Week 10: versus Green Bay

The final wall of the Vikings house came crashing down last night when they played their division rival Green Bay on the road and would lose in miserable fashion, 45-7.  I’m sure this loss has to be in the top five in franchise history of butt-kicks.   The Packers forced their will without any resistance from the Vikings defense and QB Aaron Rodgers surgically exploited every weakness the Vikings had.  And there are many.  The Vikings now are 2-7 and continue to spiral out of control.

You wouldn’t know the Vikings had a week and a half to prepare for this game by the way they played.  The coaching staff had plenty of time to review video and find tendencies and weaknesses on both sides of the Green Bay ball.  You would think the Vikings would see and understand what they do and do well and figure out how to attack them but it just seemed the Vikings were playing eight on eleven the entire game.  An interesting stat for this game was Green Bay rushed five or more 28 out of 36 times Ponder dropped back to pass. A trend the coaching staff should’ve noticed and adjusted for.

I will not disappoint anyone if they are expecting my weekly rant about NFL officiating this week, so here you go:  I know the Packers have an undefeated record but to have one penalty for 5 yards in 60 minutes is too much for me to handle.  They are perfect but not that perfect.  There were plenty of calls that should’ve been made but weren’t called.  Would it have made a difference in the final outcome?  No.  But to miss calls as much as Mike Carey’s crew did, is unacceptable.  I digress.  I’m really thinking that particular topic will be discussed in a future blog.

I believe, and other Minnesota media as well, the Vikings coaching staff is to blame for this latest debacle.  The team has committed untimely penalties, lined-up in wrong formations, ran botched plays, continued lack of focus and attention to detail throughout this 2011 season.  These are all coaching issues and I think coach Leslie Frazier’s days as the Minnesota Vikings head coach should be numbered.  Why would you try and run a flea-flicker play?  What’s wrong with trying to do what you do best?  What’s wrong with using RB Adrian Peterson to the best of his ability?  Unnerving, to say the least as well as a broken record.

This team is two years removed from the NFC Championship game and the Vikings secondary has virtually been the same since.  These were draft picks made while Frazier has been the head coach and/or as the Vikings defensive coordinator.  I am talking 6 players that haven’t worked out in the secondary and were all draft picks: Abdullah, Johnson, Sanford, Cook, Allen and Griffin.  What’s the difference from two years ago to now?  Frazier as head coach.  Someone should be accountable and unfortunately, I think it’s Frazier and his staff that need to exit after this year.  With a stadium push needing new life and $300M in funding, it is better to get some kind of hope for a team that could win in the future.

You have the core players of Peterson, QB Christian Ponder, WR Percy Harvin and DE Jared Allen to build around and it’s time to make the correct draft choices consistently and bring in free agents with value to help the team right away in the right positions.  Minnesota is a small market team so they have to be frugal and smart with their money each year because revenue streams are hard to come by.

In the good news department, CB Antoine Winfield made it back on the field for the first time in a month.  In the bad news department, Winfield broke his collarbone during the game and is done for the season.  A speedy recovery #26 and you will be missed.  Former Viking CB Benny Sapp will be visiting the Vikings this week and will likely be signed by the team to help the depleted Vikings secondary.  If that’s possible.  CB Chris Cook has been suspended by the team indefinitely due to his legal matters.

The Autumn Winds will be bringing the Oakland Raiders to the Mall of America field this week and I heard it is a sold out game which is good to hear.  I’m surprised but happy.  There is still time to show improvement and I’m okay with playing the spoiler role for the rest of the year.

Skol!

Week 8: versus Carolina

Rookie QB Christian Ponder got his first NFL victory this past week helping to defeat the Carolina Panthers, 24-21.  Ponder continues to get better making the right decisions for the most part but needs to do better in getting rid of the ball to avoid negative yardage.  15 out of the 18 completions Ponder threw gained at least 11 yards.  Compared to what McNabb was able to do with this offense, this is leaps and bounds ahead of where we were at the beginning of the season.  Only thing left to do is open up the deep threat downfield and make long gains through the air to keep the defense honest.

