KANSAS CITY, MO. - There were several moments from the Vikings' 13-10 loss to Kansas City on Sunday that could serve as snapshots for what ails this team. One captured things vividly.
As the Vikings took the field with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining, 80 yards in front of them and in desperate need of a big play, their greatest offensive threat stood on the sideline. Running back Adrian Peterson, who had rushed for 102 yards on 25 carries and caught three passes for 48 yards, was relegated to the role of spectator in the two-minute offense.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Peterson was held out because of concerns about his ability to provide pass protection. Eight plays later, that was likely the least of the Vikings' concerns as they departed Arrowhead Stadium with a second consecutive narrow road loss and facing the possibility of entering the bye week with a 1-3 record if they lose to Green Bay (3-0) next Sunday at the Metrodome.
"It's not a good feeling, I'll tell you that," linebacker Ben Leber said. "I'm frustrated, irritated. We've got to pick it up. We keep talking about it being a long season, but we have to get going now."
The Vikings had several opportunities to seize control of Sunday's game and quiet an announced crowd of 78,038 that appeared to be more than willing to turn on a Chiefs team that had lost its first two games on the road.
Among the key misses:
What appeared to be an 8-yard touchdown pass from halfback Mewelde Moore to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the second quarter was ruled incomplete both initially and upon review after Childress threw his challenge flag.
Veteran quarterback Kelly Holcomb, starting in place of the injured Tarvaris Jackson, overthrew a wide-open Robert Ferguson on a 30-yard pass in the end zone late in the first half.
On that same drive, the Vikings' inexplicable clock management resulted in them wasting precious time, losing yards (going from the Chiefs 30-yard line to the 40 when Holcomb was sacked by Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen) after a 35-yard catch and run by Peterson. By the end of the half, they were out of field-goal range.
Nonetheless, the Vikings still held a 10-3 halftime lead, thanks to Peterson's 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Ryan Longwell's 22-yard field goal that ended the drive during which Shiancoe was ruled to have trapped the ball on Moore's pass. The problem is that the offense did not score in the second half; a Vikings defense that had scored 18 points in the first two games also was held off the board.
This Vikings offense has plenty of new parts compared to the unit that struggled to score last season -- including a new playcaller in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- but the feel in the locker room Sunday was very familiar after 2006. Members of the defense stayed clear of anything that would amount to criticism -- "We have to pretty much play mistake-free football," safety Darren Sharper admitted -- but it's obvious frustration is growing.
"I have a hard time accepting that [lack of production]," said receiver Bobby Wade, an offseason free-agent addition. "I feel like our offense is an offense that can move the ball. I think our offense can score. But we just have to find a way to maximize and capitalize on those opportunities. We can't miss them."
But the Vikings did miss, time and time again Sunday. The Holcomb-led unit generated a season-low 252 net yards, including 129 through the air, and converted only four of 15 third-down situations. Holcomb also was sacked five times -- three more than the Vikings had given up in the first two games. Childress said he thought Holcomb made some "decent throws."
Meanwhile, the defense made sure the Vikings remained in the game. The Chiefs finished with 251 net yards and Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson was held to 42 yards on 24 attempts by one of the NFL's best rushing defenses.
Kansas City quarterback Damon Huard appeared completely overmatched in the first half, but he did throw a 16-yard pass that rookie Dwayne Bowe managed to wrestle away from cornerback Cedric Griffin in the end zone with 9:23 left in the game, giving the Chiefs their first lead of the day.
"You know it's always going to come down in this league generally to the last two minutes, and some way you have to will yourself to win," Childress said. "You want to win your share on the road. Both of them were there [the past two weeks]."
The Vikings had three more possessions after the Chiefs took the lead, but they failed to cross midfield. Peterson, who carried the bulk of the load with veteran Chester Taylor (hip) missing a second consecutive game, was in for only two of those three drives.
"The coaches, they make the calls," Peterson said of being replaced by Moore on the final drive. "They put guys out there for certain plays and, you know, I just handle my job when I'm called upon."
Judd Zulgad firstname.lastname@example.org