Early in the season, the Vikings dug themselves a hole. From the realistic playoff perspective, Sunday night they may have dug themselves a grave. Sandwiching their only win of the season with a pair of three-game losing streaks may have done them in.
When they started 0-3, they could have just as easily been 2-1 with a single play in the final two minutes of either the Chicago or Cleveland games. They got outscored by a total of 15 points in the first three losses. In their last three losses, the Vikings have been outscored by 54 points. When you're losing by five points a game on average, you know those were games you can have won. When you losing by an average of 18 points a game? Not so much.
The previous two games, the finger could be pointed directly at the Vikings offense. It could be argued that it could again Sunday night because Green Bay had the ball six seconds short of 41 minutes in a 60-minute game. The Vikings defense did its part, allowing third-down conversions at about the same rate that club doormen let in extremely good looking women when the velvet rope is up. They allowed conversions on 13 of 18 third downs, which included two fourth-down conversions among the five stops. And, one of the other three was a running play with three minutes to go on a third-and-10.
The question now is whether the Vikings are going to check out mentally. It happens. Players who are injured tend not to push themselves back on the field like they do for a team in the throes of a playoff race. Head coach Leslie Frazier said that the way the Vikings lost after a strong week of preparation was the most difficult pill to swallow.
"Tonight was tough," Frazier said. "They worked hard to prepare for this game and got off to a great start with the (Cordarrelle Paterson) kickoff (return, but) to not play better in third-down situations on defense, it hurts you. I don't know if it hurts us to the point where guys give in. It just seems like we have strong enough character and strong enough leadership on this team that the guys will come back and prepare well for this next ballgame. We do need to give them some hope."
The Vikings got picked apart by Aaron Rodgers and his B-team receivers and every time it appeared as though the Vikings could grab momentum with a third-down stop, Rodgers converted – often throwing passes to wide open receivers who could turn upfield and gain critical yardage.
Josh Robinson was one of those being picked on and he said that, while the execution has been sadly lacking, he doesn't believe the defense will be executed.
"It's very frustrating," Robinson said. "But this defense is very tough mentally. We get hard on ourselves and get pissed off about the game. But all you can do is try to work, improve, correct the mistakes and get better."
Robinson realizes the position the Vikings are in – over the last week of player interviews, the word "mathematically" has been used several times. But for players who endured the 3-13 season of 2011, the similarities to the start of the 2013 are starting to have the same sort of smell. That was then and this is now and the Vikings say they aren't going to become the Walking Dead any time soon.
"One of the things I love about this team, every day we're coming to work and we're working hard," Robinson said. "We're not just going through the motions. Everyone is standing up and standing up for each other. They keep giving their all."
Jared Allen was ominously quiet Sunday. He didn't have a sack. He didn't even have a tackle. The subject of trade talks as the Tuesday trade deadline approaches, Allen reiterated that he's a Viking until told otherwise. His frustration was that the finger could be pointed at the defense on this loss and he was embarrassed and stunned by what took place.
"There are no quitters in this room," Allen said. "These guys will fight to the end and it is not a question. We have to get better. You have to be kidding me to say we can't stop teams. We score 31 points and can't win a game? You have to be kidding me."
The Vikings understand their current situation all too well. They know where their season is heading, but it's also their job. Patterson couldn't be blamed for Sunday's loss. He did everything in his power to give the Vikings the boost they needed to pull off a home upset. But the rookie may have shown some leadership in his assessment of the situation.
"There are a lot of games left," Patterson said. "We can't play with our heads down. We have to look forward. God gave us eyes in the front of our head to look to see what's going on, not behind us. We've just got to keep that positive attitude every week and know we're going to have a game next week."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Allen: ‘There are no quitters'
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