It came down to a missed field goal by Carolina with less than a minute to go to get the victory but with a struggling team like the Vikings are at this time, I’m sure they’ll take the wins however they can get them.

RB Adrian Peterson was not able to establish a typical AP tempo in the run game but made up for it in receiving yards this week.  He was able to get into the end zone twice which is always good. 

Someone who impressed me the most was WR Percy Harvin who was questionable to even play in this game because of his injured ribs.  All week, he was limited in practice and the coaching staff was cautious about letting him play in fear he could damage the ribs even more.  Harvin missed quite a bit of the third quarter because of the ribs and was standing on the sideline with his helmet in his hand.  Most thought he was done for the day but when he re-entered the game, he made great contributions to move the ball up field and get first downs.  It was remarkable to see him continue to play knowing what kind of pain he was going through.

Defenses continue to drop at least one safety down into the box to stop Peterson but once Ponder figures things out a little more, things will open up for the offense and hopefully we’ll see a more balanced and threatening attack offensively.

The only thing that bothers me the most about the game were the two busted plays where Ponder went one way to give the ball to Peterson but Peterson was going another way.  As close as this game was, those kinds of mistakes can’t happen.  Those things can turn a game completely around and you could lose momentum and rhythm very easily.  This is something the team needs to clean up quickly and with the Bye week this week, it will be the perfect time to work those bugs out.

The team continues to assess the future of CB Chris Cook who was arrested last week and has been suspended without pay by the team.  This incident does not bode well to a Secondary that’s already depleted of talent.  Cook was probably their best defender and now the team has to rely on less talented players to fill the void.  It will be interesting to see how this will be handled by the NFL and the Vikings in the near future.

I still continue to be amazed at the officiating in the NFL again this year.  Although, it is a tough job, I know, it is important to make a call when you know it is the right call.  They should physically see the infraction and not throw the flag because it looked like it happened.  CB Asher Allen tackled a Carolina player from the side with a hold of the front of the shoulder pad near the sideline.  He was flagged for a face mask penalty and 15 yards.  WR Percy Harvin and Carolina CB Captain Munnerlyn were pushing and shoving each other on the Carolina sideline where Munnerlyn was shown clearly pulling Harvin out of bounds.  Harvin continued to wrestle with Munnerlyn near the bench grabbing his face mask.  Harvin was called for Unnecessary Roughness and a 15 yard penalty.  Harvin was lucky he was not thrown out of the game but the call should have been off-setting and replay the down.

After the Bye week, the Vikings go to Green Bay to play their North rivals for the second time.  The Vikings played well at home against the Packers the first time but it will be quite different on the road.

Because the Vikings have a week off, I will not have a blog next week.  I will pick it up again after the Vikings defeat the Packers on Monday Night Football!

Skol!

Week 7: versus Green Bay

For all intents and purposes, it seems the Christian Ponder era with the Vikings has begun.  The rookie quarterback drafted 12th overall in the 2011 NFL draft started this week in place of Donovan McNabb against the Packers and almost led the Vikings to a win despite the two interceptions he threw in the game.

At 1 and 4, the Vikings coaching staff, for weeks, deflected any blame of the offensive inefficiency directly on McNabb but gave vague answers as to the cause of the problems they had.  That is understandable because NFL coaches want to protect their players when talking to the media and don’t want to give them anything to write about negatively about the players or the team.  But NFL coaches should know the media will write about it regardless of what you say to them.  So my question is, if McNabb wasn’t the blame, why is he the only player replaced in the line-up because of production?  This decision leads me to believe perhaps coach Leslie Frazier was possibly influenced by higher-ups in the organization to make the change with a little political push to sell tickets and in the grand scheme of things, a new stadium.

