If you're a Vikings fan, this year's collapse after a fast start must seem like a rerun of past seasons. The Vikings have made second-half collapses into something of an art form over the years. The formula is simple enough – take a team with an outstanding offense and sub-par defense, get them to overachieve for half a season and then watch the season disintegrate as every team in the league realizes that the Vikings defense can't stop an average, or even a below-average NFL offense. The odd thing at work here is that this has happened every three years since 1994.
This year's four game slide is even worse than the other most recent collapse in the 2000 season. Remember? A 7-0 start. Then, sitting at 11-2, they were a lock for home field throughout the playoffs. Losses in the final three games of the season left them 11-5. Included in those three losses was a loss at home to Green Bay that was very similar to this year's Metrodome loss. A mild recovery off a bye week allowed them to defeat a beat-up Saints team before losing at New York 41-0 in the most humiliating defeat in team history.
The '97 season saw the Vikes go 8-2 before losing five straight games to finish at 9-7. During that streak, the defense allowed an average of 26 points per game. The Vikes somehow rallied to make the playoffs and pull off a miracle comeback win against the Giants, but were blown out in San Francisco to end the season.
In '94, the Vikes were 7-2 before losing three straight, but rallied to finish 10-6. The start of that slump was the infamous Drew Bledsoe game vs. the Patriots, when the Vikes blew a huge lead and lost in overtime as Bledsoe threw more than 60 passes with no pressure from the pass rush. A humiliating loss to a weak Bears team in the playoffs was the final indignity.
Why does this happen to the Vikes? Under Denny Green, they usually had an undersized defense that wore down over the course of the season, the overall lack of talent also become obvious over time, and the defense in the playoffs was routinely horrible. The thing I can't understand about the current defense is why a team that plays its home games on a fast surface would build a big, slow defensive team. It may be that those were the best players available at the time, or it could be a reaction to the undersized teams they had under Green, but does it make sense to build a defense better suited to Lambeau field than the Metrodome? No wonder that the Vikes won at Green Bay and lost to the Pack at home.
This year, the line is not playing very well at all, and the linebackers are slow. I attended the Raiders game in Oakland and was shocked at how easily the Raiders opened huge holes in the middle of the line. Fred Robbins and Chris Hovan were consistently moved aside on simple delayed runs up the middle. The Vikings knew the Raiders would run, yet they couldn't stop it at all. They've known for a month that teams will run on them but are helpless to do anything about it. The real question I have is why it took opposing teams five games to figure out the Vikings defense.
Head coach Mike Tice says that they won't make changes, that the players made the plays earlier in the year and they can make them again. Mike, everyone is on to the scheme your team is running and they know how to beat it. Making adjustments is a way of life in the NFL, and this team somehow needs to get some more speed on the field or figure out a way to confuse the opposing offenses. There was talk in the preseason of playing more of the 3-4, because the linebackers were supposed to be the strength on this year's roster. I say try it, or at least try some personnel changes. Things can't really get worse than they've been for the last four games, can they?
Collapse Comes Every Three Years
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