After watching five-plus months of dismal defense across town at Target Field, Minnesota sports fans have probably had their fill of errors from the hometown team. But the second half of the Vikings loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday played out like a Twins infield of Brian Buscher, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Todd Walker and Craig Kusick.
(Pardon the blatant cross-promotion but we're trying to create some synergy with our big brothers in the TwinsCentric crew. If VikesCentric can capture a even a fraction of their loyal audience in Upper Blogistan, we'll feast like kings on those crumbs.)
To wit: Beginning at 15:00 of the third quarter, here's a list of plays that left the purple-helmeted warriors a bit red in the face:
- 14:18 – OT Phil Loadholt jumps the snap, turning a 3rd-and-3 into 3rd-and-8
- 13:10 – RB Adrian Peterson commits a holding penalty in pass protection (sure, it was kind of a shaky call, but we're not here to complain about the officials … today)
- 12:02 – P Chris Kluwe hits a line-drive punt just 38 yards, allowing Preston Parker to return it 11 yards to the Vikings 44
- 10:59 – After a two-play touchdown drive, Tampa Bay surprises the Vikings with an onside kick. LB Kenny Onatolu can't recover it. The Bucs can, and do.
- 3:41 – DE Brian Robison jumps offside, negating a Vikings fumble recovery at the Tampa Bay 11
- Fourth quarter, 7:07 – DE Jared Allen is flagged for roughing the passer
- 6:39 – KR Lorenzo Booker decides to return a kickoff from six yards deep in his end zone and is stuffed at the Vikings 9
- 4:19 – DE Everson Griffen jumps the snap on a Vikings punt, pushing them back 5 yards
- 0:31 – KR Percy Harvin botches an eminently returnable kickoff, leaving the Vikings to start their last-gasp drive at their own 10
That's nine brain cramps in the span of two quarters. And we're not even talking about physical errors – incomplete passes, blown coverages, missed tackles – or Leslie Frazier's curious decision to hang onto three timeouts while the Bucs drove for the winning touchdown (as my colleague Christian Peterson so ably chronicled yesterday).
For instance, we've left out Tyrell Johnson's dropped interception that would have thwarted Tampa Bay's game-winning drive – tough play, maybe, but an NFL safety has to hang onto that ball. We're leaving out Donovan McNabb's many miscues – passes thrown at the feet of his targets, wide open receivers inexplicably ignored, another pass batted down at the line even though he's FOUR WHOLE INCHES taller than Doug Flutie!
We're leaving out those physical errors because every team commits physical errors – some more than others, sadly. But every team has to overcome physical errors. The difference between championship teams and teams that find themselves updating their draft boards two games into the season is the elimination of mental errors
Well, that and talent, I suppose. But when you're a talent-challenged team, you can ill afford to dig the hole even deeper by giving your opponents free yards and extra possessions.
Maybe we're overreacting a bit here – that's par for the course in the NFL, where you spend three hours playing a game and the next 165 hours (over-)analyzing it. But it sure looks like Leslie Frazier has more on his plate than a budding quarterback controversy in his first full season as head coach.
He'll need to exorcise the ghosts of Todd Walker at the Metrodome.
Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, contributor to the Maple Street Press Vikings 2011 Annual (on newsstands now!), and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter at @donnelly612.