Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Better Effort, Same Results: Vikings fall to 1-7

Daniel House discusses how the Vikings continue to play after losing a tight matchup to the Cowboys this Sunday. What is the next step? He explains all of this and more in his latest post.

It seems like months since there has been positivity throughout the land of Minnesota Vikings football. Four straight losses and the players, coaching staff, and fans are becoming irritable with the results. The team displayed better effort this week against the Cowboys, but the defense cracked in the final minutes, which is completely unacceptable. Vikings defensive players aren't holding back and are voicing their opinions about why this has happened for the third time this season.

That was all brought to fruition by the comments made from Vikings defensive lineman Brian Robison on Monday.

"There are some things going on internally that are not allowing us to close out games," Robison said, pausing for several seconds after he was asked about the final drive of the game, "We've got to make sure we handle it in-house and we get it done."

This is very telling and seemingly puts some of the blame on the scheme the coaching staff has aligned late in ballgames. The Vikings had pressured Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on 36% of his dropbacks before the final drive, according to Pro Football Focus, but was only pressured once on the final drive, and hit seven of his nine passes on a 90-yard drive that led to the winning score.

Kevin Williams added fuel to the fire and talked more specifically about where the scheme went wrong.

"We'd just like to get a four-man rush," Williams said. "Release the big guys, let them push the pocket. We did it all day, and then we just start dropping a guy the last drive on the line. I can say from that standpoint, it's kind of terrible when you're trying to stop them. I know they went empty (backfield), trying to throw it quick and all, but if we make them hold it one second, we can probably get there."

As I have said on multiple occasions, the Tampa-2 scheme has plagued this team since it's origination in 1996 and it needs to be evaluated at the end of the season. This coaching staff will likely not be around to make this decision, but the next eight games will dictate what happens down the stretch.

Many people have been taking stabs at the coaching staff and  they have an absolute right to do so. The defense hasn't been able to convert in the final two minutes of the game and the conservative scheme has been the major issue in this equation. Alan Williams has stood with the scheme and says the players are in the best place to win, but things are happening that are unavoidable in the landscape of coaching. There are no excuses for not having this team ready to play and although the effort was improved versus Dallas, it still wasn't enough to close out with a win.

Leslie Frazier and the Vikings coaching staff are all great people and I respect their efforts to fix the issues, but sometimes the only way to fix the problems is by bringing new blood into the office. Last season, the Vikings played remarkably well and finished 10-6, along with a playoff berth. The year before this, the team finished 3-13 under Frazier's direction and it seems the Vikings are heading in that direction again this season. Two of the last three seasons, Frazier and the current coaching staff have played in the cellar of the NFL and with Frazier's contract due to expire at the end of the season, it seems unlikely the team can justify any reason to renew him for another season. Many are asking for Frazier to be cut loose as soon as possible, but I find this very pointless. There are currently eight games remaining and what good would it do for the team to make a change at this juncture of the 2013 season?

This team has responded well to pressure in the past and it will take a miraculous effort to win a few games at the end of the season. At this point, many of the fans are looking towards the NFL Draft in May and are evaluating players such as Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, and Jadeveon Clowney.

Last night we witnessed the difference an elite quarterback can make on a team, when the Packers lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a shoulder injury. Eddie Lacy was able to run the ball, but with an anemic passing game, the Packers failed to sustain drives and move the ball adequately up the field. Sounds like a similar instance with the current Minnesota Vikings team, doesn't it? One elite quarterback can make the difference and through the evaluation of this season, we have determined none of these quarterbacks will be back on the roster next season. Christian Ponder played rather well against the Cowboys and was able to find receivers in the no huddle style offense the Vikings implemented this week. Still, Ponder is very indecisive and his inability to provide consistency, isn't the stability the Vikings need at this position. As I said, an elite quarterback can make all the difference and this team will likely be positioned nicely to snipe one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2014 NFL draft.

We are miles away from May, but as this team continues to lose, it is the only positivity that can be found at this time. With a potential new coaching staff and quarterback, along with new schemes on offense and defense, the offseason is built to be very interesting.

The thing I love about this team, is the fight they put up each and every week. You can see the emotion in defeat and how hard this group is battling to win football games. Just imagine if the defense had held strong in three of the late game comebacks, this team would be sitting with a 4-4 record and flirting with the lead in the NFC North. This is a game of inches and one play can make all the difference in the outcome of the contest. The Minnesota Vikings have played hard and will continue to do so each and every week, especially when the group has veteran leaders like Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, and Chad Greenway.

The NFL is a tough league and it takes men to handle the challenges that are thrown at the players who are putting on the helmet each Sunday. With a short week and a Thursday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins looming, the Vikings don't have much time to recover from a whopping ten players who went down in Sunday's game with Dallas. A makeshift offensive line will be in place and Phil Loadholt and Charlie Johnson are unlikely to play this week, which means Kevin Murphy and JaMarcus Webb will be facing the Redskins front seven. The next man on the depth chart will have to make an impact as the Vikings look to end a four game skid this week. A win seems like it is miles away, but given the struggles teams have faced on Thursday Night Football this season, anything seems possible (well, maybe).

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