Two of the Vikings' most often criticized players, Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian, combined for an incompletion in the final two minutes of regulation in Sunday's loss.
The ball was overthrown and out of bounds, the Vikings settled for a game-tying field goal instead of the go-ahead touchdown and ended up dropping their third straight game, this one in overtime.
While it was just one single incompletion, it brought forward, once again, the lack of a deep passing game in Minnesota's offensive attack.
"If you leave plays against any NFL team, you're going to lose. Some of them, you might be able to squeeze out, but we left a whole half of football out there," receiver Percy Harvin said on Monday. "It's going to be tough to win games that way."
Against the Lions, McNabb only attempted two passes longer than 15 yards in the first three quarters of play. Both came in the first quarter – one to tight end Jim Kleinsasser that was thrown too far behind him and a 20-yard completion to Harvin.
But once the Lions had tied the game 20-20 with just over five minutes to play, McNabb and the Vikings started to take their shots. It had been almost three quarters since they even attempted a pass longer than 15 yards, but in the ensuing two drives and one last desperation play, they took five shots down the field.
One was off the mark to Kleinsasser, one tight end Kyle Rudolph made a great adjustment and hauled in the pass that was thrown behind him, one was the final desperation play to Michael Jenkins and two were incomplete to Berrian.
"There were a few times we tried to target Bernard, but I think we'll continue to try to work on getting him the football. It's just a matter of creating separation and getting into situations where we feel like we have the chance to get him the football," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's something we are going to need between Donovan and Bernard, especially downfield, making some plays and we‘ll just have to continue to work on it."
Berrian has only one catch through three games despite being one of the Vikings most-used receivers. He has been targeted 11 times.
"We're pleased with Bernard; we're pleased with all of our players," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "They've been excellent in their attention to detail from day one when we all convened there in Mankato. Bernard's working hard, just like all of our position players.
"… We've had some opportunities they just haven't worked out. Had some balls go his way, even Sunday against Detroit and we didn't connect. But we definitely want to connect in the future and we're working hard on that this week."
Despite Berrian's lack of production, Frazier said the Vikings aren't looking for another deep-threat option just yet.
"I don't think we are at that point yet. We need to keep trying to develop what we have," he said. "We had a chance late in the game yesterday that we just missed on. That was one of those plays that might turn the game in our favor. We missed and we've got to keep working at it."
To be fair, it isn't all Berrian's fault. He had a step on the defensive back at the end of the game and McNabb threw a pass that didn't have a chance of being caught in bounds. Through three games, McNabb has only four passes that have resulted in plays 20 yards or longer and only one that has been longer than 40.
"We definitely had some opportunities we want to get back. That's been the frustrating part," Harvin said Thursday. "Hopefully we can dial it up a little better and connect on some of these and get some big plays going for this offense."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Deep passing game a bane of the Vikings
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