Defensive collapses a too-often trend

Changes are coming with the Vikings, but defense has to be a hot topic after another bad performance, this time lasting most of the game. The Vikings are on pace to have the best worst defense by points surrendered in the league and have struggled in numerous areas.

With all the questions the 4-10-1 Vikings are going to face in the offseason, most of the them currently surround the Minnesota offense, but one has to wonder what changes are in the offing for the Vikings defense.

Following a brutal 42-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Vikings have lost double-digit games for the second time in three seasons and, most likely, will result in a change in the coaching staff. But while coaches are often the sacrificial lambs when a team struggles, one of the biggest problems for the Vikings this season has been a consistently inefficient defense that has cost the Vikings game after game.

By allowing 42 points Sunday, the Vikings have now surrendered a league-worst 458 points. While the Vikings offense effectively gave up the first two touchdowns of the game, the defense was picked apart by Andy Dalton all day. Unfortunately, Cincinnati was far from alone in that regard.

With the Vikings suffering a slew of injuries in the secondary, teams have been able to abuse them. The Vikings have allowed an average of 31 points a game and teams don't win many games that way. Entering play Sunday, only Washington had allowed more points, but the Vikings dropped below them Sunday to become the worst defensive team in terms of points allowed in the league. The only other time they finished worse than 30th in the league was in 2011.

Sunday marked the eighth time this season that the Vikings have allowed 30 or more points and perhaps the most troubling is their ineffectiveness on the road, where they finished winless this season (unless you count the Pittsburgh win in London).

Teams are expected to be dominant at home and hold their own on the road. The typical mantra is that if you play .500 on the road and dominate at home, you will make the playoffs. In 2012, that was what the Vikings needed. They finished 10-6, winning seven of eight home games and three road games, including their last two, to make the postseason.

This year, the Vikings have been 4-3 at home (including the Steelers game in London, which was credited as a home game). But that win over Pittsburgh is the only time in 365 days that the Vikings have won a game away from the Metrodome.

On Dec. 23, 2012, the Vikings won in Houston, which set the tone for what everyone else has been able to do since. In the 365 days that have followed, the Vikings have yet to replicate that feat.

It hasn't come without their chances to put a win in the road column. They lost in the final minute at Chicago early in the season. The lost a game in the final minute at Dallas. They blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to finish with a tie at Green Bay and lost a lead twice in the final minute-and-a-half against the Ravens. It has been a season of "what could have been" and "what should have been" but wasn't.

Sunday's game was something all too familiar to Vikings fans this season. The defense would get into third-and-long situations only to allow back-breaking first downs that allowed drives to continue. The Bengals converted 57 percent of their third-down tries. The Vikings have allowed 10 100-yard receivers and seven 300-yard passers. You simply don't win games often when you do that consistently.

While much of the argument about where change is coming next season seems to be centered on the coaches and quarterback – the only two people who have win-loss records associated with their jobs – the defense needs a lot of shoring up. Change is coming. The only question would appear to be how drastic is that change going to be?

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.

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