Whatever the reason, there are some indications that the Minnesota Vikings were either unprepared or just simply outdone in the intensity level in a 34-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday.
"If my team wasn't ready and I didn't have them ready, then I am going to take responsibility for that. It's my fault," Vikings coach Brad Childress said Sunday after the loss.
There are varying opinions on exactly what went wrong, but there is no question that a lot of things contributed to the worst loss to the Packers in the series history, and the first time the Vikings have been held scoreless against the Packers since the two teams started playing each other in Minnesota's inaugural season of 1961.
One theory suggests that the players' effort was lacking after they disagreed with the organization's initial decision to dock wide receiver Troy Williamson one week's pay for missing the previous game against the San Diego Chargers, a 35-17 win for Minnesota. Williamson took nine days off to tend to arrangements for his grandmother's funeral, and the team initially decided to withhold his pay for missing that game. After taking a beating from local and national media and then meeting with his player advisory council, Childress and the Vikings reversed their decision and decided to pay Williamson, who said through his agent that he will donate the roughly $25,000 to a charity in memory of his grandmother.
Childress was asked Monday if that whole episode might have been a reason for the Vikings' Lambeau Field letdown.
"I have to take it as the Minnesota Vikings and I am the head coach and if I had something to do with that, then it sits squarely on my shoulders, but hard for me to answer that. You would probably have to ask those guys in the locker room that," Childress said. "I would just say that I didn't see us play at the level that we played at the week before."
The Chargers win was a stunner on the other side of the win-loss equation. The Vikings entered that game with a 2-5 record and the Chargers were a winning team on a roll. Minnesota's convincing win against the Chargers shot renewed possibilities into the season, as the team started to believe it might have a shot at the playoffs in a confusing NFC postseason picture at the halfway point of the season.
However, the Vikings' follow-up performance against the Packers left a lot to be desired.
"Our energy level just didn't seem the same. It's like that when you go on the road sometimes, and we've got to find a way to match that energy of playing at home with the crowd," wide receiver Bobby Wade said. "We've got to find a way to grind through mistakes and trials throughout the games. Offensively, from my standpoint, we just weren't able to compete and they scored points on us. I always talk about that, but we've got to find a way to compete with teams that score points."
Most teams do score points, so the Vikings' shutout against the Packers was rare – the first time the Vikings have been held scoreless since 1991 – three coaching staffs ago.
Asked if he thought the Packers brought more intensity to the game, Wade said: "There is no doubt that they came ready to play. … Obviously, I think this team plays with a lot of effort and a lot of heart, but I don't know what it was really. I would say just execution. We've got to find a way to execute."
Cornerback Marcus McCauley, who was making the fifth start of his rookie season (this time for an injured Antoine Winfield), admitted that he made some mistakes against quarterback Brett Favre, but he wasn't so sure the Vikings' lackluster performance was due to a lack of intensity.
"It's easier to say that they've got more intensity when they're winning. It's hard to say we were really in the game because we didn't get close to scoring – they would just run up and down the field on us," McCauley said, then added that the Packers "definitely played with some intensity."
Coming off a big win against the Chargers, in which rookie running back Adrian Peterson set an NFL single-game mark for the most rushing yards (296), many were expecting a better showing out of the Vikings against a normally heated division rivalry.
"I think that would be a fair assumption to make," Childress said. "It wasn't as if we sat back and just assumed that that was going to happen. We had a good week of practice and we just didn't get it out there on Sunday."
The loss dropped Childress' record to 0-4 against the Packers, who hired Mike McCarthy after the Vikings hired Childress during the 2006 offseason.
"I don't believe we played with the intensity that we played with the week before on either side of the football," Childress said.
A Lack of Intensity?
Viking Update Top Stories
VIDEO: Zimmer on final preps for EaglesMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer discusses some key players for Philadelphia, his defense and if Jake Long could play.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:02 PM
Vikings have 3 receivers on injury reportThe Minnesota Vikings could be getting Stefon Diggs back in the lineup, but he is among three receivers on their injury report.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 11:37 AM
Notebook: Walsh ‘past the bad things?’The Minnesota Vikings are preparing to play “quite possibly the best special teams unit across the board that we've faced so far this year.” Plus, the Vikings are doing much better…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 8:49 AM
Hard-core stats: Vikings at EaglesThe Minnesota Vikings will look to exploit some of the weaknesses the Eagles have shown lately, including one strength for the Vikings and one weakness. We go deep into where the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 5:04 AM
Born to run … with backups?Perhaps no other division came into 2016 more dependent on strong running games to succeed as much as the NFC North. But, in just the seventh week of the season, all four teams…
Viking UpdateThursday at 10:23 PM