For most of the season, the defense kept the Vikings competitive, but that wasn't the case Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Plus, get more than 35 game notes that put the loss and the surrounding performances into perspective.
The depression that enveloped the Vikings locker was palpable after Sunday's 41-21 loss to the Rams at the Metrodome. In a season that began with high hopes and a 4-2 record against tough competition, to finish 2-8 over the final 10 games left a mark that wasn't easy to mask.
"That wasn't our defense out there today," cornerback Antoine Winfield
said. "We've had some tough games before this season, but nobody moved the ball up and down on us like that."
The defense, which had been the strength of the team all season, collapsed early and often in Sunday's season-ending loss. While the offense had endured its share of struggles all season, seeing the offense and defense fall apart at the same time was something the players hadn't seen much this season.
"We've had games that we lost by single digits, but not like this," Kevin Williams
said. "I wouldn't say it was a lack of effort. We just didn't make the plays."
With the offseason now upon them, the Vikings are going to turn their focus elsewhere.
"Starting this next week, we're going to start focusing on free agency and the draft," head coach Brad Childress said. "This is a process and we're going to get working on taking the next step."
Childress compared the transition that the Vikings had to that of remodeling a house while you still live in it. It's uncomfortable for the occupants and a pain to the neighbors – who, for the sake of the analogy, are the Vikings fans.
Chester Taylor finished the game with 13 carries for 29 yards to end the season with 304 carries (a new team record) and 1,214 yards rushing – the fourth-highest total in team history.
Childress and Brad Johnson met briefly following the game and have scheduled a time to meet in the next week or two to discuss his future with the Vikings.
In the first 15 games of the season, the Vikings defense allowed six rushing touchdowns. Steven Jackson scored three touchdowns to increase that total to nine.
The Vikings ended up missing out on the 16-game single-season rushing defense crown by 15 yards.
Travis Taylor ended up leading the team in receptions (57) and yardage (651) after catching five passes for 54 yards Sunday. With three receptions, Mewelde Moore finished tied for second on the team with 46 receptions – finishing tied with Jermaine Wiggins, who caught one pass for five yards.
Chris Kluwe put himself in the Vikings record book Sunday. He pinned his 27th punt inside the 20-yard line, leaving him just one behind the all-time team record of 28 – shared by Mike Saxon in 1994 and Greg Coleman in 1983.
Heath Farwell had two special teams tackles, giving him a franchise record of 25 in a season – passing the old marks of 24 set by Nate Allen in 1997 and 23 each by Joey Browner in 1983 and Terry Dillon in 1963.
Bethel Johnson had 225 kick return yards Sunday, second in team history behind only Nate Jacquet, who had 237 yards in a Nov. 11, 2001 game vs. the Eagles.
Marc Bulger finished the game with a passer rating of 100.4, completing 19 of 30 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown.
The Vikings finished the season with a team passer rating of 72.2 – only slightly below the 73.2 rating of their opponents.
Tarvaris Jackson's second start of his career didn't light the world on fire, as he completed 20 of 34 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 62.5. He completed passes to nine different receivers.
Jackson's day wasn't restricted to the air. He led the Vikings with 34 yards and seven rushing attempts – the first time since the Daunte Culpepper era that the quarterback led the team in rushing.
Despite a down season, Brad Johnson extended his NFL record of 11 straight seasons with 100 or more passes and completing more than 60 percent of his passes.
Napoleon Harris may have played his last game as a Viking, but did so by leading the team with eight tackles Sunday. E.J. Henderson finished the year as the team's leading tackler with 138, but had just four tackles Sunday. Dwight Smith finished second on the team with 98 tackles, followed by Harris (93), Darren Sharper (91) and Antoine Winfield (88).
A pair of Vikings streaks went by the wayside on one play in the fourth quarter. The team lost out on the modern-day rushing defense record. The team needed to hold the Rams to 152 yards rushing or less to break the record held by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. But, on a 59-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson, the Vikings not only lost that record, but also snapped a 27-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher which had lasted since Warrick Dunn topped 100 yards in the fourth game of the 2005 season.
