Blame was being thrown in all directions, but only Josh Freeman should be blamed for his too-often inaccurate passes. Most of them came with a clean pocket and clear view that he simply missed. A detailing of the many misses shows the variety of ways in which his accuracy was off. Plus, an extensive list of more than two dozen notes to tell the tale of the game.
So much for Josh Freeman
's Vikings debut. It started with so much promise, but the critics are now saying it should open and close in one night.
In an epically bad performance, Freeman completed just 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards – an average of just 3.6 yards per attempt and had a passer rating of a pee-wee 40.6. To put that in perspective, Jeremy Kerley
, a wide receiver for the New York Jets
, took a reverse/wide receiver pass and threw an incompletion. He has a passer rating of 39.6. That's ugly. Grandmas in thongs ugly.
"I was just a hair off on a few things," Freeman said. "I thought the guys were assignment-sound in terms of routes. Certain things were just a hair off on timing. Early on, I let a couple ball out and they were a little high. Just getting the rhythm, getting comfortable back there and taking advantage of every opportunity."
Excuses are being made from divergent sources. The Vikings rushed Freeman into action. He didn't know the playbook. He doesn't have timing with his receivers. The offensive line didn't protect him well enough. The Vikings being behind made them too one-dimensional.
"With a lot of little things as far as being in sync, being on the same page, it's just a matter of communicating," Freeman said. "It's a matter of me being able to understand and see it the way that they see it and them understanding where I need them and how I see it. The guys, we communicate a lot. Moving forward, I don't think we're that far off."
All aforementioned excuses might be valid, for those who like to make excuses when things go wrong – or go heinous like they did Monday night. The excuses all seemed to have a recurring theme – it was someone else's fault. Rick Spielman. Leslie Frazier. Bill Musgrave. The receivers. The offensive line. The concierge at the team hotel. Just about everybody except Freeman.
While the NFL prints out moderately exhaustive play charts, we go old-school. We chart the games. A 3-yard gain by Adrian Peterson
might be one of the great plays of the season – he turned a potential 20-yard loss into a 3-yard gain, but it just goes as "A. Peterson 3 run" in the stat sheet. What comes from these jottings is a description of the play. Often those are underscored with expletives to bring home the point. Freeman had more expletive notations Monday than Tarvaris Jackson on his worst day.
For those forced to watch film of this game – it is strongly urged that all copies of Monday's game be deleted in order to "protect the shield" – a recurring theme will emerge. It's one thing to miss passes. Timing is off. Defensive pressure forces passes to get thrown before the quarterback is ready. But the only thing consistent was that Freeman was throwing horrible passes that couldn't be caught – more times than not being thrown too high and too hard.
"You guys saw, there were definitely plays there to be made from a lot of different standpoints. We were just a fraction off," Freeman said. "That's something that, moving forward, as a quarterback, as receivers, just as an offense, together, working together, guys are going to get more comfortable with me and vice versa."
The words scratched as side notes (that are fit to print) typically denote what was wrong with a pass. Good coverage takes away some. Drops take away some. The notation of Freeman's night rendered an awful critique.
By our unscientific analysis, only six of Freeman's incompletions could be attributed to drops. We recorded 11 passes thrown too high to catch, five bombs thrown too far (sometimes 10 yards too far), four passes that came down out of bounds and wouldn't have been complete if Manut Bol was doing a sideline toe-drag. Three were deemed throwaways due to being under pressure, although throwaway became redefined as the game went on. Two passes were too low. Two more were thrown too wide of a crossing receiver – one was a dropped interception and one pass behind an open receiver.
Every quarterback throws bad passes. There are a lot of factors that go into it. But most of Freeman's 33 incompletions Monday night came when he had clean throwing lanes and had his feet and shoulders square to throw passes as he has done for years.
Blame is going to be thrown everywhere – from the G.M. to the coaching staff to the offensive personnel. But, make no mistake. Freeman's debut was so brutal there should be serious questions as to whether the curtain comes up on Sunday night against the Packers with the same actor in the lead offensive role.
That line of thinking apparently never came up Monday night.
"There wasn't a time tonight I thought about taking him out," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "We still had opportunities."
GAME NIGHT NOTES
The Vikings had some injuries in the game. Starting right guard Brandon Fusco left the game in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Joe Berger. Special teamers Matt Asiata and Rhett Ellison left the game in the first half with shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively, and will receive MRIs.
The final numbers didn't tell the full story of New York's dominance. New York had just 257 yards of total offense to 206 for the Vikings. It wasn't so much a defensive domination as it was offensive ineptitude. A total of 53 of the Vikings' 206 yards – more than 25 percent – came in the final four minutes when the Giants were trying to kill the clock.
