The Vikings went from undefeated to clouded by uncertainty after Sunday’s 21-10 ugly loss to Philadelphia.
Nobody expected the Vikings to finish the season unbeaten. An average loss on the road against the Eagles might not have raised much concern, but the way the first loss came together has some national analysts bothered.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports wrote Sunday’s loss exposed why the Vikings won’t make it to the Super Bowl.
“The Vikings don’t have an offensive line, the left tackle position remains a turnstile most of the time … and lest we forget, Sam Bradford is still Sam Bradford and quote prone to injury,” La Confora explained. “The suffocating defeat in Philadelphia heightened the various ways in which Minnesota’s 5-0 start might be compromised, and you can’t expect that defense to be infallible each week.”
The NBC Sunday Night Football crew relayed the same concern. Former player and Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said the Eagles were able to get "after Bradford in many ways … hit him almost every play. This has got to be a concern for the Vikings. … The defense played great today, but they’ve got to protect Sam Bradford going down the stretch. He took way too many hits today.”
Rodney Harrison, the two-time Super Bowl champion, isn’t ready to give up on the Vikings. He believes Norv Turner can fix the offensive problems and the Vikings have an elite defense. “They have to be concerned because they can’t run the ball, but I wouldn’t panic. I think Norv Turner is one of the best offensive coordinators in the league. I think he’ll make the necessary adjustments and I still believe they have the best defense in the league.”
Monday Morning Quarterback writer Andy Benoit’s “Extra Point” highlighted that the Vikings have a big problem: the offensive line. He starts his analysis by explaining this is not your standard knee-jerk “now, they stink. Oh, and by the way, [we] knew they stunk all along” reaction from the media.
Benoit wrote “The Vikings are a legitimate 5-1 club. They’re not to be written off. But they’re also a legitimate 5-1 club with a legitimate problem. It’s one thing to go on the road, not play your best and lose to a quality team like the Eagles. It’s another to lose by having your most glaring weakness so thoroughly exposed. Mike Zimmer already touched on this weakness, saying in his postgame press conference “We didn’t block anybody. We were soft, got overpowered.
“The Vikings are down to their fifth offensive tackle. Not many teams have made deep playoff runs with that. And the tackles aren’t the only issue. Center Joe Berger is 34 and has been a backup much of his career. To his credit, he’s improved steadily in recent years, as has right guard Brandon Fusco. But we’re still talking about low-ceiling players. At left guard, Alex Boone has been mostly up-and-down, just like in his final few years with the 49ers.”
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote Monday morning “We’re seven weeks in, and there’s a lot to love about the Vikings, but you’ve got to wonder if they’re going to score enough to win in January—and February.”
Philly.com columnist Paul Domowitch reminded readers last week the Eagles defense was held without a sack against Washington, but made Bradford’s life miserable Sunday sacking him six times. He graded the Eagles' pass defense an A-plus.
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Marcus Hayes wrote that Bradford left town a beaten, angry man, whereas Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski wrote that Bradford stood tough Sunday in his return to Philly, but it wasn’t enough.
The biggest storyline out Philadelphia, though, was the Eagles defense.
Despite the Vikings' bad game and growing concern about the offensive line, there is still hope this team is built for a Super Bowl. The Vikings were listed as one of five teams that will win the Super Bowl as predicted by USA Today’s For the Win on Monday.
“That is not a championship-winning offensive line we saw against the Eagles. Does anyone trust Sam Bradford to deal with that kind of pressure in a playoff game against a team like Seattle? Didn’t think so. And it’s not like Minnesota has a running game to fall back on. Sure, Adrian Peterson is out injured but he wasn’t very effect before tearing his meniscus. The offense is an issue,” Steven Ruiz wrote.
“Minnesota’s defense is the reason we can’t write this team off just yet. It has 2015 Broncos potential. Denver’s offense was a mess heading into the postseason, but that didn’t stop Wade Phillip’s defense from steamrolling through three prolific offenses. The Vikings have the talent to make a similar run — especially with Mike Zimmer pulling the strings from the sideline.”
ESPN’s Monday Insider confirmed revisited their preseason prediction that the Vikings are the most underrated team. However, the fast start has pumped expectations and Mike Sando wrote “Minnesota might now be one of the more overrated teams.”
A Sports Nation poll with nearly 15,000 votes Monday morning showed 38 percent of voters expect the Vikings play in the Super Bowl, 29 percent expect them to win, 32 percent of voters think the Vikings will lose in the NFC divisional or wild-card round, and 24 percent expect them to lose in the NFC championship game.