Fingers weren't pointing at any one specific player Monday as the Vikings tried to explain away what happened in their 37-8 drubbing in Cincinnati. And, admittedly, the result could have been worse.
"We were lucky we only gave up 37 points," head coach Mike Tice said.
Sadly, he is right.
The Vikings had two Daunte Culpepper fumbles negated by offside penalties on the Bengals. Cincinnati running back Chris Perry also had a long touchdown run called back because of holding.
The reasons for the loss may not be all that complicated.
First, five interceptions thrown by Culpepper and two fumbles lost by running back Michael Bennett gave the Vikings 12 turnovers in two games.
"Turnovers if the most important thing" to correct, Tice said.
Much as fans might want to see a Tice meltdown this week, he isn't about to go crazy on his players.
"This is not a week of temper tantrums or storming around," he said.
But there were some contradictory messages in what the coach said and what his quarterback said. Tice said the Bengals only played three coverages, but the players didn't stay "within the scope of the scheme."
Culpepper, however, gave more credit to the Bengals.
"They did a good job (Sunday) changing stuff up, putting pressure on me and this offense to make plays," he said. "We just have to get back to the drawing board and fix this thing."
Opinions on the offensive line varied. While Culpepper may have felt pressure, Tice seemed pleased with the offensive line play.
"For the most part, I think the protection was better than solid," he said.
Another contradiction arose in the area of play-calling. It was one aspect in which Tice talked of making "tweaks." Tice got involved in the second half relaying plays into Culpepper to make sure they were getting into the huddle soon enough. It was uncertain who would be calling the plays against New Orleans or whether offensive coordinator Steve Loney would be on the sidelines or the booth. The Vikings will work through that process this week.
While Tice said the offense is the same one that has been in Minnesota since 1992, when Dennis Green took over as head coach, Culpepper said the personnel changes are making a difference.
"We have a totally different offense. With this offense and the guys we have, we have to find the identity of this offense," Culpepper said, but he didn't want to take any more credit or blame than anyone else. "I'm just a piece of the puzzle. … We've got the pieces."
The analysis of the defensive problems were much more consistent among players. The theme that arose several times Monday was that the adjustments being made before a play are not coming from the players soon enough.
E.J. Henderson was asked what went wrong.
"Just communication overall, on both sides of the field. Knowing our adjustments a little faster, maybe we could have got off on a couple of downs. There were a couple of minimal mistakes here and there," he said.
Cornerback Fred Smoot agreed on the problem, but his analysis sounded as if happened more than Henderson let on.
"The thing on this game is we weren't on the same page, a lot of miscommunication, a lot of indecisiveness," Smoot said. "There are a lot of things you can point your finger at, players and play-calling, but we just all need to get on the same page."
The other common theme was that the defense was on the field too long and too often, especially in the first half, a repeat of the season opener. Turnovers were one cause of that, as was the defense's inability to stop the Bengals on third downs.
Smoot and safety Darren Sharper said a players-only team meeting will take place this week. Smoot's message will be this: "Let's not get out of our mind frame and think we're lesser than we really are," he said.
The Vikings suffered a number of injuries in Cincinnati, but the news on most is better than originally expected.
Sharper had what he termed a minor medial collateral ligament sprain. Last year, he missed time with a posterior ligament sprain in the same knee and missed time. He doesn't expect that to be the case this time. "I've dealt with this before," he said. "I can pretty much predict that I should be able to go."
Henderson was walking with a boot on his ankle after suffering a high ankle sprain in the second quarter and returning to action. He was sore Monday and Tice said he thought Henderson was "iffy for Wednesday at least." Henderson said he'll be able to play Sunday.
Wide receiver Nate Burleson had what was termed a mild knee sprain of the posterior cruciate ligament. He was originally feared to be out for a couple of weeks, but there is an outside chance he could play Sunday.
Linebacker Sam Cowart, who didn't play Sunday because of a calf strain, said he hoped to be practicing by Wednesday.
Linebacker Dontarrious Thomas also suffered a mild leg injury, but his isn't considered serious.
Defensive end Kenechi Udeze had a sprain in his lower leg that is also considered minor.
Culpepper's bruised middle finger (insert joke here) won't preclude him from playing Sunday, he said.
"I'm not ruling out anyone yet," Tice said.
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