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By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Oh boy, this isn't going to be pretty. I've made the executive decision to not even try to dig through yesterday's filth to find the silver linings. The only one may have been Jeff Locke, let's leave it at that.
With the Vikings now at 1-4 after losing an ugly one to the Panthers on Sunday, everybody wants to sound off and diagnose this team's problems. While I'm not sure if I have enough time, or if the internet has enough free space for me to diagnose all the problems that the Vikings are dealing with right now, here are five things that stuck out to me yesterday. Unfortunately, they all stuck out like a sore thumb.
If you could possibly try to pull one silver lining out of Sunday's 35-10 loss at Mall of America Field it is this. Because of Matt Cassel's struggles under center, the road has been paved for newly acquired quarterback Josh Freeman to show that he understands enough of the offense and take grasp of the starting position here in Minnesota.
After leading the Vikings to victory in London, the common thought was that Matt Cassel had one more opportunity (Sunday) to audition for the starting job before it was to be handed to Josh Freeman. Before putting together and 89 yard touchdown drive against the Carolina Panther reserves to close the game, Cassel was sitting with two interceptions, zero touchdowns and just 158 yards passing. Before completing six passes on that final drive, Cassel's passer rating was hovering inside the 50s (finished at 74.1 after the touchdown pass).
After the game, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier continued to say that he and his team will review the film on Monday and decide where to go at the quarterback position for Monday's matchup with the 0-6 New York Giants. Matt Cassel, who also spoke after the game, didn't necessarily sound confident that the job would go to him.
"You know what, I don't know," Cassel said when asked about the starting position next week. "I hope that I am. I think that this team is going to turn things around and I would love to be the starter, compete and do all the things that I am going to do. But, at the same time, the coach makes the decisions. We'll see."
Moral of the story, Josh Freeman should start Monday night against New York and continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. The Vikings need to see what they got in the deal and make a decision on whether or not that's the direction they will be heading into the future.
It's easy to jump to knee-jerk conclusions during a bummer of a football season and point blame. Blame the quarterback, blame the defense, blame the offensive line, blame whoever you want. But at some point in time, your attention needs to turn back towards Leslie Frazier, Bill Musgrave, Alan Williams and the coaching staff. Even special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has had a week (Chicago) where his unit aided the Vikings failures.
Typically, coming out of the Bye Week a team takes the field refreshed. They play with an extra amount of energy and they look, maybe at times, over prepared for their opponent. Under Leslie Frazier a bad trend is forming. Under Leslie's rule, the Minnesota Vikings are 0-3 and have been out scored 108-30 coming out of their Bye Week.
The league's most seldom penalized team, the Vikings, were pushed out of sorts by the Panthers and flagged six times, some at very costly times. Routes were not covered, coverages were slipped, and mentally the team was just not there.
I understand, the players are the ones playing the game, but the coaches are the ones that are charged with preparing the players and not a single one was prepared to play the Panthers on Sunday. Bill Musgrave's dink and dunk offense isn't working, Alan Williams needs to be held accountable for this historically bad group of Vikings defensive backs and somebody needs to give this team a kick in the backside.
How about making an adjustment? How about coming out of halftime and sticking a new plan to the opponent instead of having them do just that to you. When your starting left tackle says that "they out schemed us," something's wrong and something needs to change.
Please don't get me wrong, I love Leslie Frazier as a man more than most. I have an immense amount of respect for him as a man of God, as a father and as a leader but sometimes the shoe just doesn't fit. With this group of Vikings players and the leadership style that they are needing, the shoes seem to be about three sizes in the wrong with no remaining hope for growth.
With this year's Vikings squad I could take that headline a multitude of different ways, but unfortunately for him, the finger is going to get pointed at corner back Josh Robinson on this week, and last week and the week before.
I'm not saying that Josh is the reason that the Vikings have won or loss games this season, but he is clearly becoming a liability on the field. Week in and week out, teams are spreading the Vikings thin, identifying Josh Robinson, and targeting him time and time again and it's killing the Minnesota Vikings.
Yesterday alone, Robinson was responsible for allowing two passing touchdowns and tons of yards. The Steve Smith drag route that lead to a fourth and goal touchdown for the Panthers...Robinson. How about the 79 yard touchdown pass to Brandan LaFell that opened the second half for Carolina...Josh Robinson.
What I don't quite understand is that coming out of the Draft in 2012, Robinson was lauded as being the single fastest player in that year's draft class. That's weird to me because he's ALWAYS a step or two behind his receivers. I understand that lateral speed is different than open field speed but some of that has to translate. Either way, teams are picking on Josh Robinson and the Vikings secondary is not good enough to compensate and they don't have enough depth to get him off the field. If he doesn't figure something out, it will be a long season and won't get much better.
Force them to pass. That was the case on Sunday as the league MVP, the best running back in the league and one of the most dominant players today was held to just 10 carries on Sunday against the Panthers. The strangest part, Peterson was averaging 6.2 yet the Vikings opted to continue the 5 yards dump passes.
In fairness, half of Peterson's 62 yards came on a second-half 31 yard run, but still he's your best player.
At some point, down by 20+ points, you do have to start playing the clock management game and the reality of the matter is that's what happened on Sunday. If you are looking to find a way to neutralize the Minnesota Vikings, take the ball out of Adrian Peterson's hands.
There are plenty of directions you could go when seeking the story of the game on Sunday, but the one that sticks out the most has got to be the lop-sided time of possession. By the time the final horn had sounded, the Panthers had controlled the ball 36:27 to the Vikings 23:33, and those numbers were evened out a little during garbage time in the fourth quarter.
Much of the struggle for the Vikings came in the form of third and fourth down conversions for the Panthers. In third down situations, the Panthers converted for first downs 58% of the time (7-for-12). Move on to fourth down and the Panthers converted 2-for-2 including a goal line touchdown. That's 64% of the time that the Panthers were able to convert in late down situations and extend the drive.
This isn't a new problem for the Viking either. On the season, the Vikings have allowed teams to convert on third down 49.7% of the time (31st) and on fourth down they've yielded 66.7% of the time (26th).
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN