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Donovan McNabb attempted a pass in the fourth quarter. He completed only 10 of 21 passes for 169 yards, but it didn't matter with the Vikings scoring 28 first-quarter points.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Scoggins: Victory by no means lets McNabb off the hook

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS
  • Star Tribune
  • October 10, 2011 - 6:40 AM

The boos started on Donovan McNabb's first throw, grew louder after his second pass was nearly intercepted, and reached a fever pitch when his third attempt was almost picked off, too.

Vikings fans were just getting started. The catcalls intensified with each errant throw.

"I can't worry about that," McNabb said.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier acted oblivious to the obvious.

"Never heard it," he said. "All I heard was cheers."

Yep, it was a real hoot.

Oh, by the way. The Vikings led 28-0 after one quarter en route to a 34-10 victory against the Arizona Cardinals that -- judging by the "cheers" from the Metrodome crowd -- felt like a 24-point loss any time McNabb dropped back to pass.

It was a weird atmosphere. It's almost as if the Vikings won in spite of McNabb, thanks to Adrian Peterson's running, their defense's dominance and a horrendous performance by the Cardinals offense and quarterback Kevin Kolb in particular.

McNabb completed only 10 of 21 passes for 169 yards and no touchdowns. Eight of his first 10 passes were incomplete, a number of them wildly off the mark. And he was the best quarterback on the field.

It was that bad.

Not to hear McNabb explain it, though. He used a version of the phrase "clean things up" eight times during his postgame remarks. He's correct on that point. The passing game is a real mess.

But Frazier said he's sticking with McNabb as his starter and not turning things over to rookie Christian Ponder.

"We're counting on Donovan to lead us to a win next week on the road," Frazier said.

At least he can count on not hearing boos from the Chicago Bears faithful if he plays like he did Sunday. Predictably, a number of McNabb's teammates came to his defense.

"He's a good player," Peterson said. "I feel like he's holding up well. I've got a lot of confidence in him. We'll be OK."

McNabb had a couple of nice plays. He hit Devin Aromashodu on a 21-yard pass after eluding a sack and scrambling to his left. He also ran for a 4-yard touchdown.

But the highlights were few and far between. The rest of the day was filled with misfires followed by boos.

We won't pretend to be a quarterback guru, but something has to be amiss with McNabb's mechanics for him to throw so many low passes. He threw more bounce passes than Magic Johnson on Sunday.

On one series in the fourth quarter, he bounced a screen pass to Percy Harvin and then underthrew tight end Visanthe Shiancoe by about 4 yards on a 7-yard pattern.

That one really made fans howl and ignited another round of "We want Ponder" chants.

McNabb blamed his underthrows on a "mix of a lot of things" and then, of course, vowed to clean them up.

In truth, McNabb's statistics were boosted by yards after catch by his receivers, notably Aromashodu's 60-yard gain on a wobbly pass over the middle.

Perhaps what's most telling about how the Vikings feel about McNabb and the passing game came at the end of the first half. The Vikings moved the ball to the Arizona 48-yard with about 1 minute remaining.

McNabb was sacked on first down, moving the ball back to the Vikings 43, but they still had time to get into field-goal range.

Instead, the Vikings did nothing. The coaches decided not to run another play. Too risky.

Vikings players, including Harvin, Shiancoe and Peterson, screamed and gestured to the sideline, clearly upset with the decision.

Frazier said he didn't want to risk giving the Cardinals any momentum with a turnover since the Vikings held a big lead and were getting the ball to start the second half. But the Vikings have proven repeatedly this season that no lead is safe.

Instead of keeping their foot on the gas, they stood around as the seconds ticked off the clock and then were booed off the field with a 28-3 lead.

"Fans want to see more," McNabb said.

McNabb heard that loud and clear on Sunday.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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