EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Leslie Frazier cautioned Vikings fans last week not to view Josh Freeman as a savior in a season that has drifted horribly off course.
“I don’t know if one guy can save your season,” Frazier said.
Anyone need more proof?
If anything, the Vikings looked even more discombobulated and dysfunctional with Freeman running the offense on a miserable Monday night at MetLife Stadium.
Any hope that Freeman’s arrival might spark a season revival quickly vanished as the Vikings bumbled through a 23-7 loss to the previously winless New York Giants in a game that won’t be replayed on those instant classic channels.
Afterward, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf briefly answered a few questions about his team’s tailspin as he walked from the locker room to his car.
“Tough loss,” he said. “I thought we would come back here and pick up a win. But every loss is a tough loss.”
The Vikings dropped to 1-5 and essentially eliminated themselves from being relevant, even in the jumbled NFC. The Vikings thought they hit bottom with an embarrassing 35-10 home loss to the Carolina Panthers the previous week, but their effort Monday night roared right past that clunker.
Asked if he plans to make any immediate changes, Wilf said: “I’m sticking with my team. That’s our team. We’re going to stick with it.”
The combined winning percentage of both teams (.091) made it the worst matchup this late in the season in the history of “Monday Night Football,” and their performance pretty much fit that description.
Both sides turned the game into a comedy of errors. The Vikings won that battle decisively.
The offense did not score a touchdown, the defense dropped two sure interceptions and special teams returners lost two fumbles that resulted in 10 points.
The Giants provided their share of lowlights, too, which was a further indictment on the Vikings’ performance.
“Honestly, I’m done trying to find explanations,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “Obviously we’re not playing good enough to win, that’s the bottom line. We are fighting. I love every one of these guys in this locker room, and I will fight with them until there’s no more fights to go to.”
The question now becomes how much fight the Vikings have left in them as their season slips away.
“I definitely don’t think we’ve given up,” cornerback Chris Cook said.
All eyes were focused on Freeman, who signed two weeks ago after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was named starter on Wednesday.
Freeman’s first pass in a Vikings uniform was a high fastball that sailed through the hands of tight end John Carlson. Freeman showed a mixture of rust, nerves and just plain wildness as he uncorked one errant pass after another.
For the game, Freeman completed only 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards with one interception and a 40.6 passer rating.
“It’s frustrating,” Freeman said. “It’s disappointing. But at the same time I see areas that are manageable in terms of us definitely getting better. We’re going to develop that chemistry. A lot of these plays that are just a hair off, they’ll start hitting for us.”
If Freeman’s arrival sparked some intrigue, it also came with a reality check that inserting a new quarterback midstream with limited practice time doesn’t guarantee ideal results.
Of course, a lack of practice time couldn’t be blamed for Freeman’s unwise decision that resulted in an interception and cost his new team points early in the third quarter.
Trailing 10-7, the Vikings recovered a fumbled punt return at the Giants 31-yard line. But on second down from the 23, Freeman threw a ball up for grabs in the vicinity of tight end Kyle Rudolph while in the grasp of a Giants defender. Safety Antrel Rolle intercepted the pass at the 5-yard line.
“That’s one I’m sure he’d like to have back,” said Frazier, who said he did not consider taking Freeman out at any point.
As Freeman misfired, he received virtually no help from the running game. The Giants swarmed Adrian Peterson and held last year’s NFL MVP to 28 yards rushing on 13 carries.
The Vikings’ best offense turned out to be punt returner Marcus Sherels, who returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. His punt return was the third-longest in franchise history.
However, Sherels fumbled a punt in the third quarter that the Giants recovered inside the 5-yard line. That set up Peyton Hillis’ 1-yard touchdown run for a 17-7 lead.