Anemic offense, relenting defense, spotty special teams doom Vikings

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 26, 2012 - 9:41 AM

In a game that could have vaulted them into first place, the mistake-prone Vikings were totally outclassed by a division opponent.

CHICAGO - The questions came at Vikings coach Leslie Frazier in rapid succession. During a seven-minute postgame news conference Sunday at Soldier Field, Frazier tried his best to assess his team's 28-10 loss to the Bears.

But how do you neatly summarize a performance that was 50 different kinds of sloppy?

Do you start with the turnovers -- three of them in all, including two in the first half that turned into 14 Chicago points?

Do you start with the defense's struggles to get off the field -- with the Bears converting 10 of their first 14 third downs while building a commanding 22-point halftime lead?

Or do you steer toward a couple of iffy coaching decisions -- most notably the third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 plays early in the fourth quarter during which the NFL's leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, didn't touch the ball?

One by one, Frazier chipped away at the recap. But he did so with a bothered gaze, aware his team was dominated in every phase.

"Not the kind of performance you need when you're on the road in the division," he said.

Even the obvious shortcomings had several layers. Such as the flat offensive effort in which the Vikings didn't pick up a first down until the second quarter and amassed only 258 yards all day.

Christian Ponder (22-for-43, 149 yards, one touchdown, one interception) was again shaky, too often vacating the pocket early and delivering only one completion longer than 13 yards.

Plus, his interception on a ball 4 feet over Devin Aromashodu's head gave Chicago an easy, one-play, 13-yard TD drive late in the first half.

But of Ponder's 21 incompletions, at least six were drops. And even Peterson, despite registering his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, fumbled the ball away twice.

"I don't know. I wasn't feeling it today. At all," Peterson said. "Guys were riled up. We had opportunities. But it seemed like when things were getting high, then -- bam! -- it got chopped off at the head quick."

Sunday's game seemed to have the stakes to be a tone-setter for the rest of the season. Which is why the Vikings' slapdash effort seemed so bothersome with too much of a 2011 feel to it.

Like in the first quarter, when Chad Greenway's fumble recovery set the offense up at the Chicago 28. But then on a key third-and-4 pass a moment later, Ponder's slant to Jerome Simpson ricocheted off the receiver's hands and the Vikings settled for a field goal.

"In the National Football League, as a wide receiver, you've got to hold on to the football," Frazier said. "That's what you get paid to do."

In the second quarter, the defense found itself picked apart like the dessert tray at Thanksgiving dinner. The Bears took a little at a time and never stopped, delivering a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown march that ended with Michael Bush's 1-yard run.

On that series, Chicago converted three third downs and one fourth down.

"At that time, someone needs to make a play," said cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was hit with a 24-yard pass interference penalty on the drive. "Whether it's up front or us on the back end, we didn't do a good job today. And even as they were moving the ball, the most deflating thing is they scored the touchdown."

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, back after a one-game concussion absence, didn't seem foggy in the least. In fact, he was barely harassed.

Behind a line that had two new starters and then lost both starting guards to injury, Cutler pecked his way to 188 yards and was only sacked once -- on his first play when center Robert Garza stepped on his foot.

And if every aggravating loss requires at least one bad break, that came 9 minutes into the second half when Mistral Raymond's 52-yard fumble return touchdown was overturned on review -- after it was originally announced as confirmed by the replay.

Finally, in the fourth, the rally chances fizzled on those third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 plays that didn't go to Peterson but instead resulted in incomplete passes to Jarius Wright and Michael Jenkins.

"We thought we had some plays that would get us what we wanted and we fell short," Frazier said. "You can second-guess it and say that we should've done this or did that. But I thought we had some good plays called."

Coming into the weekend, Frazier also thought the Vikings had a good chance to legitimize themselves as NFC North contenders. Instead, they became the perfect get-well opponent for Chicago and left Soldier Field dizzied.

Dan Wiederer • dwiederer@startribune.com

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