing football. But I can't overstate how much a tragedy like this can affect someone's ability to function.
I'm not saying that the Vikings don't have there flaws. They have plenty of them, but this situation will only magnify those flaws. In time, the shock of what has happened will fade, and players will get back to "normal", and that should help them play better. But don't look at the Panthers game as representative of the talent level of the Vikings. That game was not a normal game due to the circumstances of the last week. I expect them to play better in the coming weeks, although it may take some time.
Unfortunately for us Vikings fans, the Vikings were not a good football team before this happened. So don't expect a huge turnaround. But don't overreact to the Panthers loss either. Expect to see some improvement in the coming weeks. Maybe Josh Freeman will be the QB the Vikings have been looking for. Maybe the defense will finally figure out how to get off the field. I can't say I'm optimistic that any of those things will happen, but I do know that they will not continue to get destroyed like they did against the Panthers.
As for the guy who killed Adrian's son, he will get his punishment. South Dakota has the death penalty, and I hope he is eligible for it. But even if he's not, these things have a way of working themselves out, and he will probably not last long in prison.
To Adrian, my heart goes out to you. I'm so sorry for what happened. This is something that no one should have happen to them, ever. Unfortunately we live in a world with some terrible people. I wish I could tell you that someday you'll won't feel this pain, but I can't. It is something that will never go away, but in time it won't hurt quite as bad.