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Continued: Vikings trying to fend off doubt

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

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.

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

  • VIKINGS AT THE MIDPOINT

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

    (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 64 1st OT 1:38
Mercer 68
San Jose St 18 1st Half 3:09
Washington 31
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
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SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
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Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
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(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
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Boston College
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Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
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Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
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(18) Ole Miss
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USC
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Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
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BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
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Texas-El Paso
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Fresno State
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Duke
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Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
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(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
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Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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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 Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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