With a 1-2 record and a pre-bye schedule that was supposed to be the easier part of the Vikings' schedule, some followers are ready to jump ship and others are calling for drastic changes.
Not so fast, say the players. They aren't feeling desperate, at least not yet.
"We don't need to do that. It's a young season, we're 1-2. It is a big game for us. We need to win and we need to show some sparks offensively," said quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who threw for 165 yards in the Vikings' second consecutive loss on Sunday.
They might not be desperate yet, but if the Vikings put up another poor offensive showing and allow the NFC North divisional rival Green Bay Packers to beat them in the Metrodome and leave Minnesota with a 4-0 record, it certainly wouldn't be a positive feeling the players would take into the bye week.
"It's a long season. We know we're a better offense than this, we're better than a 1-2 team," said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. "… We didn't do enough to win (on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs). We've got to score a lot more points. We should have scored a lot more."
They may need to score a lot more than the 17 or 10 points they have scored in their last two outings, and maybe even more than the 24 points they scored against Atlanta in the season opener.
The Atlanta Falcons are still winless at 0-3 and have been outscored at more than a 2-1 clip in those three losses. The Detroit Lions are 2-1 despite being outscored overall, and the Kansas City Chiefs' only win in three tries is against the Vikings, as the Chiefs have been outscored 50-26 in their three games. It doesn't paint a strong strength-of-schedule history for the Vikings on their way to their current 1-2 record.
Still, through the haze, Holcomb is not ready to place a "frustrating" tag on the season just yet.
"Well, 1-2 is not a frustrating start. When you're 0-10 like I was with the Indianapolis Colts back in (1997), that's frustrating," he said. "Then, the first win we got was against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. When you're 0-10, that's frustrating. We're 1-2. This is three games into this. There is a long ways to go."
The Colts went on to play .500 football after their 0-10 start, and Holcomb could have a chance to lead the Vikings against the Packers on Sunday if Jackson's groin injury isn't healed enough, but no matter the quarterback, the offense has to get better.
"We've got to finish drives, we have to finish games. You see the teams like New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh – they finish people off. When they've got you down, they finish people off. We've got to get that in us," Holcomb said.
"Finishing drives means you've got to put points on the board, preferably touchdowns. When you get in the red zone, teams that score touchdowns are the teams that win. If you sit here and kick field goals all day, it's usually not good."
The Vikings are 25th in the league in scoring with 51 points, and that includes a league-high three defensive touchdowns.
Jackson said that the receivers are getting open, but that the quarterbacks either aren't finding them quickly enough or have a "hand in their face" and can't get the ball to them. Execution, not the play-calling, is what Jackson and other players contend is ailing them.
"Execution, period. No matter what the coach calls, you've got to execute it. No matter what they call, it's going to work if you execute it right and everybody does their part," Jackson said. "I wouldn't say (head coach Brad Childress has) got to do a better job of putting us in a position to make plays, we've just got to make plays, point blank.
"It's a lot of things. A guy might be a yard or two deep on a route, a quarterback might take a deep, deep drop. A guy might get beat, a guy might run a wrong route. There are a lot of things, but things that are correctable. We watched the film and I think we were a couple plays away from having the big game on offense. It's a game of inches and little things like that go a long way."
With still no touchdown passes this season for the Vikings' quarterbacks, Holcomb said stats are of no concern to him.
"I think a quarterback is measured by his wins and losses, and we didn't win (Sunday). I don't worry about statistics, my quarterback rating, it doesn't matter if we win," he said. "But if we lose, everybody wants to point fingers at that. I don't really look at it past that. You're responsible to go out there and try to win a football game and that's what I try to do."
Wide receiver Robert Ferguson, who was a recipient of a potential touchdown pass from Holcomb that was "one inch" out of his reach, according to Ferguson, agreed that individual goals don't matter.
"Our biggest concern right now is just winning. There are no individual goals in this locker room right now. We just need a win bad, regardless of who we're playing," said the former Packers receiver.
Holcomb put some of the negative plays from the Chiefs game on himself, admitting that he can't take sacks that take the team out of field goal range and that he needed to step up in the pocket a little quicker at times. He insisted he didn't feel rusty, and that assertion would seem to be backed by the Vikings' game-opening drive on Sunday.
While the Vikings rushed on four of their six plays, Holcomb connected with Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade on passes of 10 and 11 yards, respectively, before rookie Adrian Peterson ran for an 11-yard touchdown.
However, that would prove to be easily the team's most productive drive of the afternoon.
"First drive, everything was clicking. In the first half, I thought we moved the ball very consistently," Holcomb said. "In the second half, I don't know, it seemed like they came out with more intensity and I don't know if we matched it."
Said Peterson: "Basically, we had some missed opportunities. It was situations where we had little breakdowns that could lead to big plays in the passing game. We just didn't execute."
That can't happen on Sunday if the Vikings expect to keep up with a Packers team that seems to have found its offensive groove, averaging 27.3 points per game.
The Vikings are averaging just 17 per game, but they remain optimistic that can change.
"(Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) said he thinks it's our week for things to come together because we're little things away from having big plays, a lot of big plays," Jackson said. "We want to score a lot of points anyway because we know they're going to come here slinging the football anyway with Brett (Favre) at quarterback."
"We're at home and we need a win," Holcomb said. "With the bye week coming up, you want to leave with a good taste in your mouth."
Vikings Preach Execution, Not Desperation
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