Souhan: If only we had seen Cassel, Patterson and Rhodes all season

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2013 - 12:13 PM

– Only the Vikings could make a delayed flight seem poetic.

Sunday, they lost late, then left late, adding inertia to injury and insult.

They blew three leads in the last three minutes, skating to a 29-26 loss to Baltimore in the snow at M&T Bank Stadium, to bring their total this season to five leads blown late in the fourth quarter.

Then their flight was delayed, leaving them sitting around the cramped visitors’ locker room, eating from a buffet and commiserating. Like the barbecue, they had too long to stew.

Xavier Rhodes used crutches to reach his locker. Seeing his swollen ankle, several teammates grunted in disgust. Adrian Peterson ripped Ravens fans and vowed to play on despite a damaged foot. Chris Cook shook his head and said, “I can’t believe that happened.’’ Later, walking back from the shower, he sang Drake’s lyrics “Don’t think about it too much.’’

“I mean, we’re 3-9-1,’’ defensive end Brian Robison said. “That explains it all. After going 10-6 last year, that explains it all. Frustration is at a high.’’

Leslie Frazier may have three games remaining as Vikings coach. What happened Sunday could be used as an argument to retain or fire him.

His team has played remarkably hard. After falling to 1-7 on Nov. 3, the Vikings knew they could reach none of their goals, yet they’ve gone 2-2-1 the past five weeks. Over the past six weeks, they’ve won, tied or had a chance to win five games, with only the Seattle Seahawks, perhaps the best team in the NFL, handling them with ease.

In terms of personnel, the Vikings are similar to many of their peers — plenty good enough to win when blessed with decent quarterback play and coaching.

With Matt Cassel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Rhodes and Audie Cole in the starting lineup, the roster is talented enough to win. The coaching staff may have destroyed the season by sticking with established starters instead of playing the best players available.

With those players in the starting lineup, the Vikings are talented enough to now have seven or eight victories, which would put them in contention for a division title or a wild-card playoff berth. Had the coaching staff decisively revamped the lineup, the Vikings could be heading toward a second playoff berth in two seasons.

Frazier is an admirable leader, but he and his staff make damaging decisions.

With Cassel at quarterback, the Vikings receivers make plays downfield, solving what seemed to be a dire problem when Christian Ponder was the starter.

Cassel has thrown for at least 240 yards in each of his four full games. Ponder and Josh Freeman have combined for zero 240-yard games. Cassel has thrown seven touchdown passes and four interceptions; Ponder and Freeman have combined for seven and 10.

With Patterson playing more at receiver, the Vikings have discovered that they have one of the most irrepressible talents in the NFL available to them as more than a kickoff returner. He gained 147 yards from scrimmage on Sunday without running a play he couldn’t have run the first week of the season. He should have been a bigger part of the offense all year.

With Rhodes at cornerback, the Vikings’ pass defense has improved dramatically. With Cole on the field, the Vikings linebackers are no longer cloaked in invisibility.

Coaches are responsible for putting the best players on the field, then putting their team in position to perform its best. By failing at the former, the Vikings staff has failed at the latter.

“This is one of those situations where you realize, with the parity that exists in the NFL, that games are going to come down to the two-minute drill,’’ said linebacker Chad Greenway. “This might be our third or fourth game where we haven’t gotten the job done defensively at the end.’’

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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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 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

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