The Vikings are reeling emotionally, but trying their best to regroup with a positive spin on a historically negative 0-2 start.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Vikings are the first team to lose its first two games despite leading both by double digits at halftime. They led the Chargers 17-7 in San Diego before losing 24-14. And they led the Buccaneers 17-0 at home before losing 24-20.
“The Vikings beat the Vikings,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said.
Players said the feeling that they beat themselves with two poor second halves is something to build on heading into Week 3 against the Lions at the Metrodome.
“It’s definitely a positive,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “I think we all just sat in there (watching the Bucs game film) and it kind of made us mad knowing that they did nothing to beat us.”
The Vikings can’t blame turnovers for being outscored 41-3 in the second half. They’ve had two, but neither led to points. One came on an onside kick. The other came as time expired against the Bucs.
“You guys see it,” Frazier said. “We have a chance to be a good football team. We’re just not there yet.”
–While searching for answers as to why his team has been outscored 41-3 in the second half this season, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier addressed his team’s unhappy and downright angry followers through the media on Monday.
“My only words to the fans are ‘Be patient,’” Frazier said. “We’re going to get there. I have a great belief that we will. And we’re going to keep working and try to get there sooner than later.”
The Vikings went to halftime leading the Buccaneers in points, 17-0; total yards, 284-62; first downs, 17-3; and rushing yards, 137-23.
But continuing a trend that saw them blow a 17-7 lead at San Diego in Week 1, the Vikings were outplayed, outcoached and outscored 24-3 by the Bucs in the second half.
“I’ve been in situations we’re in right now where we struggle coming out of the half,” Frazier said. “We’ve just got to mature as a football team. We’re going through some things that some teams go through and we’ll get through it.”
The Vikings dominated the first half, but were then manhandled on the line of scrimmage in the second half. Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount, who was held to four yards on five carries in the first half, ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns on eight second-half carries (8.4). That slowed the Vikings’ pass rush and allowed Bucs QB Josh Freeman to find his rhythm against a soft zone defense.
“We’ve just got to continue to play as well as we are in the first half and we’ll get that second half completed,” Frazier said. “I don’t think you can ever discount how well (we’re) playing in the first half.”
It helps that the team got five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams back from his two-game suspension. Williams was suspended two games and fined an additional two game checks as the culmination of the StarCaps case that he had fought since 2008.
“Kevin Williams is an impact player,” Frazier said. “And he is a potential Hall of Famer, so having him back, not only what he does on the football field but the intangibles in the locker room for me as a guy to lean on to get certain things done and communicated with be a big factor to help us go forward.”
Although the Vikings trail the Packers and Lions by two games in the NFC North, Frazier remains hopeful because of what he sees in the first half.
“You guys see it,” he said. “We have a chance to be a good football team. We’re just not there yet.”
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES
–DT Kevin Williams returned Monday from his two-game StarCaps suspension and said his left foot “feels good,” his conditioning level will be fine and that he will not miss a game because of the plantar fasciitis that caused him to miss a preseason game and a week of preseason practices.
“I’m definitely going to play,” Williams said. “Sitting at home for two weeks was bad enough. My foot isn’t going to stop me.”
Williams hasn’t played since the second preseason game. He missed the third preseason game because of plantar fasciitis, sat out with the rest of the starters in the fourth preseason game and then had to serve his two-game suspension.
He said he stayed in town and watched the Vikings from his home in the Twin Cities.
“I was here on the couch, yelling at the screen,” he said.
–TE Visanthe Shiancoe summed up the theme in the locker room Monday when he said, “The Vikings beat the Vikings” not once, not twice, but three times.
–The Vikings scored on drives that went 90 yards in 12 plays, 72 yards in 14 plays, 75 yards in eight plays and 69 yards in 12 plays. But all that did in a loss was make QB Donovan McNabb lament the team’s two misfires in the red zone.
The Vikings entered the red zone four times, but came away with only two touchdowns. They kicked field goals despite reaching the Tampa 4- and 11-yard lines.
“We have proven what we can do from end zone to end zone,” McNabb said. “I think now it’s just getting the red zone corrected. Red zone is something I look forward to, and when we have that opportunity again next time, we’ll take full advantage.”
McNabb bounced a ball incomplete to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on third-and-goal from the 4. Later, on third-and-goal from the 11, a safety blitz pressured McNabb into throwing incomplete to running back Lorenzo Booker.
–The most amazing part of the Vikings being outscored 41-3 in the second half is turnovers aren’t to blame. Normally, when a game shifts as rapidly and as decisively as the Vikings’ first two games have, turnovers lead to a number of scores.
The Vikings, however, have turned the ball over only twice in the second half, and neither miscue led to points. The Vikings booted away a surprise onside kick in the third quarter against the Bucs. And the other turnover was a fumble as time expired against Tampa Bay.
Without turnovers to point to, the players are baffled by what’s happened to them in the second half.
“I’ve been playing a long time,” WR Michael Jenkins said. “Eight years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game that different from one half to the next.”
LB Chad Greenway added, “I’m almost bewildered to the fact that it couldn’t have happened again. Especially with the way we were playing and everybody was flying around making plays and getting off the field on third down (in the first half).”
Coach Leslie Frazier said the coaches need to figure out the problem or risk repeating the same ending over and over.
