SEATTLE – As one of the Vikings veteran leaders, Chad Greenway knows he’ll be shouldering some heavy responsibility in the days ahead. Suddenly, the once giddy Vikings have been engulfed by frustration.
So following a long afternoon at CenturyLink Field, Greenway tried to convince himself that Sunday’s 30-20 loss to the Seahawks wasn’t a season killer.
“It’s just mental errors,” he said in a glum locker room. “It’s stuff we’ve got to get right. But we’re not going to point fingers. … The sky is not falling.”
It was a declaration noble in concept but also hard to take entirely at face value given the setting.
Surrounding Greenway, a pack of his defensive teammates all stared blankly through one another as they absorbed their second consecutive double-digit loss.
Greenway himself seemed dazed by the beatdown and the understanding that the schedule is rapidly getting tougher.
Outside, a low and gray Seattle sky only intensified the depression. If it wasn’t falling, the clouds sure weren’t breaking.
On a day the rest of the NFC North seemed to hit stride – the Bears rolled up 51 points in Tennessee, Aaron Rodgers was on fire for the Packers and even the Lions seemed to find their offensive punch again – the Vikings’ many shortcomings seemed to multiply.
For the third straight week, an opposing running back mowed through their defense for more than 100 yards. Marshawn Lynch did the steamrolling Sunday, piling up 124 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
On top of that, for the third time this year, a rookie quarterback methodically chopped the defense apart like Gordon Ramsey dicing an onion.
This time it was Russell Wilson firing three Seahawks touchdown passes and steadying the offense with his aplomb and agility.
Worst of all for the Vikings, their passing attack flat-lined, providing indisputable proof that their offense is one-dimensional and too easy to slow.
By now, certainly you’ve heard the most embarrassing stat, that total of 44 passing yards the Vikings posted. And certainly you’ve digested the latest numbers for second-year quarterback Christian Ponder – 11-for-23, 63 yards, four sacks, one interception – which will inevitably lead to a bombardment of “Joe Webb” yard signs popping up around the Twin Cities.
But what makes the passing ineptitude harder to digest is that no one seems to have an explanation for what’s going wrong. Ponder was asked if he could put his finger on it.
“No,” he said. “Not yet. Give credit to them. But I’m sure there will be stuff on film that we’ve got to fix.”
Added center John Sullivan: “I wish I knew. It’s hard to pinpoint.”
Even coach Leslie Frazier seemed astounded by the passing failures. After all, running back Adrian Peterson ran wild all afternoon. He broke loose for a 74-yard run just two snaps into the game and added five other rushes for at least 12 yards.
At day’s end Peterson had 182 rushing yards with two touchdowns even as the Seahawks stacked eight- and nine-man fronts to stop him.
Conceivably, that should have given Ponder a lot more field to attack. Instead, his longest completion was a 14-yarder to Jerome Simpson.
For the second consecutive game, he failed to complete a pass to Kyle Rudolph. And on eight third-down passing plays, he had just two completions plus an interception and three sacks.
“Going into it, we had an idea of things we thought we could execute well in the passing game,” Frazier said. “We felt like we’d be able to run the ball. And we thought we had a good plan in the passing game. But they obviously did some things to affect our pass offense.”
To a man, the Vikings insisted they would use their thorough video review of Sunday’s game to diagnose the problems. (That certainly won’t aid the mood.)
Frazier also again made clear no changes at quarterback are on the horizon.
“I don’t necessarily think Christian is the problem,” he said.
Still, everyone agrees the passing offense as a whole has become an anchor that’s sinking the Vikings.
Said Frazier: “We need some balance. … And we have to look at the tape as coaches and figure out what we have to do to create that balance.”
After a surprising September and an ordinary October, the first game of November sent the Vikings home from the Pacific Northwest with a gaping confidence wound. Four division games await, which doesn’t seem like the remedy right now.