The Vikings did it to themselves a third time. They had another good team on the ropes at halftime, and let it slip away again. This time, it was the perennial whipping-boys, the Detroit Lions winning 26-23. This one was worse that the first two games because a) it was the Detroit Lions; b) it was a twenty-point lead at halftime (20-0 Minnesota) and c) the Vikings had thoroughly outplayed the Lions in every aspect of the game in the first half.
Here are some of the first-half stats: Vikings 20 points to Detroit's 0; Detroit had something like -5 yards rushing in the first quarter; The Vikings were punishing Lions QB Matthew Stafford in the first half, constantly putting him on the turf, forcing bad throws, and generally harassing him all over the field. The Vikings were moving the ball fairly well on the ground in the first half, and Adrian Peterson was gearing up for what looked like another fabulous day.
Then the wheels started coming off. Again.
It was painfully apparent to me that the Lions made the right adjustments at halftime, and the Vikings appeared to be settled on not losing the game in the second half, rather than going out and taking it to the Lions. The offense appeared to become conservative once again. Run on first down, run on second down, 3rd-and-8, try a 20-yard pass. Punt. You have arguably the best running back in the NFL, and you let him touch the ball 5 TIMES in the second half??? What's wrong with this picture??? And on what was surely to become a breaking point in the game, on a 4th and 1 from the Lions' 17-yard-line early in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings still had the lead at 20-10, they run Toby Gerhart inside, and he's stood up short of the first down. Why do you not go to Adrian Peterson in that situation? Isn't that why he just signed a $100 million dollar contract?? I mean, nothing against Toby Gerhart, he's a pretty good 2nd-year player, but why you have a guy like Adrian in your lineup, and you don't go to him in that situation is beyond me. Sure, you could second-guess and say what if Gerhart had made it, and the Vikings had continued on to a touchdown, but you don't 2nd-guess in that situation, you give the ball to your horse. Hell, even if the Vikings had decided to kick the field goal at that point, that may have put the game out of reach for the Lions. Instead, the Vikings failed on 4th-and-1, and the Lions went right back down the field to score a TD and make it 20-17 Vikings.
Once again, Donovan McNabb appeared off-target with a lot of his throws. Since he joined the Vikings in the off-season, he has really started to look like a 34-year-old QB who doesn't have it anymore. Off-target throws, throws at the receivers' feet, off-target on long sideline passes, it doesn't seem to matter when the Vikings' QB throws the ball, it just doesn't appear that he has the arm he had before with the Eagles.
It won't take much more from die-hard Minnesota Viking fans to start screaming for McNabb's head and wanting to put Ponder in at QB. If you ask me, it's too early yet. The season isn't absolutely sunk yet, despite how things may look. The schedule gets easier from here until the bye, which might give the Purple some time to right the ship. Donovan, however, is most likely a one-year bridge to the Christian Ponder Era in Minnesota. Which is kind of too bad, because McNabb is a decent guy, often treated, unfairly or not, by the media as a formerly-decent QB in serious decline.
One thing is for sure: a loss in Kansas City will have the fans in Minnesota jumping ship and calling for major changes. Is Leslie Frazier's job in jeopardy yet after the 0-3 start? Probably not. But if the team goes 0-4 or 0-5, the purple will be hitting the proverbial fan.
The Vikings finally win one, on the road. Kansas City can be scored upon - look at the Lions' 48-3 win in week 2 as proof. This will be a close game, and playing in Kansas City is awfully tough for any team in the league - I should know, I went to see the Vikings play the Chiefs a couple of years ago in KC, and the crowd was the loudest, most raucous I had heard anywhere outside the Metrodome/MOA Field. However, the fans were also very gracious and welcoming, and tailgating with them was a pleasure.
Final score: Vikings 24, Chiefs 17.