By Larry Fitzgerald
CHICAGO, ILL — If Sunday’s Vikings game in Chicago against the Bears was a must-win game for the Vikings, than the reality is now quite clear: The Vikings are done!
Playoffs? Are you kidding me? When you continue to lose close games, and any games to good teams, sooner or later you get the point, and that is that you’re not good enough.
So far, the Vikings — the defending 2009 NFC North Champs — have lost to 6-3 New Orleans, 5-4 Miami, 7-2 New York Jets, 6-3 Green Bay, 7-2 New England, and Sunday to 6-3 Chicago.
Add them up — the Vikings have not stood up to anyone that’s good. They are 0-6 against teams with winning records and 3-0 against teams with losing records:
2-7 Detroit, 2-7 Dallas, and 3-6 Arizona. Sunday’s 27-13 loss to Chicago was just the latest painful symptom of a team that is living on last year’s reputation.
Last year’s team played with passion and for 60 minutes. This team does not play for 60 minutes; they play in spurts. They have become a reality drama playing out before your very eyes.
Sunday, Brett Favre started his 318th consecutive game, threw three interceptions and fumbled. The Bears’ special teams units dominated the game.
Minnesota is the proud state of hockey; on Sunday, the Vikings were slipping and sliding all over Soldiers Field as if they were barefoot on ice and the Bears were on skates.
Two of Favre’s interceptions were to receivers who slipped just before the ball arrived. The Vikings were again shorthanded at wide receiver. Bernard Berrian did not play because of muscle tightness. Sidney Rice, who practiced all week, still has not played. The Vikings clearly could have used future Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss, who was released by Brad Childress.
Percey Harvin missed most of the week in practice with migraines and denied that he and Childress were at odds over an MRI. He played Sunday but got hurt in the second half and left the game.
Favre was awful Sunday. His QB rating was 44.5; he had four turnovers and a critical intentional grounding penalty deep in Chicago territory on second down at the Bears 10- yard line.
The Bears guessed right and blitzed Favre from the left. He threw an incomplete pass in the right flat to avoid a sack and was penalized. After the huge loss of down, Ryan Longwell, who had not missed a field goal all year, hit the left upright.
The Vikings got nothing after being at the 10 yard line even though they still had the lead at 3-0. It was like a bubble had burst on the fragile Vikings sideline; from that point the Bears took control and went on to score two touchdowns and lead at the half 14-10.
Chicago came into the game with the NFL’s worst third-down offense.
They got healthy against the Vikings’ defense, converting 11-19 while the Vikings were just 1-9. The Bears had 74 plays to the Vikings’ 54 and kept the ball for 34.39 to the Vikings’ 25.21. Chicago had 360 yards to the Vikings’ season-low 240 yards.
Had the Bears not been penalized 11 times for 116 yards, they would have been even more dominant. The Vikings dropped balls on Favre, critical drops by Visanthe Shiancoe, Greg Lewis and Adrian Peterson.
When they were not dropping balls they were slipping, losing their footing as if they were surprised to be playing outside in the elements on real grass.
The Bears’ offensive line, coached by former Vikings Head Coach Mike Tice, did a solid job against the Vikings’ defensive front. Lovie Smith, the Bears’ head coach, has four former head coaches on his staff including himself, Tice and Mike Martz.
The Vikings are 3-6 with seven games left and play the Green Bay Packers Sunday at home at high noon. Even though the Vikings are 3-1 at home, when you can’t win on the road (where the Vikings are 0-5 this season), you’re in deep trouble.
The Vikings have lost nine straight road games with Favre at quarterback and are a minus 11 in the turnover ratio, which points to their inability to protect the football or force turnovers.
The Vikings also have another ratio: the before-Moss, with-Moss and after-Moss ratio. Before Moss they were 1-2; with Moss they were 1-3; and now, since Moss was cut, they are 1-1. This team is not producing — that is the bottom line.
Mental toughness and dealing with distractions are not strengths of this team.
Fitz Notes & Quotes
Former Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant suffered a badly bruised face while Deer hunting recently in the woods. The entire right side of his face was badly bruised when a tree limb sprung back and hit him, he said.
The NFL will be completing their investigation into the Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger sex-texting controversy. She was finally interviewed last week.
The Vikings have yet another ratio: the before-Sterger and after-Sterger ratio.
Before the Jenn Sterger controversy became national news, the Vikings were just 1-2 and going to New York when the news broke. Since then they are 2-4.
Remember, Vikings fans: To vote for your 50 greatest Vikings, go to Vikings.com.
Now that the Minnesota Gophers won at Illinois Saturday and the Timberwolves won at Sacramento last week to end a 17-game road losing streak, the Vikings now have the longest road losing streak.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.