McKinnie should have gotten help
Most of the attention, and deservedly so, was on the characterization of the conversation between head coach Brad Childress and quarterback Brett Favre in which the coach's "stream of consciousness" had him contemplating a change during the third quarter of Sunday night's game.
Childress objected to the word "pull" to characterize the decision. But the bigger point that he accepted full responsibility for was the fact that he did not do enough to provide McKinnie with some help on pass protection against the very talented and motivated Julius Peppers, who really had his way with McKinnie.
When asked directly if he should have given McKinnie more help, Childress raised his hand and said very clearly, "Yes, that's on me."
He went on to explain that he concedes he should have helped McKinnie with some chip help, a tight end, or more slide protection with the guard.
Childress concluded by saying, "He (McKinnie) is a good player."
For McKinnie's part, he did not duck the question or make excuses for his performance.
"I'm just gonna say WOW! I had a OFF day! This was not a good nite 4 me. There is something we gotta fix this week to put me n better position," McKinnie wrote on his Twitter page.
Along the lines of a left tackle getting help with a great pass-rushing defensive end, Jared Allen has seen nothing but a lot of extra attention by opposing teams of late. He is very frequently getting chipped and seeing extra help from others on his side.
A huge play in the game that has also gone largely unnoticed was the sack and forced fumble that Allen had early in the game, when the Vikings (Ben Leber) had a golden opportunity to recover the ball at the Carolina 12-yard line but failed to do so. A fumble recovery there would have put the Vikings in excellent position to take an early touchdown lead.
Add to that the rare missed field goal attempt by Ryan Longwell, and the halftime score easily could have been 17-6 Minnesota, instead of 7-6.
The second half opened with each team trading a pair of unsuccessful drives, until the Vikings were on the march inside the Carolina 40 when Sidney Rice fumbled on a bang-bang hit after a clutch reception over the middle.
Rice couldn't have done much differently as the Panthers defender put his helmet on the football almost immediately after he'd made the catch in heavy traffic and knocked it loose.
A non-fumble there, however, and the Vikings are poised to extend their would-be lead to 20-6 or perhaps even 24-6, an entirely different ballgame.
But that proved to be the turning point in momentum for the game. The teams exchanged a failed drive apiece that ultimately resulted in Carolina beginning a drive inside Vikings territory with the 42-yard touchdown over the top of Antoine Winfield, that instead put the Panthers ahead for good.
Despite the frustration of Peppers on the pass rush, Favre eluded the rush to throw a strike deep downfield on third-and-long to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, only to have Shiancoe drop the pass.
The Vikings defense had now been on the field too long. Carolina tacked on two more scores.
Adrian Peterson turned a short flip into a 63-yard gain late in the game. But the team's last-ditch effort to make a comeback ended with Peppers thwarted a Favre throw into the end zone, resulting in an interception.
Peterson has drawn a lot of criticism of late for his lack of productivity, but it's been a long time since he's had a significant hole in which to run through.
The talk of Favre fading in December is fine for speculation, but there is nothing wrong with Favre or his arm. He hasn't played his best in the team's past couple losses, but he can still play at a very high level. However, the running game and the pass protection need to improve.
Playing on a soft grass field seems to hurt the Vikings on defense. It negates their quickness off the ball and they always seem to be slipping more than their opponents.
Darius Reynaud has quietly done a very solid job on punt returns for the Vikings this season. He's averaging 11.8 yards per return so far and appears close to eventually breaking one.
Jasper Brinkley showed flashes in his second pro start. He finished with seven tackles, including two tackles-for-losses and a forced fumble. But he also failed to wrap up on at least a couple hits that resulted in broken tackles. "He'll get better," Childress said.
It will be interesting to see what kind of traction the Vikings pass rush can get this coming Monday night on the grass at Soldier field.
It will be interesting to see how McKinnie bounces back against Alex Brown, who's given him trouble at times in the past.
The Vikings season is clearly at a crossroads heading into this week's game at Chicago. Despite clinching the Division, they need to bounce back and bring a better performance to avoid a complete loss of momentum from the success they've had earlier this season.
Kevin Brown has been providing personnel analysis and writing about the Vikings for more than 20 years with Viking Update. Follow VU on Twitter and discuss this and other topics on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Vikings Update web site or magazine, click here.