Jim Souhan: Vikings clocking out early a disturbing trend

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2011 - 11:51 AM

The Vikings have treated the second half of games the way your average downtown office worker treats Friday afternoons.

Modern sports statisticians will tell you that two games is a "small sample size.'' But then so is a shot glass filled with arsenic.

The Vikings haven't just begun the 2011 with two losses, they've blown two games with poisonous second-half performances that call into question the ability of their coaches to adapt during games, their offensive philosophy, their choice of veteran quarterbacks and their ability to fulfill the lofty expectations of ownership.

Since 1990, only 12.5 percent of NFL teams that have lost their first two games of the season have made the playoffs, and we can probably make a leap of logic and guess that an even smaller percentage made the playoffs after getting outscored 41-3 in the first two second halves of the year.

The Vikings have begun a season in which they proclaimed themselves contenders and during which they are seeking approval for a billion-dollar stadium by treating the second half the way your average downtown office worker treats Friday afternoon. They've taken off early.

In the season opener, the Vikings led San Diego 17-7 at the half. Then the Chargers won the second half 17-0.

Sunday, in their home opener, the Vikings took a 17-0 first-half lead over Tampa Bay, and it was a lead built on physical domination along the lines and a bruising running game led by Adrian Peterson. After intermission, the Bucs outscored the Vikings 24-3.

"My first thought was, wow, we gave that game away,'' Peterson said.

Two losses may not seem consequential, but this is becoming a trend. Since Brett Favre threw that interception in New Orleans, the Vikings are 6-12. Since taking over for Brad Childress as head coach, Leslie Frazier is 3-5.

The Vikings have begun 10 previous seasons with two losses. They made the playoffs in just one of those 10 years (2008). They finished .500 or below the other nine times, and fired coaches during or after four of those seasons.

"I'm trying to find a positive word to use,'' defensive end Jared Allen said. "I really don't have one. So, I'm going to listen to my mom and not say anything at all.''

What left many in the Vikings' locker room in shock Sunday was that they have enough good players to take a lead and yet not enough leadership, or coaching, or nerve, to win. They build the deck, then forget to seal it.

"Offensively and defensively, we have a lot of talent,'' Peterson said. "But that doesn't get it done. It takes a will to finish.

"It's the second week in a row we let one get away. We've got a job that we need to finish.''

In two consecutive second halves, quarterback Donovan McNabb has put the arm in Armageddon. In San Diego, he threw for 2 yards in the second half. Sunday, he threw for 75 while again looking uncomfortable in the pocket and too often inaccurate.

Sunday, the Vikings rushed for 186 yards. Peterson gained 120 and two touchdowns while proving more adept than ever at reading blocks and making deft moves in the hole.

Again, his efforts were squandered by a passing offense whose origins may be found on cave walls. Although McNabb's numbers were hardly embarrassing, his only completion for more than 20 yards came on a screen pass that Toby Gerhart carried for 42.

Athletes and coaches are experts at downplaying losses. Their jobs require patience and a measure of optimism. A realist, though, now looks at their schedule and sees precious few victories and a division that may have passed the Vikings by.

This week, the Detroit Lions come to the Metrodome. The Lions beat the Bucs in Tampa; the Vikings lost to the Bucs in Minneapolis. The Lions won 48-3 on Sunday to improve to 2-0; the Vikings lost at home to drop to 0-2.

The Lions have built one of the best young NFL teams; the Vikings are clinging to a proud group of veterans who have kept ownership from recognizing that the roster needs to be overhauled.

What has to be more troubling inside the locker room is that Peterson's brilliance has positioned the Vikings to win two games, and the rest of the offense has squandered them both.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Washington 11:00 AM
New York
Oklahoma City 1:30 PM
San Antonio
Cleveland 4:00 PM
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Golden State 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
DePaul 12:30 PM
Loyola Marymount
Ohio 3:00 PM
Colorado 5:30 PM
George Washington 7:30 PM
Wichita State
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question