Tarvaris Jackson left the game in the third quarter with an injury and was replaced by Brad Johnson. After hearing nothing but boos from the home fans for the last two months, Johnson got a huge ovation when he entered the game in the final minute of the third quarter. He was in for one play – a 12-yard completion to Martin Nance – and was replaced by Jackson in the fourth quarter.
With their second score of the third quarter on Jackson's third touchdown of the day, the Rams' 34 points were the most given up by the Vikings this season.
On a second-half challenge on a reception by Torry Holt, during the challenge, Holt spent almost the entire time standing next to Childress, kidding him about making the challenge – which the Vikings lost.
From the Welcome to 1984 Department came this: In the third quarter, Vikings fans proved that someone still does the wave. It started during the challenge on the Holt reception and lasted for more than five tedious minutes.
Tarvaris Jackson completed the first half with a passer rating of just 38.2 – completing 11 of 18 passes for 107 yards and two interceptions. Chester Taylor was the leading rusher with 11 carries for 30 yards and Jackson had five rushes for 23 yards. Eight different players caught passes for the Vikings in the first half, led by Billy McMullen with two catches for 26 yards.
Bulger finished the first half with a passer rating of 99.5 – completing eight of 16 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown. Steven Jackson had 15 carries for 62 yards and Isaac Bruce and Holt each had three catches – Bruce gaining 50 and Holt gaining 43.
The Rams held a solid yardage edge at halftime (217-160), with the Rams gaining 134 yards passing and 78 yards rushing. The Vikings had 107 yards passing and 53 yards rushing. The Vikings held the ball for 15:46 of the half and ran one more play than the Rams (34 to 33), but the Vikings' two turnovers were critical.
As if the first half wasn't bad enough for fans at the game, a broken water pipe left as much as two inches of water in the hallway corridors of the east side of the Metrodome to greet fans as they made their way from their seats.
Tarvaris Jackson surpassed his passing yardage total of his first game in the first quarter, completing five of nine passes for 55 yards. He was also the leading rusher with three carries for 10 yards and a touchdown. Chester Taylor had seven carries for nine yards. Five different Vikings caught passes in the quarter. Bulger completed just two of six passes for 36 yards – both to Bruce – in the first quarter. Steven Jackson ran seven times for 33 yards.
The Rams held a yardage advantage of 84-76 in the first quarter. The Rams had 46 yards rushing and 36 yards passing. The Vikings had 55 yards passing and 19 rushing. The Vikings held the ball for 9:12 of the quarter. The Vikings were 2-of-5 on third downs, as opposed to 0-of-2 for the Rams.
The Vikings did something in the first quarter that they didn't do once in the Packers game – get into the red zone and scored a touchdown.
On the Vikings' first-quarter TD drive, fans got a glimpse of what Vikings scouts saw in Tarvaris Jackson. He had a couple of nice scrambles – one to get the Vikings out of a first-and-15 hole and another on a scramble for his first NFL touchdown.
The last time a Vikings rookie quarterback rushed for a touchdown was Joe Kapp in 1967. The only other Vikings rookie QB with a rushing touchdown was Fran Tarkenton, who had five scores in 1961.
Late in the first quarter, Chester Taylor racked up his 296th carry of the season to break the Vikings franchise record of 295 set by Robert Smith in 2000.
Martin Nance was inserted into the lineup early in the first quarter, but his first NFL reception ended with a fumble. Fortunately for the Vikings, the ball was fumbled forward and recovered by Travis Taylor to keep a scoring drive alive.
The Vikings had the ball twice and went three-and-out twice – trailing 7-0 with the Rams offense not taking the field and just three minutes off the game clock.
The Rams' touchdown on Ron Bartell's interception return was the quickest score of the season for a Vikings opponent – coming just 1:22 into the game.
Among the Vikings inactives were former starters Troy Williamson, Marcus Johnson and Anthony Herrera. For Williamson, his fall from grace with the Vikings has been pronounced and precipitous. After being viewed as the next big thing in the preseason, he was a healthy scratch Sunday.
The captains for the game were Tarvaris Jackson, Antoine Winfield and Heath Farwell.
The paid attendance was 63,557 – the 94th straight sellout at the Metrodome.