Vikings trying to regain winning touch
By Dave Campbell, AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE — The winless Minnesota Vikings, fresh from their second defeat, are facing plenty of pending problems that must be fixed if they’re going to return to the playoffs.
The day after losing on a last-second touchdown pass in Chicago, though, the focus was inevitably still hovering around that final sequence and what could’ve been done to prevent the collapse.
Their performance in the 31-30 loss to the Bears on Sunday was better overall than the opening defeat in Detroit, but there’s no consolation for that in the NFL.
“We’re a resilient group. We’ve got a lot of veteran guys in here, and we’ve just got to keep trucking, man,” cornerback Chris Cook said.
“It’s a long season. Fourteen games left. You know? It can be all uphill from now. It can all go downhill. I’m definitely, definitely, sure that we’re going to go uphill from here.”
Last season, the Vikings went 5-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer. The grit was clearly there on the rainy afternoon in Chicago, but the late-game touch was missing.
Jay Cutler led the Bears to the go-ahead score, going 66 yards in 10 plays and 3 minutes, 5 seconds, using up all but the 10 seconds that were left. He completed four passes of 10-plus yards on that march.
After forcing two fumbles, two interceptions, two punts and one field goal over the seven previous possessions from the second quarter on, the Vikings defense watched all that good work go to waste.
And coach Leslie Frazier was still trying to take the blame for it, mentioning at least a half-dozen times during his 20-minute news conference on Monday that he should’ve interjected with a different scheme before two of those four significant passes.
“I could’ve helped with some strategy there,” Frazier said.
He declined to specify for competitive reasons. He also said he didn’t need to take over the play calling from defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
“Alan and our defensive staff, they’ve done a very good job. They did a good job a season ago and they’re doing a good job now,” Frazier said.
Up next is their first game at home, against also-winless Cleveland. The Vikings, in 2008, are actually the last NFL team to make the playoffs after losing their first two games of the season.
“It’s nice to know you’re the last team to do that,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “But you can’t look ahead and say we’re just going to do it or the past is going to repeat itself. You have to put the work in and make the plays on Sunday.”
“We’re doing the right things during the week. Now, on Sunday when it comes down to crunch time, make the plays when they come to you.”
Confusion in the back seven of the defense was apparent on the two plays in particular Frazier wanted to take the blame for, and both of them went to tight end Martellus Bennett.
The first one netted 23 yards on an underneath pattern on first-and-20 from the 39. Then the winner came on a sideline route when Cutler put the ball over Cook and into Bennett’s hands near the pylon.
“A few guys were off. And when guys are off, other guys try to cover it to help them out, and things happen. It’s football, man. It’s a fast game,” Cook said, adding: “Those guys on offense get paid, too, and they practice against the same looks that we give ‘em. They just made plays in the game when it counted, and we didn’t.”
The offense can’t be ignored, either.
Christian Ponder had a productive second half, but he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown before that.
Adrian Peterson finished with 100 yards rushing, but some of his ball-carrying decisions, Frazier said, could have been better.
The decision by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to run Peterson on third-and-goal at the 4-yard line stood out, too, because the Vikings had to settle for the field goal that stretched the lead to 30-24 with 3:17 remaining.
Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, was on the field for only six plays on offense. He took five snaps the week before.
That, too, prompted a promise from the coach to insert his opinion in the strategic process.
“We’re well aware of his talents. He doesn’t get lost. But we’ll get it rectified,” Frazier said.