Coming into the season, Leslie Frazier was excited about having his top three cornerbacks – Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin – together to see what they could do. Winfield is out for the season with a broken scapula. Cook isn't expected to see the field the rest of the year, either, after his arrest for felony domestic assault. And Griffin's two surgically repaired knees are responding like, well, surgically repaired knees.
The result, even against a pass-challenged quarterback like Tim Tebow, left Vikings coach Leslie Frazier as critical of his secondary as he ever has been.
"It's very disappointing we weren't able to make some plays in our second half to counter some things they were doing," Frazier said. "We can't make any excuses about it. We just did a poor job. We have to identify that somebody who can come back there and make a play for us when the ball is in the air. It's not good."
The evidence Sunday was pretty damning when looking at the big plays given up in the third and fourth quarters. The Vikings gave up 10 plays of 11 yards are longer – every one of them in the second half. Five of the six longest were passes from Tebow of 17 yards or more. Considering Tebow only threw nine passes in the second half and completed only six of them, it was too many explosive plays.
"He threw the ball a lot in the second half – well, not a lot, maybe seven times, but wide open guys," said defensive end Jared Allen, who had a safety, sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery. "Then they were running the ball. We were not fundamentally sound in the second half whatsoever. … Obviously there are glaring errors that have to be corrected."
Completions to Demaryius Thomas were the most damaging. Tebow hit him for receptions of 42 yards with 9:35 left in the game, 40 yards with 2:51 left, and 41 yards in third quarter. The final one came with rookie CB Brandon Burton getting his first extensive action on defense when Thomas got behind him deep down the right sideline and safety Jamarca Sanford got there too late.
"We were just in the zone concept defense. We had some miscommunication. He came open and it was a great play by them," Burton said.
"It just comes down to execution. I have to be where I'm supposed to be and other players have to be where they're supposed to be. We just have to work as a defense next time. It's not solely on one person. As a whole, we need to execute better."
Burton admitted he was passing Thomas off to Sanford on the 41-yarder that helped set up the game-tying field goal.
So who was responsible for those soft spots that allowed so many long gains – cornerbacks or safeties?
"It's a combination," said Frazier, who played cornerback in the 1980s. "The corner has to do a great job of jamming the guy. The safety has to do a good job of being able to talk. There should not be that type of gap. We've been playing that coverage forever, and to see it played the way it was played today was just bad."
With two of the top three safeties – Tyrell Johnson and Husain Abdullah – out with injuries, as well as Winfield, Cook and recent top cover cornerback Asher Allen (shoulder) unavailable, the Vikings were playing quite a bit of their defensive snaps with a rookie safety (Mistral Raymond), a rookie cornerback (Burton) and another cornerback signed less than two weeks ago (Benny Sapp).
That was no excuse for Frazier.
"We're just playing a basic coverage with a lead, and to not be able to execute that is a bad thing. It means you can't play any coverage, not just a base coverage," Frazier said. "The fact that we got new guys and we're rotating guys – we've had some injuries, that happens. When you're out there as a professional athlete, you have to find a way to do your job. We did not find a way to do our job."
Frazier continued with other criticisms of the secondary, saying they did "a lousy job" of defending the pass and saying it was "not good football."
The culmination of the explosive plays yielded in the second half could have Frazier looking toward his bench, if there are any unused defensive backs left there.
ALLEN ON THE RECORDS
Jared Allen didn't really care that he became the first Viking to have three seasons with at least 14.5 sacks.
"That stuff is nice for the offseason to sit back and reflect, but right now I'm trying to do what I can do," he said.
Allen also tied an NFL record with the fourth safety of his career.
"I'd like to tie an NFL record for wins. That would be nice. Maybe a Super Bowl," Allen said. "I sure as hell don't want to tie it for losing."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.