It was an awful exhibition of football in what already has become a terrible season. In a less forgiving market, the coach’s head might be rolling down the interstate by now. As for Minnesota ...
“There’s a lot of football to be played,” Leslie Frazier noted.
Yes, but I don’t think that’s a good thing.
But some people are paying the price. Those loud splats we heard Sunday were the result of ESPN executives hitting the pavement after jumping from their office windows. In one week’s time, “Monday Night Football” will feature the New York Giants (0-6) against the Minnesota Vikings (1-4).
That one could lose the ratings battle to Celebrity Pie Eating on that new Fox Sports channel. The only thing that could make the Vikings-Giants game even remotely interesting is if it were announced beforehand that the losing coach would be fired, on the air, immediately after the contest. At least New Yorkers and Minnesotans would tune in.
Even before the Vikings spit the bit and quit competing in the second half Sunday, they were an unsightly mess. They lacked energy, focus and appeared to have just wandered into the Metrodome after an extended vacation. No one expected that coming off a bye week and playing a crucial early-season game at home.
“I’m out of explanations,” Jared Allen said. “I don’t know.”
“Seems like we come up with a new theory every week,” said Brian Robison. “I don’t know, man. We’re missing tackles. They are finding gaps.”
“The effort, the preparation was there,” Frazier insisted. “We just didn’t execute well enough to keep our fans engaged. The effort was there, but we have to play smarter and we have to play better.”
The Vikings might have started out as if they were interested, but by the second half they were going through the motions. It doesn’t matter, anyway. This just isn’t a very good team. Clearly, Christian Ponder wasn’t the entire problem. The Vikings can’t tackle, and they can’t cover anybody. The offense is mistake-prone and unimaginative.
Quarterback Matt Cassel wasn’t particularly good, either. After throwing a brutal interception on the first drive, he returned to the bench and sat next to Ponder. I figure those two probably bonded right there.
And Minnesota’s Letroy Guion was called for a taunting penalty right after Cam Newton ran into the end zone for a Carolina touchdown. The other team scored, and Guion got a taunting penalty! Imagine if he had actually stopped Newton. He might have stripped naked and raced the length of the field in celebration.
In the locker room afterward, no one seemed overly upset. Nobody kicked a trash can or threw a bar of soap. Nobody sat with his head between his knees. It was all rather routine. Perhaps they really do believe that it’s too early to panic. Or maybe they realize, deep down, that it won’t make any difference.
“We simply didn’t get it done today,” Chad Greenway said. “That’s the reality. It was a frustrating performance.”
“I thought the guys played hard,” Frazier insisted. “They came out with energy and drove the ball on the first drive on offense. They came out with good energy. That opening drive, it would have been great if we could have got points out of it. To come away with no points ... “
That’s when Cassel sailed a pass into the arms of Panthers safety Mike Mitchell. Don’t worry, it sounded afterward as if the Vikings were going to rush Josh Freeman along so he can start against the Giants next week. But Joe Namath in his prime couldn’t straighten out this jumble. There are breakdowns everywhere.
“We definitely were out of sync,” said Adrian Peterson. “We didn’t play Minnesota football on either side. Special teams did pretty good, but we just seemed flat today.”
So it’s on to the Meadowlands and a battle of the have-nots. (The Toilet Bowl?) Somebody has to win. It’s right there in the rulebook.
“It’s going to be an NFL football game,” said John Sullivan. “We don’t care about the other team’s record. Every single team is talented, and every single team is dangerous. We’re going to work out butts off this week in practice and go try to beat the Giants next Monday night.”
Based on fan reaction at the game, the locals certainly are down on Vikings players and coaches right now.
“We’re professional football players,’’ Sullivan said. “We are paid to win football games, and that’s what we intend on doing.”
Frazier knows his stuff, there’s no question about that. Either he’s not getting through or the players aren’t good enough to do as they are instructed. Still, Frazier noted several times after the blowout loss that there is a lot of football left to be played. He meant that in a positive way.
But the thought of it is frightening.
Tom Powers: firstname.lastname@example.org