Vikings trying to fend off doubt

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2012 - 6:36 PM

Leslie Frazier doesn't want Thursday's sound thrashing by a middle-of-the-pack opponent to start a downward spiral.

hide

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, left, gets in a tussle with Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Donald Penn.

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

There was a moment Thursday night when an agitated and freshly wounded Vikings team seemed most dangerous.

More than 3 minutes remained in the third quarter, and star defensive end Jared Allen had just had his helmet ripped off and the bridge of his nose cut during a scrap with Tampa Bay's Donald Penn.

With each enraged breath Allen took, the crowd volume at Mall of America Field seemed to increase by 20 decibels.

And so, on a third-and-10 Buccaneers play from their own 30, Penn and quarterback Josh Freeman never stood a chance.

You could've put Anthony Munoz, two rhinos and a steel gate in front of Allen and he still would have gotten to Freeman. With rush help from Everson Griffen, Allen knifed into the backfield, his determined sack sending a jolt across the Metrodome.

Suddenly, a 30-17 deficit didn't seem insurmountable. A furious rally seemed possible.

But what immediately followed more appropriately summed up the night and the sobering finish to the season's first half.

After Tampa Bay's punt, the Vikings offense dry-heaved. Adrian Peterson's first-down run lost 2 yards. Christian Ponder's second-down scramble went for 6. And then John Sullivan's third-and-8 shotgun snap short-hopped into Ponder's shin and resulted in a 12-yard loss.

On came punter Chris Kluwe, out went the feel-good vibe that had characterized the season's first seven weeks.

"I feel like that's when the game was lost," Peterson said.

And when Allen and the defense retook the field? Well, they couldn't get off it for 9 minutes, 9 seconds. Sixteen plays went by. The Buccaneers chewed up 87 yards and converted five third downs.

With 7:03 left, rookie running back Doug Martin scored from a yard out, finishing a drive that, for the Vikings, seemed much more significant than the seven points surrendered.

Instead, a 36-17 loss sent them into a long weekend, feeling as dejected and confused as they have all season.

"It's the NFL, man," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "You can never get too up or too down. Because you can get humbled at any point."

Down and out

Suddenly, so much of the optimism and confidence that built during the Vikings' 5-2 start seems to be souring. And that has left coach Leslie Frazier worried about boosting his team's mood.

"That," Frazier said Friday, "is what I've been wrestling with -- last night after the game and this morning as well. Because it's one game. And it was a tough loss. But it is only one game. And you can't allow that to carry over to other games.

"Because I know we can play better, and there are some things we have to correct. But if you don't move on from that game, it can linger and it can have negative effects on future games."

Frazier's hope is that Thursday's loss was an aberration, with the run defense struggling and the passing attack totally out of sorts. But the worst fear is that this may be the Vikings' true identity, exposed by a Bucs squad that was hungrier and devised a game plan to expose those problem areas.

So now the Vikings enter November bombarded by doubt and questioning as to whether Ponder is truly a long-term answer at quarterback.

Frazier isn't in panic mode with that situation just yet. He asserted Friday that, barring injury, Ponder will be the starter for the rest of the season. And he reminded the quick-trigger critics to not heap too much blame on one player.

"We have to make sure we're getting everybody on the offense to play up to the standards that we're asking and not make it all about the quarterback," Frazier said.

Which is why the Vikings' Week 9 practice plan will be heavy with blitz pick-up work.

There will also be calls for the offensive line to be more stable and for receivers to polish their route running.

"And then when guys are [open]," Frazier said, "we've got to make sure we get the football to them on time."

The road to recovery

A demanding week awaits. The practices and classroom sessions will call for intense focus. And next Sunday's game in Seattle will prove even more challenging.

Yet for as dreary as things seem, these Vikings have faced character-testing hardship at several other points.

It may seem like an eternity ago, but don't forget that late in Week 1, after the Vikings surrendered a deflating 39-yard touchdown pass in the final minute and fell behind Jacksonville 23-20, veteran receiver Michael Jenkins came to the huddle and convinced the offense there was still enough time to recover.

Then Ponder delivered two completions for 32 yards in 10 seconds, Blair Walsh kicked a game-tying 55-yard field goal and the Vikings triumphed in overtime.

A week and a half later, after a shaky 23-20 loss in Indianapolis, veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield stood in front of the team and delivered an animated pep talk, calling for greater concentration and toughness .

