At some point Thursday night the Vikings’ head-coach-for-a-night conferred with the replacement offensive coordinator about the replacement quarterback handing off to the replacement running back, hoping that the only two starters remaining from the original offensive line could make a block.
Mike Zimmer? Out with a damaged eye.
Adrian Peterson? A child’s dream of a Christmas present.
The previously rebuilt offensive line? Condemned.
Teddy Bridgewater? Out of sight.
Norv Turner? Out of mind.
The Vikings’ hopes? After a 17-15 loss to Dallas on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, they’re mathematically clear but emotionally cloudy, as a team that won its first five games lost for the sixth time in the last seven.
Most slumping NFL teams engender anger, or ridicule. This team elicits pity. When Zimmer couldn’t coach on Thursday because of failing vision and impending eye surgery, the Vikings’ season took an absurd turn, adding injury to insult and previous injuries.
Facing what is by record the NFL’s best team, the Vikings made an interesting night of it, taking a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter, but even this battered roster will realize in the film room this week that it should have won.
Kyle Rudolph dropped a touchdown pass. Adam Thielen fumbled a punt. What remains of the offensive line allowed Bradford to get hit on the two-point conversion try that could have tied the score with 25 seconds remaining.
The Vikings defensive line made enough winning plays against the best offensive line in football. The Replacements lost anyway, leaving you to wonder whether even a favorable schedule over the last month will straighten this team’s limp.
It’s at this time of the season that a frail team could use help from its first-round draft pick.
Dallas is thriving with a first-round rookie running back and a fourth-round rookie quarterback. Laquon Treadwell, the Vikings’ top pick, had plenty of chances to make a play on Thursday, just as he did last week in Detroit. Neither he nor his team has much to show for it.
Eight Vikings caught passes Thursday night. Treadwell caught zero. He has been active for eight NFL games. He has made one catch, for 15 yards.
Thursday, Treadwell ran one particularly important route, down the left sideline near the goal line, and Bradford’s pass flew behind him. We probably don’t need to wait for the coaches to break down the film to guess who was in the wrong.
There were red flags when the Vikings used a first-round pick on a receiver whom they praised mostly for his blocking ability. There were red flags when he performed poorly in training camp. There have been red flares fired skyward by members of the organization frustrated by Treadwell’s lax habits.
A fan has every right to question why the first-round pick isn’t helping a limited offensive team that has had injuries and other disappointments at receiver. Then the fan watches Treadwell play in an NFL game, and thinks, “Ah, I wouldn’t have played him, either.”
Treadwell has yet to display the speed or elusiveness to allow him to separate himself from defenders. He isn’t a gifted sprinter or leaper. He will have to make his living making tough catches, but to make tough catches he’ll have to run the right routes and earn the trust of his quarterback.
He has a long way to go and a short time to get there, if he’s going to help this team this season.
The Vikings are without their head coach, original offensive coordinator, original franchise quarterback, franchise running back, 60 percent of their offensive line and their October status as one of the NFL’s best teams.
At 6-6, the Vikings could reprise 2012 and win their last four games and make the playoffs, but the surviving starters could use some reinforcements.
Thursday, they could have used a big game from Treadwell — the kind of game Randy Moss turned in during his first NFL night game.
Instead, they keep getting the receiving version of Spergon Wynn.