Wrapping up the weekend with a few thoughts on the Vikings and the NFL:
• Picking on an offensive coordinator’s play-calling is among the lowest-hanging fruit in the wide world of sports fan second-guessing. It is so often outcome-based instead of decision-based. It so often takes into account only an isolated snapshot of a game instead of factoring in the big-picture rhythms.
With that preamble, and with the knowledge that most of what the Vikings and coordinator Bill Musgrave did offensively in the second half was in step with their strengths and provided a good mix, the seeds of Minnesota’s 31-30 loss to the Bears were more than planted in what proved to be their final three offensive plays of the game.
A 22-yard bullet from Christian Ponder to Greg Jennings set the Vikings up with first-and-goal at the Chicago 6. It was another in a sequence of encouraging plays from Ponder, who was hardly flawless but showed at least enough acumen to keep his starting job.
From there, the Vikings ran Adrian Peterson off tackle (2 yards), ran a predictable pass play resulting in an incomplete attempt for Kyle Rudolph and then, on third-and-goal from the 4, again ran Peterson (for no gain).
The Vikings showed guts twice going for it on fourth down and succeeded. They showed a nice mix in the second half and got Ponder into a good rhythm. But as soon as they came up lame on that drive, it felt as though 31-30 was an inevitable final score. It was just a matter of how it would happen.
• The most frustrating sequence, however, was not the finish. It was late in the first half, when a FOX broadcast laden with technical difficulties went to audio-only for Kyle Rudolph’s TD catch and then went to the halftime show before the Vikings game was at the half.
• Elite NFL teams have already hit another gear, but those on the fringes of the playoffs and below (we consider the Vikings, Lions and Bears in that category) have produced some ragged play in these first two weeks. It resulted in two very winnable division road games for the Vikings and ultimately two opportunities wasted. The 2008 Vikings started the season 0-2 and rallied to make the playoffs, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that is not the preferred route and that these two losses — particularly Sunday’s last-second defeat — could come back to haunt the purple.
• For the second consecutive week, I was in the restroom when the Vikings scored a huge early offensive TD. Last week it was Peterson’s 78-yard TD run. This week it was Cordarrelle Patterson’s opening kickoff touchdown return. Sorry if that is too much information, but: If you want to organize a crew to lock me in the bathroom for three hours next Sunday, I will understand.
• It is unanimous: Nobody likes the use of yellow for the final score ticker, CBS. It makes everyone think there is a penalty. Please stop doing this.