Ponder’s overall statistics were not that impressive for his first start but he played better than his numbers indicated.  Of his 13 completions, 7 of them were either for a first down or a score.  Something the Vikings offense had not done very much of in the previous weeks.  Ponder moved the pocket, was very mobile, and showed the athleticism Vikings fans knew he had.  In fact, Ponder’s first NFL pass went to WR Michael Jenkins for 72 yards and downed at the 1-yard line.  The NFL was also impressed;  They nominated Ponder for Rookie Player of the Week and as of this writing, I do not know if he was awarded the honor.

I believe there is enough here in this quarterback to keep rolling with him and with a record of 1 and 5, we should see if there is some leadership in this guy to run the offense.  I expect him to make rookie mistakes and decisions but that’s okay with me for now.

WR Bernard Berrian was released by the team on Wednesday.  Coach Leslie Frazier would not give details but it is believed Berrian did not work hard enough and was not good in the locker room.  WR Stephen Burton was brought up from the practice squad.  CB Chris Cook was arrested two days before the game on felony charges of trying to strangle his girlfriend.  The Vikings have suspended him without pay until further notice.

An interesting factoid a co-worker and a Bears fan showed me today at work:  From WCCO, it was reported if you play for the Minnesota Vikings, there is a 66% chance you will be arrested.  Based on the recent past, I believe this to be true even though I don’t know the particulars of this report.

The next game is against Carolina and QB Cam Newton on the road.  I thought this guy would be one of the biggest busts in the NFL since Ryan Leaf but he has shown some promise with his accuracy and poise.  The Vikings will have to put pressure on him up the middle to keep him contained and not give him time to throw or worse, run.  With all the bumps and bruises and arrests the Vikings are going through now, the upcoming bye-week will be a welcome relief.

Skol!

Week 6: versus Chicago

Words are certainly harder to come by this week than previous weeks simply because this week’s loss puts the proverbial nail in the coffin for the 2011 campaign and it will be almost impossible for the Vikings to make the post-season.  Each week, there were many questions needing answers regarding the coaching, offense and defense.  Special Teams, to me, seemed like the most solid group on the team but after Devin Hester returns a kick-off for a touchdown, I knew I was in trouble.  Now, more questions arise for the rest of the season and I am beginning to doubt whether we have the right coaching staff to improve in the coming years.  This week’s loss to the Bears makes the win against Arizona a lot less impressive.

I understand there has been a coaching change since 2007 but most of the staff and scouts have remained.  Since 2007 and not counting 2011, only 14 out of 26 players have remained on the team.  This doesn’t count the 10 picks we traded away to get other players.  It seems to me the Vikings have to do a better job in drafting players that will make an impact in the coming years.  I didn’t count the class of 2011 because all but one of the players has remained on the team and the jury is still out whether they can make an impact with the team in the future.

Coach Leslie Frazier announced Tuesday QB Christian Ponder will start in place of QB Donovan McNabb this week against the undefeated Packers at the Metrodome.  Statistically, McNabb didn’t have a bad game but what I thought was unacceptable for a 13 year veteran was not understanding where you are in the end zone to take a safety and getting sacked in the backfield when you had time to throw the ball away.  These are some of the reasons an NFL team wants experience at the quarterback position.  Even Ponder knew he had to throw the ball away several times when he didn’t have a play.  Perhaps this is why Frazier is making the move now and if so, I totally agree with the move.  I am all for seeing what we have in our franchise quarterback of the future and I think he deserves the chance.  Let him learn from his mistakes just like all the other great quarterbacks in the past have done and let’s see if he was worth the high draft pick.  What’s left to see is if McNabb wants to be cut so he can get on with another team.

My two weeks of non-support of supporting my Vikings has now come to an end.  I can go back to drinking my morning coffee out of my Viking mugs and I can wear Purple again.  I did what I could for at least one week but my luck has unfortunately run out.  I will continue to look for ways to improve our chances to win each week and salvage what we have left, if anything, for the season.  Let’s hope we can start this week against division rival Green Bay!

Skol!