The two teams came into action as 30th and 31st in allowing opposing offenses to convert third downs – both hovering around 50 percent. Thanks to playing each other, those numbers improved. The Vikings converted just seven of 18 third-down chances, while the Giants converted seven of 19.
As bad as the passing was, the rushing was worse. The Vikings ran just 14 times for 30 yards (a 2.1-yard average) and the Giants had just 64 yards on 32 carries (a 2.0-yard average).
The time of possession disparity was enormous. The Giants held the time-of-possession advantage at a whopping 36:22 to 23:38. But, one has to keep in mind that, with 4:20 to play in the game, the Giants had a possession advantage of 36:02 to 19:38.
Freeman came into Monday's game with the lowest passer rating of any professional quarterback – most don't consider last-place Blaine Gabbert as a professional QB – with a rating of 59.3. On Monday, that dropped farther, as he posted just a 40.6 passer rating.
Adrian Peterson had the best per-rush average of any player who ran Monday night, but it came on just 13 carries for 28 yards (2.2 yards per carry). That was higher than Peyton Hillis (18-36-2.0) and Michael Cox (11-23-2.1).
Heading into Monday night's game, the leader among non-quarterbacks for the Giants with most career rushing attempts in a New York uniform was wide receiver Hakeem Nicks with two.
Seventeen different players caught passes, but none had more than 50 receiving yards.
The Giants had four fumbles, but lost just one of them. The Vikings had two fumbles and lost them both.
The middle of the Vikings defense was doing most of the work Monday. Erin Henderson led the team with 14 tackles, followed by Jamarca Sanford with 12 and Chad Greenway with 10.
Jared Allen was only credited with a half-sack on a play that will be in his career highlight package forever. While being blocked face up by Giants left tackle Will Beatty, Allen reached out with one hand and pulled Eli Manning's jersey until he was down with the help from a push by Kevin Williams.
Sharrif Floyd's career stat sheet will include at least one kick return, but his first career return was a disaster. After Cordarrelle Patterson took a kickoff back 69 yards on his first opportunity, the Giants pooched a kickoff after taking a 20-7 lead and it came down to Floyd, who returned the ball 9 yards before fumbling and giving the Giants a golden opportunity in the red zone.
Patterson was a bright spot with his long kick return. Patterson has returned 13 kickoffs as a rookie and has averaged 36.5 yards per return. If the Vikings face a kicker who can't consistently kick the ball out of the end zone, expect to see Devin Hester/Percy Harvin-style deference on kickoffs.
Prior to Monday's game, the Giants had led in games for just 31 of the 360 minutes they had played. On Monday, they led for 44:34 of the 60 minutes.
Blair Walsh missed his first career field goal of 50-plus yards Monday. Still recovering from a hamstring pull in his plant leg, Jeff Locke handled most kickoffs, but Walsh was brought in during the first half to attempt a 53-yarder. The kick was straight, but came up a yard or two short. He had made 12 of 12 from 50 yards or more. In an identical situation later in the game, following a 14-yard sack of Freeman on third down, the Vikings opted to punt rather than attempt another long field goal.
Lost in the numerous down moments of the game, long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who set the franchise record for most games played by a long snapper with 145, recovered a fumble in the first minute of the second half that gave the Vikings a momentary spark.
The Vikings finished the game with 13 offensive first downs – one in the first quarter, three in the second, one in the third and eight in the fourth.
Marcus Sherels scored the Vikings only points, but it wasn't all good news. With New York leading 10-7 five minutes into the third quarter, Manning threw a pass that looked like a Pick-6 for Sherels. But the ball hit him in the chest and he dropped it. On the very next play, Sherels fumbled a punt that was recovered on the Vikings 3-yard line. What could have been a 14-10 lead was a 17-7 deficit and overshadowed his punt return for a touchdown.
The Vikings had just 85 yards in the first half – their lowest yardage total in 49 games. Freeman completed just 7 of 16 passes for 74 yards in the first half and Peterson had eight carries for 9 yards.
The Vikings led 7-3 heading into the second quarter despite having the ball just 2:24 of the game's first 16 minutes.
Sherels' punt return for a touchdown was the third that the Giants have allowed in seven games. The all-time NFL record for a season is four.
The Giants opened the game with a drive the lasted nine minutes, 36 seconds – the longest time-consuming drive so far of the 2013 season.
In their first three losses, the Vikings were outscored by a total of 15 points. In their last two losses, the Vikings have been outscored by 41 points.
The Vikings may want to consider volunteering for another London game. The Vikings are 1-0 in Europe and 0-5 in North America.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.