Vikings have issues, blow 17-0 lead

Adrian Peterson rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. —Photo by Travis Lee

To finish first, you must first finish. The Vikings had better figure that out fast, or the 2011 season could go up in smoke.

Last week against San Diego they led 17-7 at half and did literally nothing in the second half. They did not block and tackle; they did not catch the ball or block or protect. They had 26 yards total offense on 17 plays and were outscored 17-0 by San Diego. What happened that Sunday in their home opener I saw with my own eyes.

They have established a pattern: They do not play hard for 60 minutes. This is the NFL — that stands for “Not For Long.” You have to play for 60 minutes just to have a chance to win in the NFL.

In two games, the Vikings have been half good and half bad. In the first half, the Vikings against San Diego and Tampa Bay led 34-7. In the second half of both games, the Vikings have been dominated 41-3.

Last Sunday in the first half, the Vikings totally dominated Tampa Bay 17-0. They were outstanding on both sides of the ball. The Vikings had 17 first downs to Tampa Bay’s three; Vikings 5-7 on third down, 71 percent, and Tampa Bay 2-6, 33 percent; Vikings 284 total yards, 137 yards rushing, 147 yards passing — great balance.

Defensively the Vikings stopped the Buccaneers, who had zero points and just 62 yards. That all changed in the second half.

Tampa’s coach, Raheem Morris, fired his team up in the second half; the Buccaneers crushed the Vikings. They did what they wanted. They clearly were more physical at the point of attack.

In the second half, Tampa Bay had 16 first downs; they were five of six on third down; they did what they wanted. Power football, controlled passing game, no tricks, and the Vikings had no answer. They could not stop it.

Tampa Bay played like their season was on the line. They were aggressive. They attacked the Vikings, who had only eight first downs in the second half.

Adrian Peterson was brilliant, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 54 rushing touchdowns in his career, number-one all-time with the Vikings. Peterson has rushed for 6,000 yards in just 63 games in this his fifth season. He has 25 100-yard rushing games, and 32 times he has carried the ball at least 20 times in a game, another team record.

The Vikings had 186 yards rushing. When you dominate in the running game and lose, you have problems.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb played well in his first start at home, 18-30, 220 yards passing and no interceptions. He bounced back from last week’s awful 7-17 for 39 yards embarrassment.

Josh Freeman, quarterback of Tampa Bay, took command of the game and kept moving the chains. He threw an interception in the third quarter, but his 22-31 for 243 yards and a touchdown established that he’s pretty good.

Tampa Bay has now beaten the Vikings five straight times.

Head Coach Leslie Frazier has a good football team that has not learned how to win. Unfortunately, this is the NFL; you get credit for winning, period. No style points.

The Vikings secondary is a complete mess; they are not playing well as a group. Kevin Williams, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle, returns this week after serving his two-game suspension. His experience and leadership are missed, because the defense has not finished what they have started.

The opposite of half good is half bad. If you’re bad at all in the NFL, you get nothing. The Vikings are a work in progress. This is a talented football team, and they are not getting it done — that is the bottom line.

Teams that play hard for 60 minutes have a great chance of winning. Teams that don’t, have no chance, and the last two games, particularly in the second half, the Vikings have been dominated. That is the sign of bad football, mentally and physically.

The Vikings need to allow McNabb to do more, like allowing him to throw more on first down. Trust experience more — he’s a great quarterback.

Detroit is 2-0 coming to town this weekend. This division is too tough to get three games behind the eight ball. Green Bay is 2-0 also, and they play at 1-1 Chicago Sunday, while the Vikings get Lions who have outscored their two opponents 75-23 and beat Tampa Bay on the road.

The Vikings badly need a win, and that will require them playing their best game of the season.

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), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to, or visit