Scheduled to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday at the Metrodome, the Vikings' offensive ineptitude continued in a 17-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Brad Johnson's 29-yard scoring pass to Marcus Robinson in the fourth quarter ended a stretch of 12-plus quarters without a touchdown for Minnesota.
"We stunk up the field as an offense," Robinson said after the loss. "(The) defense, we (kept) them out there too long, there were too many three-and-outs. We didn't come together as a group and that's something that you've got to have. Playing week-in and week-out, you have got to have sustained drives, get three points, seven points. That's something we're not doing right now as an offense."
Among the Vikings' issues are turnovers (Johnson threw two second-half interceptions), negative-yardage plays (running back Chester Taylor was thrown for a loss three times in the first half) and penalties. The Vikings were assessed 12 for 78 yards Sunday, including a questionable pass interference call on receiver Travis Taylor that nullified an opening-drive catch and moved the Vikings from the Buffalo 18-yard line back to the 28.
"It's frustrating," Johnson said. "We came out early in the game and had a great drive and overcame a couple of penalties. I felt we were off to a good start. And, once again, more than anything, what cost us was first down. I felt like we were playing Canadian football there for a while with two downs. The first down, we'd either have a penalty or a negative play and then when it's second or third and long, it's hard to recover from that. We have got to be more efficient in the passing game, more efficient in the running game and more than anything, stay away from penalties and negative plays."
While the offense struggles, the defense continues to put up solid performances. The unit has not given up more than 19 points in a game this season. Sunday, they held Buffalo running back Willis McGahee to 78 yards rushing on 28 carries.
Although there would seem to be a natural temptation for the defensive players to grouse about the ineptitude of the offense, that is not the case.
"We have enough issues ourselves," first-year defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said. "We have to control what we can control. Anything else is a waste of time in terms of our energy and our effort. We have to be the very best defense that we can be, and hopefully, that will be enough to help us win."
Tomlin's players obviously have gotten his message. Middle linebacker Napoleon Harris and cornerback Antoine Winfield both talked about the fact the defense could have done more in the loss at Buffalo.
"There isn't any level of frustration," Harris said. "This is a team game and we need to pick ourselves up on defense. That's what needs to be done. I think we have the veterans on this team that we're more than capable of getting it done. That's what we're going to focus on. We definitely feel like defensively, if we had made the plays we needed to, the outcome of the game would have been different."