The Vikings climbed to third in the pecking order for the 2012 NFL draft by falling short in a second-half comeback attempt during Sunday’s 24-14 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta.
With Carolina beating Indianapolis, the Vikings moved ahead of the Panthers and trail only the Colts (0-11) and the Rams (2-9) in the stumble for the top pick in next year’s draft. With the Rams also in the market for a left tackle, theVikings might have to keep losing to assure themselves of the player they most covet, Southern Cal junior Matt Kalil, assuming he leaves school early, as expected.
The flip side of the good news about next year’s draft is a team that fell to 2-9 and joined the 1961 expansion Vikings as the only team in franchise history to start a season this poorly.
A loss on Sunday to Denver and Tebowmania would establish the worst start in franchise history and mark only the second time the Vikings have ever been 2-10. They were 2-11-1 in 1962. That’s the worst winning percentage (.179) in franchise history, while the most losses came during the 3-13 season in 1984.
The Vikings easily could finish 2-14. Four of their remaining five opponents have winning records. And the one team with a losing record – Washington – plays host to the Vikings on Christmas Eve.
“Same old story, man,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said after the Vikings fell behind 17-0 at halftime and couldn’t recover against the Falcons. “I’m tired of saying it. Y’all tired of hearing it. We just can’t get it turned around.”
The Vikings also raised the ire of fans by not challenging what might have been a touchdown that wasn’t called with about five minutes left in the game. Receiver Percy Harvin took a handoff up the middle on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Fans quickly erupted on Twitter to complain that the Vikings didn’t challenge the play after replays showed Harvin seemingly reaching the ball across the goal line. Toby Gerhart was dropped for a 2-yard loss on the next play and theVikings never got the ball back.
“I was trying to tell coach to hurry up and challenge it,” Harvin said. “But he had a million things going through his head at the time, so I moved on to the next play.”
This is just one more thing that won’t help coach Leslie Frazier with fans who are growing steadily more impatient as their hated rivals in Green Bay are celebrating a team-record 17-game winning streak.
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES
LINEUP WATCH: An already depleted secondary lost two more players when cornerback Asher Allen (shoulder) and free safety Tyrell Johnson (hamstring) went down because of injuries in the first half. The Vikings turned to Benny Sapp, who was out of work two weeks ago, at corner and rookie sixth-round draft pick Mistral Raymond at free safety. Sapp is the fourth left corner the team has used this season, while Raymond was the third free safety they’ve used. With a high left ankle sprain and a 2-9 record, it’s possible that Adrian Peterson will be rested another week.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Vikings’ record of 2-9 equals the worst start in franchise history. Only the expansion Vikings of 1961 can match it.
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
–TE Kyle Rudolph has a quadriceps injury and missed his first game of the season. The Vikings hope to get the rookie second-round draft pick back so that he can develop alongside rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
–TE Allen Reisner, an undrafted rookie, was promoted from the practice squad. He was on the active roster the first four weeks of the season. With Kyle Rudolph out and Visanthe Shiancoe nursing a hamstring injury, the Vikingsneeded another tight end on Sunday. The Vikings released WR Stephen Burton to make room on the roster for Reisner. Reisner caught his first NFL pass, a 5-yarder on third-and-1.
–DE Everson Griffen continues to warrant more playing time on defense. He had his fourth sack of the season, overpowering guard Joe Hawley with a tenacious rush from the left end position on third down.
–CB Asher Allen injured a shoulder and left the game in the first half. He was replaced by nickel back Benny Sapp, who had been signed just 13 days earlier.
–KR-PR Marcus Sherels was forced to play the nickel back position when Asher Allen went down with a shoulder injury. Sherels is a good athlete, but looks lost on defense. He lost track of Roddy White on a 6-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
–LS Cullen Loeffler injured his lower back and had to be replaced by DE Jared Allen. Allen snapped on a punt with 2:16 left. It was the first time since the 2003 season finale that a player other than Loeffler had a special teams snap for the Vikings. Allen whiffed on a tackle downfield, but came back and made the tackle after a 42-yard gain.
–FS Tyrell Johnson injured a hamstring and left the game. He was replaced by rookie fifth-round draft pick Mistral Raymond. Johnson started the game only because regular starter Husain Abdullah missed his second consecutive game because of a concussion.
–DT Kevin Williams had his second sack in two games after going 21 games without a sack. He also had a strip on the play.
–KR Percy Harvin returned a kickoff 104 yards to the Falcons’ 3-yard line before being tackled by Chris Owens. Had he not been caught, Harvin would have tied the NFL record for longest kickoff return for a touchdown. It also would have been the fifth kickoff return for a touchdown in his career. The Vikings ended up giving the ball back on downs four plays later.
–RB Toby Gerhart got his third NFL start and struggled trying to replace All-Pro Adrian Peterson. Gerhart ran hard, but came up with only 44 yards on 17 carries (2.6). He was stopped for no gain on six carries and dropped for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1.