The bigger problem this season has been the offense's stutter-go routine. There has been more stuttering on three-and-out drives than going the distance.
In the season opener, the Vikings had only one drive that gained more than two first downs, and that resulted in a field goal. In Week 2, five of their nine drives yielded more than two first downs, leading to two touchdowns, two field goals and a punt. They regressed in the third game against the Detroit Lions, putting together only three drives with three first downs, resulting in two field goals and a touchdown. Last week, once again they had only three of nine drives that gained more than two first downs – two of them resulted in a touchdown and one ended with an interception.
So what's happening? Depends who you ask.
Adrian Peterson, who looked to be the victim of a miscommunication on a handoff that was bobbled – at minimum the timing was off; at worst either Peterson or McNabb screwed up and went the wrong way – said players are not still getting used to Bill Musgrave's offense.
"Not at all. It's just guys need to do a better job of doing their job and executing. In games you will wish that it could be 100 percent and just perfect, but the reality is it's not," Peterson said. "You don't want these things to happen. You practice all week for those things. Sometimes they happen. You just have to be disciplined as a football team and know when you play in this league it can be one play that will swing the momentum or it can put you in the hole. You've just got to do a better job of cleaning those up and doing a better job of recognizing those things and eliminate them."
But you might remember Percy Harvin saying a couple weeks ago that players were out of position before the snap at times. The honesty is appreciated at a time when many seem to be in denial about how much progress is left to be made with the offense.
"We've done some good things, just haven't been doing them consistently enough," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "There's still some teams in our league that will have busted plays from time to time for one reason or another. We're no different. We just haven't been able to consistently do what we've done and do it well. We've had 80-yard drives, 70-yard drives in ball games. But to do it back-to-back and do it throughout the game, that's what we're striving to get to and we need to have that done this weekend."
Actually, Frazier is right. They have done executed extended drives at times, but not nearly enough.
Through four games, the Vikings have had eight touchdown drives. One of them was Percy Harvin's season-opening kickoff return for a touchdown. So what is happening in their touchdowns drives that isn't in their more commonly stalled drives? The real question is this: What isn't happening? And the answer is penalties. In seven of their eight touchdown drives the Vikings haven't had any penalties.
Keep in mind, this is a team that is tied for third in penalties with 33, an average of more than eight a game. Only once have they been able to overcome a penalty on offense this year and still score a touchdown.
It's time to call out the culprits, and offensively it's hardly a surprise that the offensive tackles would be the perpetrators most often. Phil Loadholt has been called for holding twice and false starts twice, and Charlie Johnson has been flagged for two false starts and an illegal formation. Maybe a bit more surprising is that Visanthe Shiancoe and Michael Jenkins have two each. Shiancoe has been called for holding and a false start, and Jenkins has been penalized for holding and an illegal forward pass that came on a desperation play.
Maybe more confounding and definitely harder to quantify is the missed opportunities, where players are open or there is a miscommunication.
"With a new offense, it's going to take a little bit of time for the new offense to really make things second nature," Shiancoe said. "It's going to take the team awhile for that. Being as though we didn't have an offseason, of course, but that's still no excuse for us losing these close games when it comes to mental breakdowns."
Against the Chiefs, there were at least two plays that appeared to be busted – one in which Donovan McNabb looked like he wanted to hand off to Harvin, but Harvin went wide, and another in which something wasn't right between Peterson and McNabb on a handoff.
"[The timing], it was a little off. I don't know if he tripped or something, but we were a little off on the timing," Peterson said.
Harvin has it right about something else: Vikings fans don't want any excuses, they just want results. So far, the explanations and the accountability have been hard to find. The time to use the lack of offseason practices as an excuse has passed.
"No excuses. We practiced just like everybody else. We had the same amount of time, just like everybody else," Harvin said. "We [have] no excuses here and no exceptions. We've just got to keep practicing. … We're going to keep plugging at it and hopefully it turns in our way."
If it doesn't soon, by the time it does it won't be in front of sellout crowds.
"[It's] not business as always. When you're in the position that we're in right now, they understand the urgency of the situation," Frazier said of the players. "A lot of guys know that for some of them this very well could be their last year in the National Football League. As a veteran player, none of these guys take for granted any game or any year, especially at this point."
It's about time the heat started to be applied to the players. You wonder how much of that is also directed at the coaching staff, but Frazier said he did talk to his coaching staff about the urgency this week.
Shiancoe summed up the feeling around Winter Park as only he can.
"Of course we don't like the situation we're in right now. Nobody likes it, but we're just going to have to dig ourselves out one game at a time. It sucks, but you've got to do it, right?" he said. "There's no way possible you can give up. What the [expletive]. [Expletive] that. You can't give up. This is the NFL. Anything can happen. That would be tight if went 12-4, huh? That would be freakin' awesome."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.