The Vikings' 36-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was described several ways. Words like whupped and humbled were used often in the post-game locker room.
Any one of the team's units could have accepted responsibility. The offense started the game with three consecutive three-and-out drives, didn't complete a pass until the fourth drive and then fumbled away that first completion. Chris Kluwe had a couple of clunker punts for the special teams. And the defense missed numerous tackles en route to surrendering its second 100-yard rusher in as many games.
Quarterback Christian Ponder sounded his familiar refrain that he needs to get better. He does, but offered no real specifics on where and how. But defensive end Jared Allen also took ownership of the loss for the defense.
"It starts with us. Defense, you can't give up 36 points. I don't care if they get the ball on (our) 2 or their 2. You've got to hold field goals in those situations. You can't let them put together drives," Allen said. "There's going to be times where the offense is going to be in a shootout and they're going to have to bail us out. We were in one of those things where we had to bail them out and we didn't. Bottom line, we got whupped top to bottom.
"There's two ways this goes. You either let this put you in the pit or you eat it, you own it and realize what your mistakes were, you fix it and you got back to work."
Allen consistently preached for the Vikings to take ownership of the loss and not shy away from the mistakes. Maybe, as Allen insinuated, the Vikings were doing too much reading. The press clippings seemed to have a balance of buy-in and skepticism on the outlook of this team.
The stats, however, leading up to this game may have been a more troubling aspect if the players were thinking trends would continue without proper focus. The stats said the visiting teams were 1-5 on Thursday Night Football this year. They said the Bucs had lost nine road games in a row.
"I think you can watch enough TV and read enough clippings that (you see) this many people have won on this home game and they've got to travel all the way," Allen said. "It's just in your mind (that) they're 2-4, this ain't going to be as tough a game. And you think I've got a three-day weekend coming up hopefully or a two-day weekend. That's just stuff that you can't do, and guys will learn and we'll all learn."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier took ownership of his end, saying he didn't have the team prepared, but other players said they knew what the Bucs were going to try to do and just didn't stop it. Maybe they couldn't stop it.
"We didn't do very many things at all right when it came to stopping the run, whether we were in our eight-man fronts or seven-man fronts," Frazier said. "We were not gap sound; we didn't tackle well. We just played some very uncharacteristic football."
Entering the game, the question was posed several times: Were the Vikings set up to win by running the ball and stopping the run? They might have won had they fulfilled both ends of that equation. Instead, they were gashed by rookie Doug Martin, who carried 29 times for 135 yards. And, once again, the Vikings seemed to underutilize Adrian Peterson, who averaged 8.2 yards per carry but only rushed the ball 15 times for 123 yards and a touchdown.
They can hardly use the excuse that they got behind too quickly. It was their own doing. Their first two three-and-out series featured four incomplete passes and only two runs. Peterson put them in third-and-2 and second-and-5 situations, but wasn't called upon in those drives after that. Even midway through the second quarter the Vikings were down only six points.
In the first three quarters, however, the Vikings had only one drive that went more than five plays. They had six drives that went three-and-out and two that went four-and-lost-fumble. Meanwhile, the Bucs had four three-and-out drives in the first three quarters, but also added two drives of six plays, two of eight plays and one of 10.
"We need to have a gut check right now," defensive end Brian Robison said. "Luckily we have a three-day weekend where we can rest our bodies up and everything, but we've got to come to work next week and put this one behind us and get ready. If we go up to Seattle and play this way, they're going to whup us up, too."
Allen said how the Vikings play in their next game will be determined by how they handle Thursday's loss.
"You take a loss like this and it builds character if you allow it to," he said. "If everybody goes and swallows it, owns it and gets back to work we'll be alright."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Defensive ends call for ‘ownership' of loss
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