Whether it's a lack of Randy Moss, a lack of time or a lack of accuracy, the Vikings have had a lack of success with the deep pass, and Sunday's game was more evidence of that. We detail that evidence and lay out almost two dozen notes that examine who, what, when, where and how the Vikings failed on Sunday despite a number of encouraging signs.
When Randy Moss
was traded away from the Vikings, pundits ranging from NFL defensive coordinators to Viking Update staff offered one word of caution – Daunte Culpepper
is going to see defenses that he has never seen before because Moss demanded double coverage or, at a minimum, dropping a safety to his side of the field.
Whether there is a connection or not, whomever was calling plays for the Vikings Sunday all but eliminated the deep pass from the game plan. Culpepper threw 48 passes in Sunday's game. Only eight of them were passes of 15 yards or longer and the result was awful at best.
In the first half, he attempted just two deep passes. One of them was an 18-yard completion to Marcus Robinson
that took advantage of the Bears having safety Mike Brown
injured and off the field and, on the next play, going over the top at his replacement. The other was a bomb into the end zone that appeared to be intercepted – so much so the Bears (unsuccessfully) challenged the call on the field.
In the second half, the situation got worse. On his first deep pass attempt of the half, Culpepper completed a 31-yarder to Travis Taylor
. He would throw five more with much worse results. The next pass was an overthrown to a wide open Troy Williamson
in the end zone. The next one was intercepted by Chicago's Charles Tillman
and returned to the 3-yard line – setting up a TD that would give the Bears a 14-3 lead.
His next attempted deep pass was overthrown and picked off by Chris Harris
and returned to the Vikings 20. His next attempt would have been intercepted if not for Williamson playing D-back and breaking up what looked almost certain to be another interception. His final deep pass came on a scramble and was thrown 10 yards out of bounds.
Whatever reason the Vikings would like to use an excuse for their inability in the deep passing game – whether acknowledging the role Moss contributed or not – it is missing this year and the result has been self evident. The team is 1-4 and looks like a team more likely to be looking at the draft pick in January than scouting a playoff opponent.
As a team, through five games, the Vikings have scored six touchdowns. In the season-opening loss to Tampa Bay, the only TD was scored by the defense. In the Cincinnati game, it came with 3:17 to play trailing 37-0. In the win vs. the Saints, two of the touchdowns were set up by turnovers that set the Vikings up on the New Orleans 26- and 24-yard lines, respectively. The other came on a drive-starting 53-yard bomb to Williamson. In the Atlanta game, the only TD came with 2:33 to play against a prevent defense in which the Vikings were trailing 30-3.
Since the start of the 2000 season, the Vikings are now 2-24 on the road outdoors in the regular season.
In their last 25 offensive possessions, the Vikings offense has scored just one touchdown – the meaningless score at the end of the Falcons game when down by 27 points in the final minutes.
Jermaine Wiggins had a career-high 10 receptions Sunday.
Culpepper has thrown 12 interceptions in 181 passes – already surpassing his total of 11 interceptions on 548 passes last year.
Culpepper is on pace to throw 38 interceptions.
The Vikings have trailed by 25 points or more in three of their four losses.
The Vikings had 14 penalties Sunday – one that negated a defensive touchdown by E.J. Henderson following a Kyle Orton fumble, another that moved the Vikings from the Chicago 2-yard line back to the 17 on their only scoring drive of the game and another that kept a Bears drive alive when the Vikings still had a shot early in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings played much of the early portion of the game in a 3-4 defense and mixed up coverages all day.
It shouldn't have come as any surprise that Bears tight end Desmond Clark scored two touchdowns Sunday. The opposing tight end has caught a touchdown in every game this season and the Vikings have now allowed 18 tight end touchdowns in the last 17 games – a stat we've been following since last season and opposing defensive coordinators have obviously been watching as well.
The Bears dominated the second half of the game as the Vikings' problems snowballed. Chicago held the ball for 17:58 of the half and rushed 21 times for 60 yards – as opposed to just three carries for 7 yards by the Vikings.
Neither offense could brag about its third-down conversion percentages – the Vikings were a woeful 3-of-16 on third downs, while the Bears weren't much better (they converted just 3-of-10 third-down opportunities.
The Vikings defense doesn't deserve to get criticized too badly for the team's performance. They held the Bears to just 192 total yards and Orton had just 117 yards passing.
The Vikings' field goal unit was awful, having one attempt negated by a bad exchange, Paul Edinger missing a 52-yarder badly and the blocking breaking down that allowed a third field goal to be blocked.
Edinger, who was released by the Bears last spring when the team signed former Viking Doug Brien, was booed lustily by the Bears fans every time he stepped on the field.
In the four offensive drives for the Vikings that followed falling behind 14-3, the team failed to pick up a single first down – two ended with three-and-out punts, Culpepper was intercepted and he was sacked on the 1-yard line after going for it on fourth-and-10.
The Vikings defense was oppressive in the first half, but got little in the way of support from the offense or special teams. In the first 28 minutes of the game, the Bears had just two first downs, but trailed just 3-0. They would get three in the final two minutes of the first half to take the lead for good.
Despite trailing 7-3 at halftime, the Vikings dominated the game. They held a time of possession edge of 20:19 to 9:41, had 17 carries for 73 yards on the ground as opposed to nine rushes for 35 yards for the Bears and had a total yardage edge of 182-87.
Culpepper completed his first six passes to start the game, which led to a total domination of the game in the first quarter. Despite the game being scoreless, the Vikings held the ball for 10 minutes and 2 seconds and outgained the Bears 116 yards to 37.
The Vikings first three drives of the game got past midfield, but they came away with no points. For the game, the Vikings had the ball in Chicago territory six times and came away with just three points.
In contrast, the Bears didn't get past midfield until a 49-yard punt return by Bobby Wade gave the offense a starting position in Minnesota territory.
The Vikings engineered drives of nine, 11 and 12 plays, yet produced just three points.
Sixth-round rookie C.J. Mosely saw time early in the defensive line rotation.