The next weekend, the Vikings took a 49ers squad widely labeled as one of the NFC's best and pummeled it for a 24-13 win.

Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman have made a point to build this team around resilient and dedicated players, guys who will invest in strengthening their weaknesses. That, the Vikings believe, is the tonic for when a confidence crisis surfaces.

So now this most recent face-plant has to be processed properly. The Vikings must be honest with themselves about their deficiencies and devoted enough to begin addressing them.

"We've played several strong games to this point," rookie safety Harrison Smith said. "That's what we want to build on. We can't be consumed with one bad game. There's no reason to sulk or get overly down on ourselves. We're 5-3. That's where we are. And it's time to move forward."

They'll do so into the sharp teeth of a taxing second-half schedule. And they'll do so with the uncertainty growing.

  • related content

  • Chart: Vikings at the halfway point

    Saturday October 27, 2012

    The Vikings have reached the midpoint of their season at 5-3 after Thursday night's 36-17 loss to Tampa Bay. Here's a snapshot of where the team stands heading into the...

  • Craig: Vikings feeling the brunt of opponents' top-picks

    Saturday October 27, 2012

    The Vikings are seeing firsthand how deep and how talented the first-round draft class was this year.

  • Mark Craig's northern intelligence

    Saturday October 27, 2012

    We'll start finding out how smart the Lions were for using a second-round pick on Ryan Broyles just six months after the former Oklahoma receiver tore his anterior cruciate ligament....

  • Mark Craig's three-and-out

    Saturday October 27, 2012

    • The Bears start a half better than anybody. They've outscored opponents 23-7 in the first quarter and 40-6 in the third.

  • VIKINGS AT THE MIDPOINT

    Up next: 3:05 p.m. next Sunday at Seattle • CenturyLink Field • TV: Ch. 9

    (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 5:30 PM
Seattle
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 51 3rd Qtr 3:16
New York 67
Arizona 3 3rd Prd 5:47
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 3 3rd Prd
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 0 1st Prd 3:10
Vancouver 0
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 65 2nd Half 2:19
Canisius 57
Fordham 57 2nd Half 7:27
Dayton 75
Manhattan 64 2nd Half 9:42
Monmouth 46
Quinnipiac 73 2nd Half 5:36
Niagara 73
Utah 40 2nd Half 17:38
USC 14
Connecticut 20 1st Half 3:11
Houston 23
California 36 1st Half 4:21
Washington 27
North Dakota St 34 1st Half 2:21
Western Ill 28
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 48 2nd Half 7:50
West Virginia 55
St Johns 61 2nd Half 5:35
Seton Hall 72
Delaware 58 2nd Half 7:22
Hofstra 52
Binghamton 47 2nd Half 1:02
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 37 2nd Half 5:24
Hartford 46
William & Mary 51 2nd Half 1:29
Northeastern 51
Boston College 54 2nd Half 10:00
(16) North Carolina 54
Virginia 61 2nd Half 7:31
Clemson 52
(2) Connecticut 79 2nd Half 3:41
Temple 45
Arkansas 48 2nd Half 4:59
Alabama 38
Virginia Tech 61 2nd Half 4:44
Georgia Tech 68
Kansas 43 2nd Half 8;39
(3) Baylor 52
Canisius 39 2nd Half 6:55
Rider 38
Monmouth 41 2nd Half 2:27
Fairfield 38
Quinnipiac 69 2nd Half 7:01
Saint Peters 45
Butler 50 2nd Half 1:54
Creighton 57
Wichita State 48 2nd Half 7:05
Drake 54
Evansville 39 2nd Half 4:30
Indiana State 61
(18) Miss State 23 1st Half 4:35
(6) Tennessee 27
Villanova 9 1st Half 4:52
DePaul 25
Georgetown 20 1st Half 7:53
Marquette 21
North Texas 14 1st Half 5:25
Rice 16
Auburn 14 1st Half 6:40
(12) Texas A&M 21
(11) Arizona State 18 1st Half 4:17
Utah 21
Missouri State 16 1st Half 4:02
Northern Iowa 31
Michigan 25 1st Half 7:06
(15) Nebraska 15
Minnesota 27 1st Half 1:10
Northwestern 37
Wisconsin 24 1st Half 6:06
Illinois 23
Bradley 13 1st Half 5:35
Southern Ill 26
Florida 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
(20) Iowa 3:00 PM
(5) Maryland
(1) South Carolina 3:30 PM
Ole Miss
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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 NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close