It's not the kind of word the Vikings like to talk about. Being close, as the saying goes, only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the word "almost" has become an unfortunate theme for the 2010 season. They do enough to have the opportunity to win games late, but, for different reasons, it hasn't been happening for them.
As much as they hate to admit it – even to themselves – the best word the players on the 2-4 Vikings can use to describe themselves this season is "almost."
"This year, things haven't been falling our way – we almost win, we almost do real good, but we have got to find a way to turn almost into getting it done," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We had opportunities to win the game and we didn't make them. They had opportunities to win the game and they obviously did it. We had a lead at half and obviously, if we don't let them score, it's a different ball game. We're a team of ‘almosts' right now."
Adrian Peterson, who had a big game rushing and receiving for the Vikings, said there has been a snake-bit quality to the 2010 Vikings and that they have been their own worst enemy – shooting themselves in the foot week after week. When asked if they feel like an "almost" team, Peterson said, for now, they are.
"That's what it seems like," Peterson said. "For the first time (all year), the offense was clicking. This is type of offense that I remember, but we still fell short. We're almost there, but almost isn't enough. We have to start putting ourselves into situations where it's not this close coming to the end."
The struggles of the offense have been an unfortunate constant with this team and, in a league that is based on wins and losses, coming close doesn't cut it. Good teams close out; the Vikings just get close to closing them out.
"If we don't get turnovers and we're still turning it over, we're not doing our part," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We have to outplay the other team's defense. Playing good enough but still losing gets you nowhere."
Sunday's loss was just the latest in a series of "close, but no cigar" moments for the Vikings offense. In the regular season opener, the Vikings trailed 14-9 with the ball in Saints territory with six minutes to go and couldn't put together the drive needed to win. Against Miami, the Vikings got stopped on the 1-yard line with two minutes to go and had three shots from inside the Miami 30-yard line in the closing seconds, but didn't get the job done and lost 14-10. Trailing by two points against the Jets with two minutes to play, a Brett Favre interception returned for a touchdown gave New York a 29-20 win. Sunday added a fourth example of the Vikings' inability to close out a win when the chance presented itself late.
"It's been (four) games now that we've either had the ball to win the game or within a field goal," said Percy Harvin, who had two called touchdowns reversed by instant replay. "Those losses hurt, but we can't have the game close for it even to be a decision. There's nobody to blame. It's our fault."
It is that frustration – being close enough to win all four games that they have lost this season – that makes losing so difficult. If an opponent simply mauled the Vikings or imposed their will, it might be easier to tolerate. But, how they have been losing it is what has made it so difficult.
"We put ourselves in position to win the game," Peterson said. "To lose it in that fashion is tough to swallow."
Williams said the problem can't be pinned completely on the offense. The Vikings win and lose as a team. The key is playing together for 60 minutes, which the Vikings haven't done in any of their six games this year.
"It seems like we play together either the first half or the second half, mainly the second half," Williams said. "We might pull in a different direction the rest of the game. We've got to go in the same direction the whole game – offense, defense and special teams. We've got to take blame as each unit. It's not on one unit."
Until the Vikings can put a full 60 minutes together, the word "almost" is going to continue to be the descriptive that defines them.
"I heard Jared say we're an ‘almost' team," Williams said. "We almost did a lot of things today, but we didn't win. That's the main thing."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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