Week 5: versus Arizona

It took a drastic move but something had to be done.  Not everyone can just sit around and do nothing and just hope for the best or in some cases, just give up.  So when your back is against the wall, the fight or flight instinct takes over and you do whatever your mind tells you.  I took it upon myself to fight with every thread of my Purple being and did what I thought was best for the team, though the Vikings had no idea I was doing it.  Had they known, they probably would’ve shrugged it off and went on with their business.  It seems everybody except the Vikings knows their business hasn’t worked in four weeks.

Taking matters into my own hands, unbeknownst to the Vikings, my family and I took a three and a half hour flight to Minneapolis this past weekend to personally right this ship and do the things I needed to do to help get the first victory of the year.  For those of you who are parents will understand it is sometimes better just to do things without your children knowing what you are doing because you know it is better for them in the long run.

Our flight into Minneapolis was quite bumpy due to the thunderstorms and scattered showers throughout the Twin Cities but the Captain did a great job controlling the plane and getting the plane down with relative ease.  I thought how symbolic it was of me to be on this plane, in this city, at this moment.  Like the Captain of Flight 2507, I was here to control what was out of control for my football team and I took that responsibility without fear.  This is something I HAD to do for the Vikings organization and all my Viking brethren far and wide.

It was unseasonably warm in Minneapolis and for the last week or so, had record highs for October.  Coming from Arizona, I scoffed at the “heat” and fearlessly plodded through our daily activities and had a great time.  I noticed Minneapolis is not much different from Arizona with all the different ethnicities within the city.  Amazingly enough, I saw quite a few people wearing Arizona Cardinals gear in our travels in the city but I couldn’t say anything to them in fear of blowing my cover.  If anybody knew the reason I was there, my entire plan would be ruined and word would get out.

Finally, Sunday arrived and game time was only a few hours away.  It has been a long week since I last wore anything Purple.  A feat unheard of in my world during football season and certainly something I’ve never done before so, as I start to get ready, I open the hotel closet door with a bit of nervousness and anticipation.  There, in front of me on a hanger, is my brand new home jersey bearing the number 28.  I slowly lift the hanger off the bar and angled the front of the jersey towards me to view it in all its glory.  I swear I heard the Viking horn at that moment…  It was time.  I took the tag off gently and slid the jersey on.  Now I am whole again and ready for whatever comes my way.  I feel the weight of the 62,000-plus fans on my shoulders but I am willing and able to carry them for the entire game if need be.  I turn towards my daughter and she is also wearing her new female cut jersey with the number 28…I’ve never felt such a rush of accomplishment.  It was her first Vikings game and just so happens to be the most important game of 2011 thus far and she had no idea the responsibility her father was carrying as we walked out of the hotel room.

My wife, Rejeanna, dropped us off near the Metrodome and we walked the next block to witness the festivities outside the Dome.  Thousands of Vikings fans surrounded the Dome among music, food, games, vendors, and Purple camaraderie.  Even a few Cardinals fans were in attendance which was good to see.  After a half hour or so, we noticed the gates were open and they were letting people inside.  More nervousness and anticipation.  I looked at my daughter and said, “Have you memorized the fight song?”  “Yes, daaaaad,” she said in a way only teenage daughters can say it.  We plodded on.

As we took the long way around the narrow concourse to our section inside the Dome, my daughter was asking questions about the Dome and some of the murals on the walls as we dodged employees, vendors and fans.  With each passing gate opening, I’d see glimpses of the field and it’s markings filling in the blanks with my mind’s eye and already feeling the grasp of the blue stadium seats.  We stepped through Gate 107 and noticed right away the brand new roof recently installed lighting up the inside as it never did before.  I also admired the new field turf also recently installed as some of the players were warming up.

Kickoff soon started and it didn’t take long for the Vikings to put a stranglehold on the Cardinals.  Before too long, it was 28-0 and the first quarter hadn’t even ended yet.  I thought we’ve seen this movie before where the Vikings have led early so I still wasn’t too comfortable with that kind of lead.  But the Vikings held on to win and I know they felt my presence there pushing them and holding them together.  Although I don’t expect them to acknowledge me in any way or to give thanks, they should know they can’t do it on their own.  Sometimes it takes just one person to make a difference and I’m glad and honored I was able to do my part.  I understand I can’t always do it on my own so I expect other Vikings fans to step up within their means when the team is down.  With one victory at hand, you never know if this was the game propelling them to do better and be better.  Anything can happen now so I ask you: Are you doing everything you can to help the Vikings win?  I know I did and so can you.

