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

Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close