One year after the roof of their domed stadium fell down during a snowstorm, the Minnesota Vikings are still in rough shape.
They found another way to lose Sunday by turning the ball over six times, including a fumble at the Lions 1 on the game's final play in a 34-28 loss in Detroit. Seven of their 11 defeats this season have come by seven points or less. The distance between them and the playoffs seems much further.
The ignominious anniversary of the metaphor-rich collapse of the Teflon-coated ceiling over Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome caught head coach Leslie Frazier off guard.
''So much has happened between that day and now, I wasn't even aware it was a year ago now,'' Frazier said, smiling and shaking his head. ''So many things have happened between then and now, it's just unbelievable.''
When all that wind, ice and snow ripped open the roof, the Vikings had already fired Brad Childress and replaced him with Frazier after a series of once-unfathomable follies had pushed them further and further from the NFC championship game the previous season. There was the second straight late-summer pursuit of a hesitant Brett Favre, followed by the allegation of lewd pictures he sent to a woman from his cellphone. There was the return of Randy Moss, followed by his sudden release, which hastened the departure of Childress.
Then came the 17 inches of snow that forced the Vikings to play their final two home games elsewhere, closing out one of the most eventful 6-10 seasons in the history of the NFL. Metrodome insurance paid for almost all of the roof's $18-plus million replacement cost, and the Vikings have played there this season on shiny new turf under a much-brighter off-white ceiling.
But the 51-year-old franchise has never been in a darker situation, given the six weeks left on its lease. State leaders have intensified their stadium discussion, but disagreements continue on where to build a new one and how to pay for it. League rules require notification by Feb. 15 to move a team, making a 2012 relocation impractical, but two Los Angeles-area developers are eager to bring a team back to the nation's second-biggest market.
On the field, the Vikings have just as much work to do to. They've enjoyed some exciting moments with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, but he threw three more interceptions and was pulled from Sunday's game. Joe Webb ran all over the field to help the Vikings rally, but the coaching staff has yet to figure out how to use his athleticism in more than a simple role as the backup.
The offensive line needs some upgrades, and Percy Harvin needs some sidekicks at wide receiver. The defensive front has sprung plenty of leaks this year, and the secondary is beyond depleted. Their remarkable effort to hold Lions star Calvin Johnson to 29 yards on four catches was wiped out by a couple of costly broken coverages and the six turnovers by the offense.
This team has clearly not quit, though, the saving grace in an otherwise ugly season. Harvin said ''we love each other'' on the subject of chemistry after Sunday's game, and Frazier mentioned how proud he was of the players despite another deflating loss.
Defensive end Brian Robison echoed that sentiment: ''That's the type of people you want to be around.''
Vikings sticking together in tough times
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