“When you play as well as we were playing, to have the tide turn as quickly and as dramatically as it did is frustrating,” Frazier said. “We got to come back Monday, figure out what the problem is and get it fixed in a hurry.”
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
–QB Donovan McNabb is 0-for-5 passing with two sacks in nine second-half third downs. The team is 1-for-9 on second-half third downs, including no conversions in their last eight attempts.
–RB Adrian Peterson is only 26, but his 54 career rushing touchdowns are a team record, two more than Bill Brown and Chuck Foreman. With 6,000 yards rushing, he trails only Robert Smith (6,818) in team history.
–RB Toby Gerhart is running with authority in his limited touches behind Peterson. He has 52 yards rushing on only four carries (13.0) and a team-high 42-yard reception on a screen pass.
–TE Kyle Rudolph, the team’s rookie second-round draft pick, caught his first NFL pass, a 15-yarder against the Bucs. He’s been targeted only twice in two games and hasn’t blocked well.
–WR Bernard Berrian, the team’s deep threat, has been virtually invisible the first two games. He’s been targeted five times and has one catch for 17 yards. He’s not a guy who fights for receptions, so it could be another long year for him.
–WR Percy Harvin has been a target in the passing game a team-high 12 times. He has team highs in catches (nine) and yards (83). He also has six rushes for 33 yards.
–CB Chris Cook left Sunday’s game with a groin strain in the second quarter and did not return. The Vikings say they’ll know more about his status on Wednesday. Cook is the nickel back and an important piece of the defense because of the dropoff in skill behind him.
–DT Kevin Williams returns this week after serving his two-game StarCaps suspension. He’s still battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but said it’s under control and will not keep him out of Sunday’s game.
–FS Husain Abdullah had his fourth career interception, picking off Bucs QB Josh Freeman in the end zone in the second half on Sunday. The Vikings will need plays like that facing Matthew Stafford, who comes in with seven touchdown passes.
–SS Tyrell Johnson dropped what should have been a game-clinching interception at the goal line with 1:56 left on Sunday. He made a good read and a good move, but dropped the ball. Jamarca Sanford continues to be the starting SS, but Johnson rotates with him.
–Johnson’s week didn’t get much better. On Tuesday morning at 3:15 a.m., he was arrested for suspicion of impaired driving. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported he was booked for DWI.
–DE Everson Griffen, a promising second-year player, had his first career sack last week. He got it from the left side. He’s normally the backup to RE Jared Allen, but backup LE Adrian Awasom was inactive because of a knee injury. Griffen also played some DT in the nickel for the first time.
REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS
PASSING OFFENSE: D — There was much improvement in the first half. Donovan McNabb completed 11 of 17 passes to six receivers for 153 yards.
That came a week after he threw for 39 yards, including only two in the second half of the season-opening loss at San Diego. However, McNabb and the passing offense disappear in the second half when opponents make adjustments to stop running back Adrian Peterson.
In the second half this season, McNabb has completed 8 of 19 passes for 77 yards. It’s not all his fault. The Vikings don’t have a strong offensive line and lack a No. 1 receiver. The only completion over 19 yards this season is a check down that backup running back Toby Gerhart turned into a 42-yard gain.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B — RB Adrian Peterson and the Vikings dominated the first half. Peterson blasted through red-zone arm tackles for two touchdowns. The line opened holes. And TE Jim Kleinsasser continued to excel as a lead blocker lined up on occasion at the fullback position. Peterson had 83 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
But the second half has been a different story for Peterson. With teams geared to stop him, he has just 61 yards on 17 second-half carries (3.6). Compare that to his first-half numbers — 157 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (6.5) — and it’s obvious Peterson needs some help from the passing game in the second half.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — Again, there’s a big difference from first half to second half. The Vikings sacked Josh Freeman on the game’s opening play. Then they held him to 52 yards passing in the first half.
But like Philip Rivers against the Vikings the week before, Freeman picked the Vikings apart in the second half. Facing a weaker pass rush, Freeman completed 10 of 15 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He was intercepted by FS Husain Abdullah in the red zone, but shook it off and shredded the Vikings on the go-ahead touchdown that came with 35 seconds left.
SS Tyrell Johnson dropped what should have been a game-saving interception at the goal line on that drive. He read the play beautifully, stepped in front of TE Kellen Winslow, but then dropped the ball, as he normally does.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus. — There’s a trend here. First half was outstanding. The Bucs’ LeGarrette Blount, a bowling ball in cleats, was held to four yards on five carries in the first half. The Bucs had only 23 yards on seven carries (3.3) while being shut out and embarrassed 17-0.
But the comeback was keyed by the Bucs’ running game. Once the running game got going, the Vikings’ pass rush slowed and Freeman was able to find his rhythm. In the second half, Blount ran eight times for 67 yards (8.4) and two touchdowns.
COACHING: D — Player execution is a problem, but getting outscored 41-3 in the second half of the first two games is also a coaching issue. Blowing a 17-7 lead on the road at San Diego is unfortunate, but understandable. Getting outscored 24-3 in the second half at home against a Bucs team that lost at home the week before is a major problem. The Vikings have a 30-minute team in a 60-minute league. Whether that’s the product of strategy or motivation, the coaches are doing something wrong.