A look at the Vikings' schedule in 2010 shows their shortcomings, but a look ahead provides reason for hope. Plus, get more than three dozen notes that help tell the story of the season finale and the struggles of Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson this year.
When the Vikings and Saints opened the 2010 regular season, there were high expectations that both would return to the NFC Championship Game. While the Saints were far from dominant, they made the playoffs with an 11-5 record and will likely be favored against whoever wins the NFC West title Sunday night.
The Vikings, on the other hand, went into the tank as badly as any team since the 2001 Vikings took a nosedive following NFC Championship Games in two of the previous three seasons. For just about everyone involved, the 2010 Vikings season was something they wish was like Season 8 of the TV show "Dallas" – in which it turned out everything that happened was just a bad dream.
It wasn't for the Vikings. There was little to get excited about in 2010, and the Vikings hit rock bottom in their division for the first time in 20 years.
With their loss to the Lions, the Vikings finished last in the NFC North for the first time since 1990 – a year when the four current NFC North teams finished tied at 6-10, while Tampa Bay won the NFC Central Division title with a record of 11-5.
The Vikings' fall from grace saw them string together just one two-game winning streak, while losing back-to-back games four times. The offense was ineffective, the defense held its own but would eventually wear down in games, and that magic they captured in 2009 was horribly missing this season.
A year ago, the Vikings averaged 29 points a game. This season, they scored 29 or more points just once and that was against 4-12 Buffalo. Of their six wins, the only team the Vikings beat that didn't lose 10 or more games was Philadelphia last Tuesday. Other than that, their wins came against Detroit (6-10), Dallas (5-11), Arizona (5-11), Washington (6-10) and Buffalo (4-12).
By the end of tonight's game between the Rams and Seahawks, we will know where the Vikings will be slated to draft – seven teams will have a worse record than the Vikings' 6-10 mark and handful of others will likely end up at 6-10 – but one thing we do know is who the Vikings will play next year.
If the season comes off as planned with a full 16-game schedule, it will be considerably less imposing than what they ran up against this year with the AFC and NFC East as their non-division opponent roster.
The schedule won't be easy – their home schedule will be Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Denver, Oakland and Arizona; their road schedule will be Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego and Washington – but it won't include the kind of Murderer's Row that was involved in the 2010 schedule.
Their season that began with so much promise ends with Chicago and Green Bay both in the playoffs and the only team hotter in the final four weeks than the Patriots being the Lions. It's not going to be an easy transition from 2010 into 2011, but the Vikings have the core players to get the job done – a schedule that looks to be markedly easier (only three playoff teams in the 10 non-division games) and the chance to keep the band together with Frazier as head coach.
In many ways, the Vikings will try to wake up in the shower tomorrow like Bobby Ewing and pretend it was all just a bad dream and get on with their lives. It would be safe to say that the new year couldn't come early enough for the Vikings because the old year is gone and trying to be forgotten already for those who endured it.
Sunday's loss snapped a six-game Vikings winning streak against Detroit and a streak that had seen the Vikings win 16 of the previous 17 games.
Brett Favre was on the inactive list, leaving him with 13 starts in his final season and the worst passer rating of his career (69.9). The last time he was that bad was in 2005, when he had a passer rating of 70.2.
That futility in 2005 was marked by a 4-12 record by the Packers – the only time prior to this season that Favre played on a team that had a losing record.
Favre finished the year completing 217 of 358 passes for 2,509 yards with 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
Known as a gunslinger, heading into this year, Favre averaged one interception for every 31 passes thrown. Favre's 19 interceptions in 358 throws translated into one pick every 19 passes.
Favre's 11 TDs are by far his career low. He had never thrown less than 18 touchdowns in any of his previous 18 years as a starter.
Even worse was his yardage total of 2,509 yards. Prior to this year, his career low was 3,227 yards in 1992, his first year as a starter. In his previous 18 seasons, he averaged 3,852 yards passing.
Adrian Peterson finished the season with 283 carries for 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 1,298 yards were the lowest of his career and his carries have dropped each of the last three seasons (363-314-283).
For his career, Peterson has gained 5,782 yards in 61 games (a 94.8-yard per game average.
Through four years of his career, only two players have a better per-game yards gained average – Jim Brown (104.3) and Barry Sanders (99.8). Eric Dickerson is the only other player who averaged more than 90 yards a game (90.8).
Percy Harvin had eight catches for 69 yards Sunday. He finished the season with 71 catches for 868 yards and five touchdowns – all numbers that led the team and his catches and yards were significant increases from his rookie totals (60 receptions for 790 yards and six TDs).
In 2009, the Vikings had six players catch 40 or more passes. This year, they had two – Harvin (71) and Visanthe Shiancoe (47) – and had just six players with 20 or more receptions.
Ryan Longwell scored seven points Sunday, finishing with just 81 points – the lowest total of his 14-year career. His previous low was 90 points and, in his previous 13 seasons, he topped 100 points 10 times and had more than 120 points eight times.
Seven points isn't much for a kicker, but for Longwell it was one of his better days. He had meager game-to-game point totals of 3-4-6-2-6-6-4-9-7-3-5-8-3-2-6-7 this season.
