The Vikings went about business as usual at Winter Park on Monday, 24 hours after their season drifted closer to an abyss that eventually could bring organizational changes.
Leslie Frazier announced no changes, and he attempted to remain upbeat after a 35-10 home loss to the Carolina Panthers left his team with a 1-4 record.
Several veterans vented in the postgame locker room, with defensive end Jared Allen offering a particularly blunt salvo. “When you lose, heads roll,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”
Frazier doesn’t need any reminders that a 1-4 start in 2011 deteriorated into a 3-13 nightmare. What transpired Sunday had a similar look and feel. “It’s not a lost season,” Frazier said. “There has to be a sense of urgency, there’s no question about it. We can still get things turned, but we’re going to need everybody believing that, as well.”
Here are four areas that need immediate improvement to avoid a repeat of 2011:
1. A never-ending quarterback carousel
On Wednesday, the Vikings could announce their third different starting quarterback in six games. That’s never a good sign.
Frazier said he hopes to choose his quarterback that day so the starter — presumably Josh Freeman — can get the majority of snaps in practice this week. Freeman received a crash course on the offense after signing last Sunday night. Frazier said he wants to talk to Freeman to gauge his comfort level with the new system.
Given Matt Cassel’s two interceptions against the Panthers and the team’s overall record, Freeman looks like a safe bet to start because the Vikings need to evaluate him to determine if he is a long-term answer in their never-ending quest to solidify that position.
Cassel and Christian Ponder have accounted for nine of the team’s 12 turnovers and their combined 76.5 passer rating ranks 24th in the league.
The coaches said they will need to condense the playbook for Freeman because he is learning on the fly, but at this point, there’s no downside to evaluating how the offense functions with him at the controls. Freeman’s strong arm could bring a legitimate vertical aspect to an offense that lacks a consistent downfield presence.
2. Defense equally at fault
The Vikings rank 31st in total defense, 30th in scoring defense, 29th in pass defense and 31st in third-down defense. Can’t win that way.
Their deficiencies are particularly glaring on third down. Opponents are converting 49.3 percent of their third-down opportunities, which essentially means it’s a flip of the coin whether the Vikings make a stop and get off the field.
Their third-down defense is even worse than in 2011 when they allowed 44 percent conversions. Not surprisingly, the Vikings also are allowing more points per game than in 2011 — 31.6 vs. 28.1.
Frazier has resisted changes in scheme or personnel and instead pointed to a lack of execution.
“You’ve got to execute your assignments,” he said.