The thrashing the Vikings absorbed from the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night had a lot of fans upset and angry, and rightly so: the team played a terrible game while Green Bay played very well. As I said in a post-game comment, “the news that Bridgewater would be inactive came as a knell of doom for any hopes we had for the eventual outcome.” Christian Ponder played badly, but so did almost everyone else in purple that night. You can make a (poor) case that Bridgewater being out would lower the morale of the offense, but it shouldn’t have made much of a difference to the defence or special teams players, yet almost everyone seemed to have “checked out” as Brian Robison put it in an interview.
Bo Mitchell wants to help put Thursday’s game into perspective:
Zimmer and Turner crafted their offseason game plan for the offense on basis of their best player (Peterson) being in the backfield. Turner said repeatedly that he planned to get him more involved in the passing game, get him in space, maybe line him up out wide on occasion, etc. Everything worked great in Week 1. Heck, the threat of Peterson was enough. Cordarrelle Patterson was the primary beneficiary. Vikings fans were riding high following the dismantling of the Rams.
Then the other shoe(s) dropped and scrambling to make adjustments ensued.
In Week 2, with a new game plan in place, new running backs in place and a controversy/distraction overshadowing the organization, the Vikings lost in lopsided fashion to the Patriots thanks in no small part to turnovers and a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. You can never plan for such things as losing your star player in such an awful, embarrassing, scandalous (pick your adjective) way. The master plan was compromised significantly after one week. So they made adjustments and moved on like all coaches must.
Week 4 brought a brief return of giddiness to Vikings fans as they leveled the Falcons behind rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whom they seemingly had to get ready in a hurry. The good thing was that Bridgewater had been splitting a lot of first team reps in practice with Cassel and played a lot in preseason so there was already a sense of chemistry in place when he had to take the reins. The coaching staff had prepared for this scenario and it showed.
What they hadn’t really prepared for was losing Bridgewater to an injury as well. Christian Ponder was pressed into emergency duty at the end of the Falcons game and then asked to get ready for the Packers four days later — after he really hadn’t spent any significant time at all working in Norv Turner’s offense. Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN and several others in the media pointed out that this would be a problem. Ponder barely played in the preseason outside of a few third and fourth quarters with second and third stringers.
So the Vikings were on their third quarterback in three games — their third quarterback in 12 days. If they wanted to use an excuse, I’d give them that one regardless of who that third quarterback was.
Ponder just wasn’t ready. Where have I heard that before? Seriously, few backup NFL quarterbacks would have been significantly better in this scenario with so little prep. This doesn’t excuse the horrible lack of accuracy, the indecisiveness and the rest of the Ponder-isms. It was a train wreck waiting to happen.
Looking back, you can only make so many adjustments so quickly. Zimmer, Turner and the rest of the coaching staff kept the team treading water for four weeks, but they drowned in the Green Bay rain on Thursday night after the adjustments fell short and time ran out.
The Vikings at 2-3 have been victims of really odd circumstances. This isn’t an excuse. It’s a fact, though I really hesitate to use the word “victim.” I don’t even want to call it bad luck. Maybe it’s just fair to say: no team could comfortably survive such a strange amalgam of issues in such a short amount of time. Every team deals with injuries and teams have to find a way to overcome the losses of players like Fusco, Greenway and Rudolph. “Next man up” is the mantra league-wide. But look around the NFL and let me know if you see another first-year head coach directing a team without its best player that has used three quarterbacks already. This is weird stuff. Then again, Vikings fans have grown used to weirdness. It comes with the territory.