Jared Allen was credited with a half-sack Sunday, giving him 11 for the season. In three years with the Vikings, he has recorded 40 sacks.
Ray Edwards got the other half-sack for the Vikings Sunday, giving him eight for the season.
Allen and Edwards combined for 19 of the Vikings' 31 sacks.
The Lions dominated almost all of the relevant stats in the game. They had 22 first downs, as opposed to 16 for the Vikings, and outgained them 357-214. The Lions ran 27 times for 107 yards and threw for 250 yards, while the Vikings ran 24 times for just 71 yards and threw for 140 yards.
Shaun Hill dominated the matchup with Joe Webb. Hill completed 28 of 39 passes for 258 yards with one TD and one interception for a passer rating of 87.3. Webb completed 20 of 32 passes for 148 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 60.4.
Webb finished his rookie season throwing 89 passes, but didn't have any touchdown passes.
It was a day to forget for Peterson, who wasn't even the team's leading rusher. Webb had five scrambles for 35 yards, while A.D. had just 14 carries for 31 yards.
It wasn't a big day rushing for the Lions either, who got 32 yards and a pair of wide receiver reverses and just 55 yards on 22 carries from the tandem of Jahvid Best and Maurice Morris.
The Lions running backs combined to rush 23 times for 64 yards. Non-running backs gained 43 yards on four attempts to help skew the numbers.
Harvin caught seven passes in the second half to lead the Vikings with eight catches for 72 yards. Three Lions players – Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and Best – all had six catches, with Burleson leading the way with 83 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions spread the ball around without star Calvin Johnson, who was active but barely played Sunday. Eight different players caught passes and five of them had three or more receptions.
Safety Husain Abdullah and cornerback Antoine Winfield tied for the team lead with nine tackles each.
Ndamukong Suh became just the second defensive tackle in NFL history to record 10 sacks in his rookie season. The only other was Dana Stubblefield of the San Francisco 49ers, who had 10.5 sacks in his rookie year.
The Lions had five drives of eight plays or more and three drives of 11 or more plays. The Vikings had drives of 12 and 13 plays in the second half, both of which ended up with field goals.
Lions safety Louis Delmas learned a hard lesson Sunday. With the Lions leading 13-7 early in the fourth quarter, a third-down pass from Joe Webb to Harvin was generously spotted by the officials much too close for a first down. It seemed like a play the Lions might challenge with the spot and potentially force the Vikings to kick a field goal. However, Delmas berated the officials and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, making any potential challenge moot. The Vikings wouldn't cash in with a touchdown that could have given them a 14-13 lead, but, if they had, Delmas could have easily been the goat of the game.
Corey Williams of the Lions was called for two offside penalties Sunday, giving him a whopping 14 for the season. The biggest problem with that? Williams is a defensive tackle who literally lines up about two or three feet from where the ball is snapped and can see it move.
Lions rookie Jason Fox played the second half at right tackle – the third-string ORT for Detroit. Starter Gosder Cherilus went down three weeks ago and backup Corey Hilliard went down on the opening drive of the second half.
At halftime, the Lions led 10-0, but were more dominant than that. They outgained the Vikings 217-100 in the first half. Detroit had 153 yards passing and 64 rushing, while the Vikings had just 60 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Detroit had 14 first downs, as opposed to just six for the Vikings.
Webb had a brutal first half, completing 7 of 13 passes for just 60 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and passer rating of just 34.1. Hill completed 20 of 25 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 106.8.
The anticipated matchup of Peterson and Best didn't materialize and neither of them was even their team's leading rusher at halftime. In fact, Peterson was third on the team in rushing, carrying seven times for just eight yards – trailing Webb (3-20) and Toby Gerhart (3-12). Best had three carries for 15 yards, which was behind Burleson, who took a reverse for 20 yards.
Burleson burned his former team, leading all players with five catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Best had more use as a receiver (five catches, 25 yards) than he did as a rusher (three carries, 15 yards).
The Lions won four straight games for the first time since 1999.
After scoring his touchdown in the second quarter, Burleson mocked the Jared Allen calf-roping sack celebration.
Jamarca Sanford had a solid day on special teams, downing a pair of punts in the first half inside the 10-yard line.
In the first quarter, faced with what would have been a field goal of somewhere between 50 and 51 yards that would have given Minnesota a 3-0 lead, the Vikings opted to punt instead. Later in the half, the Lions took a 3-0 lead thanks to a 55-yard field goal by Dave Rayner.
We may have seen the last game from Bernard Berrian as a Viking. Three years ago, the Vikings signed Berrian to a lucrative contract and have seen severely diminishing returns. In his first year with the Vikings, he caught 48 passes for 964 yards and seven touchdowns. While Favre made stars of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin last year, Berrian had just 55 catches for 618 yards and four TDs. This year, he caught just 28 passes for 252 yards and no touchdowns. He punctuated his invisible performance Sunday. In the opening drive of the game, he caught two passes for 16 yards and was targeted three times. The rest of the game, he didn't have a reception.
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.