Skol!

 

Week 4: versus Kansas City

“They’re too proud to surrender, not good enough to contend,” wrote Jim Souhan of the StarTribune in Minneapolis describing the locker room after losing for the fourth straight week, 22-17.  14 starters from the 2009 Vikings who went to the NFC Championship game are not giving into the fact their season is over and they all seem to think they can turn their season around if they keep working harder and smarter despite what their record indicates.  For only the fourth time in franchise history, the Vikings have started the season 0-4 and if the Vikings lose to Arizona this weekend, it would match the 1962 team for the worst start ever in franchise history. Since the current playoff format began in 1990, only San Diego started 0-4 and still made the playoffs.

This game against Kansas City was the worst one yet to digest because not only were the Chiefs also winless but they had some injuries at key positions in their lineup and a win for Minnesota was certainly ripe for the picking.  In consistent fashion though, the Vikings found ways to lose instead of trying to win as they’ve done three times before but surprisingly, this game brought clarity to my place as a fan.  An epiphany of what was going wrong all this time hit me like an E.J. Henderson blitz up the middle.  I determined it has been my fault all along for this winless streak, not the Vikings players or coaches.  The hamartia has been in front of me this entire time and now that I understand, I take full responsibility for this losing streak.

Since the season started, I’ve been doing the things I normally do during football season: Drinking my morning coffee in only a Vikings mug; Eat meals only on purple plates; Wear my Vikings apparel at work and around the house; Ordering additional Vikings ornaments for “The Purple Tree” in preparation for the upcoming holidays.  But instead of continuing to look inside the box and blaming the players and coaches for this dismal season thus far, I started looking at myself as a fan of The Purple.  Have I done everything I can do as a fan to help my team?  Have I changed my daily routine to “correct the issues”?  Can I honestly say I’ve looked at what I’ve done previously, make adjustments, and go out and take care of business?  The answer I came up with was a resounding “no.”  It was I who had to make the adjustments, not the team.  Just as soon as I felt the relief of knowing, I suddenly felt the guilt rush over me and I was right back where I began.  But my solution was amazingly simple: I will now drink coffee in generic mugs; I will refrain from the urge to wear Purple at any time; I’ll eat my meals on non-purple dishes.  I’m even going one step further…Instead of just watching the game on TV, why not go to a game and see it LIVE?  So, I will be in attendance with my daughter at Mall of America Field to personally watch the Vikings and Cardinals this coming weekend, thanks to my wife.  I think she was aware from the beginning so she just decided to give me a little push until I figured it all out on my own.  If doing everything opposite or different from my normal routine doesn’t turn this season around, then I might as well start watching more hockey and less Vikings “football.”  My conscience will be clear knowing I did what I needed to do.  I want to apologize to all Vikings fans for not realizing my mistakes and issues earlier so I take full blame for the 0-4 start.  This will not be an easy adjustment for me but I’m sacrificing for the benefit of the team.

On a grander scale though, the future for the franchise is becoming even cloudier in regards to a new stadium deal in Minnesota and selling seats to each home game now.  Owner Zygi Wilf has been trying to get a new stadium built for about the last three years and it doesn’t seem like he will get one anytime soon.  The Metrodome lease ends after this season and who’s to say he won’t take the team to California because of the roadblocks he’s encountered politically in Minnesota? And with the team currently on the field, makes it that much harder to sell the product to the people of Minnesota.

Whispers of a quarterback change are also becoming increasingly louder since most media experts and fans claim the Vikings’ season is virtually over, so why not put in the quarterback you drafted 12th overall this year and see what he’s got?  Football can be a funny thing sometimes where one guy could make a difference.  QB Christian Ponder could be the spark they need to get better.  It really can’t get any worse, right?  But as of this writing, Head Coach Leslie Frazier has already said McNabb will play Sunday barring any unforeseen changes.  I can tell you if the Vikings go three and out in any series, the fans will be very loud in showing their displeasure just like they did right before Childress was released…if they even show up for the game.  My daughter and I will be cheering whoever is on the field and we hope we can bring some Arizona luck to the Metrodome for our first victory and I will feel even better about it because I did my part in helping my team win!

Skol!

Week 2: vs Tampa Bay

After the Vikings loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, I sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell petitioning the NFL to have games shortened to 30 minutes instead of the standard 60 minutes.  If Roger would have mandated my plea before the season started, the Vikings would be undefeated instead of winless now because just like last week against San Diego, a different, uglier team came out of the tunnel and onto the field to play the second half.  I joke about the letter but that’s not to say it didn’t cross my mind at some point Sunday afternoon.

About 12% of NFL teams starting the year 0-2 make the playoffs in the same season.  Not a statement but a fact of professional football.  Also a fact is that in more than a decade now, 5 different teams make the playoffs each year that didn’t make the playoffs the year before.  Only once have the Vikings went 0-2 and made it to the playoffs (2008).

The panic button certainly is not pushed down yet for my Vikings based on these last two facts but the fingers of the hand are firmly on it ready to push it down.  I wouldn’t want the Vikings organization to start thinking about their draft board for 2012 sooner than either of us want to.  It is really difficult for me to believe as I read the names on this roster, that this team is done.  There is just too much talent to count this team out after just two games into the new season.

The post-game comments from the players had the finger pointed straight back at themselves knowing they let another game get away from them.  The biggest theme from most of the players was Tampa Bay wanted the win more than the Vikings and they were correct in their assessment from what I saw.  The things they were doing correctly in the first half was non-existent in the second half which boggles my mind.  But the loudest statement came from WR Percy Harvin when he intimated some player or players were in the wrong formation twice.  Harvin wasn’t specific about where this happened or who it was but it was believed to be in the Red Zone.  These kinds of mistakes don’t happen to good players, or good coaches, or in good systems.  So what does that say about the 2011 Minnesota Vikings?  Head Coach Leslie Frazier tells us fans to be patient because he still has hope they can get to where they need to be.  Coach Frazier has also been getting a lot of negative press about his lack of use of the three timeouts he had available when Tampa Bay was on their game-winning drive with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game.  Frazier said he had confidence the defense was going to hold Tampa Bay to at least three points to tie the game to go into overtime.  But just because you have the timeouts doesn’t mean you have to use them every time.  I agreed with Frazier because I wouldn’t have wanted to give Tampa Bay more time to think about things during that drive by stopping the clock.  I, too, was thinking that the defense would make a stop one way or another.  At worst, I was expecting to go to overtime.

Again, penalties late in the game contributed to this loss as DE Brian Robison was flagged for being offsides after the Vikings recovered a Tampa Bay fumble and DE Jared Allen was penalized for roughing the passer (bogus call, by the way) to sustain another Tampa drive.  S Tyrell Johnson who has split time with S Jamarca Sanford didn’t help himself by dropping an interception in the fourth quarter which would have given the Vikings the ball back to kill some clock or perhaps add to their lead.

CB Chris Cook sustained a groin injury before half-time and he did not return. He will be evaluated further this week.  DT Kevin Williams will return to practice this week after serving his two-game suspension.  He was surely missed and will help in stopping the run this week.

The young and revamped Detroit Lions come into town this week and they will not be any easier to beat than the Chargers or Buccaneers.  QB Matthew Stafford is healthy and looks poised to elevate his game this year but I hope the Vikings defense can somehow play a full 60 minutes and finish a game like they should.  I look for RB Adrian Peterson to make a few more statements on the field.  I’d hate to be a defensive back for the Lions going one-on-one with Adrian in the defensive backfield this week because he is one angry man.

Skol!